It’s finally over, though some other parts of the house are still quite a mess. The result is definitely well worth it, but the ordeal was unbearable at times when it seemed like it’d never end.

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Here’s our Flickr photo set (most links point to photos in it). I think it’d be nice to make a Flash piece to show stuff like before and after comparisons–when I get a chance. I have an earlier post mostly on Ikea stuff. Here’s a list of nontrivial things that we did ourselves, ordered in roughly decreasing level of difficulty:

  • Buying all materials (cabinets, pipes and hoses, glue/grout/silicon…) from Ikea, Home Depot, and Lowes. We went to these places for no less than 30 times in total, buying and returning. It suddenly dawned on me one day that there’s no way we could’ve done it if we’re not in Secaucus, where there’re 2 Ikeas, 3 Lowes, and maybe 10 Home Depot within a 10-mile radius. There’s only one Ikea in Seattle for the whole Pacific Northwest. One in Atlanta for the whole southeast. None in any of the middle landlocked states, whose residents probably only hear about Ikea in that Friends episode where Phoebe calls herself Ikea because that’s the only Swedish “name” she knows, and they won’t even get the joke.
  • Paint the walls. This includes stripping wallpaper, cleaning the wall of glue, patching the uneven areas with joint compound, masking everything, paint bass coat, and paint top coat.
  • Keep the Trompe L’Oeil Tuscan window decorative wallpaper intact. This is part of the paint job, but it’s worth mentioning by itself because it involves stripping them off the wallpaper, glueing onto base coat, and painstakingly masking them before painting the top coat. The result is great because the paint we chose is Tuscany accent, partly inspired by the wallpaper.
  • Apply popcorn texture to ceiling above the cabinets, and paint the wall between the cabinet top and ceiling white. These areas become visible since the hanging truss box was removed and the cabinets don’t reach all the way up to the ceiling. The gap turned out to be quite nice when I hide a string of Christmas lights on cabinet top.
  • Assemble and install all drawers. The high pullout pantry door is a big challenge. Fortunately I learned the tricks from someone so I didn’t screw up anything.
  • Install all cabinet door handles. This isn’t hard at all, but it requires a lot patience and carefulness. Here’re the steps:
    1. Measure, try with the handle to make sure since a hole can’t be undone.
    2. Drill a small guiding hole.
    3. Drill a shallow 5/32″ pit from both sides, otherwise if you drill through at once, the veneer on the other side would chip badly.
    4. Drill through from outside.
    5. Erase pencil line. It’s hard to clean up after the handle is on.
    6. Install, adjust position.
  • Install accent shelf and light.
  • Install steel support for island and sink. The one beneath the sink is crucial, without which the frame was sagging due to the weight of the countertop, and made the doors hard to open. I spent almost a full evening before countertop installation trying to figure out how to support it, only to find out the next day when I returned home that the installers took the support off for their convenience. It’s pretty tough putting it back with the big sink in place.
  • Seal countertop-wall, sink-countertop, and sink pipes with clear silicon. The pipes seemed to work after the contractor installed them, but started to leak after some use, so I sealed all the joints.
  • Run microwave cord through back of cabinet. I wanted to make the hole as small as possible, so I took the cord off from the microwave without much thought, and reconnecting it was a major effort.
  • Install light and hanging rod above sink.
  • Install electric wall plates with filler pieces that match the surroundings, which look really great. I also had to buy long screws to secure the sockets onto the frame inside the wall due to the extra depth of the tile.
  • Secure the tall island cabinet to the wall.
  • Install doors for the island cabinets and adjust all door position.
  • Install some toe kicks.
  • Install two base moulding pieces and apply clear paint. I didn’t buy enough moulding so the contractor couldn’t finish the job.
  • Install waste bin and plastic bag holder on sink cabinet doors. The center panel of the doors is very thin so screws can only go into the borders, which caused a bit problem for the plastic bag holder.
  • Cover up the connecting point of exhaust pipe and hole on the wall. The contractor did a poor job leaving a large lap, so exhaust air would escape back into the room.
  • Seal grout.
  • Seal the exposed edge of tiles with white silicon.
  • Glue cover strips to cabinet side to cover up the distance between cabinet and wall.
  • Patch all cabinet holes, cracks, and crevices using wood filler.

Sure we could’ve asked the contractor to do all these, but that would take at least two full days for him (at our cost, of course) and I just don’t trust him enough to take care of some delicate work.


I used to joke with J whenever I felt some extra income may do us good, that I could take up Chinese food delivery as a 2nd job. Now my joke job is Ikea contractor. I think I can do a fairly good job with Ikea kitchen installation now, and I’ve already applied and extended my skills to help a friend install a few Ikea closets. Anybody wants some help with your Ikea stuff?

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