Old House Restoration

A real family makes an old house their home...for the 2nd time
The Splendido's renovate, restore and rejuvenate their home with their own hands - all while living in the house
and balancing their family needs...you know...like most families have to do it!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Butler's Pantry Renovation - Before & After

In the video I took on inspection day you can hear me say, "so far everything looks nice in this house, until you open this swinging door." On the other side of that door was the butler's pantry. The home builder, Paul Schaefer, was know for the built-ins he made in all his homes - and he did not disappoint. The butler's pantry, with it's window to the outside and space for a breakfast nook was beautifully made and a GREAT space, it was just in sore need of a major update and renovation.

A couple of weeks ago I documented how I restored the wood floors in Part 1 of this Butler's Pantry and Breakfast Nook Series. In the next week or so I'll write about the really fantastic (if I do say so myself) breakfast nook bench I designed and built for the room. But today will showcase the rehabilitation of the Butler's Pantry. I think you will find my Formica transformation really cool...and if you still have laminate counters you might start looking at them and saying..."I wonder if I can do that."

Before Pictures

Wallpaper above the pantry

During Grandma Holly's first visit to the house she said, I think these panels on the middle doors are painted glass. To be honest, we had been in the house for over a month and had no idea. She was right! We did two test panes to see how easily we could restore them to glass. The paint came off easily, however we kept this look (only 2 panes revealed) for the next 5 months. Although it looked weird, we wanted to save all the glory for when the project was really completed.

Step One - Removal of Wallpaper

Karen enjoyed this job. She removed all the wallpaper using a paper tiger, warm water in a pump sprayer, a putty knife, more water, large sponge, scotch brite pad and elbow grease. I'll discuss the wallpaper removal process more in my next post, because there was a lot more wallpaper involved in that portion of the renovation.

This picture shows the wallpaper removed, revealing plywood...
...it also doubles as a pretty complete Before Picture

Step 2 - Remove Doors & Reface Cabinet Doors

First I removed all the doors and brought them to the basement to be refaced. Unfortunately I did not take any pictures of the transformation process for the doors (Karen had yet to say, "you should really start a blog to capture all the changes we are going to make.").

But fear not! I need to do the exact same process to the kitchen cabinets (some day), so I will document that process then. In a nut shell - I used strips of 1/4" X 4" poplar boards to frame each of the lower cabinet doors. The lower cabinet doors were real wood, but had plain flat panels. Adding the trim work gave the cabinet doors depth and character. As for the upper cabinet doors, I scraped all the paint off the glass. Revealing the beauty that Paul Schaefer originally intended.

Step 3 - Build Open Shelving

I drilled a a few 1 inch holes in the plywood so I could use a flash light to see what was behind the plywood. Empty Space! Time to make some open shelving. Yeah! Love open shelving!

I carefully cut the plywood with my jig saw, using the ceiling, walls, molding as a straight line guide. I took it out in a few pieces.

On the right side of the pantry you will see a portion that I did not make into open shelving. That is because those are faux cabinet doors due to that is the location of our laundry chute. Can't cut into that! The kids love it too much!...and so do we. Just pick up all the clothes the kids left every where and throw them down the chute. It is like magic...their rooms look immediately cleaner!

Then I used some left over sheet rock and 1/2" x 2" poplar strips to create some dividers that matched the cabinets below.

Step 4 - Painting Prep & Minor Drawer Improvements
You can see in the picture above where I started filling in the cabinet screw holes with spackle for painting.

Also these are old drawers. So they do not have smooth rolling bearing drawer guides. Over the years the friction of the wood on wood has caused some unevenness. I found a way to correct both issues. I used shims to level all the drawer fronts. Then I found a great product on Rockler.com. Nylo-Tape Friction Free Drawer Slide Tape. Just clean the drawer slides and then stick this tape on. Your old drawers will slide smoothly. So simple. I liked it so much I used this on all the drawers in our house and on our furniture, too! So much better than fighting to open a drawer.

Step 5 - Painting
  • 1 coat of Benjamin Moore primer
  • Two coats of Benjamin Moore White Dove (satin finish) on all the shelving, dividers, cabinet doors and face of the Butler's Pantry. I used their ADVANCE Waterborne Interior Alkyd Paint. It self levels much better to a smooth finish. Brush strokes are barely noticeable.
  • For some contrast we chose Benjamin Moore Navajo White (Regal Select Eggshell) for the back wall of the pantry.
  • To protect all the shelve tops (the portion glassware and dishes will be stacked on) - I used 3 coats of Minwax Polycrlyc.
    • IMPORTANT - The reason you MUST use this instead of a a polyurethane, is because a polyurethane has a amber finish to it. You do not want to use polyurethane on something you painted white! It will turn off-white or worse. The polycrylic goes on cloudy, but dries to a crystal clear hard finish.

Above you can see the painted pantry without the doors reinstalled.
...you can also see the Moravian Light I wrote about a month ago

Step 6 - Convert Laminate to Oak Countertops

Sure I really like the woodworking I did for the open shelving and the refaced cabinet doors (you will see these below in the after pictures), but if I had to pick the one portion of this project I was most proud of, it would be my oak countertops. This is truly an idea I came up with on my own. I never saw this done online or on a TV show. I am not saying it has never been done before, but I have never SEEN it done before. I just decided to go for it and hoped it would work.

Converting laminate counters to oak
Before - laminate countertop - chipped in the center and all

My idea came to me as I was purchasing poplar boards for the cabinet refacing. I saw that Lowes had some nice red oak boards in 1/4"x 2"x 4' lengths. I figured since this countertop is not close to a water source (no sink), I could maybe glue them right on top of my formica countertop - offsetting each row- to give the counter top the look and feel of solid oak without having to rip out the laminate. This was important, because I would have had to take apart portions of the Butler's Pantry to remove the countertop. Not something I wanted to do.

Converting laminate counters to oak
I do wish I took some more in-process pictures, but I think there are enough for you to get the idea.

Steps to Convert Laminate to Oak
  • Clean laminate with degreaser (good cleaning product) to remove all grease
  • Sanded all surfaces with 60 grit to leave a rough surface for glue to stick to
  • Drilled many 1/4 holes in all surfaces of the laminate - again to give more areas for the glue to hold onto.
  • Glued the back of a board with indoor/outdoor wood glue. I spread the glue out evenly along the whole board with a small paint brush.
  • Starting with my front edge I carefully laid the glued board down and attached it with clamps.
  • Repeated this process for the whole countertop - alternating the seams from left to right for every other row and making cuts when necessary.
  • Placed all my P90X weights (hey at least they got used for something!!!) on top of pieces of plywood to help weigh down the boards and let the glue cure overnight (see below picture)
Converting laminate counters to oak
I weighted down all the boards while the glue dried overnight

 When I removed all the boards, clamps and weights the next day I was left with this:

Converting laminate counters to oak

The next steps:
  • I sanded the oak boards with my orbital sander with 60, then 120, then 200 grit sandpaper to ake all the seems smooth.
  • Taped off all the edges with blue painters tape
  • Karen and I decided we wanted a dark counter to go with the dark floors, so I used a can of Minwax Walnut stain we already had. Don't forget to use Minwax Pre-Stain first as I discussed in the how to restore floors entry.
  • I protected the counters with 3 coats of the same satin polyurethane I used on the floors
When I was done the counter looked like this:

Converting laminate counters to oak
 Love it!

Step 7 - Reinstall Cabinet Doors and New Hardware

After lots of trial and error Karen and I finally decided on the new hardware. For the Butler Pantry and Kitchen we needed a combined 10 drawer pulls, 28 pairs of hinges and 31 knobs.

We found the perfect combo at The Home Depot, but then decided before installation that we didn't like any of them. Returned. Then we purchased everything again. This time we really did love the satin cup drawer pulls I found on Rockler.com. However I hated the hinges. So They were returned (again). Finally I found the right self-closing satin 3/8" inset hinges on Rockler. Thank goodness the 3rd time was the charm. As for the knobs, I actually found these really nice crystal octagon glass knobs on Amazon.

When installing knobs and pulls it is a good idea to build a template out of scrap wood that can be placed as a guide to make sure each is installed in the same spot.

The After Pictures:

Butler's Pantry Restoration | Renovation

Here you can see the trim work I added to reface the bottom cabinets.

Butler's Pantry Restoration | Renovation

We are really pleased with the way the Butler's Pantry came out. With this done, I was really looking forward to the next step in this room - the Breakfast Nook Bench...it is a good one!...entry next week!

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