Renovation: Assembling the Kitchen!


Right. So, after we had the old kitchen taken down and finished the new walls we could start assembling the new kitchen! I bought the cabinets and doors from Ikea – I’ve been happy with my previous Ikea-kitchens, they look nice and are very good value for money.

That nook that extends from the wall outwards was a challenge: it’s only 172 cm high. It had the fridge-freezer combi and that fit nicely, so I decided to stick with that. Another challenging point was that the lower cabinets needed to be extended from the wall about 8 cm in order to fit the plumbing there: my counter needed to be at least 70 cm deep. The normal depth is 62 cm, but a lot of places sell 80 cm deep counters for islands and such. The only problem was length – my counter is 3,20 m long. Apparently you can buy countertop materials in 62 cm for up to 400 cm long sheets, but the 80 cm deep sheets tend to extend to maximum 300 cm.

Since there was going to be a seam anyway (there was no way I was gonna shell out the cash for a MTM Corian counter!), I figured I could try something out. Plywood is relatively cheap and looks awesome, and it has held up nice with the Osmo wax in the table I made a couple of years ago. So I got a couple of sheets of the thickest birch plywood and we cut them to form on site.


Plywood can be tricky to saw, mmkay. Any sawblade needs to be very sharp, and at least for circular saws there’s special plywood blades with a lot of small teeth. If you use an electrical jigsaw, like we did on the cutouts for the sink and the stove top, don’t use any forward motion in the blade. That will splinter the plywood. Some people recommend putting tape to the intended saw line and sawing through that, which might have helped. I only saw this tip after we had already finished the counter… 🙂 Anyway, no forward motion on the blade with very slow and careful forward motion with the saw did the trick for us.

Here you can also see the scaffolding we attached to the wall behind the cabinets. It extends the cabinets so that they can be attached to the wall as intended, but the plumbing has space underneath. Also the top cabinets are attached to the wall via scaffolding. That allows room for electrical wirings and whatnot, and it was easier to attach just 2 long scaffoldings to the concrete wall. The cabinets were much easier to attach to the scaffolding, in turn…


Starting to take shape… the empty spot in the middle is for the dishwasher.


Sanding the countertop would have been easier on top of another table, but we had already attached this in order to measure and cut out holes for the sink and stove top. The sides of the holes, especially for the stove top, were thin and we were scared to break the counter top if we moved it.

The cut outs are lined with a marine silicone/glue to keep any water out of the plywood. After attaching the sink (more silicone/glue and the snippets that are screwed in), I waxed the counter with Osmo products just like I did with the table. I’ve been using the kitchen for about 7 months now, and it seems I need to put another coat of the wax on… but this was to be expected. My friend has waxed their counter with the same products and she told me they needed to rewax a couple of times the first year and yearly after that.


And here it is in all it’s glory! 🙂 The top cabinets are lined with plywood, I think that gives the outside a nice finish. I was a bit worried about placing the oven next to the fridge, but I’ve been cooking a lot and following how it behaves, and there seems to be very little escape heat on the sides of the oven. There’s plenty air space behind the oven and some between it and the fridge too.

I finished the back edge of the countertop with some more silicone/glue and a U-shaped aluminium profile. My first idea was to put glass next to the wall to protect the wallpaper, but I didn’t like the look of it. So I painted the wallpaper with a couple of coats of clear laqcuer. I figured I’ll see how long it lasts… So far it’s held up nice! I just wipe any spills with a damp cloth and they haven’t left stains.


The oven, stove top , fridge, microwave (in the left cupboard) and faucet are from the old kitchen, so I only had to buy the dishwasher, extractor hood and sink. I dreamt of a new faucet, but the nice ones tend to cost a pretty penny. My plumber warned me against Ikea faucets, he had heard of a lot of leaks with them. In the end I figured I could update the faucet later.

The washing machine I had bought for my old place, so that didn’t add to the costs either. It needs so much extra space behind it that I can’t get a door to cover it, because the plumbing eats away what extra I had behind there. I’ve been thinking of a curtain to cover it up, but it doesn’t really bother me as it is, either, so that hasn’t been a high priority.

The parts aside from the plywood counter and finishings are Ikea, but the design and the magic to put them together is all my talented friends and me! I can’t even begin to say how happy I am with the new kitchen! It’s much more functional and pretty now!! 🙂

Renovation: Prepping the Kitchen


So this was the kitchen before. I got rid of that wall on the left and switched the kitchen around to make it more functional. The wall on the right in the picture is the new kitchen wall, and the old kitchen wall is a plain wall. The plumbing and pipes were changed around like this:


The red line marks where the plumbing and pipes run, and unfortunately a lot of that would have been visible in the new kitchen. So we built the wall out to house the plumbing, pipes and electricity. Also, there were 2 holes near the ceiling. These are for the air to get around the building and could not be covered. So we put in extension pipes for them.


I was super afraid to drill into the floor because of the underfloor heating. I had no idea where the pipes lay in the floor, although they probably didn’t run them right next to the bathroom wall under the kitchen cabinets in -58. Nevertheless, I didn’t want to risk puncturing one of them. So we attached the vertical studs on a horizontal stud that’s attached to the original wall behind it. It took some fiddling to get the wall extension as thin as possible, so here we’re building a bridge over the original sewer that was much wider than the modern plastic plumbing.



I had the plumber and electrician come in and finish everything they needed to do behind the wall, and then we finished the studs and attached the drywall. You can see the drywall up in the post about the floor.


After the wall was finished and floor extended all the way, we smoothed the new kitchen wall and put up the wallpaper. The plumbing and electrical cables are still just sticking out of the wall, since further progress with them needed the kitchen to be assembled first.

That recess the fridge and oven are sitting in is actually sticking out from the building wall. It  used to be one of those pantries or cold storage cabinets they had in the 50’s. It basically had insulated doors and a couple of holes in the back wall, to let in the cold air from the outside. Now the doors are gone, the holes covered and insulated and it’s just a weirdly shaped nook in the kitchen… but more of that later!

Renovation: New Floor Ohoy!


With the floor gutted to the concrete and (most of the) painting done, it was time to start laying new floor! Originally I thought I’d replace the old and worn parquet with a nicer parquet, but it turns out laminate performs better than parquet with underfloor heating (being thinner), and that was a big thing on the building rules. Laminate is also considerably cheaper. I wanted a certain look, and after narrowing it down to a few choices on both types, the laminate options cost about half of the cost for comparable parquet. That adds up fast, when you factor in the whole floor surface!



Here we go with the installation! Quick tip: don’t order your appliances before the floor is finished, if you have nowhere else to store them… I did, and we ended up playing big-time Tetris with everything! 🙂

Renovation: Window Frames


I ended up scraping the window frames. That was a ton of work, but there were so many layers of old paint that just painting over was not going to look good. I tried to sand them at first, but there was simply too much to sand.

So I got out a heat gun. That looks and works like a blow dryer, but produces much more heat. So much that you can burn stuff, if you’re not careful – I curled the hair on my arm a time or two, but luckily didn’t get real burns. Warm up the paint just enough for it to soften and then scrape off the warmed piece, repeating the steps until most of the paint is gone.

It took about a week of evenings and the weekend to remove the paint, sand, spackle (and window putty), sand, spackle, sand, prime, sand, paint, sand and paint. But the windows look so much better now, I’m glad I put in the work! 🙂

Renovation: Gutting the Floor

The apartment has a feature that might not be apparent right away, but it was very striking at it’s time. It has an underfloor heating system. These systems were very popular in the Tapiola, Espoo in the 50s and 60s, when the original Garden City was built (my building is from 1958). Underfloor heating fit the architectural ideals, because there was no need for visible radiators.


The original floor was linoleum, which was also popular during that time. And later (in the 80s, judging from the materials) someone put a parquet floor over the original linoleum. The original lino, a cardboard and cork-fragment underlay and the parquet are visible on the top photo, taken after I removed the AAC kitchen wall.


That parquet was now in a pretty bad state. It seemed to have been put together from odds and ends to begin with, since some of the pieces were just 5 or 10 cm long at places.

I pondered the pros and cons of having the original parquet sanded and refinished or replacing it with something else. In the end the replacing won – the parquet was cheap quality with a thin top layer (about 2 mm), and the sanding and finishing process could have ended up costing more than replacing the floor. The underfloor heating would also work more efficiently with fewer layers.



So the scrapping began. First I ripped of the parquet, which was glued together. It didn’t go without a fight, but I emerged victorious! It’s unbelievable how much scrap material ripping the floor produces… You’d never think there’s so much volume there! You can see the original lino on the hallway floor, and the concrete underneath. The lists were also original, visible in the hallway. The parquet had been laid next to them.


The problem for me was that taking the lists out also removed the layer of plaster covering the concrete. The outer walls of my apartment are weight-bearing, regular concrete cast on site, while the internal walls are that lightweigh AAC. The outer walls thus have a layer of plaster to smooth the ridges left by the casting mold. That plaster had gone soft behind the lists in the course of the 50+ years since the building was built. Had the floors been washed and the water got behind the lists? Who’s to know…

So, I took a hammer and lightly tapped the plaster until all of the loose plaster came off and I was left with stuff that was still sticking firmly. You can hear and feel the difference easily. Luckily, this wasn’t too far from the floor – I didn’t really want to have to redo the whole plaster as that’s a major PITA.


Here we go with the floor gutted to the concrete and the first layers of new plaster applied to the areas it was missing from. That blotch on the wall is from the beam. At this stage I painted all the ceilings and walls except the ones I knew were going to get covered with something else. No need to protect the floor from paint splatter now! 🙂

Renovation: Off with the Walls!


I started on the reno right after getting the permission to change the walls. First I had to get rid of the beams around the living room (here’s the before pics). They weighed a lot and were attached well, but I had a lot of enthusiasm and a crowbar!

Next I had to get rid of the unwanted walls. The material was AAC, a lightweight concrete called Siporex. Some of my friends suggested hammering them down, but I was afraid that would damage the bathroom wall and the waterproof lining (a layout of the apartment here). That would’ve been an expensive problem and one I very much wanted to avoid. So I bought a saw.


Looking back, it might have been easier to rent a motorized version, yes. But at the time I didn’t know how long the sawing would take, and the hand saw was cheap. I figured I could always rent the motor saw if it proved too hard to saw by hand. IMG_3240

Lucky for me, it wasn’t that bad. Saved me a bunch of trips to the gym, certainly, but it was also very fun seeing the pieces of the wall disappearing! 🙂

That’s the light switch hanging from the ceiling. I had to save that one for now – can’t go just cutting electrical wires! You need to figure out where the electrical lines and/or other wiring and whatnot run before you start demolishing a structure – especially if you use power tools, since then the risk of cutting something by accident is even higher. Just FYI, in case you hadn’t thought about that. 🙂


I didn’t yet have a permission to change the layout of the kitchen (yes, in Finland you need a lot of permissions…) when I was taking down the walls, so I had to protect the kitchen. I didn’t want to put money into a reno if I couldn’t get the kitchen the way I wanted it, so in that scenario keeping the old one would’ve made sense – but oh, how glad I am that I got to change it around!


With the extra walls gone the place really opened up! The apartment seems a lot bigger now, as the previously gloomy hallway and odd kitchen turned into usable space. Happy Happy Joy Joy! 🙂

Renovation: the Before

layout of the apartment





The place didn’t look bad to begin with, not at first glance anyway. It had seen better days, but it was in totally livable condition. Very much like my previous rentals!

The apartment is 41 sqm, but the walls and especially the beams separating the living room from the alcove and kitchen made it feel smaller. The parquet was probably made from spare ends, as a lot of the pieces were just a couple cm long… and it was very, very worn.

The kitchen wasn’t that bad, having been updated in 2008. There was space for a small dining table, but it also felt very cramped, and I hated that if I put my table there, I would need to go around it to reach the fridge… the layout just wasn’t working out for me.

But there was a yard and a big terrace, and the windows were huge. I really liked the place and knew I could make it better! 🙂

Renovation: the beginning


Having my own place is still a fresh, new thing for me. I’ve lived in many places after I moved out of my parents, but always rented. Come last summer, I found myself signing a lot of documents to state that I, for realsies, owned my own castle! Granted, it is an apartment, but it sure felt like a castle to me! Finally, an opportunity to renovate! I could paint at whim! I could pick out the materials and colors and whatever I felt like!

Well, reality soon presented itself in the form of  financial constraints. Then I was obsessing over different solutions, planning and budgeting… In the end, I think I found a pretty good balance. My friends and I did a lot ourselves, but I hired a professional where that was safer (and required: mainly plumbing and electricity).

I ended up with a big reno, including:

– Taking down walls

– Changing the layout of the kitchen (thus moving the pipes and plumbing)

– Rewiring most of the electricity and adding a lot of sockets

– Changing the floor (and lists)

– Painting the window frames, walls and ceilings

About the only places I haven’t changed are the bathroom and the closet. And the closet is on the to do -list… 🙂

I love reading about other renovations in the Internet. Numerous blogs have been a great resource of knowledge for both planning and execution and an endless well of inspiration. I hope my (soon to begin 🙂 renovation story might help someone as well!