Name: Dan Bailey
Type of Project: Kitchen remodel
Location: East Boston, Boston, Massachusetts
Type of building: 2nd Floor Condo in a Greek-Revival Row House
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A few weeks ago it started to get really cold outside. At the time, I was still tearing down old drywall in the kitchen and cleaning up debris, and as I worked I began to notice a slight but persistent arctic breeze emanating from the kitchen window. It wasn’t so bad at first, but as winter approached, stepping into the kitchen began to feel like stepping into a refrigerator. It was around this time that I decided to replace the window.
I considered replacing the window at the start of the renovation, but it was early fall at the time, and the weather was still balmy. I figured I could put it off until after the renovation was done and I had saved up some extra cash. But as the temperature dropped, replacing the window became an increasingly urgent matter. It was a single-pane casement window, probably installed sometime in the 1950s. Even when it was new, it wouldn’t have been particularly energy-efficient. By the time I bought the condo, the locking mechanism was broken, and it was impossible to fully close the window. Aside from the fact that the window was essentially non-functional, it was a decrepit eyesore. The window is a focal point of the kitchen – it dominates one side of the room, framing a view of the harbor and the Seaport District skyline. Once the rest of the kitchen is renovated, the old window would look dingy and out of place. So I decided it needed to go.
I ordered a replacement window, and this week it finally showed up. It’s a vinyl-clad, double-paned Andersen casement window, roughly the same size as the old window. Before installing the new window, my contractor Gregg and I pulled out the old window, which turned out to be surprisingly easy. Gregg removed a handful of nails, pulled off the rotten exterior trim, and the old window popped right out. The new window went in almost as easily. We lifted it into place and nailed it to the surrounding framing. Gregg filled the gaps between the window frame and the exterior wall with spray foam insulation, and amazingly, he was able to replace all of the exterior trim with vinyl trim from inside the building. He accomplished this by leaning out of the open window as he worked. He was remarkably cavalier about the whole thing, considering he was hanging out of a third-story window. All that remains now is to add interior trim and a new sill.
With the new window installed it became possible to maintain a normal room temperature in the kitchen, and we were able to continue working in relative comfort. Earlier in the week, the electrician stopped by and installed the under cabinet LED lights. Gregg then installed the cement board backing for the backsplash tile, and we were almost ready to put in the lower cabinets.
But before we could start, I had one more cabinet modification in mind. IKEA makes a metal carousel for their corner cabinet with two shelves that rotate around a central pole. This carousel looked kind of flimsy to me, and the pole in the center seemed like a poor use of space. After some online research, I discovered that lazy susan trays that fit the IKEA corner cabinet are available elsewhere. So I ordered a pair of trays. The only problem was that I needed a shelf for the second lazy susan tray to sit on, and IKEA doesn’t make shelves for their corner cabinet. But over the course of a few days, Gregg cut a shelf out of MDF, I primed and painted it, and we installed it along with the lazy susan trays. Finally, we installed all of the lower cabinets, which in the end only took a few minutes. Thanks to some careful measuring everything fit together perfectly.
My girlfriend and I had a few friends over at the end of the week, and we spent the afternoon before they arrived frantically cleaning. In an effort to make the kitchen look presentable, we removed the protective paper – which by then was torn and dusty – from the floors. Gregg made some temporary countertops out of spare plywood, and we even moved the dishwasher into place, although at this point it isn’t hooked up and is purely decorative. I attached a set of freshly painted drawer fronts. After weeks of indecision, I finally chose Benjamin Moore’s “whale gray” for the lower cabinets, and after seeing the color on the drawer fronts, I’m happy with the choice. For the first time in weeks, the kitchen looked like a kitchen, even though it was obviously unfinished. And for some reason, the space seemed much larger than it ever has.
We also cleaned all of the painting and construction supplies out of the dining room. Over the weekend my girlfriend and I drove down to the Rhode Island Antiques Mall in Pawtucket in search of a freestanding cupboard for the kitchen and a table and chairs for the dining room. We didn’t find a cupboard, but we got a great deal on a beautiful Danish dining room set. Once the dining room was clean, we set up the new dining set. And as our friends arrived, the kitchen and dining room no longer felt like a construction site and staging area, but were functional spaces where people could gather and chat. We even used the stovetop to make mulled wine. It was encouraging to see how the space will function once it’s done.
Estimated time for project: 26+ weeks
Time remaining: 2+ weeks
(Images and diary text: Dan Bailey)