Wednesday, July 1, 2020

ReStore Rehab...Reimagining Life

Today’s post is a before and after sort of story. A story of transformation.

When I bought my house, the basement was unfinished. A contractor finished the bulk of it. There was plumbing available for a kitchenette, but adding one at the time was cost prohibitive. 

Before: Unfinished Space
I checked out the base cabinet, countertop, sink, and hardware at my local big box stores. I priced the backsplash materials and other construction needs. Adding the lights I wanted and allowing for labor to do everything, I was looking at more than a basement kitchen should cost. 

I knew I could likely cut the cost if I could find the cabinet base at our local ReStore. ReStore is connected to Habitat for Humanity, a cause I support. I found an entire set of cabinets at ReStore for less than one cabinet at the big box store. And…the hardware was included! The man at the store loaded the pieces in my van. My daughter and grandson helped me unload them into my garage. 

Over the next few months, I wandered through my ReStore occasionally. Slowly, I collected the items I needed. My garage was beginning to look more like a workshop. I bought a bar sink at Lowes and added it to my collection.

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I came to the realization that I could install my own kitchen. 

I had some knowledge.

I had Tom’s tools. 

I had all the materials.

I had YouTube. 

And I had the desire to try.
ReStore Cabinet Find

I measured the space and the cabinets multiple times. Getting the cabinet in with the sink was a priority. My plumber moved the old washing machine water line and told me he could hook everything up to the water and drain. He told me to call him when I had the cabinet, sink and countertop ready. 

I watched YouTube to learn how to patch the hole in the drywall from the plumbing being moved. 

I did some more measuring. A base unit has two doors. I had enough room for another small cabinet, so after a lot of consideration, I cut one of the base cabinets in half. Perfect. I managed to move the full cabinet and the half cabinet from my garage to the basement. I felt like Wonder Woman. 

Cutting the countertop for the sink was daunting. I heard cutting a Formica top could cause chipping and splitting. I watched YouTube for clues. Again, I measured the opening multiple times. I drew the line to be cut on the countertop. I taped beside the line. Still, I was filled with fear to make the first cut.

One video I watched suggested I purchase a special drill bit for Formica and drill a starting place for my saw. I went back to Lowes. Ellery, the store manager told me I was overthinking it. He told me to use a drill bit I had, make a hole in each corner big enough for the blade of my saber saw, and go for it. So I did.

Go for It!
I reminded myself the countertop only cost me $10 at the ReStore shop, so I should feel free to risk it. How did it turn out? Piece of cake. I did the happy dance all through the house. I took pictures the way a new grandma takes photos of a baby and shows them to everyone in sight.

The cabinets, countertop, and sink in place, my plumber returned to hook it all up. He even anchored the cabinet to the wall for me.

The next step? The backsplash. The tile at the ReStore was fifty cents a square foot. Seven dollars later, I walked out with enough tile to cover the space as well as a couple of extra tiles in case I needed to trim-fit awkward edges. The adhesive and grout cost more than the tile. 

I wanted to do it all myself. It turned out to be impossible. I had a respiratory reaction to the adhesive. Fortunately, my youngest daughter wanted to help with the project. I measured and cut tile in one room while she adhered each piece to the kitchen wall. It was a fun afternoon.

My friend Bob helped, too. He changed the hinges on the door of the third cabinet so it opened the other way and installed the lights I purchased at Menards for the ceiling.

Finally, I put old math skills and my son-in-law’s miter box to use cutting and fitting the baseboards and kickboard. 

The small basement kitchen turned out great. But the real transformation was mine. 

After: Same Space Redefined
I used parts of my brain I forgot I had. I’m a decent problem solver. When I’m writing, I have to create believable situations or get my characters to go where I want them to go… do what I want them to do… say what I need them to say. Those are literally “word problems.” But building requires a different way of visualizing the end product. It requires accurate measurement and geometry. 

I did something I thought I could never do. Using power tools and ripping through wood, sanding, screwing, nailing, and caulking? That was Tom’s world. I admired the way he took on any task. He designed and built bunk beds for our daughters with drawers underneath. He built a storage shed over forty years ago that is still standing strong. He added bathrooms to a couple of places we lived. He could do anything. He always showed me how to do things and shared his “thinking through” of a project with me.

When Tom died I had just started crafting a new novel. The hardest project I’ve ever attempted. After he died, I abandoned that project. It was something I felt was too difficult. I no longer feel that way. It will take time. It will be hard. But I now have the confidence to take it on.

My next building project? I have space in my basement for a wood working shop. I’ll likely take that on even as I work on the book. It turns out I do some of my best thinking with a hammer in my hand.

What new challenge are you ready to tackle?


  1. Loved this post, and love your tenacity! I find I do my best work when I'm determined to do it myself! Congratulations on your new skills, and enjoy them!

    1. Thank you, Regina! You are a true encourager. I don't know why we tend to put so many limits on ourselves! Happy to find a kindred spirit...we get things done!


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