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Glutton for Punishment or Naive DIY’er?

Think Realty’s Rookie Investor Relives Her First Kitchen Cabinet Project

Abby Tillman and her husband chronicled their first foray into real estate investing, buying a rental property, in Think Realty’s “Rookie Investor” blog series. The following article is excerpted from that blog.

You know those things that everyone tells you not to do, but you think, “It won’t be like that for me!” and you do it anyway? For instance, when your parents tell you not to get a dog. They tell you, “It’s a lot of responsibility,” and “It’s like having a child,” and “You won’t be able to travel as easily anymore.” But you do it anyway because you want the dog and you figure they don’t really know what they’re talking about.

And then you realize that having a dog is all the things they said. Responsibility. Disciplining. Cleaning up. Tied to the house.

Dangit! If only you’d listened!

The same thing happened with our kitchen cabinet project. Everything I read said things like “Painting cabinets is not a DIY project for the faint of heart!” and “Only truly dedicated DIY’ers (and gluttons for punishment) take on the task of painting their own kitchen cabinets.” Even my husband suggested we hire this project out, but I was adamant.

“We can do it!” I said.

“I’ll make it my own personal project!” I said.

“My sister painted her kitchen cabinets and she said it wasn’t bad!” I said.

Note: I am now certain my sister is much tougher than I am.

And, so that’s how I ended up with the absolute worst project of all time, one I am still kicking myself over taking on.

Our cabinets started out brown with a gold, textured center panel.

We easily removed all the cabinet doors and hardware.

Then, I spent five hours at the house one night, sanding down the base of the cabinets to the raw wood (see above). I later found out that when my husband said, “It needs to be sanded,” he did not mean for it to be sanded all the way down to raw wood. It just needed to be, “roughed up.” I won’t go into detail about how angry I was when I found out I’d basically wasted half a day of work. At least they looked pretty!

My friends, Rachel and Katie, helped paint the cabinet bases with two coats of white primer paint, and a final coat of glossy white (see above right).

Next, I roped my husband, Lucas, my friend, Katie, and her husband, Phil, into helping prep the cabinet doors. Since the textured center panel wouldn’t sand down, we had to use a semi-paste chemical stripper, which turned the cabinet doors a nice shade of green, but made the gold texture come off (fairly) easily. Praise Jesus.

Then, we sanded the rest of the doors, wiped them down, laid them out, and painted two coats of primer on both sides, and all edges. This required multiple days, and more help from more friends (thank you, Sarah and Ryan!) because there was limited space and we had to wait for one side to dry before painting the other.

Finally, we got to paint the final coat of glossy paint on the cabinet doors, but we weren’t done yet. The old hardware on the doors had been painted brown to match the original color scheme. So, we needed to remove that paint by soaking the hardware in a liquid paint stripper, brushing each piece with a toothbrush, and then spray painting the black color we wanted. Truth be told, this also took much longer than I expected. I spent a really fun Friday night finishing that particular piece of the project up.

Once I wound that up and we reassembled all the pieces, we were finally done.

Here’s the deal. This project took forever. I know I’m being a little dramatic, but the hard truth is this: The amount of time it took pushed us past our deadline for completing our renovation work, so we had to pay another month’s mortgage on the place.

Looking back, I wish we had instead paid someone to handle the cabinets, gotten the project done sooner so we could get a renter in, and not have had to pay the extra month’s mortgage.

You live and you learn, I guess. And yes, my dear husband, you’ve earned your right to say: “I told you so!”