Kitchen Upgrade: from laminate to granite

This may be my favorite project so far–it is the mother of all projects at Casa Gropp–and I didn’t lift a finger! Well, I did a tiny bit of painting as an afterthought (of course), but the majority of this one was hired out. It’s possible I could have DIY’d a tile backsplash, but honestly, I don’t trust my skill set to believe I would have ended up with level or evenly spaced tiles that may or may not have fallen off the wall an hour after bedtime. And then I’d be miserable. So as much as I prefer to do things myself, I was reluctantly happy to shell out some of my hard-earned green and let the professionals do this little ditty. And doing so probably shaved about 6 months off the job. I sometimes lose interest in projects I start and then they linger…forever.

I got a few quotes before committing, checked reviews, and then took the leap of faith that complete strangers would come into my home, respect it, me, and my dog, and do the fantastic work they promised. And they did. But enough about all that. You want pictures, right?


Before photo of kitchen.
Before: The ledge was wasted space and it was dark.

No windows and dark countertops combined with the medium-tone wood cabinets, matching hardwood floor, and black appliances, made it downright dreary. One thing I knew for sure was that I wanted new countertops. The existing laminate was textured and always felt dirty, and because it was so dark and patterned, it was impossible to tell whether it was clean. Ewe.

Knowing that replacing the countertop was a definite, and that I needed to brighten up the joint, choosing from the white palette was a no-brainer. I checked prices on all kinds of countertops, and it turns out that granite is currently the most economical material other than laminate. Yep, even the Corian-type countertops are more costly than granite. Who knew?

With the granite being chosen, that helped narrow down the backsplash. Again, I knew I wanted something to bring light to the space, and what light-colored product would go better with nearly-white granite than white subway tile? I love it when I can make a decision!

Close up of granite and tile backsplash
Millenium Cream granite, white subway tile, silver grout

You probably already know, but it’s a good idea to use a darker grout so it doesn’t end up looking oogy before your next half-birthday. Yes, you can tell the difference between gray grout and grout that has grayed. It’s tempting to use white grout to match your white tile, but resist. I’ve been fighting that battle in my master bath thanks to the contractor who made all the original finish choices. Neither sealant nor bleach nor any amount of scrubbing can make that mess look good. I’ve heard of a product that basically paints your grout white again, which I may try, but I digress and that’s for another post.

Prior to the upgrade, I didn’t like the color of my cabinets. They looked terribly peachy to me. Now that they have some light bouncing around them, they look a tad lighter and I’m okay with them. That’s a huge cha-ching because the best estimate I got on painting the cabinets was nearly $2,000. I can think of way better things to do with that, like buy a year’s worth of groceries, take a trip, or tack a couple of months onto retirement, thank you very much.

Granite, tile and cabinet
Creamy granite and white backsplash lighten up the cabinets.

I had the ledge removed that separated the kitchen and the living area and extended the counter beyond the sink an additional 10 inches. That created a little seating area I didn’t have before. Bonus! Now my pseudo-dining table/desk can relax and just be a desk (unless I’m having company). The countertop seating area has a good sight line to the tv, so that’s where I have my meals now. Hey, it saves me from dining on the sofa.

Full kitchen after photo
I dine bar-side now.

I think my favorite part of the new kitchen, though, is the sink and faucet. Oh my gosh it is a whole new world having this giant, deep, single sink! I can wash pots and pans without incident, and I can fill a bucket–FILL A BUCKET–to wash the floors. Lord, it’s a wonderful life. Ha! I wanted an apron sink, but Scott the sales guy talked me out of it. He sells them and they are much pricier than the one I ultimately chose, but he told me the feedback on the apron sink is that when you’re working at the sink (doing dishes, prepping food, or whatever), the button on your jeans or your belt buckle scratches the front of it. Hmm.

Single stainless sink and faucet
I love the new sink and faucet!

Bottom line: I’m super happy with my new kitchen! Here are the deets on the materials and the pros if you’re interested:

  • Granite–Millenium Cream from Stone City
  • Backsplash–White Subway Tile from The Home Depot
  • Grout–Keracolor U Unsanded Grout, #27 Silver
  • Faucet–Delta Izak Pulldown Kitchen Faucet

Stone City Kitchen Cabinets & Granite Countertops, Raleigh, provided and installed the granite. They were precise and quick. Scott at the showroom was great to work with and made some helpful suggestions.

Borges Construction, Raleigh, removed the ledge and repaired the drywall, handled the plumbing and electrical, and installed the backsplash. Dayan and his team were ridiculously friendly and did a beautiful job. They were super good with Grace, and she gives them a two paws-up.

So there you have it, the big kitchen make-over! Holla! The only room left is the master bath, but it may be a while before I jump into that. If the kitchen was the mother of all projects, the master bath will surely be the daddy (i.e. costly). Especially since I like the sleek, European fixtures. Go figure. I’ll do some cosmetic things in the meantime, but nothing too crazy.

I do love a good before & after story with lots of pics, so maybe I can convince my friends and family to let me document their projects. Anybody? Bueller?…Bueller?…Bueller?