DIY Kitchen Backsplash

Our kitchen reno saga continues. A few weeks ago we finally tackled the backsplash. Let me tell you what. It nearly broke me. Everything I read about DIYing backsplash made it sound fairly easy compared to the other projects we've tackled. Boy was I wrong. But not necessarily because doing the backsplash is difficult. More-so because the previous owners didn't put up the old backsplash properly. It was also a glass mosaic which means a lot of little pieces to peel off. Ugh. Just thinking about it gets me all riled up all over again! 

So, remember how I said they applied it wrong? It means entire sections of the drywall were ruined when we peeled it off. UGH! Long story short, if you currently have a glass mosaic backsplash up, you should seriously consider how much you hate it. I super duper hated this backsplash so all the work was still worth it for me. 

I'm not going to even write up a how-to, because with any luck my experience will not be your experience. I'm going to link you to the blog I followed like it was DIY gospel. I went through the entire process (three posts) with ToolBox Divas

So what can I share with you that ToolBox Divas didn't? Well, I got my tile off Wayfair! At just $4 a square foot, I would highly recommend checking them out for tile if you're not finding what you want at traditional stores. I was cautious and ordered a sample first and fell in love. It was exactly what I had been looking for! I'm practically hoarding floor samples from them in search of the perfect shade of black/dark gray. 

Another thing she does not mention much is the tile cutter. We used a basic tile cutter and it does get the job done, just not perfectly for subway tile. This was a choice we made since Alvin can't work if he accidentally chops a finger off and I like my hands the way they are. Basically, we chickened out. And I wasn't patient enough (or good enough at tile setting and planning) to mark each tile and take them into a store to be cut. So in short, we had to get creative around the many outlets in the kitchen. I don't even care though. It's still an improvement to me. But, if you want it done perfectly you will need a wet saw or the patience to mark each tile and take it in to a store to be cut. 

Despite the rough patches, literally, and the funky pieces by the outlets, I would do this all over again. Here are some photos so you can see for yourself! 

And here's a before, just as a reminder. 

We've been keeping a rough tally on our kitchen reno costs, so here it is.

  • Kitchen cabinets: ~ $178
  • Kitchen Counters: ~ $175
  • Kitchen Backsplash: ~ $225
  • Rough Total So Far: $578

Not bad! Next up, kitchen flooring! 

DIY Concrete Countertops

I know I said we were going to do butcher block counters, but then I thought about a few things. First being we're paying for a wedding so is paying thousands for new counters really a priority this year? Second being we already have a lot of natural woods in our home and I didn't want to stress about the counter wood matching other décor woods. Then I discovered there's a concrete overlay product you can put right on top of the laminate. Say what?!

Immediately I loved the idea of grey counters with our new white cabinets. Added bonus, this DIY really wasn't too difficult and it came in under $200. In case you forgot, here's what the kitchen looked like before we did anything.

Here's what it looked like after the cabinets were painted. Better but I still hated the counters(and backsplash, that's next).

And here it is with a brand new concrete counters! Ta-Da!

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I won't post much of a how-to because we followed Young House Love almost to a tee. Here's there post on how to do it. The only differences are that we used Henry's Feather Finish because we could pick it up at Home Depot and I can get too excited about projects to wait for shipping. Our counters did turn out a bit darker than theirs look and I wonder if the Henry's is darker or if we did something else different.

Pro tip: If you are planning on selling your home soon I highly recommend this project if you need to update your kitchen on a time crunch and on a budget. Worried buyers won't like the concrete look? I get that. But I know more people will like the trendy concrete over the dated laminate.

We also did super small batches and worked slowly to make every layer as smooth as possible. Minimal sanding needed. Roughly one cup of mix and 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. water was just the right amount of concrete mix for us o be able to take our time and still use it all before it hardened in the bucket.

The final difference is that we didn't wait a full 24 hours between coats. I believe the shortest time between layers was six hours and it turned out fine. We were trying to get it all completed before I left for my Cali trip.

We did the sealant just like they did. Honestly this project only takes so long because there's a lot of waiting between coats of concrete and sealant coats. But totally worth it. I can't say I'll never end up with different counters but I can say these new counters are MUCH better than the laminate.

Next on the list, backsplash! Although the tear in our (clearly) cheap laminate flooring means new floors are coming soon too! Careful moving those stoves during these projects, guys! :o 

Painting Kitchen Cabinets

When we first toured our house, I knew it was going to be our first home. I also knew the kitchen needed a complete make-over. I even said so during that first tour. Who declared orange oak to be THE thing to use in homes anyway?? Plus, our kitchen is in the middle of the downstairs with no windows (we went for a townhouse). It felt dark. An orange-y kind of dark. See? 

After a bit of research, I learned that if you plan on a total kitchen overhaul then you should start with the cabinets. I know a few were hesitant when I told them this because of horror stories where counter installation ruins new cabinets. What I found was that such things rarely happen. I was willing to take that risk and loved the wild abandon that I had while painting my cabinets. I wasn't the least but worried about getting paint on the counter tops because I hate those counter tops.

So I'm going to tell you how we did it. There are probably better ways but this is what suited us. I work M-F like most, and Alvin works T-Sat. This means we only have Sundays together so we knew this would never be a weekend project for us. We took a more casual route and tackled two or three cabinets a week. Sometimes less because we don't have a garage so sanding was completely determined by the weather. It took a long time but it worked for us.

For the doors, we took them down and removed all of the hardware. Then we sanded them down using the Black and Decker mouse until you could no longer see or feel any glossy spots. This normally meant we got it all the way down to natural wood again. Saw dust is hazardous so if you plan on this type of project be sure to get a good face mask! Alvin has Asthma but found that this one worked wonders! 

I then painted it in HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams' Greek Villa. This lighter color needed three coats, front and back. This is more of a cream than a white. I originally picked three white shades and the other two ended up looking blue in our home. This is why it's always good to take those samples home first! Can you imagine painting your entire kitchen "white" only for it to look fluorescent blue?! I also chose to paint it using a flat paint which is purely a personal preference.

After the paint dried I used Krylon Matte finishing spray. Admittedly this product is made for painted furniture and the like, however the Lowe's guy said cabinet sealant can create a yellow tint so I steered clear of that. So far so good with the Krylon stuff but I'll come back and edit this if something goes awry.

After many lackadaisical weeks of cabinet door painting, we finally had a four day weekend together! Woo hoo! We didn't do the fun thing and go to the beach for the 4th but we did get the kitchen finished. :) We started by taping plastic to everything. 

Side story! Obviously we couldn't fix lunch with the kitchen looking like this so we decided to try out Panera's new delivery service. It arrived WAY before the ETA and we were unprepared. By unprepared I mean from our glass door he saw a room covered in plastic. Then a person appear out of that plastic with what looks like a gas mask on and goggles. Poor delivery guy said we scared the sh*t out of him! Whoops! He clearly watches too many horror films. Anyway...back to DIY projects!

After the taping was completed we each took our respective sanders and got to work. I used the B&D Mouse sander to tackle the little groves in the doors we couldn't take off. Alvin used a B&D circular sander to cover the flat surfaces. Between the two of us it took about an hour and a half to sand it all down. Then four hours of painting! Probably could have been less if you have two skilled painters in the house. Poor Alvin can't paint. He has tried many times since we bought the house but he really just isn't good. Thus four hours of painting for Aryn. Totally worth it for this much brighter kitchen though!

As you can see, this DIY project is not for the faint of heart. We were pretty casual about ours, painting a few cabinet doors a week until the final weekend when we completed it all. I also really enjoy painting things so it wasn't too bad for me. Alvin says he'll never do it again. It was totally worth it to me so yes, if I end up in another house with orange cabinets I will do this all over again.

Here are some pros and cons of DIYing your cabinets.


  1. Cheaper. So much cheaper. If you are planning on selling your home in the next year or two I highly recommend this project! It's not too expensive but will make your kitchen much more appealing to today's buyers. White and bright are in. Here's the total cost:
    • $50 for a gallon of HGTV Showcase paint. It's stain resistant. Key in kitchens.
    • ~$30 sanding pads, give or take. 
    • $30 Black and Decker orbital sander, I'm not including the B&D Mouse sander because I use that for a bunch of projects and already had it.
    • $18 plastic sheets to cover the kitchen
    • $25 3M Paint Project Respirator, times two since we each had one. 
    • Total: $178
  2. More control over time frame.
  3. Don't need to work out schedules for contractors to be in the home/no need to board any pets.


  1. It's work. Hard physical labor.
  2. Unlikely you could safely do this with children in the house due to saw dust and paint fumes.
  3. You lose a weekend of free time, at least.

So there you have it! Stay tuned for our DIY banister project!