Kitchen Upgrade on a Budget: Trimming out the Counter Tops

And why carpeting a kitchen should be illegal…

We’ve been thoroughly enjoying and appreciating how much different the kitchen looks now that the nasty Formica is gone. The final step (well, almost final – there are a few tiny details to deal with) was to trim them out.

At one time we had discussed putting the granite tile on the front, but that was another of the things that was problematic because of the corner cabinets. And since the tile saw we have is a joke, it would have been really difficult to cut the tiles down to size. After much discussion, we decided to trim it out in oak. We considered using cherry, but the local lumber yard only carries oak, so that’s what we decided to go with.

Several years ago, shortly after we moved in here, I ripped out all the carpet in the rest of the main floor and put in engineered oak flooring. We decided to try to get the trim to match the color of the flooring, even though the flooring doesn’t extend to the kitchen – just seemed like it would be nice to have it all tie in together.

The people at the lumber yard were nice enough to rip the 1×6 board down to the 2 1/2″ width we needed, and we were lucky enough that one board was just enough to do what we needed. I took a scrap of the flooring along to match the colors as closely as possible and picked out a shade of stain called Pecan. I also picked up a can of polyurethane finish since there’s a good chance the trim will be getting wet, at least on occasion. I have a 3 year old who loves to play in the sink, and the water doesn’t always stay there, after all.

We were going to get the trim all done on Lyle’s last day home before he had to go back to work, but after the battle of the carpet (more on that later), he wasn’t really up for it, and I needed to do a little grinding on the tile around the sink before it could go up. So while he was gone, I got the angle grinder back out and took care of the funny edges, and then started measuring.

Several trips out to my miter saw (and for the record, yes – it is my miter saw) later, I had all the pieces cut to the right size and with the correct angles for the corners. I pre-drilled the nail holes (and may or may not have broken three 1/16″ drill bits in the process) and attached the boards first with construction adhesive and then finish nails. I had to wait to attach the last board because I ran out of drill bits and had to wait for my dad to pick some up on his way home from work, but overall it was a pretty quick process.

I sanded the sharp corners and rough surfaces down with the palm sander and wiped off the last little bit of sawdust that remained. I stained the very first board and sent before and after pictures to Lyle to see what he thought.


Honestly, I was less than thrilled with the results. It came out exactly how I intended but I just wasn’t loving it. It was giving me a very 1992 feeling. We discussed other options, from painting the wood to match the cabinets, to going back to the original idea of using the granite.

Once he got home and saw the stained boards in person, he actually liked it a lot more than he did from the pictures. We decided to go ahead and stain and seal the whole thing; if we decide to change it out later on we’re really not out anything. After staining the rest, I am liking it more than I did before. And I think painting the cabinets will make all the difference in the world.

Meanwhile there is still the problem of the floor to deal with. I have absolutely hated this floor since we looked at the house. It is carpeted. Why? I have no idea. Carpeting in the kitchen ranks right up there with bathroom carpeting on the disgusting meter. We have talked several times about ripping it out, but knew it was going to be a huge job. Unlike a lot of other stuff in this house, we were pretty sure it had been installed correctly, ie. glued down very, very well.

Sadly, we were right. Most of the other projects we’ve tackled, we built up in our minds to be ten times worse than they ended up being. Once we were done, we laughed at ourselves for dreading it so much and putting it off for so long.

The kitchen carpet is not one of those projects.

While the stove was pulled out Lyle and Dad started attacking the carpet. This process involved pulling back an edge (not easy), then jamming a wonder bar under the exposed edge to loosen the carpet from the glue, yanking really hard and starting all over again. They cut the carpet into sections to make it easier, or perhaps I should say less difficult. To say it was a pain in the butt (and hands) would be an understatement.

Originally Lyle assumed that the lovely yellow linoleum was the only layer and if he could rip it up we’d be back down to the original subfloor. Oh, how wrong he was. Pulling up the yellow layer revealed what I assume to be the original. I’m sure it was beautiful in 1952, but 60 years later it looks like a nightmare.

You can only see a little bit of the original stuff there on the right, but let me assure you that in person it’s quite impressive. We They attempted to get underneath the yellow layer, thinking that perhaps it would be easier to remove than the carpet.  It came up in small chips.

I did find a scraper attachment for a reciprocating saw when I was at the lumberyard, and we may still resort to it, but Lyle’s concerned that if we do that we’ll just end up with even bigger gouges. At this point, we’re not sure exactly what the end result is going to be – he has about 3/4 of the carpet pulled up and there are big gouges in the yellow layer anyhow. It may be better to try to scrape the yellow layer off and hope for the best, or we may end up just giving up on that and putting 1/4″ underlay on the whole mess.

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1 Response to Kitchen Upgrade on a Budget: Trimming out the Counter Tops

  1. Becky Brown says:

    Excellent work Wendy. I’m loving seeing your progress. Keep it up!!

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