Finishing the Kitchen Alcove

by Josh on May 29, 2011 · 9 comments

in Kitchen,Projects

When I last wrote about my kitchen project I showed the exterior side of converting the old back door to a new alcove for the refrigerator.  This time the work shifts indoors with a before-and-after comparison of this part of the kitchen.

I had already removed the door, framed the opening and faced on the exterior with plywood.  Inside the kitchen, I filled the wall cavity with fiberglass insulation then covered it with plastic vapor barrier and 3/8″ drywall.  As you can see in the photo below, in my excitement to make this change I had already moved the refrigerator over to this spot and plugged it into the new outlet.  Of course, every time I needed to work in this corner I had to pull the fridge out into the kitchen and squeeze back behind the appliance to work, then reverse the steps when finished.  Impatience!

In the past, I haven’t had great success with drywall mudding.  I would leave drag marks with the drywall knife, sand the joints too aggressively, and get frustrated in general that it wasn’t easier.  Along the way, I figured out that finishing drywall is a skill that takes considerable practice to produce good technique.  The concealed location and small scope of this project were perfect to work on my mudding skills, although the size and irregularity of the seams posed a big challenge.  I dove into the work figuring my results couldn’t be any worse than the rest of the battle-scarred kitchen walls.

To put down the first coat of mud, I taped the seams around the new drywall using self-adhesive web-style drywall tape. Then, with a 3″ putty knife I applied a nice bed of joint compound through the porous tape until it filled the gap behind the tape and flowed over the tape surface.  This was my first time trying self-adhesive drywall tape instead of the traditional paper tape and I was really pleased with it.  The tape adhered well to the two surfaces it spanned and it was helpful to see that the tape was really embedded within the joint compound.  Because the first coat it the thickest, I gave it a couple days to completely harden before moving on.

For subsequent coats, I tried to learn from my past mistakes and sanded as little as necessary to smooth out any bumps and bits that could scrape into the mud as spread it.  I needed four passes with the joint compound to get the final mudding result in the photo above.  For each coat I used a wider drywall knife and spread the joint compound over a wider area.  Because the seam over the drywall joint can stand taller than the surrounding wall, it also helped to make a pass with the joint compound on either side of the joint rather than try to cover over the whole width of the seam in a single run.  I also tried a new joint compound for this job: Sheetrock Joint Compound with Dust Control.  This mud truly lived up to its claim with most of the sanding dust falling straight down to the floor for easy clean-up.  For anyone doing drywall work in an occupied house this product makes a ton of sense.

Painting the new wall confirmed what I could see and feel on the new wall– I rocked those drywall seams!  Wait, I mean, what seams?  Then the EasyCare Platinum Paint and Primer in One provided to me by True Value Hardware for this project did a fantastic job of sealing the new sheetrock and evenly covering the old and new walls.  I’ve always used a separate primer on new drywall , but the EasyCare Platinum gave me perfect coverage and even tone and texture with just two paint coats.

To finish the bottom of the new wall, I reused a couple pieces of the cherry wainscotting I had removed from the old part of the wall when the door came out.  This happens to perfectly matches the adjacent baseboard, and lends support to my theory that the last kitchen remodel was a DIY job by some guy who loved cherry wood and his 1/4″ cove router bit.  Whatever the origin story, it’s a great bit of luck that it was this easy to patch a bit of custom molding from a 40-year old remodel.

So now that I’ve put all the pieces together it’s time for the reveal!  Here’s how this area looked at the beginning of my kitchen project:

Kitchen SW beforeAnd now:

As you can see, I have reused the baker’s rack next to the fridge.  When we replace the smallish refrigerator from 1997 I might consider building a permanent shelf or cabinet for this space but I’ll wait for that until I know the dimensions of the new fridge.

For now, I’m just delighted to have a useful and smart purpose for a formerly wasted corner of the kitchen– and to have gained some real confidence in my drywall finishing skills.

Kitchen Project Cost Tracker

  • Insulation, drywall, joint compound: $36
  • Drywall finishing tools and sandpaper: $0 (on hand)
  • Paint: $0 (Thanks, True Value!)
  • Baseboard: $0 (re-use)
  • Previous work: $167

Total so far: $203

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