The great kitchen saga - renovating a kitchen in a rental property

11:57 AM


Those who subscribed to my newsletter might have hear of it, those who follow me on Instagram got every details of it via IG stories over the months (yes MONTHS...plural) and if you are just joining me now, here is the whole recap of what has essentially been the craziest, and slowest kitchen renovation of possibly the history of kitchen renovations.

But first, a bit of a background story shall we? Hubby and I have been living as tenants in that flat since April 2017 and when we moved in, the kitchen was looking old, some of the cabinets were a bit swollen with moisture, but otherwise nothing really terrible that would break the deal (the rest of the flat is way too nice for that to happen)
Everything was fine with the kitchen until the end of 2019 when we started noticing some wear and tear due to age. Our building was then 12 years old and that was the original kitchen installed by the builders and it had NEVER been renovated. 12 years in this crazy humid Mumbai climate is a long time for a fairly basic "builder grade" kitchen to hold together. We replaced a few of the rusted hinges and drawer channels in early 2020 (before the pandemic hit us in the face) and we thought we were good to go. 

Then, the pandemic happened and along with it, the great kitchen decay, suddenly we had cabinet doors coming off, often crashing down threatening to hurt us, and it all happened in the span of 5-6 months, we lost 3 doors, I saved 2 from coming off by re-screwing them in and 2 more threathened to fall, then this happened : 

You are not hallucinating! The granite countertop in front of the sink broke, or rather had been broken for years and had been patched up with some Araldite and a piece of metal underneath under the reign of a previous tenant and it would not get fixed again because everything was so old, and dirty nothing worked. 
This was in the second half of 2020 when hubby and I realised that the rents in our area had dropped drastically. So, we emailed the landlord (who lives in the middle East) and asked him to renegotiate the rent down to match the current market rate and told him about the decaying kitchen. 
He agreed to both, and told us his broker would be in touch with us to finalise far so good...except his broker is a jerk who first refused to go straight to the market rate for the rent and after a painful game of nickel and diming, we settled on a rent about 1.5k higher than what it should be, on the condition that the kitchen would be changed ASAP. 

This was in December 2020...

In Late January or early February, the broker sent some carpenters our way to measure everything, then plan then was to build everything off-site, bring everything in and then demo the kitchen and reinstall the new one over 2-3 days. We were supposed to get to that in early March. 

Here is what happened instead : 

In Early March, the carpenters came back, to remeasure everything and show me the blueprints, I noticed immediately that they had counted a tall pantry cabinet as an extra fridge space and I pointed it out. So they remeasured everything and assured me it would be ready by March end. 
That's when my building got sealed, so we waited until we got the freedom to move again, only to dive into a State-wise lockdown in April. 
We called the broker to check the status as apparently workers were permitted to keep building in residential complexes by the end of April, and we had one big massive renovation happening back then a floor below us. 

We got told that ALL the cabinets were assembled and ready, but that they could not come because they could not purchase some hardware because of the lockdown restrictions. The part where they say "ALL the cabinets were ready is very important at this point, so keep it in your memory. 

The lockdown came and went, and in June everything was back to normal in Mumbai, but we had no words on the kitchen cabinets or the carpenters at this point...NONE and the broker played dead too. Then suddenly, in July, in the middle of a plumbing saga that I will not go in details about, the broker shows up with the carpenters to re-measure everything a 3rd time. Those guys were the same guys, they had the same blueprints they showed me in March, but for some unknown reasons, they needed to measure my whole kitchen again. It was around July 6 if remember correctly. 

Again nothing happened for quite a while and on August 17th, I posted this IG story : 

This was the evening they dumped a massive amount of boxes in the middle of the living room saying "We will come tomorrow to start assembling everything" 
That's right! The cabinets that the broker told us were assembled and ready to go in April, weren't, it was all a load of bull, and this was the first one in what would become a recurrent theme. 

Tomorrow never came! Or at least not with the definition one would attach to it. After weeks of nagging, tomorrow finally happened on September 15th!!!!! Yup a month later, it took the carpenters two half days to come up with the assembly of all the cabinet frames. At which point I noticed that none of the cabinet doors had been delivered, and most of the hardware was missing. 
On Day 2 the carpenters left and told me they would come in 2 days with the missing hardware they needed to hand the overhead cabinets, they left my kitchen looking like this : 

They never came 2 days later, and the broker stayed silent until day 4, informing us one of them caught Dengue and that until he got better nothing would happen. 
3 weeks later, the broker told us the guys vanished and he could not reach them. On October 23 he announced that he had found another team to finish the job, said team dumped more boxes of parts in my living room, gave me their number and said "We will come on the 25th" When they didn't come, I called them directly to be informed that they would come on the 26th. 
On the 26th I called again, and the guy told me he was busy, while I heard some wedding music in the background and he hanged up on me. 
On the 28th, after hubby blew up with the broker, we got those guys come over to hang some of the cabinets, but not without complaining that the hanging brackets were not in the bag of hardware! They again did not show on the 29th but promised that the WHOLE kitchen would be assembled on the 30th before we headed to Lucknow for our Diwali break on the 31st. 

On the 30th, the countertops were still not delivered, neither was the sink, or the cabinet doors, these doofus came at 2pm only to sit in the middle of my kitchen until 4pm because my building does not allow drilling and only really assembled the tall pantry cabinet and put the overhead cabinet on the stove side of my kitchen. So much for a fully assembled kitchen. 

They promised to come back on November 8 and wished us a Happy Diwali. Leaving this pile of humongous trash right outside my door : 

They informed me it was not their job to take out the old cabinets and that I had to hire a tempo (mini truck) to do it myself! 

We came back on November 8 with them being a no show and the broker not confirming anything at all. We lived the whole week after our return in a kitchen that still had a pile up of cabinet frames, even less storage than before and or nerves getting shorter and shorter. 
That's when hubby decided to involve the landlord (who again lives abroad) and let him know what the situation was. 
The landlord was shocked, he had been told by his broker that the kitchen was almost completed. Angry he went after his broker, and suddenly things started moving and we got brand new team show up in the flat on 12th of November, that team was new, had no blueprints, and no idea they had to finish a botched job. They never showed up again, and then the borker told us the original team would come on Monday 15th. 

They never showed up! 

The landlord escalated and we suddenly got parts delivered on the 16th, and a promise the job would be totally finished the next day (even though no granite countertops were among the parts). The next day, a new team showed up...again to do the work, but they came at 2pm and again could not work until 4pm and only assembled 4 sets of cabinet doors between 4 and 6pm before calling it a day. 
At that point I asked the broker what the F was going on and he tried to make an excuse about the carpenter reaching my place too late in the day to really be able to do any proper work, which of course is exactly none of my problem at this point...and I told him so. 

The next morning, they showed up at 10.30, again promising a fully finished kitchen, but at 7pm we only had all the cabinet doors, no sink, and now countertops and only half the drawers assembled. I had to insist on them putting the plug for my microwave back in place so that I could at least reheat food. Because on November 17th they gutted the rest of my kitchen and I was left without a sink or a stove and take out at every meal gets expensive (and boring). 

On the 17th they also realised for the first time that they had 245cm worth of cabinets to jam into a 240cm wide space and acted all surprised about it, even though I told them 3 times this past week that there was a measurement issue, but apparently I am a dumb woman so I got mansplained that it was not an issue and they would fit right in. They spent 3 hours cutting 5cm off a cabinet to make it fit but not before trying really hard to jam the cabinet into the space! I would have said "I told you so" but that would have been lost on them. 

On Friday 19th, I got again promised the end of the ordeal, and they stayed until 9.30pm to install the granite, the sink, and all the cabinet doors handles, but...drumroll tap! 
Yup! I got a sink, but no running water, because they didn't have the right tool to finish the job. They left another pile of crap in my living room, and sawdust all over my kitchen. Too tired to do anything about the mess, I went to bed and woke up at 5.30 on Saturday to get everything back in my kitchen. 

After hubby called the broker 3 times yesterday to fix the sink, the guy showed up with a worker I never met and told him to measure all the backsplashes and told me they were going to install a granite trimming to prevent water from seeping in the back. I asked about the tap, and the broker said "Not before next week".

That is the point at which I blew up, launched a few F bombs and looked pretty unhinged, hubby backed me up and the broker realised he was not going to win this one and hired an emergency worker to get the job done. I also lost my Sh*t on the amount of garbage in the middle of the living room and he ended up taking all the trash away realising that he really had pushed the envelope very far. 

The emergency workers came to drill the countertop, only to hit the edge of the sink underneath and having to move the tap a bit, so as of yesterday, my newly finished kitchen already has a hole that shouldn't be there and through which water can seep through to destroy the new cabinetry underneath! 
The broker assured us the "granite trimming guy" would fix it, probably on Monday! 

At this point I ran out of F, the skirting at the bottom of the cabinets is still missing, but at least I have running water and a clean kitchen with cabinet doors that aren't threatening to kill me every time I open them. 
It has become clear that the money the landlord entrusted to his broker to do the kitchen has not all gone into said renovation and the broker hired the cheapest carpenters to do the job and that maybe we should have gone to our landlord a lot earlier. 

On the plus side, the new kitchen cabinets have more space because the lower end of the stove counter has better drawers and better cabinets. It's still a rental kitchen, not the kind of color I would have gone for (they didn't ask us) and I don't expect the laminate on those cabinets to stand the test of time, many of the doors got delivered with scratches to begin with. 

This whole kitchen saga drove us crazy the past 3 months alone, and came right after a plumbing saga of equally epic proportion imposed by the owner of the flat below us. I think it is safe to say that both our landlord and us are happy to see 2021 end as it really was the year of construction work in the flat. 

As I type these words, I am looking forward to a quite, uneventful Sunday and can now start planning for the Christmas season that kicks off with the 1st Advent on November 28th, for a while I was afraid that all the cabinet boxes and parts in my living room would make it impossible to set up my Christmas tree. 

This is why I have been quite silent this week on the blog and haven't uploaded much art in my Society6 shop, my mind was fully occupied with the kitchen reno from hell and seeing it come to an end. 

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  1. Phew… seemed to have gone through a lot in this kitchen saga. The thing what makes kitchen renovation so difficult that it disturbs the cooking process completely. The carpenter we hired did a shoddy work with cheap stuff, in our kitchen and we had to get it repaired again by someone from a home services company. He also made a cabinet in our drawing room as the previous cabinet made by the kitchen carpenter got totally destroyed by termites. With carpenters/plumbers/electricians, you have to get lucky I guess, and rely on word of mouth. Some are good and some are pretty ordinary. This is where I believe that the household services companies can chip in providing quality services and assuring that the work get done in a fixed time period.

    1. In our case I strongly suspect that the landlord's broker actually pocketed some of the money given to him for the kitchen renovation and hired the cheapest kitchen solution company he could find. It had been a string of botched jobs and disasters. Right after I published this blog post hubby came to tell me that there was a massive leak under the sink cabinet.
      We found out that the inlet pipe that connect from the main to the kitchen was damaged inside the wall! To install the cabinets the carpenter had to remove that inlet tap under the sink and it's possible they cracked it then, then the next day the guy that came to hook the tap to the sink might have yanked the inlet and damaged it further.

      We ended up booking UrbanCompany plumbers, they spent 3 hours removing the damaged length of pipe inside the wall, then put a new one and connected it all to the main supply. We are leak free now, but the fact we had to hire UrbanCompany because the broker kept on hiring cheap people is not lost on us.

      The broker probably also cut costs not hiring a contractor, and acted as one himself, though I butted head with him several time because he is absolutely CLUELESS about renovation work and I am a trained decorator who actually DOES understand it. He dismissed my valid points quite a few times in front of the workers as to say "Dumb woman knows nothing" but the instant he left, I would ask the carpenters again and they would do just what I asked.

  2. I hope the sliders in the drawers last. They are the first to malfunction after sometime and then the drawers just won't shut. Ours started rusting and malfunctioning within months and then we had to stick papers to keep the drawer shut. Nothing is more frustrating than a stubborn drawer.

    1. all the hinges and drawer channels are imported German ones so they should last, but even in our old cabinets, the drawer channels were all doing good after 13 years, one got a bit sticky at one point but the fix is very easy :

      WD 40

      It's a spray you can spray in squeaky hinges, stuck sliders, stubborn keyholes and any metal mechanism, the lubricant disolve the rust and make those move smoothly again.
      No household should be without a spray can of WD 40 that stuff is as essential has having screwdriver around :-)


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