Hello! I’m Ana, a mother and homemaker from Alaska.
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posted by Ana White

This is almost as bad as the time that I admitted that I secretly like minivans ... (shh, don't tell, but seriously, automatic sliding doors, easy to put car seats in, plenty of room for friends ... you had me at hello low lift gate!). 

I'm admitting, straight up, that I like laminate countertops. As an owner of a granite countertop, and a busy mom, here's why: 

- Laminate is softer and more forgiving. The granite (and I imagine marble or tile or other hard surfaces) is so unforgiving. And when you are a busy mom like me, doing dishes while cooking dinner and helping your older kid out with homework all at the same time, the countertop always wins. That's why we've got three drinking glasses and no stoneware left. 

- Laminate is easier to maintain and clean. No need to seal or use special cleaner on laminate - just a sponge, household cleaner and a quick wipe down! No polishing, no scrubbing grout lines, no regular sealing required!

- Laminate is durable. One of my friends keeps thinking she wants to redo her countertops, but resists because there's really nothing wrong with her laminate countertops except she doesn't like it, but can't justify destroying something that is still in great condition after 20 years. And it's true - laminate will last and last, through raising kids, hot pots and pans, and sadly enough, through design trends.

- Laminate has grown up.  The new patterns and colors that you can get laminate in can be very timeless and now. Even though a laminate countertop could last from the 80s (or should I say 90s now?  Are the 80s back in yet?), you can pick patterns that are very much 2014.

- Laminate is much more DIY friendly.  We can DIY a full countertop in a kitchen with just a few hand power tools and materials you can buy at your local home improvement center.

- Laminate is much less expensive. Compared to marble or granite, laminate can by 1/10 the cost! 

Grandma who likes to sew LOVES her laminate countertops that we DIYed for her last fall.  So when it came time to pick the countertops for Unit A of the Momplex, we once again turned laminate.

This time, we choose a large, marble pattern, and we LOVE how it turned out!!!

We were able to order the laminate (it arrived in 3 DAYS!!!) so that there's not a seam on any of the countertops.  

Not. One. Seam.

This entire countertop cost about $400 for us to DIY, and took us about 1 day to make.  You can see our DIY Laminate countertop tutorial here.

We kept things pretty similar to the kitchen on Unit B, but did decide to add a bar behind the sink.  We love how it turned out!

To support the bar top (and add a little bit of a decorative element) we purchased three corbels for $14 bucks a piece from The Home Depot.

I attached them to a piece of hardwood plywood (it's PureBond Birch, also available at The Home Depot for about $50 for a full sheet).  We opted to add the back plywood piece because it will help us tie our corbels into studs in the bar, and also gives the bar a more finished look.

We primed and painted the entire piece on sawhorses.

While the paint was drying, we had something else to take care of -

We had stubbed electrical wires out for in between the regular countertop and the bar height countertop for outlets.  But when we added an inch to the floors by installing an in-floor heat system, this brought the lower base cabinets up 1".  Now suddenly there's not room for an electrical box in that wall.  So what to do?

Make room of course!

So now there's power outlets on either side of the sink (as opposed to an extension cord draped over the sink).  

Once that little issue was taken care of, we can move on to actually installing the countertops.

Having the plywood behind the corbels lets us screw the plywood into the studs in the bar wall (and place the corbels anywhere the heck we want).

We attached the plywood to studs in the walls using 3" wood screws.

The corbels will support the countertop overhang, but I also love how the look.

To attach the countertops, we applied glue to the tops of the corbels and bar wall.

Nothing like a guy who can haul a marble countertop around by himself!

On Momplex Unit B, we actually had a channel made into the bottom of the countertop to slide it over the bar wall.  But this time, we'll be able to screw through the corbel tops, so no need.  We just put the countertop down,

Make sure it's in the right position,

And screw through the corbels into the underside of the countertop.

And then it's time to find something heavy to hold the countertop down while the glue dries.

Hmmmmm ... what could we have on hand that is very heavy? 

Backsplash tile of course!

For the rest of the countertops, we attached them as we did in Momplex Unit B - by screwing through the tops of the cabinets into the undersides of the countertop.

So what do you think?  How does $400 on a durable and low maintenance countertop that looks like this sound?  

Happy DIY-ing!

XO 

Ana + Family

PS - Still skeptical? Check out my friend Kate from Centsational Girl's post on why she loves laminate here.

posted by Ana White

Grandma-who-likes-to-sew got home from her trip at 1:00 AM ... and just six hours later, she was spoiling the kids with hugs, kisses and gifts .... and gushing about her new mudroom!

(For those of you who missed a post this past week, Grandma's been traveling, so we decided surprise her with a mudroom makeover in her side of the Momplex.)

Just to refresh, here's what the space looked like before we started working on the mudroom projects ...

And here's what it looks like now -

Yes, Grandma loves her new mudroom!

And even though it looks like a million bucks, we only spent about $200 on it! 

The bench is just a 2x4 "floor" framed into the studs in the walls,

Covered in plywood and boards that we pre-painted.  The bench is almost seven feet long and super sturdy.  We spent $43 on it.

The organizer is just a giant shelf that we built (it is HUGE!!!) and somehow hoisted it up there and screwed it to studs in the walls.  

The organizer costs about $113 - so now we are up a little over $150.

But it looks a little empty under the bench, so I thought building some drawers underneath would be the perfect way to add hidden storage for shoes and other stuff.

I decided to build trundle drawers underneath to keep the costs down, the building simple (we are proud parents of a new baby, so time is pretty tight right now), and the storage ample.

Here's how I built these trundle drawers -

Since the trundle drawers are custom made for under the bench, I carefully measured the width of the space, depth and height.  Note that when you are working with walls, make sure you measure the width at the front and back - walls are not always square.

Once I had my space measured, I then decided to build two drawers under the bench.  Unless you have a very wide space, I recommend one or two trundle drawers.  Once you start getting middle drawers that can't "ride" alongside a wall, the drawers won't slide in and out as easily.  I made the drawers 1/2" less than the opening to allow some room for the drawers to slide and move.

Once I knew the size of my drawers, I cut the sides and front and back.  

I used 3/4" plywood ripped into strips 8" tall (had 12" overall clearance).  You want to leave enough room underneath for the caster wheels.

The sides are the depth of your drawers.

The front and back are the width of your drawers minus the thickness of your wood times 2 (for example if you are using 3/4" plywood, and the width of the drawer is 24", you would cut the fronts and backs at 22-1/2").

I built my drawers with pocket holes, set at the 3/4" setting.  I just drilled two pocket holes on each end of the FRONT and BACK boards.

Then I attached the front and back boards to the side boards, with the pocket holes on the outsides.  Your drawer faces will cover the front pocket holes and the back pocket holes will be on the back of the drawers, hidden.

Once I had my boxes built, I nailed and glued 1/4" plywood to the bottom of te boxes.  

With the boxes done, I can now work on my drawer faces -

I used this tutorial to build the drawer faces - it's basically a piece of 1/2" plywood framed with 1x3s, all pocket holed together on the back.  I built my drawers bigger than the boxes (height-wise) to cover the caster wheels and fill the gap under the bench, but the same width (because my drawers are snug fitting under the bench).

Then I attached my hardware to the drawer faces on the ground - it's easier to do this now than when there is a giant drawer attached to the back of the drawer face.

Now back to the drawer boxes -

I screwed the caster wheels to the base of the boxes.  I purchased the caster wheels here from Amazon for $4.24 a set - they are actually nice wheels that roll really well!  I was surprised at that price!

Two of the wheels are fixed, and two swivel.  I put the two swiveling wheels to the back (like car tires where the front tires turn and the back tires don't).

Then I positioned the drawers under the bench, in their final location - 

And attached the drawer faces with a finish nailer from the outside.  I just put two nails in each drawer to get the face in position.  I made sure the gap between the bench and the drawer face was even all the way across.  

Once the drawer faces are on with a couple of nails, I pulled the drawers out and added screws from the inside to make sure that drawer face wouldn't get pulled off.

And now for the most time consuming part ......  I stepped back and admired my work!  Man, does it ever feel good to finish a project and love the results!

Here's a few more pictures, because I can't help myself!

It's actually a pretty big bench, those standard sized pillows look tiny!

The drawers slide really well,

Offering tons of storage inside.

This has been one of my favorite projects ever!  It was fun, simple and inexpensive.  Here's a breakdown of the cost of the drawers - 

Lumber for drawers - $20

Plywood for bottoms - $10 (I used half a sheet)

Handles - $17 (ouch, those were pricey!)

Caster wheels - $9

Total - $56

Adding in the cost of the bench and organizer, for a grand total of $212!!!

That's about the cost of just one Alaska-worthy down coat!  Speaking of down coats .... I'm dreading the pile of coats that will soon cover this mudroom up - but function trumps form, right?

Thanks for reading and following along!  We hope this post was useful to you and might help you with your own DIY projects.

XO Ana + Family

Also wanted to give a quick shout-out to Ryobi for providing the tools to build this mudroom bench.  Thanks Ryobi!

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