Dollars & Decisions

Amanda Bar

After going back and forth over my options for several days I eventually decided upon a tile selection for my kitchen backsplash.  I ended up choosing my first choice - a glass tile in a "milk white" color that resembles an oyster shell.  The only picture I could find on the internet looks blue-ish in hue:


The tile is $17 a sq. ft. (more expensive than I wanted to spend), and with the grout the total came to $520.  I don't have an estimate on installation costs yet, but I'm hoping that I can get a deal through the same woman that hooked me up with my kitchen cabinets.  I've already placed my order for the tile but it'll take about 15 business days for the shipment to arrive (curse you, special order!).  In the meantime I can cool my heels with smaller & less costly side-projects.

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Kitchen Remodel Nears It's End

Amanda Bar

Work is nearly finished on my kitchen remodeling, and below I present you with a step by step deconstruction (and reconstruction!) of the entire process.  I'll be saving the final reveal for a separate post, but enjoy the mess:

Day 1, in which you can see the original kitchen in all it's glory.  Sandra Mahadeo (of Overseas Traders) can be seen taking measurements.

Kitchen 1 

Day 2, and the original kitchen is now completely removed.  The new upper cabinets are assembled and await being mounted.  As you can see, the removal of the original kitchen revealed some mold and mildew damage that had to be fixed with some bleach and Kilz.

Kitchen 2 

Day 3, and the basic frame for the cabinets are up.  The microwave has also been attached.

Kitchen 4 

Day 4, wherein the cabinet doors have been installed.

Kitchen 5

All that remains to be done is the hardware (cabinet handles, etc) being attached, and my remaining appliances to be hooked up.  The granite is set to be installed by Tuesday or Wednesday of this upcoming week, and I've already picked out a backsplash and lights to be placed underneath the cabinets.  Beyond that, I basically have a ready-to-use kitchen!  This entire process took less time than my master bathroom renovation (which surprised me), but this time around instead of going through an independent workman I used a specialist (my friend's mother, Sandra, who was pictured above). 

I highly recommend to anyone doing major house work to not cut corners by using cheap handymen - I've been much happier with this entire experience than the stress-filled ordeal of my bathroom.

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Family & Friend Freebies

Amanda Bar

This weekend saw a lot being done at my new house in preparation for the big move-in date (originally tentatively set for this January, but now sometime early to mid-February); I had several malfunctioning light switches repaired, and my front security light installed.  These jobs would have probably have cost me a couple hundred dollars through any electrician, but thankfully my roommate's father is handy with electrical do-dads and was able to take care of these issues free of charge.  You might not always get lucky like this for the big jobs, but utilizing the skills of family or friends can end up saving you a lot of money!

Not only that, but with my birthday around the corner I'm getting several offers from relatives to purchase me various household necessities - a huge deal when it comes to the miniscule budget I am working with.  I promptly went out and purchased a bedroom ceiling fan on my father's bill (and a none-too-inexpensive one at that...but it IS my birthday, after all!).  My mother has also stated that I can count on her for a new comforter set, and my stepmother has already gifted me with towels for my brand new bathroom.

I suppose you can say the moral of this post might appear to be "squeeze your friends & relatives dry", but I prefer to spin it as "appreciate them for all they're worth"...which can be a lot, if I get my hands on them!

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Online Kitchen Appliance Deals

Amanda Bar

My father had brought to my attention a few days ago that he had come across a deal for a four-piece stainless steel Whirlpool kitchen appliance set in Costco's recent mail catalog.  The price was $1,999.99 with free shipping, and I was a bit surprised at this because I had trolled through Costco previously for such a bargain and found none.  The difference?  This was an online-only deal and had to be made via the computer - you might never know about this sale if you weren't a recipient of the Costco catalog.


Seeing that the expiration date for this deal was the 20th (today!) of December I quickly called up my kitchen designer and sent her the appliance specs.  After getting her approval I went ahead and placed the order, set to arrive 20 to 25 business days after my date of purchase.

The kitchen appliances were a huge point of stress for me in this kitchen renovation project, because it was near impossible to find a place that offered a package deal anymore for all four pieces.  And not only did I snag all four pieces but they're all in stainless steel (including the handles), and since Whirlpool is such a recognizable name I'm going on faith here that they're also reliable.  The only thing I have to worry about now is an installation fee, then I'm set.

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Choosing a Versatile Cabinet Color

Amanda Bar

This morning I'm meeting with the president of Wood Trends in regards to my kitchen renovations, and I'm supposed to decide upon a color for my cabinetry.  Because of the holiday season it has been made clear to me that I need to place my order before this upcoming Thursday (Dec 17th) in order to receive my cabinets in January.  Unfortunately, because of my work schedule I have been mostly unable to shop around for granite countertops...forcing me to settle on a cabinet color without a countertop color in mind.

I trust the advice of my kitchen designer (Sandra Mahadeo, mother of Miami Herald blogger Kevin), but it makes me nervous to go in blind when this is costing me so much money.  The good thing is that I'm 99% sure that the granite I'll be choosing will be a darker color, so that will at least narrow down some of the cabinet colors for me.  I've checked out some of the cabinet options previously and it seems a medium caramel color (such as this one, called Toffee) compliments most countertops, but then again I've heard that a darker color is "more modern" and I am going for that contemporary sort of look...

Hopefully the designer has some good advice for me, because ready or not I'll be making some decisions today.

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Kitchen Renovation, Underway!

Amanda Bar
After getting quotes from three different companies (Smart Buy Kitchen USA, Home Depot, and Wood Trends) in regards to my kitchen remodeling project, I've decided to go with Wood Trends.  Not only do I get a great deal because, as it so happens, the president of the company is none other than fellow blogger Kevin's mother, but even nepotism notwithstanding the prices ended up being cheaper than the two other competitor's I visited.

Wood Trends is asking $7,339.08.  This cost includes the removal of my old kitchen, the new cabinets and granite countertop, cabinet fixtures, crown molding, and a stainless steel sink.

Home Depot was asking between $6545 and $8789 for the American Woodmark cabinets.  Installation would cost an additional $79 per kitchen "box" (which would equal about $800 for the size of my kitchen), and $1400 for tear out & haul away.  Add onto that the price of the countertop and he estimated the total cost of my remodel between $10,023 and $13,136E-gads!!  And here I thought Home Depot would be the cheap alternative...

Smart Buy was a very close contender for getting my business because their prices were actually very decent.  $6,971.91 for the cabinets, countertop, and installation, with an additional fee of $250 for demolition and removal of my old cabinets.  However, this price (unlike Wood Trends) did not include the hardware and sink.  The additional costs would end up totaling more than Wood Trends in the end.

Now that this important decision has finally been made I can't wait to sign some papers, hand over some money, and get this show on the road!

12/09 Edit: Since I've been asked, here is the contact information for Wood Trends (they do not seem to have a website currently): #954-567-1000, 2133 N Dixie Hwy in Wilton Manors, FL 33305.

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Holiday Product Testing

Amanda Bar

While my roommate Bridget was hard at work putting up Christmas lights outside, I stayed nice & cool Lightinside testing out the LightKeeper Pro (a situation I found rather amusing, considering that Bridget is The Miami Herald's resident tech reviewer).  The LightKeeper Pro is meant to be a useful little device to salvage broken strands of holiday lights, saving you the toil and cost of replacing damaged decorations.  Being mostly inept with any sort of home repair/manual labor I was nervous that I would get wrapped up with instruction manuals and power cords, but happily this device is about as straightforward as it gets.  There are no attachments, and you don't even have to plug it in.

All I had to do was remove a single bulb amidst a strand of malfunctioning lights, plug the empty bulb socket into the LightKeeper Pro, and with a couple pulls of the trigger the strand should spring back to life.  I say "should" because, unfortunately, it took some finagling to achieve the desired results.  I had to adjust the empty bulb socket several times within the device before it seemed to catch at the small metal nodes located inside the LightKeeper, but once it finally stuck I was able to get the lights working after a few trigger pulls.  Remove the socket, replace the bulb and voila!

The LightKeeper Pro sells at most home repair outlets for about $19.98, but if you find yourself constantly tossing out broken strands of lights year after might want to consider this product, especially since malfunctioning lights seem to be as seasonal an event as putting up the Christmas tree (or Hannukah bush, for that matter).

UPDATE: Funny enough, Bridget waltzed into the house with another broken strand of lights ten minutes after I posted this and I was unable to get the lights working again using the same twisting & pulling that worked previously.  Take this into consideration.

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Treasure In Trash

Amanda Bar
When I had my bathroom remodeled I asked the workmen during deconstruction to kindly place anything they could salvage (such as the wall cabinets) in my bedroom.  I knew that most of it would prove useless, but I was hoping that I could positively repurpose some of the items for another use.

For example, the original mirror in my master bathroom is a huge piece of glass almost 6ft across.  Even though the edges are discolored my walk-in closet is large enough that if I turn the mirror on it’s side it provides a perfect floor-to-ceiling dressing mirror!  An easy solution to the edge discoloration is by crafting a makeshift frame or border by using some thin pre-cut pieces of wood, some paint, and a glue gun (all of which can be found at a craft store).  A mirror of this size bought at any retailer would end up costing me hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

The bathroom cabinets, however, are proving more difficult to recycle.  They’re corner cabinets, and I’m thinking that if I remove the doors and repaint the interior I can attach it as shelving in my downstairs living room.  My main concern is that while I could definitely use the extra storage space, the cabinet frame might look too “bathroom-y” for another room.  I do enjoy my craft projects, though, and I’ll keep you updated on whether or not this proves to be a diamond in the rough or a disaster.

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Cutting Costs for Kitchen Reconstruction

Amanda Bar
After receiving my much awaited first-time homeowner's check from the government (that's $8000+ in my pocket!) I've started hunting around for a new kitchen.  The refrigerator and dishwasher are in working condition, but both them and the oven appear to be the original appliances that came with the house upon construction (which dates them back to about 1983), so obviously they can use a facelift.  The cabinets, countertops, and lighting in the kitchen are also dated and in need of either repair or replacement. 

The problem with that?  None of the quotes I've gotten so far fit within my budget of $8000!  Go figure, but redoing an entire kitchen seems to be expensive.  The lowest quotes I've gotten thus far is from Smart Buy USA in Doral, that quoted me at $6700 for cabinets and granite countertops.  They also offered a $1999 package deal for all of the kitchen appliances (Frigidaire), in stainless steel.

My father says this is a good deal.  My mother says the price is completely ridiculous.  I'm not purchasing anything yet - and I probably won't come to a decision until I scrounge up some extra money - but these conflicting opinions aren't helping me.  I've never redone an entire kitchen before, so how am I supposed to know what is reasonable and what is over-priced?  At this point all ll I can do is keep shopping around and comparing prices. 

Any advice from people who know a little something about home reconstruction, or someone who just knows where to get a good deal on a small budget?

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Fanning the Flames of Needless Spending

Amanda Bar
Since buying my new home I've experienced several occasions where my wallet comes into conflict with my personal taste.  This week is no exception, as I'm searching for ceiling fans for both upstairs bedrooms.  I've already browsed Home Depot and Lowe's, and even though the prices are reasonable (none of the models that I liked cost over $99) I didn't end up finding what I wanted.

My next stop is to Dan's Fan City, a retailer specializing in - you guessed it! - ceiling fans.  The problem that I'm having is that I'm scared (yes, scared) to stumble across something I really like...only to discover a much heftier price-tag than the models I spotted at Home Depot & Lowe's.  I have a bad habit of listening to my impulses whilst ignoring my resources when I come across something I love, and I'm nervous that this instance will only prove my point.  Dan's Fan City offers some pretty elaborate fans, and unfortunately my ultra-modern aesthetic more often than not comes with a not-so-fabulous price-tag.

Hopefully all of this won't be the case, and I may find a fan I love with an equally lovable sales price.  However, I'm dreading the chance that I might have to wage another war between my impulses and my common sense...and all for the sake of a ceiling fan!

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