Archive for November, 2011

All The Little Things

Some aspects of this kitchen remodel are certainly less exciting than others – especially when compared to having just opened the wall up. But alas, these things must be done. Including a few that we wanted to accomplish before the countertop guy came to template for our new counters (that’s something we want done accurately, after all).

First on our list of little things was filling the gaps next to our stove.

The base cabinet that we removed was 36″ wide, but the stove is only about 30″ leaving a little under 3″ of nothingness on either side. Since you can’t squeeze much function into two and 3/4ths inches (almost every pull-out drawer was 3″ or more), we decided just to put in filler pieces of wood. Oh and for anyone wondering why we didn’t scoot the stove to one side and add a wider pull out drawer, if we didn’t leave the stove centered the hood would be off-center, which would mean widening the ceiling hole (= drama). Plus none of the thin slide out drawers had doors that looked like our existing ones anyway, so it was just not worth the money/trouble. And although we thought about some sort of ornate leg or braided detail, we ultimately decided that we wanted other things like the wall of penny tile backsplash to be the star (along with items on our floating shelves), so two thin and basic filler pieces of wood were our final pick.

I grabbed a few pine “project boards” at Lowe’s, cut them to size, and drilled some pilot holes with my Kreg jig before screwing them carefully into place.

Obviously we needed the fillers at the front to visually fill the gap, but we also decided to put one at the back in case the counter guy needed it for support:

In total, each side had three separate filler pieces. We probably could’ve gotten away with two, but it’s not like the boards were breaking the bank (I spent about $11 total on this entire project – which is at least $100 cheaper than some sort of pull out dealie).

Here are both sides done (ready for the stove to slide back into place):

Not bad, eh? Once the counters are on and the cabinets are primed and painted no one will even notice them. Especially since many of the other base cabinets in our kitchen already have fillers in the 2.5″ range.

Then we stepped a little closer and put on our Picky Pants and we saw that there was still a noticeable gap. Guess we’ve gotta go buy a bigger stove…

Kidding. Obviously I just needed to add one more sliver of filler wood. The gap was just over 1/4 of an inch, and I knew we could do better. So I headed back out to Lowe’s a grabbed a couple of these.

It’s a 3/8″ thick project board that fit perfectly into my slightly-too-big gap, thank goodness (though they added $4 to my total budget, now breaking the bank at $15). So I nailed those two suckers in place, being super sensitive to keeping them flush with my other filler piece along the front.

Here’s what they looked like on both sides. I didn’t bother putting them any further than the first two panels since they were strictly aesthetic.

Then we just slid the stove back in. MUCH better. I know it’s hard to tell in the pic below, but trust us that it’s just about as snug as we’d ever want it (any closer it would be hard to get the stove in and out). Oh and once we demo the tile from behind the stove it’ll be able to push back against the wall a bit more for a more flush look. And once we add the toe kick across the front of all the cabinets the bottom will be seamless too.

So with that done…

… our next little task was over on the peninsula.

Since we don’t want the guy templating the counters to think we want an angled corner or anything, we wanted to attach a flat panel on the back of the entire peninsula. It’s something we’d have to do eventually, so why not tackle it while we wait for counters? You can see in the photo above that I had already attached a little corner piece to anchor the panel against the half wall. Here it is a little closer:

It’s basically just two scrap pieces of wood that I screwed together at a 90-degree angle using my jig. Then I screwed it into the wall so that the flat edge would be flush with the back of the cabinets. Then I was ready to attach my plywood panel.

I actually bought this piece of wood back when I got the plywood for our refrigerator built-in so I could transport it in my rented Lowe’s truck (how’s that for thinking ahead!). It’s just a thin piece of “utility plywood” that the Lowe’s guy recommended. It was a whopping $9. They had cut it to size for me in the wood cutting area, but because we had later switched from a 21″ end cabinet to an 18″ end cabinet I had 3″ of overhang that I had to cut off with my jigsaw.

So here it is all cut and nailed into place:

Not very exciting looking, we know. Eventually we’ll be adding trim – baseboards, corner pieces and maybe even a three paneled board and batten look. Not sure yet. Oh, and it will of course get painted to match the cabinets. But for now it accomplishes the goal of squaring off that corner for the countertop measuring festivities (it’ll have a 12″ overhang of Corian on two sides to accommodate four stools).

Can you sort of start to see how it’s coming together? Of course the chairs are placeholder and we hope to get some lighter looking stools (maybe made of acrylic for a nice airy feeling).

Oh, and do you notice the other thing that we did in the picture above? I’ll give you a hint. It starts with a “p” and ends with “aint touch ups.”

Obviously paint was not a critical step for the counter templating process, but it was more for our sanity (and we had it all on hand so it was free). There’s still lots to be painted (um, hello cabinets – but those have to wait until we get our counters in to avoid dings). So we got busy painting the raw trim, drywall, and paneling leftover from the pantry/fridge shuffle and wall opening. It really does make our exceedingly unfinished kitchen look a smidge less unfinished.

You’ll notice that we opted to paint the inside edge of the half wall light grey like the dining room. We figured it’d be weird to carry the grellow that’s on the kitchen paneling over since the side of the half-wall is drywall (like the light gray dining room). The soft grey is much more subtle and almost looks white like the rest of the door jamb, so it works nicely.

Oh and don’t mind the drip on the “temporary threshold.” That’s actually just a piece of paneling that we had leftover from the wall opening project that we cut down, flipped painted-side-down, and nailed in to bridge the gap that was created by removing the wall. It’ll eventually get covered with cork and we’ll add a very small threshold to join the cork to the original hardwood (just like we did in our first house where the original hardwoods met the new ones that we added to half of the house).

Now here are a bunch of “after painting” pictures of the kitchen and dining room (since it’s the closest thing we’ll have to a polished after for at least a few months). But ignore the two oddly placed floor lamps in the dining room (we can’t wait to get a big chandelier for over the dining table) along with the new microwave box sitting near the built ins (the new dishwasher box is hanging out in the office until install time).

Oh, and although it’s not the most glamorous angle, a few folks requested a view from the living room, so here it is. We love that we can see the giant picture window from the back of the house. Widening this doorway would definitely be a nice change, but having widened a former-exterior brick wall in our first house we know it’s a messy and not necessarily easy job (this used to be the back of our house before they added an addition, which means it’s hugely load bearing and could be a big ol’ can of worms). So for now it’s on our “maybe someday list.” Although sometimes we think we’ll appreciate the privacy in the living room since it’s not a big wide-open straight shot from the front window to the back of the house.

Wow, that was a lot of pictures for a post about little things like filling gaps around the stove, nailing a panel to the peninsula, and doing some paint touch ups. I counted an even 30 photos. Guess we’ve been a bit trigger happy with the camera lately. Must have something to do with that glorious new doorway of ours. And yes, we still walk into the kitchen and grin at it like fools.

What little updates or small progress have you made on projects around your house? Any last minute tasks that you’re trying to bang out before this weekend or Thanksgiving?

Psst- We announced this week’s giveaway winner. Click here to see if it’s you.

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We’re Now Officially Sinkless

In the words of Carla from Top Chef: hootie hoo! Our counters are ordered (more on what we chose and why we chose it here). They came in at exactly $38 a square foot from Home Depot (no hidden/added charges, which was nice) which added up to around $1700 (ouch, good thing we’ve been saving for this kitchen a while). We also priced them out at Lowe’s and a couple of local retailers and none of the local retailers could do better than $55 a square foot (huge difference, huh?) and while Lowe’s and Home Depot both had the same $38/square foot price, Lowe’s charged more for the sink cutout and a few other add ons that HD didn’t. The deal was sealed when Home Depot agreed to match a 10% off Lowe’s project coupon that we got in the mail AND the 5% off that we’d get if we used our Lowe’s card (our local Lowe’s stacks those discounts although we’ve heard some others around the country might not). So we’re happy to have saved a good chunk of money shopping around and price matching coupons.

Another way that we’re saving money is by reusing our existing sink:

We really like our sink, and obviously wanted to save a couple hundred bucks or so by not buying a new one (as we mentioned here, we’ve heard many times that seamless Corian sinks can be a lot harder to care for than Corian counters – so most folks prefer stainless undermount). But we learned both from Lowe’s and HD that for the Corian fabricator to accurately plan for our sink… they’d need to take it with them when they came to template for the new counters (aka make precise measurements to design the countertop). And that meant removing the rest of our granite to free up the sink.

The process started by disconnecting the disposal and the plumbing underneath the sink. Don’t interpret only having one photo of this process to mean it was quick. It should’ve been (according to all of the how-to‘s I googled and watched beforehand) but the mounting ring on mine was jammed and it took me about 45 minutes to finally get it free and spin it off. On the bright side, I am now very familiar with my garbage disposal. Maybe that should have been on my Things To Accomplish Before I’m 30 goal sheet (get that reference here).

Next I wanted to remove our faucet, which we also plan to reuse (at least in the short term – later upgrading to another one-hole faucet won’t be a big deal). Fortunately this went faster, thanks to digging up the installation manual online and reversing the steps.

With all of the fixtures detached, it was granite removal time. Having already done this once in our kitchen (we removed the first half of the granite to make room for the stove), we knew the process wouldn’t be too hard. It’d just require some muscle. So we warmed up by prying off the backsplash with a crowbar.

No sweat.

Then we made a couple of slices along the glue that held the counter to the cabinets and got to prying. It lifted up remarkably easily.

Then came the muscle-y part. Which is why we recruited my parents to help again (mom to watch Clara and take pics, dad to lift). But it quickly became apparent that this slightly larger slab of granite was more than slightly beyond our lifting abilities – especially since we would’ve had to lift it up high enough to get the sink out without damaging it (if the granite slammed down on the sink while it was halfway over the cabinets it would have meant $200+ to buy a new one and potential cabinet damage as well).

We had been trying to get it out with the sink attached because the folks at both Lowe’s and Home Depot thought we’d be able to better cut the sink free without warping or tweaking it that way (therefore saving us the loot to buy a new one). But that method wasn’t going to work here. That long slab of granite was way too heavy. As in, we probably couldn’t have lifted it with two more burly men present. So we regrouped and came up with the idea to try to remove the sink first, by freeing it from the glue that held it to the granite.

We began by gently sliding a spackle knife into the space where the sink was undermount-glued to the counter. Once Sherry (she’s the boss of the group) broke the seal in one spot, we were able to tap it around the perimeter with the help of a hammer. I say “we” but my dad ended up doing most of this for some reason – although Sherry did the first edge of four. Not sure how I got out of it but… thanks Dad!

Eventually all of the glue was gone (this took about 45 minutes) and we were able to tilt and raise the granite up just enough to lift the sink out from under it (we kind of hinged the granite back like the top of a trunk or chest so we weren’t supporting all of the weight ourselves). The best part? The sink was unharmed… just a little dirty. So we get to save 200 beans and reuse it! Oh happy day. And you can see just how big our sink is in this shot with the wife around for scale. Note: Sherry wants me to clarify that’s not dandruff or debris on her shoulders, it’s gold beading that apparently reads more clearly in person. Gotta love a gal who rips apart her kitchen in fancy beaded clothing.

At this point I guess we could’ve left the granite in place, but we knew the installers either preferred no counters or all counters when doing their measurements (not half and half, since it could throw them off) – and we also wanted to use my dad. Wait, that sounds bad. But we could definitely use the extra strength, and he was standing right there in our kitchen, so…

With the sink safely set aside in the other room, we just lifted the granite up slightly on one end and this quickly showed up:

Never did I think I’d be so happy to see a crack in my granite. See, we knew that if it cracked in half around the sink (which is pretty hard to avoid anyway) we could lift each side of the slab separately. Which we definitely could handle because it was the same size as the granite piece that we removed when we added the stove a few weeks ago.

But we were less happy to find this beneath the crack – some sort of metal rod that must’ve been installed to keep the granite strong across the sink hole. Boo for unforeseen metal rod-like obstacles.

But after we slid half of the granite off onto the floor, the rod was bent enough that we could use a screwdriver to pry it loose and completely separate the now two halves of granite… which were each light enough to be carried out by just two of us.

Here’s sort of what the aftermath looked like before we got the other half out. Note the construction-grade beach towel that we used to protect the new stove. I’m kidding about the construction grade thing, just in case my sarcasm wasn’t clear. Don’t want you guys to waste too much time googling “construction grade beach towel.”

Now that all of the granite is removed and residing safely (and somewhat junk-ily) in the carport to be craigslisted, our kitchen is looking something like this. Yup, it’s safe to say we’re 100% sinkless.

According to the counter fabricator, we’ll be sinkless for about three weeks (maybe four, considering Thanksgiving is thrown in the mix). But I did reconnect the drain on the dishwasher so at least we can still use that (and therefore maintain a smidge of civilized living around here). I try to remember that while I rinse non-dishwasher-safe pots in the bathroom sink. But we definitely have it better than we did in our first kitchen (which was a full gut job – so we didn’t have a stove, fridge, microwave, and dishwasher to use at all for months).

Has anyone else foolishly believed they could lift an eight and a half foot hunk o’ granite with two other people? Have you ever seen rods around the sink while removing or installing granite? Have you kept/reused an existing sink? Did it take you a second to disconnect your garbage disposal like it’s supposed to? If so, consider me a jealous man.

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