A New Kitchen

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We’ve lived here for almost 10 years, and the house is probably about 20 years old now. The kitchen wasn’t fancy to start with and the years have taken a toll. Then, as it seems to happen quite a bit, a series of coincidences happened and now I have a story to tell about a new kitchen.

There is a brand new house across the street from us. We went out to do errands one morning and a guy was in the street with his broken down truck. Thankfully there was enough space for us to get out so no problem. When we came back he was still there waiting for a tow truck. It was a hot, sunny, summer day and I felt bad for him, so I brought him a big glass of ice water and we started talking a bit.

It turns out that he was the guy who did the kitchen in the new house, and he asked me in to see it. The house is attractive with open space, big windows and lots of light. The kitchen is really nice too! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could have a kitchen as nice as that? There’s no harm is asking, so he comes over to look at my kitchen and discuss some ideas. We decide on a basic design of cabinets, a granite countertop, and tile backsplash, for a price of about $2500.

My old kitchen –

It works. We’ve been using it for 9 1/2 years but the cabinets never look good no matter how much you scrub them. The countertop is tile but the tiles aren’t flat so everything you put down rocks a bit. The grout is funky and ants like to take pieces of whatever we use to repair it and carry them off. (yeah I know. I never heard of such a thing either). There isn’t nearly enough storage space for us either. And, don’t even look at the drop ceiling with Styrofoam panels.

We talk more. He sends design plans he made on his computer. I think of more things. Could we replace those Styrofoam panels? Of course yes, but cielo raso would be even better. I don’t know how to translate that, but it’s long panels of a plastic like material that seems to be all the thing now. It’s attractive, durable, and not affected by moisture and insects. Could I also have…. gasp…. a DISHWASHER?? Sure, no problem! OK then, LETS DO IT! We share the dishwashing chores and do all right, but it feels like a lot of time that could be spent on more enjoyable things. And speaking of materials, the cabinets are a laminate composite that is impervious to moisture and insects. He also works with wood but this is rental and probably overkill in this simple house.

So, first we go shopping to pick out materials. First stop, the dishwasher! We also pick out granite for the countertop, and material for the ceiling (a pale gray, almost white material), and a range hood. Miguel already had samples of material for the cabinets for me to choose from. He comes back and carefully measures everything so he can custom make the cabinets to the exact sizes we want.

Then the work began. That is not the fun part. Everything was put in boxes in the laundry room, the living room, Joel’s music room and wherever we could find a spot so we were constantly running around looking for things. But… now get this…. talk about service. He knew our kitchen would be unusable while they tore it apart, so his wife made food for us!

BBQ ribs cooked over a wood fire, rice, sweet fried plantains, delicious beans, and a very nice salad. His wife is an excellent cook and it was all wonderful!

Destruction time. What a mess! The old kitchen was mostly concrete and tile, with wood doors for lower cabinets and then a standard cabinet above. We hung sheets to try and keep the dust in the kitchen but it was still messy.

Miguel works with his son Joel a lot. The last picture is them cutting the granite in the front yard. Those guys are strong! We have a small piece left over and it’s all I can do to pick it up. But they move it around like it’s no big deal.

The kitchen starts to take shape!!

We test out the dishwasher. Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. First he had to install the kitchen faucet. You know if there is plumbing there will be problems! It’s just Murphy’s law. There are two water inlets below the sink and something goes wrong with one of them, so we decide to connect everything to the other one (we have a water heater but it hasn’t worked for years, so we don’t have hot water in the kitchen). Then…. that connection breaks IN the wall. Sheesh! By now we have water everywhere, we have to shut off the whole house, and he’s off to the store, again, for more plumbing parts. AND, it’s Sunday and we have a band gig in Boquete so we are really getting anxious. Our neighbor comes over to see if he can be of any help but decides Migel is doing fine on his own. Miguel chips out the concrete around the pipe, replaces the part that is in the wall, connects up the faucet, and all is well. WHEW!

Then, the next day he comes back with more parts and connects the dishwasher. Yay! The first trial run goes very well. The dishwasher gets the water nice and hot, so it can clean better than we ever could by hand. That was a great surprise we didn’t expect. Our glassware looks like it’s brand new.

Of course everything takes longer than planned. Miguel had to fix his truck which set him back a couple days. There were the plumbing complications. But the work progressed to where we could use the kitchen and start putting things away, which is a great feeling. The dusty work was done so we could clean up the house. We were getting more excited every day. We got lights for under the upper cabinets so there is plenty of light. The granite is so easy to clean, and there’s enough space that we can both work in the kitchen at the same time. The sink is deeper and the faucet is higher which make using that easier, and there is better water pressure. Miguel said that the pipe in the wall was partially blocked so in the end it was a good thing that it cracked.

Remember the “before” pictures? Look at it now!

It’s lacking in color so Joel took one of my paintings and put it over the sink. We need to decide on a color to paint the walls. The range hood has very weak lighting so we plan to put a light on the wall that we can point at the stove top. But the kitchen is essentially done and we are really enjoying it a lot.

I mentioned earlier that this is a rental house. I planned to pay for the kitchen since we will benefit from it every day, and we plan to stay in this house indefinitely. The landlords are really good to us and they are working folks with kids, but he surprised me big time when he said they’d pay for all of it. I don’t feel quite right about that since they have done their part and provided a workable kitchen, so we are negotiating a half and half plan. And, the cost – there was the basic $2500, about $200 for the fancy ceiling, $550 for the dishwasher, and miscellaneous lights, plumbing parts, light switches, etc. for maybe another $100. That’s a total of $3350. I know what kitchens cost in the US!

And, I feel good about giving Miguel the work. He suffered terribly during COVID and is still trying to dig himself out of that hole. Panamanians tend to have more relaxed standards so I’m sure we drove him nuts with our pickiness. But he did everything he could to make us happy with no whining. And we’re loving the kitchen every time we use it and very appreciative of all his hard work.

Next, the laundry room! 😁

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