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Handy Woodworker DIYs a Major Kitchen Remodel

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DIYing a Major Kitchen Remodel

On their 30th anniversary, Jay said to his wife Candy, “Pick two areas in the house – let’s make them what you want.”

“The kitchen,” she replied. “I’ve always wanted a nice kitchen.”

So began Jay’s major remodel of his fifth home. Prepared by experiences helping friends and family install their kitchens, Jay decided to do all of the work himself.

“I haven’t had great luck, or history, with contractors,” Jay said. As someone born and raised on a farm, he was used to taking matters into his own hands.

Jay looked around his dark space and came up with several goals. He would bring in white cabinets and quartz countertops to modernize the look. To create more kitchen space, he would relocate the refrigerator, which would would require demolishing an old pantry closet.

“It was a typical remodel: opening up a can of worms,” Jay said.

But even as he uncovered issues – sloping floors, for example – he kept calm and unfazed.  “I moved the wall, moved plumbing, moved electrical. I was able to resolve everything myself. The local inspector had nothing but accolades.”

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A Productive Partnership

“Jay could not have better to work with,” said Renae LeBoutillier, his kitchen designer. “He was always very optimistic, knowledgeable, and excited about our quality. He knew what he wanted. He had done things in the house before. He just handed me a plan saying, ‘this is what we want to do.’”

As they continued to work together, their relationship evolved into a productive partnership.

“When I first started working with Renae, I’d tell her exactly what I wanted and she’d deliver just that,” said Jay. “But it became evident was that Renae was able to offer some really good ideas. The island was her idea. The spice rack cabinet was another. What she put together was perfect.”

Related article: What’s the value of a kitchen designer?

Packed With Features

Boasting several special storage options, the finished kitchen is loaded with behind-the-door features. The window bench, for example, with its built-in dog feeding stage. Jay had built it himself. With help from Renae, he refaced the fronts to match his new kitchen cabinets.

“We had 28 friends and neighbors come to our open house,” said Jay. “A couple of ladies were looking at the tray organizer above the fridge and remarked, ‘Finally, somebody has thought of this! I’ve been waiting 15 years for my husband to build something like this!’”

Lazy Susan cabinets were ordered for both corners. “They’re beautiful,” he said. “There’s no center post, and the way they’re made with the joinery on the wooden shelves – the attention to detail on those little things is fabulous.”

But of all the cabinets he ordered, the one that drew the most attention was the base mixer shelf.

“Everyone that came through said, ‘Oh my god, I love it.’ What an idea! My friend at work had never even heard of it.  And you guys have it – have it already installed.”

Other special features include multicolored smart lighting and a concealed dog feeding station inside the window bench drawers.

As a craftsman, Jay says that he buys the best tools that he’s able to. Anything to save time for every-day chores.

“The organizer above the fridge, and the spice rack, and the mixer cabinet – I’m not going to say they’ll change the world, but they’re not novelties. They’re necessities,” he said.

A Woodworker’s Take on Cabinets

As a person with a passion for woodworking, Jay considered several different cabinet companies. “We looked at everything offered by the local custom cabinets, Home Depot, and Menards,” he said.

“In total, we compared CliqStudios to seven other vendors. And just to give you an idea – it wasn’t cost, because you guys weren’t the cheapest. It was quality and options.”

“The Ikea kitchen sounds really cool,” Jay started. “I installed one for a high school friend. But it was crazy. Labor bids of $15,000 to $25,000. I said to him, ‘You know those are just boxes with doors that we have to put up straight, right?’”

“Everything that I didn’t like about Ikea, you guys addressed,” he continued. “Plywood construction. Proper boxes. Blum hardware. That caught my eye. I remember reading the woodworking magazine put out by Rockler – they rated Blum the best, 5/5, and they really are. Typically, Blum is a 7 to 11 percent upcharge. So that sparked my interest.”

Related article: How to Identify High Quality Cabinets

In the end, the product was everything that Jay was hoping and dreaming for. And his wife Candy loves it too.

“She would just be sitting there at the island and I’d say, ‘what are you doing?’ And she’d respond, ‘Just enjoying my kitchen.’”

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