Hell’s Kitchen: DIY Remodel Gone Very, Very Wrong

From on October 20, 2009 in Kitchen Remodel

When my wife and I decided to move into her father’s home after he passed away, we knew it was going to be an adventure. The house wasn’t technically a house – it was a 1965 pre-HUD double-wide trailer that Pop had continued to make improvements on until he was over 90 years old. He had done an amazing job transforming the place into a cozy little cottage through years of code-breaking improvements like a shingle roof, workshop, guestroom and carport.

Unfortunately for us, the tiny kitchen had never been touched. At about 30 square feet, there wasn’t room for more than one person at a time, the sink was smaller than a postage stamp and you couldn’t open the oven and refrigerator doors at the same time. Our first thought was if we just did some remodeling, we could make it work.

This is when it becomes a cautionary tale. After weeks of planning, we headed to Home Depot and spent a few thousand dollars on new pre-fab kitchen cabinets, sink and garbage disposal, a new range, countertops and vinyl flooring, and then grabbed our crowbars and big friggin’ hammers and started yanking out the old to make way for the new. Our first sign of trouble came when we started removing the old cabinets and discovered that these cabinets weren’t just old, but load-bearing as well. Suddenly, the ceiling began to droop under the weight of where the two sections of the double-wide came together. It would have made a nice water feature the next time it rained.

Hell's Kitchen RemodelOur new kitchen (after trailer remodel fiasco)

This was the moment of truth where the phrases, “throwing good money after bad,” “putting lipstick on a pig,” and “polishing a turd” were bandied about. That’s when logic finally prevailed and we decided that maybe it was time to give up the ghost, let the old girl go and haul all that stuff back to Home Depot. It was an emotional decision for my wife, who had sentimental reasons for holding onto the old place. Her late father’s handy work was a constant reminder of the man that, with 12 children, had never stopped working to make his trailer a nicer place to call home.

Hell's Kitchen RemodelHell's Kitchen Remodel

Two years later, we’re now in our brand new home built on the very site where the trailer had been. Watching the old place go under the wrecking ball was sad, but at the same time cathartic, and when we designed our new home, the first thing we made clear to our contractor was that he must build the new home around the large, open kitchen that would be the centerpiece of the home. Features include beautiful custom concrete countertops, a huge stainless steel sink and a kitchen island on castors that we can move whenever we want more room. We think we did Pop proud.

The last surviving photo of the tiniest kitchen in the world