Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Possibly the cheapest kitchen renovation ever

I've hated my teensy kitchen pretty much since I've moved in. It was cramped, dimly-lit, and the cabinets and countertop were hideous. Some of these issues have already been addressed. The managers installed a new light, I re-arranged the fridge so I could open the oven door all the way, and I replaced the handles.

But this is my biggest accomplishment yet. It's probably the most dramatic impact yet, AND you'll never guess how much it cost.

So so so ugly. Yes, this is the entire kitchen. 42 square feet.

The cabinets were always a problem. They're the color of a used bandaid and have all the charm and warmth of a high school science lab. Adding to the difficulty, I'm in an apartment so anything I do has to be un-doable.

First, I measured the cabinets to see how much space I had to cover. This turned out to be about 30 square feet of cabinet doors. Ugly, ugly cabinet doors. How I hate it so.
Note the precision in the drawing. You can tell I was a fine arts minor.

Next, I bought this.

This is possibly the greatest thing ever, as far as redoing kitchen cabinet doors in a cheap way is concerned.

This is a roll of white board material with an adhesive backing. Measure, cut, peel and stick, and you've got a white board that can handle all kinds of markers. Even sharpies, for when you forget they're the permanent kind.

This is a job best suited for two people, or one idiot who has to do things the hard way just because. I think you can guess which one of those categories I'm putting myself into.

You will also need:
- a screwdriver or some other tool to remove the cabinet door handles and drawer pulls
-an xacto knife, or other really sharp and precise blade.
-maybe a tape measure if you're on of those people that likes to measure things. I'm not. The motto around casa teensy is "Measure once, manage to ruin things in myriad ways regardless, so the measuring part is really not going to make that much of a difference"
-a tool for removing the air bubbles. I used my NPR membership card, but like a rubber squeegee is probably the best tool.

If you're smart, you'll roll the whiteboard out to something slightly larger than the size of the cabinet door you're doing, and cut it on the ground so you don't have to deal with the roll when you're trying to get the size right for the upper cabinets. I did it the stupid way, but it still turned out pretty good.

It's a little hard to work with if you're doing it by yourself. With two people, one can hold it in the correct place so it doesn't slide around, and the other can peel the backing off at the beginning. If you're all by your lonesome, you get to be the sheet holder and the sticker unpeeler. If you don't get the roll adhered at the correct angle, you can always unpeel what you've done and try again.

As you peel and stick the whiteboard to the cabinet, try and keep the roll as taut as possible. try and smooth out any creases and air bubbles as you adhere the whiteboard. You can get into a really efficient 'unpeel and smooth' motion pretty quickly.
"Unpeel, smooth and attempt to take photo while balanced precariously on counter" is not a recommended motion.

Done with that? Great! now here comes the first annoying and fiddly part. Try and smooth out as many of the bubbles as you can with whatever tool you've got for the task. A credit card is fine, but it's a little bit too flexible and a little too narrow to be ideal. This is something you can do after each cabinet, or you can do it once all the cabinets are covered.

You don't see the bubble? Exactly.

Then you get to move on to the next fiddly bit. With your sharp and precise blade, run it around the cabinet edge and cut off any of the extra material. It's just a bit too stiff to want to hold the 90 degree bend onto being the edges of the door. Again, this can be done at the end of each cabinet, or when all the cabinets are done. But always do the smoothing out first because there will be a teensy bit of movement in the whiteboard material and you don't want to have to do more cutting once.
Many recommend using an xacto knife with the proper stick thing it goes into. I couldn't find mine so I just held the blade. Again, not recommended.

I swear I didn't change the white balance to make it look like I did work.

And voila! One brighter and more modern kitchen. This is a really easy way to redo an apartment kitchen. And it's cheap too. The roll cost less than $30, shipping included. Obviously if you have a normal-sized kitchen one roll isn't going to be enough, but most kitchens should be under $100.

So there you have it: "new" cabinets for super cheap. The only thing left to do is decide what to do about that fake granite countertop.


  1. Using that whiteboard material for your kitchen renovation project is quite brilliant. And the best part is that it is very affordable! I'd probably give that whiteboard material a try when I redo some old cabinets in my study room.