Sunday, June 17, 2012

Saving Money

Q: What do you do if your dishwasher stops working?

A: You kick her.

Stop laughing! That's mean. And it really happened to me once.

Last November my dishwasher stopped working.  No big deal, right?  It was old and had just reached the end of its life.  Time to get a new one. The new one would be quieter and would clean better. It was kind of exciting.

We went to Sears and looked at the selection.  Our first thought was "Wow, they are a lot more expensive than we thought!"  After that initial shock, it became apparent that we didn't know enough about what size we needed.  After dealing with no-longer standard door sizes last year when we tried to replace our interior doors, I was suspicious that the dishwasher space was probably not standard anymore either.

Good thing we decided to double check before dropping a half-thou on a new machine.  It turns out that the space from floor to the underside of the counter top was a full inch shorter than standard.  An inch isn't a lot, but it's enough to have to special order a dishwasher at a cost of another three hundred above regular price!

I'm sick to my stomach!

I was curious about how our broken one was wired up to the electricity.  I've installed a dishwasher before, and they are very simple.  But I was sure the previous owner had done something overly complicated.  I wanted to get back there and check it out to see if I would have to pay for some pro to install it for me.

I unscrewed the flanges connecting the machine to the underside of the counter top and tried to slide it out.  It would rock a bit toward me, but would not slide forward. When I climbed down to the floor to see what was preventing it from moving, I found out a couple of interesting things.  The first being that previous owners had built up several layers of floor around the cabinets - including the dishwasher.  In fact, they had built up and entire inch of flooring from the original sub floor on which the dishwasher sat.  So there was no way to get the dishwasher out without completely removing the counter top first.

The second thing - the silver lining, is that the space was actually the standard size from the sub floor! We wouldn't have to spend all that extra money to get a custom sized dishwasher!

Total Savings: $300

Well, Valerie was of the opinion that if we were going to go to the trouble of removing the counter top, we may as well just get an entirely new kitchen.

Sure, Why not.

Our Old Kitchen

We decided to wait until after we got our tax return and then use that money to buy all new cabinets and counter tops - and of course a new dishwasher.

Eventually, the time came to get working on it.  Our first step was to do some shopping around.  We went to Lowes and sat down with an old guy on a computer who helped us design a new layout for our kitchen.  He printed out some images of the plan for us and quoted a price of around $7500 for just the cabinets. $7500 for installation, $3000 for granite counter tops, and $3000 more for installation of that.

I'm sick to my stomach again.

I was considering the possibility of installing them myself when our good neighbor recommended his contractor friend.  We invited him over and showed him the Lowes plan.  He worked up a bid for us that was less than $15000 for all the cabinets, granite counter tops and installation!

Total Savings: $6300

Of course, I would have to take care of the demolition of all the old cabinets, which would save us about $1500.  We planned on simply removing the old cabinets very carefully, so we wouldn't have to patch up the drywall before the new cabinets were installed.  We also planned on building up the sunken areas in the floor so that the floor would be even and the new dishwasher would fit wonderfully.

Total Savings: $7800

But we hit a couple of problems.

First, the building code indicates a minimum allowable distance between the countertop and the bottom of the upper cabinets.  With the floor built up so high, there was no way there was going to be enough space.  So we would have to tear out the floor to the sub floor.  Val was happy with this because it would mean we could put in a nice tile floor and still be OK.

Second, even though we were careful as we removed the cabinets, we found a huge gash in the drywall behind them. The previous owner carved it out to accommodate an electrical wire running across the wall to power the range hood.  So much for saving the wall.  We would have to replace it.

So we tore out the floor and all the drywall.

It became apparent that the electrical wiring was neither adequate, nor up to code.  We would need to add a bunch more electric sockets and circuits.   Not too bad.  I could do all that my self fairly simply.  Except one problem.  Our sub-panel (the circuit breaker box) was old and tiny.  There wasn't enough space to add any more circuits, and even if there was, they don't sell the old circuit breakers anymore.  I guess we will have to upgrade that as well.

Sick stomach again.

After some reassurances from my brother Joe, and some research on the internet, I decided I could do it myself.  It took several days and several trips up into the fiberglass oven of our attic crawlspace, but I got everything wired up and saved several thousand dollars in the process!

Total Savings: $11,800

Next, we hung the new drywall - after saving a few hundred dollars by plugging off some old plumbing and re-routing some gas pipes inside the wall.

Total Savings: $12,600

Then we tiled the floor with nice porcelain tiles.  It took well into the wee hours of the morning, but I got my own wet saw out of it and saved a thousand by doing it myself.

Total Savings: $13,600

We realized that our air conditioning vent was placed directly where the new cabinets would be placed.  I would have to scoot it out toward the center of the room by about two feet.  So back into the fiberglass oven and a few hours later, I had saved several hundred dollars!

Total Savings: $13,700

Finally the cabinets were installed.  We bought a new microwave to go over the range.  But there was a problem.  The new configuration positioned the oven 120 inches away from it's former location, so the vent to the roof no longer lined up.  Another chance to save some money!  I climbed into the fiberglass oven again (the outside temp was 100 degrees), and re-routed the duct work then installed the microwave.

Total Savings $13,900

To prepare for the sink plumbing, I wanted to replace the water shutoff valves.  I grabbed one and twitsted and *snap*, the pipe had rusted completely through and broke right off.  Same for the other one.

AHHHHHHHHHH!  That happens every time!!!!

I gripped the pipe with my pipe wrench to remove it and twisted.  It turned a quarter turn.  Except it didn't.  the copper pipe below had bent 90 degrees and collapsed in on itself.

AHHHHHHHHHH!  Time to save some money by calling a plumber to fix the mess before i made it even better.  I would surely have made it another $200 worse if I didn't defer to the pro at this point.

Finally, the counter tops were in.  I installed our new silent garbage disposal and the kitchen faucet that cost more than the disposal.  Lastly, I installed the new dishwasher.


On Father's Day.

The best present ever!

Total Savings all together: About $15,000!

That means that after the cost of everything involved, our new kitchen was basically free.  i'm sure that's what that all means, but I've never been very good at math.


Cousins said...

that is a lot of money but Im happy with what i have now


Hannah said...

I just put it in my calculator....that math was just right. :)

Holy schmokes! This looks gorgeous! What. A. Process. Good job!

Andy Porter said...

Love your logic!! The kitchen is stunning.