Reno’s and Waste

Our kitchen has always been an eyesore, built long ago, with the cheapest of everything.  Since we are heavy users of our kitchen we decided that we’d take the plunge, at last, in an effort to make our kitchen time more enjoyable and efficient. We had a limited budget of $5,000, which meant careful consideration of all available options. This also meant choosing between new appliances and everything else.

Here are some embarrassing images of our very messy, old kitchen. You can see how the dark counters were not flattering for the space. Click on a caption to see all three:



We had two main concerns holding us back from renovating all these years. The first was money. Moving to Canada from Thailand 10 years ago with zero dollars and a bunch of debt made it scary to spend on things other than necessities, and the odd treat. After a few years we were incredibly grateful to be able to buy a house at all! Although we still have debt, we have grown and learned that we want to build a fulfilling life for our family that we can be excited about while we chip away at becoming debt free. There has to be balance.

The other thing that held us back from renovating is our dis-ease with the amount of unnecessary waste a renovation creates. This was going to increase our footprint majorly, especially since all the old stuff was still in working order. We decided we’d do our best to minimize the amount of waste while staying on budget.

From resurfacing to custom made bits, we considered many options for how to improve the quality and look of our kitchen. In the end, we replaced the cupboards, sink, tiles and countertop. Since the appliances were still working, we would keep them.

new pan
These are the new cupboards we chose. Our pantry now goes right up to the ceiling.

We found Ikea to be the best for cupboards in terms of price and quality. These cupboards were so simple to put together that 12 year-old Ana built most for us! They have a soft-close function so no slamming doors. We opted to replace cupboards with drawers to make stuff easy to reach. We absolutely LOVE them! Even though we removed all uppers on one wall we still managed to gain storage space.

The installation was over our heads but lucky for us my Dad saved the day. He was even able to do some custom solutions for which Ikea had no solutions, or our materials met in an awkward way. We are beyond grateful for my Dad’s artistry!

tile cut
Look at how he cut the tiles to where they met with the molding – Just beautiful!

WASTE: We were able to give all the old cupboards away on Kijiji. One guy came by and took them all for his garage. We are thrilled that they are being reused!

My dad offered to resurface our existing counter with Arborite, to get our budget back on track (We went over on the cupboards). I love a concrete countertop so we looked at a concrete-looking Arborite as a more affordable option. After reconsidering, we decided not to pretend the counter was concrete. Instead, we embraced the Arborite and went with white. It has brightened up our entire kitchen immensely and, again, we are super happy with our choice.

See how white brightens things up?

WASTE: As it turns out there was a leek near the sink which was slowly and secretly rotting the old counter. We ended up cutting that old counter into small pieces and throwing it out, which was bothersome but at the same time I was glad we got rid of any potential mold issues. We had to have my dad rebuild the new counter.

One of the things I despised most in our old kitchen was the tile which looked suspiciously like the one’s in our bathroom. We chose to splurge on some beautiful tiles from Spain and cover right up to the ceiling. They are a beautiful “duck-egg” blue, 50cm long subway tile with a hand-made, imperfect surface. They add a subtle bit of warmth and color, but remain calm. Thankfully, my Mom talked us out of a patchwork patterned tile we had our eye on. Its lovely but our space is too small, it would have been overwhelmingly busy.

Patchwork Tile
The tile my mom talked us out of – Thanks Mom!

WASTE: the tile was broken when removed and so went into the garbage.

We use a lot of big pots and woks so the double-bowl sink was awkward and problematic for washing. It drove us nuts! We ended up buying a giant rectangle sink from RONA which is a complete game changer! Washing dishes was never a favorite but this makes it so much simpler.

WASTE: Our old sink, faucet and old plumbing? All picked up and taken away by one gent from Kijiji.

I was sticking to my guns on keeping the old appliances until they no longer functioned, but truthfully, our kitchen really didn’t look finished with the old white appliances still there. Well, just over a week ago I broke the drawer on our stove (YAY!). It was always a struggle to close but I really had to force it when it busted. Big ol’ whitey’s time had come. So, we bought a beautiful glass-top stove (gas would have been our first choice), which looks sleek and shows off more of that beloved tile!

I love this little red detail.

WASTE: The old stove was hauled off and broken down into scrap metal.

Except for the new range (which we are paying off, interest-free – thanks Home Depot!), we were pretty much able to keep things on budget. Again, thanks to my Dad for all his hours of work and expertise. Thanks, for putting up with and finding solutions for all my requests for something out of the ordinary!

We still have our old white fridge. I am not replacing it before it breaks and we pay off that stove!


Our new kitchen is fun to use, shows our style and, although there was some waste, we feel good that we were careful to minimize it.

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