Watch this video to see how we improved homeowner Kathy Kennedy’s busy family kitchen by replacing the countertops and improving the look of her existing cabinets.
Kitchen makeover projects included:
- Replace Countertops: After removing the deteriorating plastic laminate countertops, new solid surface countertops (Formica Copper Quartz) with a built-in solid surface sink were installed.
- Install Faucet: We installed a new faucet (Danze Opulence in satin black), with a pull-down nozzle and single handle control, to replace the existing one.
- Refinish Cabinets: We Lightly sanded the cabinets with 400-grit sandpaper followed by steel wool, then applied a fresh coat of polyurethane finish (Minwax satin) to the cabinet boxes, doors, and drawers.
- Replace Cabinet Hardware: The existing bright brass cabinet knobs and hinges were replaced with new knobs and hinges in a black finish that matched the footprint of the old hardware.
- Install Dishwasher: Finally, we removed the old dishwasher, which no longer worked, and replace it with a new one.
- Kitchen Facelift Tips (article)
- Replacing Kitchen Cabinet Hardware (video)
- How to Choose Kitchen Countertops (video)
- Replacing a Kitchen Faucet (video)
Danny Lipford: It’s kitchen makeover time on Today’s Homeowner this week. And kitchens are all about family; but when the family is this big, the makeover is really important.
Kathy Kennedy: I live in my kitchen, and so I need it to be more functional.
Danny Lipford: Homeowner Kathy Kennedy is a single mom with a bunch of kids. I call my kids my six-pack because I have six children.
They are into everything. We’ve done theater. We have volleyball. We have soccer. We have cheerleading. We’ve done singing. We’ve done a little bit of everything. And they go to different schools, so we’re in the car all the time.
And as far as projects, they’re used to the fact that we do a lot of DIY stuff ourselves. I do a lot of things and I engage them for help. They’re actually pretty good at it. They cooperate for the most part.
I bought this house about 16 years ago, and had to do a lot of renovations and things like that to it to get it OK for six kids. This is a three/two, and we have seven people living here.
I live in my kitchen. I live in my kitchen, and so I need it to be more functional. I would love to show Danny my kitchen—specifically my countertop—because it’s gotten to the point where I can hardly use a certain part of it. We’re having great disagreement, me and my kitchen right now.
Danny Lipford: So, it looks like Kathy needs some conflict resolution with her kitchen.
Kathy Kennedy: We’ve had some water damage and leaks and it’s gotten so bad it’s warped. I mean, you can feel it.
Danny Lipford: Oh, wow, I see. I didn’t even really realize that.
Kathy Kennedy: And water seeps up under the sink and under the countertops and everything.
Danny Lipford: Wow, boy.
Kathy Kennedy: And it’s, it’s just been a huge problem for me. My dishwasher hasn’t been working for a while—just haven’t replaced it. So, I’m washing dishes three meals a day for a bunch of people.
Danny Lipford: Oh, wow. That can all be fixed. I mean, it’s a fairly small kitchen, so, it’s not a lot of countertop space in here. What else? What else problems you have here?
Kathy Kennedy: My floor. I don’t—it’s a little bit outdated, but it’s a functional floor and it goes with everything. I did try to clean the grout several years ago, and I did a great job, but I didn’t manage to keep it that way. I didn’t seal it.
Danny Lipford: Did you seal it?
Kathy Kennedy: No.
Danny Lipford: You didn’t seal it. OK.
Kathy Kennedy: So I would love to find a way to get the grout back to its original condition.
Danny Lipford: Well, that’s a lot of grout on this floor. It probably took you forever.
Kathy Kennedy: Oh, yes, it did.
Danny Lipford: Did you enlist the kids?
Kathy Kennedy: At the time, no. Because at that time, they were crawling around. But I will this time.
Danny Lipford: Yeah, that’s a good idea. Well, the cabinets, they’re not in too bad a shape. Usually, you see—I see a little bit of hardware missing here and there, but—
Kathy Kennedy: Obviously, you want hardware on all of your cabinets, and I don’t have that. I like the cabinets. They’re only about 20 years old. They just need— I don’t know, some updating or just something to kind of spruce them up.
Danny Lipford: Well, maybe some new hardware or at least hardware that matches. This is a little unusual. Antique brass. Polished brass. Wow.
Kathy Kennedy: Well, it— it came with the house.
Danny Lipford: Well, that means—they look like they’re well-built cabinets, and that’s half the battle.
So Chelsea takes Kathy on a shopping trip to Home Depot to pick out some new hardware…
Kathy Kennedy: I think just something simple, you know like that antique iron kind of black look I think would be pretty in there.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: OK, yeah. So these are cool, but…
Kathy Kennedy: Yeah, I like these. But we’d have to put new holes in the cabinet doors and the cabinets, and I’d just as soon not add any more holes to it anywhere.
Danny Lipford: …and to get some new ideas for her new countertops. She winds up choosing a solid surface material that works well with both the cabinet stain and the wall color.
With the new materials lined up, it’s time to get rid of the old ones. Now, while we’re moving out the kitchenware, Allen starts disconnecting the sink. When Kathy empties the catch pans from the leaky sink…
Danny Lipford: You’ve done this before.
Kathy Kennedy: Oh, a few times.
Danny Lipford: …we get a better idea of how bad this leak is, because she just emptied these pans a few days ago.
While Allen finishes up the plumbing, Kathy and I start removing the other piece of countertop. Once Allen gets the sink out, it’s obvious that this countertop was on its last leg.
Kathy Kennedy: Wow.
Allen Lyle: I honestly think the plumbing was the only thing holding this up.
Kathy Kennedy: Wow.
Danny Lipford: Gee whiz.
Allen Lyle: Look, did you see this, Danny?
Danny Lipford: Look at this. Boy, the particleboard.
Allen Lyle: Look at that.
Kathy Kennedy: Oh, my gosh.
Allen Lyle: Wow.
Kathy Kennedy: Y’all came in just in time.
Danny Lipford: Yeah, it was time for a new countertop there. Great day, and just think of those buckets you had down below there. You can use those for something else now.
Kathy Kennedy: Oh, great!
Danny Lipford: We also discovered that Kathy may have a problem hoarding corn syrup.
Allen Lyle: Kathy, you got enough Karo?
Kathy Kennedy: Ah, I like to make divinity at Christmas.
Danny Lipford: You’re ready. You’re ready for Christmas.
Allen Lyle: I got two more bottles in here. Oh.
Allen Lyle: That’s nice. That’s nice.
Danny Lipford: Look at that, Kathy.
Kathy Kennedy: Oh, my gosh.
Danny Lipford: Here you go.
Kathy Kennedy: What in the world?
Danny Lipford: Make a piece of art out of that.
Allen Lyle: That’s nasty.
Kathy Kennedy: Uh, it’s going to be trash art.
Danny Lipford: Wow. That is in pretty bad shape there. I’ll tell you, one of the ways to prevent this from happening at your house is to make sure that the area around your kitchen sink is sealed very, very well with a silicone countertop caulk. Now, that’ll prevent any water from getting around and causing this kind of damage.
Same way on any of the seams that you had. She had a lot of damage on her seam right here, so, all of those areas need to be caulked and maintained real well.
Now, she won’t have to worry about that in the future. She’s getting a solid surface countertop with an integrated bowl. So there’s no problem whatsoever in being able to take that water and wiping it right into the sink.
Joe Truini: If your dishwasher’s not cleaning your dishes as well as it used to, you might be able to solve the problem with a length of wire. This I cut from a clothes hanger, and you can use it to clear out the spray arm.
You notice the bottom of the dishwasher has a spray arm that has holes that shoot out water. And they often get plugged up with food or hard water deposits—mineral deposits.
So to clean it, you can use the wire to poke out the holes. And you do it while it’s in place, but it’s easier to disconnect the spray arm and pull it out. Most dishwashers have a simple locking knob on the bottom.
Then you use the wire to clear out the hole. Poke the wire all the way to the bottom. Make sure you clear out any food deposits or any other obstructions.
Now, if it’s really plugged up, you also take it and soak it in a tub of warm water with a little bit of vinegar. That’ll help dissolve any deposits that are in there.
Now, once it’s clear, you just put it back in place, lock it on to make sure it’s locked good and securely. And this is really important, once it’s on place, spin it. Make sure that it spins freely. If not, you’re going to have another problem.
And once you clean that one, then clean the other spray arm at the top, and your dishwasher will be working as good as new.
Danny Lipford: This week, we’re helping Kathy Kennedy make over her kitchen, which is the center of family activity for her and her six children. We’ve removed the sink and water-damaged counters…
Allen Lyle: It’s nasty!
Danny Lipford: …now it’s time to get started sprucing up these cabinets.
So, Kathy, are you starting to panic a little bit about what’s for dinner tonight?
Kathy Kennedy: A little bit, but I’m thinking it’s a great night for takeout.
Danny Lipford: I think it would be a real good idea. We won’t quite get those countertops on today, but here’s what we’re going to do now. Chelsea’s already dropped by and set up some sawhorses out back, and we’ll give you the doors. You take those out, and you guys will sand it, then spray polyurethane. You and Chelsea will do the spraying of the doors outside, and Allen and I will do all the boxes here with a nice china bristle brush to put the polyurethane on. Then we can put all of this back together tomorrow, so…
Kathy Kennedy: All right, sounds great.
Danny Lipford: All right, let’s get the doors out of here.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: All right, we have 400-grit sandpaper. And just kind of, just knock a little bit of the grime off but not mess up the finish or the color too bad. And then we have this steel wool just to kind of get down in the crevices there. It’s kind of hard to get the sandpaper in there.
Kathy Kennedy: All right.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Then we’ll wipe it off and spray some more shiny stuff on it. We should be good to go.
Kathy Kennedy: All right.
Danny Lipford: The object here isn’t to remove the clear finish, just to take off the gloss so that the new polyurethane we spray on will stick really well.
Meanwhile, Allen and I are steadily removing the old hardware from the rest of the doors, and marking their location so that they all get the same treatment.
What do you think? It’s looking a little gloomy out here.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: I’m thinking—what’s it look like over there, Kathy? I’m thinking from what…
Kathy Kennedy: From what this radar looks like, it’s right on top of us.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Oh, no!
Danny Lipford: Oh, no.
Almost as soon as the words leave Kathy’s mouth, the drops start falling, and we’re scrambling to get the doors in out of the rain. But inside, the work continues.
Allen Lyle: All right. What I’ve got here is this area right over the sink. In addition to the water that was affecting the countertop, it’s also affected the face frame and the doors that were right here—some of the stain’s missing. So, I’m using a little more aggressive sandpaper. They’re using 400 outside. I’ve got 220 here.
So, I’m just going to rough it up, and remove some of that flaking stain or finish. Then I’ll come back with a stain. And luckily, it’s something I’ve seen a lot of, so I know this is a golden oak color. I’ll restain the doors, restain some of the face frame here. The black will be covered by the new hinges, because they’re the same footprint. And by the time I’m finished, it’ll look fairly new.
Danny Lipford: Allen’s refinishing remedy seems to be working well. So while the stain dries, we sand the rest of the cabinets and start applying the poly to them.
Fastest painter in town.
Allen Lyle: The best?
Danny Lipford: Not so much.
Danny Lipford: Apparently, our strict work ethic and high productivity is having a positive impact on the ladies. Because as soon as the rain passes, they’re hard at work spraying those doors.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: So here, you want to give it a try?
Kathy Kennedy: Sure.
Danny Lipford: Because these doors were already protected by several coats of finish, all we’re doing here is adding a light topcoat to smooth out the surface and add a little shine.
After the doors and cabinets dry overnight, they’re ready to go back together.
Allen Lyle: All right, Kathy. Going to do a little assembly line here, so you and Chelsea will put on hinges and knobs—debate that amongst yourselves who wants to do what.
Kathy Kennedy: OK.
Allen Lyle: When you’re done, hand it off to me and I’ll hang it. All right?
Kathy Kennedy: All right.
Allen Lyle: If you will, can you help Chelsea bring some of the rest of the doors in?
Kathy Kennedy: I’ll be glad to.
Allen Lyle: And I’ll tell everyone this. If you are trying to change your hardware and you want the least amount of work, do exactly what Kathy did. Take one of the old ones with you, because she was able to match that footprint exactly. We’re not going to have any problem with this new hardware.
Danny Lipford: The screws for the knobs, however, are a one-size-fits-all arrangement. So, we’re using a wire stripping tool that includes threaded cutting guides to cut the screws cleanly to the correct length. These felt pads will keep the doors from banging when they close.
Allen Lyle: This is important.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Jeez, Allen, brush your teeth before you come to work.
Allen Lyle: Oh, no. You know what toothpick’s for?
Kathy Kennedy: Yes. Please tell me.
Allen Lyle: If you get in a situation—and if you’re at home, this will happen to you—where one of the screw holes is too wide, it’s too large, just take a toothpick. Little bit of wood glue, put it in the hole, and break it off.
Kathy Kennedy: Oh, my gosh.
Allen Lyle: And then your screw’s going to fit just perfectly.
Kathy Kennedy: You’re a genius.
Allen Lyle: I am.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Oh, gosh.
Allen Lyle: And I still have half a toothpick.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: All right, Allen, time to speed up the assembly line.
Allen Lyle: All right, all right. Hey, listen, I had to use an old screw up there because the one didn’t have a cut out for a Philips.
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Oh, OK.
Allen Lyle: So it’s going to need a little fix. I think my Sharpie will do the trick!
Danny Lipford: While we finish putting the cabinets back together, why don’t you check out this week’s Best New Product.
Jodi Marks: I think the reason why painting projects get voted the number one DIY project—especially for beginners—is it is so easy to do, you get instant results, and you don’t have to have elaborate tools to get those beautiful results. But you want to make sure that you get your surface prepped properly so that you get a nice finish.
Now, sometimes, you might run into problems like mold. Well, what do you do? This is what you do. Here’s the answer to it. You get a mold killing primer, and this is one by Zinsser.
It’s very easy to use. It’s a water base, but it does have an anti-microbial formula in there so that it kills the mold and the mildew on contact.
So, that means that if you’ve got drywall or you’ve got a ceiling that has moisture that is creating this mold and the mildew, you don’t have to destroy that first and then prime over it.
All you got to do is use this primer. Go right over it. It will kill it, and then it will coat it, and then you can put on your beautiful top coat and change the look of that room in no time.
Danny Lipford: Kathy Kennedy’s kitchen is a busy place. With six kids, she spends more than her fair share of time here; but it was looking a little sad. So we’ve removed the water-damaged counters to make way for the new ones, freshened up the cabinets with new hardware and a clean, new finish.
And now it’s time to attack the stained grout on that floor. Kathy is the one who ends up doing most of the cleaning into the evening, but eventually, the whole floor is clean. She even breaks out a roller to touch up the paint on the kitchen walls.
Now early the next morning, the countertops arrive. And after the installers move some appliances and confirm the measurements, they have some questions for Kathy.
Christopher Alexander: So I was just curious where you wanted to put the faucet hole? We can put it centered in between the whole sink, or we can put it centered on the division of the uneven bowls.
Kathy Kennedy: I think it would look more symmetrical, of course, to put it in the center.
Christopher Alexander: Yeah. And then you got better, you’ve got better reach to both sides. Yeah.
Kathy Kennedy: Let’s do that.
Christopher Alexander: OK. Centered in the middle of the two bowls.
Danny Lipford: Once that hole is drilled, they’re ready for a dry fit to identify areas where any trimming and polishing may be necessary before the final fit.
Now, when the installers are happy with the fit and the finish of the tops; they seal them in place with a heavy-duty silicone adhesive, and caulk the backsplashes to the walls behind them.
Kathy Kennedy: Wow. That looks fantastic. I won’t know how to act.
Christopher Alexander: This is Formica solid surface, and it comes with a 10-year limited warranty.
Kathy Kennedy: If I did have a scratch or something, is there some way I can—
Christopher Alexander: Yeah, there sure is. We’ve left you with some Scotch Brite pads. This is actually what we use to finish the countertop out in the shop…
Kathy Kennedy: Oh, OK.
Christopher Alexander: …this same Scotch Bite pad. So that’s the final finish that’s left on the material when we’re complete, so—
Kathy Kennedy: I think I made a great choice. I’m very happy with it.
Christopher Alexander: Good.
Kathy Kennedy: Thanks.
Danny Lipford: As soon as the counter crew is gone, Allen gets to work putting in a brand-new faucet with a little help from Kathy.
Allen Lyle: Feel snug up there?
Kathy Kennedy: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Allen Lyle: That’s good.
Kathy Kennedy: See, I’m so confident in your skills that I just figure I’m like the Vanna White to your Pat Sajak.
Allen Lyle: OK. Here’s your new sink and a new car!
Danny Lipford: In no time at all, the faucet is complete and ready for a test drive.
Allen Lyle: Push that way is on.
Kathy Kennedy: Oh, OK.
Allen Lyle: Hot, cold.
Kathy Kennedy: OK. And how about pulling this lever down? Is that—oh, that’s easy. OK. Wow. I’m not going to—I’m going to have to change my name, because I’m not going to know how to act. And no leaks. I mean, what do I do with no water to clean up every day?
Allen Lyle: No water to clean up, I know.
Kathy Kennedy: And no buckets to clean up every day.
Allen Lyle: I know.
Kathy Kennedy: Gosh.
Allen Lyle: Well, wee can— we can put a pinhole in it if you like.
Kathy Kennedy: No, no.
Danny Lipford: And what a great looking faucet, sink, countertop. Everything’s really working out well on this kitchen facelift. But we need just a few decorative items, like maybe a mat in front of the sink and a few towels to hang here.
Well, Allen convinced Kathy to go with him up to a store and buy a few of these things. And while they’re gone, we’re going to pull a little surprise on her. Because she needs something in this kitchen really badly, and that’s a new dishwasher.
Look at this thing. It hadn’t worked in over a year. She has six kids, she’s washing three loads of dishes a day by hand in the sink. She really needs a brand-new dishwasher. So I’m going to slip this in. But I’ve got to do it fast, because they’ll be back less than 30 minutes.
Installing a dishwasher alone isn’t an incredibly difficult task. But, I have to admit, I’ve never done it as quick as 30 minutes. But then again, I’ve never been quite so motivated either.
Hey, did you find anything there? Let me get this out of your way.
Kathy Kennedy: Yeah.
Danny Lipford: Let’s see what she looks like down there.
Kathy Kennedy: I’m going to see how these colors look in here—just something to brighten up a little bit maybe.
Danny Lipford: Oh, that’s a nice color, that’ll go real well.
Kathy Kennedy: Yeah.
Danny Lipford: Perfect.
Kathy Kennedy: Oh, I was worried. I was wondering if it was going to fit.
Danny Lipford: Seems like it works out pretty well. You like it?
Kathy Kennedy: Yeah, I love it. Hey, while you were gone, I got some tea and everything. I hope you don’t mind. So I went ahead and I thought I’d put in a dishwasher here.
Kathy Kennedy: Wow. Oh, are you going to make me cry on TV?
Danny Lipford: Oh, yeah, we’re counting on it.
Kathy Kennedy: Oh, my god.
Danny Lipford: You wash so much clothes—I mean, so many dishes—felt like you needed a little bit of help with those six kids.
Kathy Kennedy: I can’t even…
Danny Lipford: You like it?
Kathy Kennedy: Yes, yes, yes, yes. You want me to run any more errands, I’ll be glad to?
Danny Lipford: Well, actually, you still have work to do.
Kathy Kennedy: Yes.
Danny Lipford: You’ve got to seal the floor, so you do that. We’ll finish hooking up your brand-new dishwasher.
Kathy Kennedy: I cannot—y’all do not know what a big deal this is for me, so thank you.
Danny Lipford: We thought it was, so…
Danny Lipford: People often ask, “How hard is it to paint your kitchen cabinets?”
First, you want to sand all surfaces, whether they’re painted or stained, so the primer will adhere well. Then apply an oil primer to help the subsequent layers of paint stick.
Next, fill any holes, divots, or low places with automobile body filler; and sand it smooth after it dries. Then wipe it clean and you’re ready to apply two coats of quality enamel paint. Brush painting will work fine, but a sprayer is even better if you have access to one.
When you’re done, your old cabinets will have a fresh, new look; and so will your kitchen.
Danny Lipford: Kathy’s busy kitchen was looking a little worse for wear. The cabinets were scuffed and scratched. The leaking sink had ruined the laminate countertop and compromised its ability to even hold its own weight. Plus, the grout joints in the tile floor were dingy, dirty, and stained.
After we completed our work, Kathy sealed the grout joints that had been cleaned a few days before, so they should remain looking good for some time.
The cabinets have a new glow, thanks to a little TLC and some brand new hardware. And the new countertop, sink, and faucet have given this busy kitchen a new lease on life—not to mention the new dishwasher that has given Kathy back some spare time.
Well, I have to say, I love the countertops and the sink. Pretty much everything turned out nicely. But you did a lot of work with all the painting and all of the work you did on the floor and the sealing of the grout. You seem to enjoy it.
Kathy Kennedy: I do enjoy it, and I especially enjoy it when it looks like this at the end.
Danny Lipford: Yeah, it really did turn out nice. I’ll tell you what. I’m going to leave you alone, since everything’s finished. Because it’s getting close to the time when the kids come home, and I saw how crazy that was.
Kathy Kennedy: It is, and I better get to it.
Danny Lipford: Well, you can see that you can do a lot with just very little. And even though the countertops was a fairly significant investment, overall, this was a very simple renovation. And I hope we were able to share with you some ideas you can use at your home. And, certainly, you can drop by our website—TodaysHomeowner.com.
I’m Danny Lipford. We’ll see you next week right here. That’s pretty cool with the…
Allen Lyle: What do you use to clean your nose?
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: Allen!
Allen Lyle: A Sharpie?
Chelsea Lipford Wolf: No.