Home Improvement

How’s It Hanging?

That was the big question last week. Not in the “Hey, how ya doing?” sense of things, but more in the “Um, how are we gonna hang this $60 hood we found on Craigslist” kind of way.

Sherry talked last week about how we planned to encase it in a DIY’d wood cover (see inspiration pics back on last week’s post). Both of us were so excited about (1) the price tag and (2) the final look that we didn’t really think through the middle part: actually installing the darn thing. So yeah… #planningfail?

Here was our challenge (beyond just not having any of the installation materials or instruction): this is an under-cabinet hood and, well, we don’t have any cabinets to install it under. I figured that there were dozens of sites online detailing how to convert an under-cabinet hood to a wall-mounted one, so I wasn’t worried… until my Google searches started coming up empty. That’s when I started to second guess our plan. Was this just something that couldn’t be done?

Then I discovered these.

We didn’t buy these (our hood is Jenn-Air brand). But the fact that Kenmore sold bracket specifically “for mounting range hoods to wall when overhead cabinet is not used” meant it was not a completely crazy idea to retrofit ours to hang on the wall as well. So Sherry and I concocted a plan, did some shopping, and readied ourselves for some hood hanging (and possible hood hanging failure, as is always a possibility when we attempt to figure this stuff out as we go). This picture will make more sense soon, but just know it involved some wood pieces as a makeshift mounting panel and some heavy duty metal brackets as a stand-in for a cabinet.

But before we could put our plan in motion, some details needed to be taken care of. You know, little things like oh-yeah-we-didn’t-tile-high-enough-under-the-vent-pipe. Another lapse in planning. Oh well, it took about 20 minutes to whip up a small batch of thinset and fill it in with some spare tiles. Yes, it was slightly maddening to have to go back to the tiling phase (especially for eight measly rows) but by this point we’ve learned just to laugh. Wince a little. Laugh some more. And get it done.

Then we mapped out all the important stuff on the wall to ensure that things would hang where they were supposed to hang. Looks pretty crazy, right? But I promise it makes lots of sense…

All of this painters tape is marking important reference points, such as:

In case you’re wondering how I located the studs, it was actually thanks to some forethought on Sherry’s part. Back when that wall was open she begged me to somehow mark where they were before we tiled and covered everything up, so I opted to make small marks on the ceiling to keep track of where each stud was. Then I taped a piece of thread to that mark, tied a paper clip to the other end (to weigh it down) and voila – a perfectly marked stud all the way down the wall. And once we hang our crown molding around the ceiling those little stud-marking dots will be hidden once and for all.

With all of our guides marked, it was time to screw in our first piece of wood. Here’s the deal with the wood. The hood by itself was technically wide enough to hang from two studs, except the studs didn’t line up with the two notched holes in the back of the hood (which were at either end) and I didn’t trust that it would hold that way even if they were lined up perfectly.

So we figured we’d screw a slightly wider-than-the-hood piece of wood into two studs (and use a heavy duty anchor to secure it in a third location) and then hang the hood onto additional screws that lined up with the hood’s notched holes. We actually got a contractor’s blessing (just didn’t feel right drilling into our pretty wall o’ tile without double checking our plan with an expert first. So after that phone call we took a few deep breaths and moved on to the next (very scary) part of our plan: drilling into our tile. GASP.

I bought a special bit that’s meant for glass and tile. It took a bit of pressure, but eventually I got all of my holes drilled. Though I think we both silently freaked out the entire time drilling was in progress.

Once we got over having riddled our tile with holes (okay, there were just six) I used some 2.5″ screws to secure the chunky plank of wood to the wall. I have to tell you, feeling those screws grab the stud so tightly was one of the most confidence inspiring parts of this process. I felt like I could’ve hung my whole body weight from this thing – that is, if I was able to grip the tiny ledge with my lanky girl fingers.

With one board in (to hang the hood from) I then had to attach a second one (to hang the brackets from) also with long screws into two studs and a third set of screws into heavy duty anchors to further enforce things. Then it looked a little something like this. Note: the vent pipe is slightly off-center, not the boards (so once we build the frame for the hood that will be solved and it’ll all look centered). Oh, and the blue arrows are pointing to the two screws that the hood will hang from.

We felt pretty good when we realized that most upper cabinets are just held to studs with screws and then loaded up with dishes and plates and other items (and then a hood might be added on top of all that weight) and the whole shebang stays up.

Speaking of which, it was time to put the hood up (since the brackets would need to go up after the hood). Okay, so maybe this part was scarier than drilling into tile. We half pictured the whole wall of tile pulling off of the studs. But lucky for us, it didn’t budge. It was up there solid as a rock. Which is good news, because clearly I could use less time worrying about hanging hoods and more time spent shaving…

Anyways. Sherry supported the hood just in case (she’s the perfect height to rest it on her head from underneath it while standing on a small stepladder) and I attached the brackets to the wood panel and then into the hood using the same slots where it would’ve attached to a wall cabinet.

It was feeling plenty secure by this point, so I relieved Sherry’s head from hood-holding duties while I secured the second bracket and she took some more photos.

Once it was tightly held to the wall, I took care of some of the finishing touches – like attaching the vent pipe to the hood and plugging it in (btw, how lucky were we that the existing plug hole in the range hood was pretty much perfectly placed for our outlet???) – and we were in business. Phew! Update: We’ve since learned that metal foil tape (sold at hardware stores) is better for taping that duct together than duct tape (regardless of the more fitting name of the latter – haha) so we’ll be retaping that vent with foil tape to keep the seal nice and strong for the long term. Thanks for the tip guys!

Okay, so admittedly it looks kinda ugly right now. The exposed pipe / wood / giant hole in ceiling aren’t really a good look, are they?

But it was a good start. Not only did we have a hood for the first time in over two months, but we had a hood that wasn’t crazy close to the stove like our old microwave was (we hung it 34″ from the top of the counter which is right between the hood manufacturer’s recommended 30″ – 36″ distance from the stovetop). And this hood has two fancy light settings. Oooooh. Ahhhhh.

And I know the exposed wood looks kinda crazy – especially because it sticks out about an inch on the sides. But I promise this is all part of a plan (hint: they’ll make for a good spot to attach my homemade wood hood cover), so just bear with me for a couple of days.

Oh and don’t mind this POV, we didn’t have the filters snapped in yet (they’re basically big stainless steel rectangles, so it looks a lot better from below once those are in). We’ll have to share more photos soon.

Now in case you’re still worried about this thing coming crumbling down overnight (we were – we actually pulled the stove out before we went to bed the first night just in case!), know that it has survived a few full days now with nary a creak or shake. So without jinxing ourselves, Sherry and I are calling this hanging project a success. All is good in the hood, as they say. Between the long screws going firmly into those studs and the heavy duty brackets also adding extra from-the-top support, this guy is pretty darn secure. So after a few days of breath-holding, Captain Careful can officially exhale.

Now for the fun (?) part – building a pretty wood cover for it. Somebody crank up my jams! We’ll be back with all those details in a few days, but in the meantime, what did you guys do this weekend? Any heavy-object hanging? Tile drilling? Using your head to support something? Oh and something crazy crazy crazy is going on in our house today (well, it starts today and lasts for the next three weeks!!!) so we’ll fill you in on all that tomorrow (once we have lived through one day of it and have some photos to share).



I See The Light!

Remember when we shared how shiny and polished our kitchen started to look after we finished grouting?


And then revealed the chaos that ensued a hot minute later?

Well, the room is all put back together and we made a whole lotta lighting cha-cha-changes.

Sure our ceiling looks like swiss cheese. But it’s all for a good cause. Inching towards a more luminescent kitchen.

Everyone says that lighting can make the room, but I’m here to refute that. Just kidding, it totally makes the room. If you have a gorgeous space but it looks dark or yellowed or all angry and fluorescent, well, it kinda ruins the whole effect. So we knew something had to be done since even after getting new white counters and painting our cabinets it was still totally lacking in functional lighting. Specifically, the peninsula was really dark and the area near the sink kind of made me feel like I was standing under a bug zapper. And that never-used-in-13-months fan had to go. It sort of felt like a low flying helicopter monitoring dinner preparation. So down they came. And holes they did leave.

Oh but here’s a money saving tip for ya: do as much pre-work for the electricians as possible since you pay them by the hour for their time. We always remove old fixtures (like the fan, the fluorescents, etc). After turning off the power to them of course (Captain Safety would have my head if I didn’t mention that little detail…).

Even marking the ceiling for where you want things can end up taking an hour of discussion while the electrician is there (and when you pay them by the hour, you’re paying them to watch you have that discussion), so hammering that out before they come is great. For example, John stood on a stool and held the glass lids to our cereal jars in the air to guess where we wanted the placement of the two pendant lights that will someday hang over the peninsula.

That weird little exercise helped us figure out where we wanted those fixture boxes pretty quickly. We didn’t have to figure out the height of the pendants yet or anything, which is nice since we don’t have them to hang yet (we’ll install those on our own and make that decision later). So we just used small pieces of painters tape to make an X in the desired location.

Then it was my turn to dance on the dining table to make another mark up there.

We actually have three rooms in our house without any overhead lights: the living room, the sunroom, and the dining room. And the only one we really use at night (without tons of lamps that happen to live on a super long console table and nearby desk) is the dining room. As in, dinners are pretty dark in there. Or we bring in mismatched floor lamps and it looks like a lighting convention. We have visions of a giant chandelier hanging over that big daddy table of ours someday. So you know what they say about “when in Rome…” – well, I have the same philosophy about squeezing as much work in when the electricians are already here working on a job (saves you the money/time of having them out again to work on a nearby room).

We had also chatted with the electricians the last time they were out and they said four can lights should do the trick on the cooking side of the kitchen, so we even marked their placement with little Xs drawn in the middle of more painters tape, just outside of the fluourescents on either side.

We also had them add an outlet on the counter to the right of the fridge (we have one next to the peninsula for laptops, but we thought an above-counter one would come in handy for plugging in mixers to make cookies on that side of the peninsula, etc)…

… and here are those four can lights they put in, in lieu of the previous two fluorescents that sandwiched the fan, which we had them ceremoniously kill (aka: they terminated the power to those poor guys).

Oh and for any interested locals, we use S.J. Ryan Electric. Good guys, fair prices, all that good stuff (they don’t even know we’re bloggers, we just love to shout out people who do good work). We really like them because as an experienced two-man team they can knock out a lot of stuff in not too much time. For example, in 5 hours they:

Note: Ick, don’t mind all the  photos where the tile/paneling meet the ceiling that are still waiting for crown molding to go up. Soon we hope!

So at around $75 an hour for those two guys, it added up to $375 for all of that stuff (plus around $80 for the materials). Total room changer. Four recessed lights! Two new pendant spots! A centered fixture box for a nice pendant over the sink! A new outlet on a wall that had none! And a spot for a big ol’ chandelier in the dining room! Plus they safely terminated all sorts of things we didn’t need anymore!

Ack, please don’t report me to the Exclamation Point Police for overuse. I just get excited about this stuff. I like sharing those prices because I think people generally think electrical work is more expensive than it is. And it certainly can get up there. But things like marking your placement and removing old fixtures beforehand can really speed things up along with hiring a two-man team. And having a ranch doesn’t hurt since it’s so easy for them to run around in the attic and wire stuff (we hear two story houses can be trickier since there’s not exactly an attic above the first floor to creep around in with wires).

So that’s the electrical bid-ness that went on. Things definitely have come a long way since the last time they came

Now we just have some pendants to grab and some holes to fill- and you know we’ll share all the details as we inch along. Update: we found pendants and have hood info to share! Tomorrow morning for sure!

What did you guys do this weekend? We got a giant box delivered by FedEx on Saturday and it was our final book manuscript. All 375 pages of it (it’s one-sided and double spaced, which explains why it’s waaay longer than the book will be, even after we add tons of pics and illustrations).

Ahhhhhh! Sitting on the sofa with that hunk o’ paper was more than a little surreal.

Psst-  This is one of those things that just makes your heart swell up into your throat. One of the five finalists for the Ikea Life Improvement Project was a reader of ours named Melissa Matthews who found out about it back when we randomly mentioned it during an Ikea giveaway, and entered… never thinking she’d end up in the finals (we were so excited to get an elated email from her all about it)! Well, guess what? She won, guys! She wrote an amazing makes-you-cry email to tell us all about it. As the mother of a child with Down syndrome, Melissa is planning to expand the work being done at the Frankie Lemmon School in Raleigh, NC, a school for children with intellectual disabilities. They use technology and cutting-edge therapy to help these children with special needs and Melissa plans to use the new resources and her teaching background to infuse more technology deeper into these classrooms and to create a website to share these methods with other teachers across the country. We’re just so happy for her!