November 29, 2018

DIY: Making My Own Countertops (Spoiler: I did it!)

Since this post seems to be getting a ton of traffic from the pet feeding station on Pinterest, I decided to make a tutorial for that alone. You can find that post here.

Oh, man... the last few days in my house have been crazy and stressful. When we started our DIY kitchen/dining room/living room renovation in August, I was super psyched about it. And I have loved every single moment of it. Seriously!

It really sucks that I got carpal tunnel syndrome in my hands (which, thankfully, is no longer painful--I still have numbness, but it's getting better now that I'm done with the painting and other tedious repetitive motions). But as far as the "work" of this renovation? It's been super fun!

I don't want to discredit Jerry, because he has certainly helped me, but I have honestly done about 90% of the work (even Jerry corrects people when they assume that he did it). Jerry works a full time time job, so it's only natural that I would do the bulk of this home reno. I only say this because it makes me feel SO good when I look at it and I can see how much better it looks. I did that! There are lots of things that didn't go perfectly, but I've learned a ton.

I feel like I could be a drywaller, painter, cabinet maker, countertop maker, and now plumber.

Yes, plumber.

Which is the subject of the nightmare of the last few days. You guys... I didn't cry at ALL during any of the work I've done. When something didn't go smoothly, I just kept working on it and found it fun to find the solution. But on Monday, I had a total tantrum and cried like a three year old who just wants to drink pop for breakfast.

So, I'll get into that in a moment. But first, the countertops!

Remember when I said I didn't really tell people I was going to do this until it was too late, because I didn't want people talking me out of it or telling me all the things that could go wrong, or telling me all sorts of conflicting advice? So, I did my research for weeks and I finally took the plunge.

I made my own countertops.

First of all, I didn't even know that people could do that! In retrospect, of course people can do it. But I'd never heard of anyone doing it.

I knew I wanted laminate countertops. I know it's not the "popular" choice, but I've always sort of chosen things that aren't really cool. I like laminate! I like the feel of it better than granite. And thankfully, laminate is very inexpensive relative to granite or other options. I was also surprised at just how simple the whole process was!

There are a thousand tutorials out there, but I'll probably put one together just because I'm super excited that I did it and I lived to tell about it. So I won't write all the details on this post, but I will share a few pictures:

Yes, the only photo I could find that really showed the sink was with Eli in it! (Ahem, about 10 years ago...)

This next before and after photo isn't entirely accurate... the "before" was after we'd painted the edges white. A few months ago, they were just the same old wood color that they were above, like in the photo with Eli.

Don't the new ones look awesome?! I LOVE THEM. They were super cheap to make (I'll eventually write a post with an itemized expense list for this whole project, in case anyone is curious). I think it cost roughly $300 to make five (rather large) countertops.

Soooo... I got the countertops done, and after making them, I bought a new sink. Our old sink was SO small and I hated it. It was a double-basin sink (which is common, but I really wanted it to be one large sink without dividers) and it was very shallow.

I assumed that going from two drains to one would be simple! Less pipes to deal with.

I was completely wrong. And of course, living in a manufactured home (a.k.a. trailer, double wide, etc.) came back to bite us again--because even the pipes aren't standard!

I installed the sink into the countertop, and the new faucet, and all I had to do was connect the dishwasher drain hose to the garbage disposal, and connect the garbage disposal to the main drain. I read about this for hours and watched YouTube videos galore (I hate YouTube) but I felt confident that I could do it. Easy peasy.

Until I unhooked everything and realized that the main drain was a different size from the P-trap (another term I learned--it's a necessary part of the tubes that run out of the sink). They were also different materials--PVC (the new pipes I got) versus ABS (the old pipes). They are incompatible, unless you use a special plumber's cement that is specifically for connecting the two. Luckily, I found the cement.

But for the life of me, I could NOT find any sort of adaptor that would connect the two pipes. Meanwhile, I had no kitchen sink--I'd had to turn off the water and electricity going to it. And stupid me, I didn't think to run the dishwasher or the garbage disposal before I started this. So it was REALLY gross. My house smelled horrible.

During all of this, I was trying to connect the garbage disposal to the sink. To go with the shiny new sink, I got a shiny new flange (the drain thingy that sits in the sink and leads to the garbage disposal). Well, after HOURS of trying to connect the two, it just wasn't working. It wasn't mechanically possible. I was so frustrated. And that's when I finally broke down and had a tantrum. It was the only time I cried while doing one of these DIY projects over the last few months!

After much texting, Googling, YouTubing, crying, reading, fiddling, and screaming, I finally realized that the new flange just wasn't compatible with the garbage disposal. According to the package, it was compatible, but I think our disposal was an older model or something. It was set up differently.

The photos I was texting to Jerry and my brother, Brian, trying to figure this out, hahaha:

I tried the old set up, with the old flange, and you know what? I got the garbage disposal connected. All I needed after that was to connect the disposal to the drain.

Friends, I drove to Lowe's a total of seven times in two days (Lowe's is 20 minutes away) to get different pipes that I thought would fit. I was texting Brian, who knows everything DIY/home improvement related, and he tried to help. Finally, I texted Jerry at work and told him to stop on his way home from work and buy EVERY GOT-DAMN ADAPTER that Lowe's has. And he did.

You guys... I kid you not, not a single adapter would fit!

So, early yesterday morning, I went to a different (smaller, more specialized) hardware store and I brought some parts with me. I showed them the pipes and said I need to make this pipe fit in that pipe. And they tried and tried, and finally... they were able to use three separate pieces of PVC to attach them.

The guy who worked there kept insisting that you cannot combine PVC with ABS, but I'd done my research and I even bought the special cement to do it. When I got home, I had to apply primer to the PVC and then the plumbers cement and meld them together; and then I had to join the PVC to the ABS (which went perfectly, thank God!).

And eventually, I had a kitchen sink that drained to a garbage disposal that drained to the main drain under the sink. Woo hoo! I reconnected the water and electricity, connected the dishwasher drain, and crossed my fingers.

And it worked. I cannot tell you the relief I felt!

The first thing I did was start a load of dishes in the dishwasher and then wash the rest by hand. I have never loved doing dishes--but at that moment, I was SO happy!

Here is a  photo of the shiny new sink:

Now that the countertops and sink are done, the next major projects are the island (I am modifying that quite a bit, so it doesn't look good right now--it actually looks worse than before we started, hahaha) and the floor. We spent all of our extra money this month, so we probably won't get to do the floor until January.

Yes, we've actually managed to stay debt-free through all of this! It hasn't been easy... but we are tackling one project at a time, and we aren't buying things we don't need yet. (For example, we need new duct registers for the floor, but clearly we can make do with what we have until after the flooring is done.) So, we are just buying things as we need them. Our biggest expense so far has actually been the paint! (We've literally spent probably about $600 on paint--CRAZY, right?! And that was with Sherwin Williams' 40% off sale!).

So far, though, our projects have included:

Removing two ridiculous walls and a few cupboards
Removing the popcorn ceiling and refinishing the ceiling
Taping and mudding the joints between walls and ceiling for all three rooms plus the hallway
Painting all of the walls
Painting all of the cupboards
Painting all of the trim around windows, doors, etc.
Installing new window blinds
Buying and installing new interior doors
Making a pet feeding station(!)
Installing a new ceiling fan/light in the living room
Making new laminate countertops
Installing a new sink/plumbing

I've even sold a few things that we were planning to get rid of anyways--like our coffee table. I listed it on Facebook and sold it for $100! So we are using the money from the things we sell to fund some more of our projects.

Anyway, things are going great--just super busy!--and I am SO excited to get more done so I can share more progress. But I will post an update about the intermittent fasting this weekend--since tomorrow is Day 30 of 30!

(By the way, I just realized I never shared a picture of the "pet feeding station" once I was done! Here it is...)

Cute, right? I have the dog treats, cat treats, and catnip on the shelf, Joey's food and water bowls on the bottom (they aren't gross, honest, I have no idea why they look like that in the photo!) and the cat food on top. The hole is because Estelle likes to climb through ;)


  1. This is amazing!! I am so impressed.

    Here's a completely random thought that you should feel free to ignore: have you ever thought about doing something like this professionally and/or for others? I ask because it's so rare to see women doing this work and so inspiring -- I think you would be fabulous!

    1. Thank you! I would LOVE to do something like this (I had no idea how much I would enjoy these projects). However, my carpal tunnel was SO bad that I just don't think I could handle it :(

  2. Pretty sure the grossness is just a reflection of the contact paper design in the bowls? Or am I missing something? Also -- GREAT work. I would have hated every minute of that project -- ha ha -- so I am beyond impressed that you enjoyed it. Go girl!

    1. That's probably what it is. I had bought brand new stainless steel bowls after I built this, so they were very shiny and reflective. But it just looks gross in the photo, haha!

  3. Fantastic! You could truly be an apprentice and then earn money doing this for other families. Maybe when your boys are in college, if you wanted? Clearly you have talent and the skills for it!
    I would hire you.

    1. I would LOVE to do something like that... unfortunately, I don't think my carpal tunnel would let me :( I guess I could always teach people how to do things themselves!

  4. You have done great work and it looks awesome! Have you considered tiling the backsplash? It would really add to the new look.
    Over the past two winters, I have painted my kitchen cupboards, tiled the backsplash and removed panelling ceiling and installed a drywall ceiling in the basement...haven't gotten up the courage to tape and mud yet, was going to hire that out but you may have inspired me to finish that myself.
    I also scraped down my stucco textured walls in the basement and learned during that process that a lot of stucco and popcorn texture can contain asbestos , luckily mine didn't, which I found out after shipping off a sample to have it tested. You should include this tip in your post about it.

  5. Everything looks awesome! I love laminate too. I used to enjoy HGTV when it was more about DIY - now all they seem to show are cookie cutter houses with cookie cutter decor. Blech - who wants their house to look like everyone's elses?

    1. Exactly! I love houses that have personality. We had thought this would be a "starter" home when we moved in, but we REALLY like the location and we've decided to stay here (especially considering it will be paid off before we're 40!).

  6. Omg girl! This is insane!! I love EVERYTHING! That sink looks amazing and omg those countertops!! You should be sooooo proud of yourself! I can't even imagine the work this involves!! And thank you for posting a pic of your pet feeding station, I was waiting to see what the final outcome looked like! It's perfect!

    Sorry, I'm gushing over here haha. But you're giving me inspiration for my own home! Great job!!

  7. All those projects are BEYOND amazing and look great- kudos!

  8. Wow, awesome job! My husband and I fixed up our house to sell a few years ago. He was the primary though and I was the assistant. lol But it was A LOT of work. You have done SO much in just a few months. And staying debt free is another huge accomplishment. Well done!!!

    1. Thank you! Staying debt-free during all of this has been super important to me. It's challenging, for sure, but we just do what we can when we're able. And I'm always looking for good deals and used items :)

  9. Awesome!!! Everything looks great!

  10. Love reading about your persistence and creativity! The projects look beautiful!! Great (hard) work!

  11. The countertops look great!!

  12. It looks great! Awesome job and awesome outcome. This is inspiring - I'll have to look around my house to see what I might attempt...

  13. Random question, but do you have to pull permits for this kind of work where you live?

  14. That looks great! Pat yourself on the back. I did our laminate counter tops years ago, and it wasn't that hard or expensive and ended up looking SOOOOO much better.

  15. Your renovation looks amazing. Many congratulations on doing a fantastic job.

    It gives me hope to see someone who is a normal person doing renovations like these. My husband and I want to buy a house soon but in our area the only thing we can afford are massive fixers. Seeing you do all this on your own gives me hope that he and I could be capable of fixing a lot of it up ourselves. Thank you and it looks beautiful

    1. Honestly, after doing all of this, I would LOVE to do a fixer-upper! It has been super fun and rewarding. It's not as cheap as I'd hoped (I have no idea how some bloggers manage to makeover a kitchen for $300 or whatever--like I said, our paint alone has cost over $600!). However, my friend Caitlin told me she just paid someone to install ceiling fans for $75 a pop! And those are super easy if you follow the instructions carefully. (Watch some YouTube videos--they are fantastic resources.) I've learned a TON from doing all of this, and if not for the carpal tunnel, I would totally hire myself out as a handyman! hahahaha

  16. Looks good!!!!

    Too late for you now...but when I lived in a trailer we had the same problem...bought every darn connector at Lowe’s to find they didn’t work. Home Depot actually has a brand that worked...I think it was even marked and sold as trailer connectors!!!

  17. Looks great! I like the idea of the pet feeding station too, thanks for sharing.

  18. Please come and do my bathroom!

  19. The reason your bowls look dirty is because the reflection of your contact paper (or water you have used on your back wall of the feeding station) is being reflected on half of the bowl. Just thought I'd share that in case anyone was seriously concerned about the way the bowls! I am so impressed with all of the work you have done. Amazing job!

  20. Wow, it looks amazing!!! I can't believe you did it all yourself! I am SO impressed!!!! (I'm not handy at all.)

    Can't wait to hear your next report on IF!!! I am taking a step back from it for the moment because I am also doing keto and right now I am feeling hungry and everyone says to EAT if you are hungry while doing keto and getting fat adapted... but I am looking forward to the day I become fat adapted and HOPEFULLY!!!! start feeling less hungry! although if my kids were at school I think I could do 16:8 without too much difficulty....

  21. I love how I can read this blog post and the way you write makes me feel like I am sitting there, listening to you tell the story (not in a creepy This one had me laughing a bit, love the way you write, and all your project adventures!


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