Home Improvement

Re-Fridge-erating

So yeah… our fridge is white now.

It’s not a new fridge, it’s just our old almond-colored one “freshened up” a bit with some appliance paint so that it would play along more nicely with our white cabinets. After tons of you (literally dozens) mentioned that you had great luck with appliance paint in this post, we were encouraged to give it a try.

I’ll admit that I initially had my doubts, but after hearing such rave reviews from you guys, we figured at its best, this update would help an old fridge blend in more until we save up enough money to replace it during Phase 2 of this kitchen makeover. And if it completely tanked, we could tell you guys the truth, share the awful photos, and just generally save you the trouble of doing whatever it was that we did.

After doing a little bit of what-had-good-long-lasting-reviews research, we settled on this Specialty Appliance Epoxy that was $15 from Home Depot, which was only available in exactly the color we needed: gloss white. I know it’s not as cool or trendy as something like chalkboard paint (which Sherry had mentioned a few times) but I’m weird about chalk and all that dust near my food source gave me the heebies jeebies. Plus I knew if we craigslisted this fridge down the line we could probably ask more for a white one than a chalkboard painted one.

The refrigerator “refinishing” process itself was pretty darn easy. It was the prep that took some muscle – namely moving the fridge outside so that I could paint without stinking up the house (the epoxy smelled like rubber cement, so we definitely wanted to follow their “do this in well ventilated area with a mask on” instructions). After I turned off and disconnected the water line, my dad came over and with a dolly we got it ready to head out to the sunroom… until we realized the handles made it too big to fit out the doorway.

So off came the handles (well, and one of the doors too – it’s a long story) so we could bareeeely squeeze it out the door. We actually left most of the food inside (except for some especially heavy, breakable, and spillable stuff that temporarily came out during transport) to avoid the extra hassle of unloading and reloading everything. Oddly enough, it worked.

The move took place on Friday night so that we’d be ready to go on Saturday morning, since the weather forecast was nice for the weekend and the epoxy is supposed to be used in 50°+ temperatures. We weren’t the classiest neighbors for a couple of days, but at least it’s better than having it on the front porch. We even plugged it in out here so the food would keep. Nothing like going outside to get milk for your cereal in the morning.

The project didn’t get going until later in the day on Saturday (once temps crept up enough to meet the can’s requirements). Obviously I had reattached the one door that we took off to keep the food cold, but Sherry decided it’d be best to have both handles off when painting for the most seamless and hopefully drip-free result. All it took was popping off a cover on either end and then unscrewing them.

Per the directions on the can, Sherry and I started by lightly sanding the whole fridge – just enough to get the gloss off. A power sander felt like overkill, so we each used sanding blocks of 150 grit.

I did the front two doors while Sherry did the sides. You can see the difference between the door I roughed it up and the door I hadn’t done yet in this picture.

Then we went over it with a damp cloth to get all of the sanding dust off followed by a dry cloth to, um, dry it.

I used a foam roller to apply to epoxy while wearing a mask, just as the instructions suggested (and Sherry, Burger, and Clara went inside and steered clear, so they weren’t exposed to the stink). This stuff basically has the exact consistency of paint so the process wasn’t unfamiliar at all. It goes on a little bubbly but it quickly smooths itself out.

I did break out a brush to help me get into some tight spots, like some of the nooks around the doors and the ice dispenser. We chose to just paint right over that whole area too (covering up the much coveted “Hot Point” brand logo – gasp!). The paint doesn’t actually touch the water/ice dispensing apparatus (that’s tucked up under a cover) so it was nice to know that this definitely-not-food-safe product wouldn’t interfere with anything that goes into people’s mouths – but we could achieve an all-white look from the front instead of having to leave some trim parts cream or something.

I painted three sides and the top, leaving the backside unpainted. There were enough cords, tubing, and venting back there that it didn’t seem worth the hassle (in what installation scenario is that visible?). I probably didn’t need to do the top either but someone even an inch or two taller than me would get an okay view of it, so I just did it to be thorough.

Sherry had spread out all of the little parts – the handles, door hinge covers, bottom grille, etc – on a piece of cardboard so that I could paint them separately. It was easier this way and also minimized the opportunity for drips on the main fridge.

The can said you can recoat in one hour assuming that 70° temperatures were met, so I decided to give it at least overnight before continuing since it was only around 55 degrees on Saturday. But at least the fridge was looking somewhat less offensive out there in white. I’m sure that’s exactly what the neighbors were thinking: “Oh nevermind, honey! It’s white now so no need to call the HOA anymore. I wonder if there’s any beer in that thing…”

You can’t really tell in pictures, but it did need a second coat. So on Sunday morning I rolled on another one pretty quickly and let it dry in the awesome 70° day that we were suddenly having.

We didn’t get it rolled back inside until it was too dark to take pictures on Sunday night (which is why this post is coming to you today, and not yesterday as we originally planned) but here it is, back at home looking much more blendy with the cabinetry.

It’s not a perfect color match (the fridge is slightly whiter in color) but it’s only about a shade off instead of being a lot more noticeably clashy like it was when it was cream. Our white range hood is the same slightly whiter tone as the fridge, so we think appliances just tend to be that color when they’re “gloss white.” It’s actually a surprisingly big help in making the room feel a bit more current (I’ll admit that I didn’t think it would make as much of a difference as it does).

And it’s definitely a vast improvement from what this corner looked like back in the day:

As for how the epoxy feels, it’s very smooth, very hard, and looks/feels pretty much just like the fridge was always this color. If you stare at the glint of light reflecting off the fridge in the picture below you can see how the sort of lightly marbled texture of the fridge was maintained, and it’s glossy and convincing, just like a factory finished white fridge would be. I actually don’t think you could tell that it was painted unless someone told you. And I’m not just saying that. Picture me as the negative naysayer who had to see this to believe it.

We’ll keep you posted on how it holds up over time, but from what we’ve heard from you guys and read in reviews, it seems to be good for 5+ years and we’re hoping to get to Phase 2 a good deal faster than that. So it won’t be a big loss if it nicks or chips as we go, but it’ll still be interesting to see if this stuff is as good of a cheap and easy upgrade ($15!) as it seems so far.

Has anyone else had luck with appliance paint? We hear for a stove you need to use high heat paint, which seems to only come in spray form. Or has anyone done anything different or bold with theirs? We were contemplating painting the handles an accent color (like navy or ORB) but it just didn’t feel right for our goal, which was just to let this guy blend into his surroundings and draw attention to the better stuff like our succulent art, rope chandelier, and the rough wood dining table nearby.

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Email Answer: Second Guessing A DIY

Question: Are there any projects that you wish you hadn’t DIY-ed? I’m in the middle of one that’s not going smoothly and I’m second-guessing my decision not to hire it out. – Holly

Answer: This question comes up fairly frequently – it even popped up during the Q&A portion of our talk at the Richmond Home & Garden Show earlier this month. The truth is that we both have trouble recalling a project that we got to the end of and said “man, I wish we hadn’t DIYed that one.” Maybe it’s that post project rush of victory, the relief of completion, or the joy of saving money? Or maybe it’s like childbirth and you forget the pain in hindsight? But there definitely have been PLENTY of projects that have elicited a major “what were we thinking?!?” moment mid-way through. I’ll even cop to shedding a few tears over one. Okay, maybe two.

So I thought I’d break down four projects that nearly broke me down and share what each one has taught me (spoiler: it’s not to stop DIYing, it’s just to DIY smarter).

#1: The Bathroom Demo. I was still working my 9-5 at the time and Sherry was pregnant with Clara, so I carved out a Saturday to smash out all of the existing tile in our first home’s only full bathroom. This was my first major reno project and I just totally underestimated the time, strength, and endurance it would require as well as the gigantic mess it would make. You can practically feel the exhaustion in the words of my post from back then.

Lesson Learned: Seemingly simple projects like removing the old stuff can be just as taxing and time consuming as installing the new stuff – especially in an older home where you’re dealing with mortar and metal-mesh behind every last tile. But learning this the hard way means that we’ve become better at accounting for that step in our planning moving forward, and renting equipment that makes it easier (like the demolition hammer that saved me at the end of bathroom demo). So now, whether it’s removing old carpeting or clearing the land for our deck (this is foreshadowing, btw) – we go into it expecting it to take time and energy, instead of blindly saying “we’ll have that done in an hour, tops.” In some cases it has even lead us to hire out a demo step, like removing the beams in our home’s sunroom for $200, so we could get to the fun stuff faster and save our aching backs.

#2: The Patio. This was a project that we actually contracted out at our first house, but decided to tackle on our own at our second one. The crew at the first house knocked it out in a day, but we knew better than to expect any sort of speed for ourselves. We did rely on a local stoneyard to help us calculate and deliver materials, but somehow in ordering three tons of gravel we didn’t quite the connect the dots that we’d later be manually moving and spreading three tons of gravel into place. So despite our best efforts to manage expectations, it still turned out to be a back-breaking job that had me and Sherry crying for mercy more than once (though not literally crying – that one comes later).

Lesson Learned: Moving materials from point A to point B can be a lot harder than it sounds, so take advantage of any help you can get – whether it’s having supplies delivered to your site (which we did) or having a few extra sets of hands around when it comes time to haul something (which we didn’t). There isn’t much glory in hauling or lifting stuff, so it’s something we’ve become more willing to pay for in dollars, instead of paying for it in lost time or aching muscles.

#3: The Deck. If I weren’t going in chronological order, this is the one that would probably top my list of Most Second Guessed While It Progressed projects. And it took virtually forever to complete, so there was a lot of time to freak out. Oddly enough, in the end I have great pride in completing this project – and I gained lots of new confidence in my abilities – so I don’t wish I had contracted it out at all. It truly is one of my proudest accomplishments to date. But there were a few times that I was on the brink of turning the project over to the professionals.

It was a perfect storm of some of my least favorite things about any project:

The one element we were sure to eliminate from the story was a time crunch. We didn’t give ourselves a deadline, which is the only thing that made all of those “hiccups” (that’s putting it gently) bearable. And again, it’s probably the project I have the most pride in completing – probably because it was my toughest. Oh yeah, and it totally made me cry once thanks to being totally exhausted and then falling and hurting my back. Still not sure whether it was the exhaustion or back pain that brought on the tears.

Lesson Learned: If all else fails, try to eliminate or reduce the time pressures of a project or loosen up a super strict budget if you can. Giving yourself the gift of a more flexible deadline or a budget with a little more padding can really turn those “how will I ever recover from this mistake??” moments into an “I can get through this” Rocky-music rally moment. And oh yeah, make sure your next house already has a deck so you don’t have to build one again. (I’m kidding. Kind of.)

#4: The Hardwood Floors. This one makes the list because we totally disregarded the lesson that we learned from the deck: don’t rush yourself. When our second house sold much faster than we expected, it caught us by surprise… and suddenly gave us a deadline for removing all of the upstairs carpeting, painting all the trim and doors up there, and installing the hardwoods. While we owned the house for a while before moving in, the priority had been to get our second house ready for sale. Then when our old house sold before even hitting the market (as opposed to around 6 weeks later, which is how long our first house took), suddenly those six weeks that we thought would be built into the process were gone and our closing date was looming a few weeks away, with all of that carpeting, trim, and hardwood flooring to deal with.

We did our best to learn from our previous projects by carving out time for demo (i.e. carpet removal) and enlisting my parents to watch Clara a few times so we could have two sets of hands doing as much as possible. But we still found ourselves racing the clock at the end, which translated to some super long and tiring days of under-pressure floor laying. This one made me shed tears of frustration more than once, and this time I can’t deflect blame an injury. I was just dead tired and ridiculously ready to be done with laying plank after plank, day after day, in every seemingly endless room, hallway, and closet. And Sherry was right there with me. We were like a couple of cooks cutting onions. At midnight. While laying floors.

Lesson Learned: Even the best laid plans can blow up in your face. So by now we just do our best to expect at least one or two project derailments (and sometimes four or five) while reminding ourselves why we’re DIYing something in the first place. Maybe we’re saving money (which we definitely did with the floors). Maybe we’re learning a new skill (which can propel your whole house-journey forward and allow you to tackle bigger and better projects down the line). And maybe at the very least we’re proving something to ourselves about perseverance and determination (there’s nothing like dusting your shoulders off when you’re done, both literally and figuratively).

But if those things aren’t the in cards, perhaps you’ll decide that you’re dealing with a job that’s best left to the professionals – and there’s no shame in handing it over. Especially if you did a little bit of the up-front stuff before realizing it was best left to an expert (every little bit helps, so that supremely annoying realization probably comes with some money-savings from the stuff you did before hiring someone). In a strange way, as our DIY know-how has grown, we feel more comfortable with calling in a pro. We’ll gladly contract out work like our bathroom plumbing issue, our yard-leveling adventures, and larger electrical or load-bearing jobs that are just plain out of our skill set. After all, when you know just how taxing certain jobs might be, there’s definitely a tiny thrill when you get to watch someone else take that off your plate. Especially if it leaves you enough steam to tackle something else on your list at the same time…

PS: If you want to read more about how we decide whether or not to tackle a project ourselves before starting, check out this post which bullets some of the evaluation criteria that we use before diving in. 

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