January 02, 2004
Day 22: The Sink Arrives Unannounced

I got up at 8:45 this morning (a tad earlier than usual, because my sister is coming to visit), and while dressing, I heard a large truck pull up out front. The doorbell then rang several times in succession, and there was a loud pounding on the door. Usually when the doorbell rings more than once I'm inclined not to answer it; so far, it's always been a too-pushy window washer/gardener/handyman selling his services.

This time I yelled "JUST A MINUTE" and dashed downstairs to see who it was. I could see nothing through the peephole, so I opened the door. A guy poked his head out of the back of a large panel truck and said "DELIVERY!". Me: "WHAT IS IT?" Him: "A SINK AND FAUCET! DO YOU HAVE THE CHECK?" Me: "I DIDN'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THIS. HOW MUCH IS THE CHECK SUPPOSED TO BE FOR?" [Obviously, we were shouting—the truck's engine was still running, and was quite loud.] Him: "ONCE AND DONE, LTD.! IT WAS ORIGINALLY GOING TO ARDMORE, BUT THEY SAID BRING IT HERE." Me: "THAT'S OUR CONTRACTOR, WHO'S NOT HERE...." Him: "I CAN'T LEAVE THIS STUFF WITHOUT A CHECK!" Me: "I UNDERSTAND THAT. HOW MUCH IS THE CHECK FOR?" Him: [Realizing that's what I'd asked him originally] "OH, $393.26!"

So I wrote him a check, got a receipt, and sent him on his way. He seemed very grateful that he could unload the goods, that I was home and would write him a check, etc. etc. I wonder if the check I wrote was for the wholesale cost, and the sink and faucet were to be marked up on our bill? Probably.

Posted by Lori at 09:16 AM | Permalink
Day 22: Traditional Trim

Jack arrived at about 9:30 and said, "I see the sink arrived before I did." I told him I paid the guy, and he said he would subtract the amount from our next progress payment.

Jack left not long after, and Rylan and U.G. (aka Ron, I found out yesterday) took over, spackling the wall adjacent to the basement stairs, installing the trash compactor and diswasher, and applying the trim around the bottom of the cabinets. Oh, the trim around the cabinets! We really do hate it. We know that Shaker is considered a traditional style, but we think of it as rather contemporary in its simplicity, and we love the straight, square lines. The trim is rounded and way too traditional-looking for us. Unfortunately, no trim seems not to be an option, since it's there to hide the under-cabinet lighting. Rats! Al is going to call Jack this weekend and see if there's anything that can be done; I think he's willing to lose the under-cabinet lighting, if necessary, to get rid of the out-of-whack trim.

More bad news: The countertop template guys got "hung up" and didn't make it. We've been assured that they will come on Monday. I had asked Rylan yesterday if the fridge would be going in today, and he said possibly. At the end of the day, he said they'd decided not to put it in because the ceiling still needed to be spackled and sanded, and they didn't want the dust clogging up the compressor. This, of course, made us wonder why they hadn't finished the ceiling before putting the *cabinets* up, since the dust will get all over (and in) the cabinets, too. (Actually, Al was wondering this the other day, now that I think of it; I hopefully replied, "well, they probably have a plan.")

On a more positive note, the trash compactor is hooked up, so Al is free to crush away.

the newly-spackled wall the cabinet trim a closeup of the cabinet trim. the wires are for the under-cabinet lighting the fridge trim, which we really like new cabinet doors over the microwave the compactor and dishwasher the view from the hall

Posted by Lori at 07:51 PM | Permalink
January 05, 2004
Day 23: Arguments

Al spoke with Jack about the trim on the phone this morning while I was at the allergist, and then I spoke with him in person when I got home. I didn't quite understand the conclusions that Al came to from his conversation, but what I got from Jack was that this trim is considered the most contemporary (!!). All the other options are more ornate. Jack and Ry can try to cut the trim so that it's flatter, but the mitered edges might be hard to work with, and there aren't enough scraps for error. He did say that it wouldn't be too much of a problem to flatten out the top trim (which has yet to be installed).

Meanwhile, some of the under-cabinet lighting has already gone in. I think Al's position is that he'd rather lose the lighting than have the ugly trim. I hate the ugly trim but don't want to lose the lighting, so I guess I don't have a firm position yet (I want the impossible—nice trim *and* under-cabinet lighting).

In addition to trim problems, the cabinets-before-ceiling-spackling issue came home to roost. Jack and Rylan got into a shouting match over whose idea it was to put the cabinets up before the ceiling was done, so maybe that plan I thought they had wasn't so well laid out. There's now ceiling dust in and on the cabinets, as predicted, and bits of spackle, too. I'm assuming they can be washed or scraped off without too much trouble...

No day's work is without an upside, however; Jack says the oven and cooktop are now hooked up. As with the microwave, however, it's taking a little getting used to the idea that we have another cooking option at our disposal. I microwaved a frozen Indian entree, and Al picked a fresh one up at an Indian restaurant on the way home. Maybe I'll boil eggs or make oatmeal tomorrow... though I don't want to try anything *too* complicated until we have a countertop and a sink in which to wash dishes. The master bathroom is becoming overrun with forks, spoons, plates, and bowls.

the cooktop ry spackling the ceiling the sink, in situ toe kick view from the stairs (no drape!)

Posted by Lori at 09:19 PM | Permalink
January 06, 2004
Day 24: Lighting and Trim Redux

So I talked to Jack this morning, and it turns out that losing the under-cabinet lighting is not an option (which is a big relief for me), not because of the aesthetics, but because of the wiring: It's all in already, and removing it would mean tearing the walls down again. We talked about trim options again, and decided that he would try to modify the existing trim to see if he could make it more palatable to us. If it turned out that the trim was too hard to modify, or if they ruined any of it in the process, they'd have to buy some cherry wood and design a custom solution for us.

It turned out that modifying it wasn't too difficult, and there are now two options to choose from: Flat or beveled. Personally, I prefer the beveled, and so does Rylan. We'll have to see what Al thinks, since small details bother him more than they do me.

the flat option the beveled option

Other stuff that happened today: The rest of the under-cabinet lighting went in, and most of the recessed-light canisters did too. Now that the recessed lights are in, the lighting from above is considerably more subtle, making the under-cabinet lights all the more necessary. There was also lots of drilling and drawer manipulation, but I'm not sure what the goals of those activities were (I witnessed them, but I didn't ask what they were for). Oh, and Jack installed the phone jack plate on the dining room wall (it used to be on the wall adjacent to the basement stairs). He put in a plate that has a power adapter built into it, so we could mount a cordless phone base or a phone/answering machine combo on it. His cordless job phone is mounted on there for the time being.

jack drills (left) while rylan works on the drawers the under-cabinet lighting the recessed lights the phone jack (with Jack's phone)

Posted by Lori at 06:38 PM | Permalink
January 07, 2004
Day 25: Stairway to Bedroom

Al also liked the beveled trim the best, so Jack modified the rest of the pieces and Ron or Rylan (I'm not sure who) attached them today. Still to be decided on is the style of the upper trim: flat or bullnose (i.e., the style that we hated on the bottom). A couple strips with different edges facing out are now sitting on top of the cabinets to help in the decisionmaking process.

Rylan did a little more "mud" work on the ceiling today to allow for that last recessed light; the ceiling should now be "paint ready". (Al and I are responsible for the painting/priming.) The rest of the cabinet doors also went on, and Ron drilled holes for all the handles. Luckily Jack had a question about handle placement before Ron started drilling, because it revealed a misunderstanding: Al, Rylan, and I had all at various times talked about which size handles looked best on the doors and drawers, but the news that the new handles would be used on the doors as well as the drawers never made it to Jack (originally Al had wanted pulls for the drawers and knobs for the doors). We cleared that up, and one sample handle is now on a door (the rest will come later).

I also found out from Jack that the countertop guys did indeed come on Monday (probably while I was out at the allergist), so the counters should be ready in another week or so.

While Ron and Rylan were spackling and drilling in the kitchen, Jack was busy resetting the stairs to the second level, which were a bit out of whack (the distance between the top step and the second-to-top step was larger than the distance between all the other steps). I've seen this to varying degrees in many houses (my house in Truckee had the same problem, and because the stairs were narrower, steeper, and carpeted, the discrepancy wasn't immediately visible—and thus caused many falls), and I've often wondered how hard it is to calculate the distance between steps. It's just math, right? Anway, even though it was easier to spot the discrepancy as you walked up our current stairs and adjust your stride accordingly, it wasn't too expensive a problem to fix, and we deemed it worth doing, since Jack was already here. I think we're going to try to get him to look at the leaky spot in the siding that our inspector pointed out as well.

the cabinet doors are now on the corner cabinet doors holes for the handles one lonely handle Jack works on the stairs

Hm, looking at the photos now reminds me of a question I need to ask Jack: Only one side of the corner cabinet opens, which means you can't get to half the interior. At our Mountain View house the corner cabinet had a hinge on the door that allowed for both doors to open with a single handle, giving access to the entire interior. I'm wondering why this cabinet doesn't do the same thing.

Posted by Lori at 05:33 PM | Permalink
January 08, 2004
Day 26: The Fridge

The fridge just went in!! I am already loving it, and I haven't even put anything inside it yet. It's taller than I am by about three inches, and I don't have to bend over to look inside it.

Ron is downstairs working on the upper trim for the cabinets, and Jack and Rylan are busy fixing a problem our home inspector spotted back in September: Part of the siding has deteriorated, causing a leak. The old owners noticed the leak and replaced the roof, but the roof wasn't the problem, so the inspector said it would leak again for sure if we didn't repair the siding.

I'm realizing as I look at the photos I just took that I don't need to ask Jack about the corner cabinet—Ron is in the midst of installing the hinges that will allow the cabinet to open all the way.

the fridge, still with its blue protective coating on the corner cabinet doors, now with hinges

Posted by Lori at 11:33 AM | Permalink
Day 26: Santa, Is That You?

Right now there's an awful racket on the roof, and given that it's January 8, I doubt it's the sound of eight tiny reindeer. Even the wise men showed up by January 5 (and I think they took a land route). My guess is that it's Jack and Rylan, hammering in the new plywood siding.

Posted by Lori at 03:53 PM | Permalink
January 09, 2004
Day 27: The Car Moves Back Into the Garage

Jack and Rylan finished repairing the siding up near the roof today, and Jack installed the vent that's now in the ceiling (it used to be in the soffit). They also gave the green light for the car to come back into the garage, though I'm too lazy to put it in now.

Jack also reported that the countertops would be installed on Wednesday next week. Once the countertops are in, only the electrical outlets, the faucet and disposal switch, and some last-minute adjustments remain. The whole process will have taken about five weeks—not bad, given that Jack has other clients as well, and the holidays happened in the middle of the project.

Posted by Lori at 05:05 PM | Permalink
January 10, 2004

Al and I were both too lazy to take showers before going to bed last night, and I'm afraid we're paying for it today. When I tried to take a shower this morning, I found that there was hot water galore, but no cold. Given that it's 7 degrees outside, we're pretty sure we know what happened: One of the pipes froze.

Al finally managed to pry open an access panel in the storage room to expose the copper pipes behind it, but we don't think they're the right ones. They don't feel that cold, and warming them didn't produce any cold water in the tub. We've turned off the water for now to prevent the problem pipe from bursting, and we've moved the car and a small portable heater into the garage on the theory that the pipe in question is behind the soffit out there. The garage is currently brutally cold (as are the storage room and basement, though less brutally). The third floor, meanwhile, is unbearably hot. God, how I wish we had zone heating!

Posted by Lori at 01:56 PM | Permalink
We Cave and Call The Plumber

Well, the heater in the garage didn't work, so we caved and called Dennis, the plumber who moved the pipe in the kitchen. He's downstairs now, hooking up a gadget that will send an electrical current through the pipe and melt the ice. He said we're very lucky the pipe didn't burst (something we knew, but I don't think we'd really considered all the damage that might have been done to our as-yet-unfinished kitchen).

Dennis also pointed out some things we could do to help keep the pipes from freezing again (though he did say that weather this cold was unusual for Philadelphia—it only happens every 5-10 years), including getting some new weatherstripping for the garage door and doorframe, and insulating under the garage soffit. He pointed to some gaps under the soffit that I never noticed before (ding! it now becomes clear why the basement is so cold). We also need to let the faucets drip tonight—it's supposed to go down to 5 degrees again.

Posted by Lori at 06:07 PM | Permalink
January 11, 2004
Cooking Without Countertops

Given the supercold weather and the fact that the fridge, cooktop, and microwave are all functional, we decided to try to do some cooking this weekend. I made chickpea, red bean, and asparagus marsala with brown rice and lentil pilaf for dinner last night, and this morning I cooked some Irish oatmeal (the kind that takes 30 minutes, not five). Both were excellent, though the oatmeal had some unwanted sawdust in it on account of the fact that nobody vacuumed out the vent fan in the microwave. I should have tested that before turning it on over a boiling pot.

So far two things about the cooktop puzzle us: (1) One knob is different from the other three. I think it's because the burner can either be small or large, but it's not clear which half of the knob corresponds to which size. An experiment is probably in order. (2) A light is (still) illuminated on the cooktop, even though no burner is on, and the surface is completely cool. The light seems to correspond to that two-size burner.

It was a bit tricky cooking without countertops (and without running water in the kitchen—or anywhere in the house for most of Saturday), and running back and forth from living room to bedroom to kitchen with pots, plates, and utensils was kind of a pain, but we were so excited to be able to cook at all that we hardly noticed.

One other thing I hardly noticed: Al. Small as our kitchen is, there's actually a place for him to stand in there that's not in the way when I'm doing the cooking. Our kitchen in Mountain View was considerably larger, but it had a work square rather than a work triangle—which meant there was no room for stationary visitors. In this kitchen, anyone who wants to hang out can lean against the cabinets on the dining room wall, next to the pantry. We're also thinking about getting a bench for the hall outside the kitchen, which could house anyone who didn't want to stand—and which could also serve as a useful spot for lacing up or removing shoes.

Posted by Lori at 07:38 PM | Permalink
January 12, 2004
Day 28: The Dust Bowl

Ron was here for about an hour this morning, doing the final sanding on the kitchen ceiling and a few other spots that had been spackled. He vacuumed when he was done, of course, but there's still a layer of fine dust on everything from the second level down to the basement. (The garage, meanwhile, is buried in sawdust, some of which has made its way into the storage room, basement, and front hall.)

We knew when we opted to stay in the house while the remodel was going on that it would be practically impossible to keep the house clean, and that there would be some dust. We figured it wouldn't be too bad, given that there was no sand-blasting or wall removal involved (as there was in Al's boss' kitchen), and really, it hasn't been. I am pretty tired, however, of our house feeling like a cocaine-cutting den.

Posted by Lori at 03:47 PM | Permalink
January 13, 2004
Day 29: Off Day

Today there's nothing going on; we're all just waiting for the countertops, which arrive tomorrow. Tonight should be the last night we have to run back and forth from living room to bedroom to kitchen to cook a meal!

Posted by Lori at 04:38 PM | Permalink
January 14, 2004
Day 30: Countertops!

The Corian guys are downstairs right now, installing our beautiful new Silt countertops. They've only got the segment from the fridge to the cooktop in so far, but already I can tell it's going to be beautiful. Al and I really did do a good job of picking out the tile—it matches/compliments the countertops really well.

one of the Corian guys, taking measurements jack

Posted by Lori at 10:50 AM | Permalink
Day 30: The Countertops are Complete

The Corian guys just left, and the countertops look SO GREAT. Jack is still here; he's going to put the cooktop and the fridge back in, and I think he's also going to install the faucet.

The following photos were taken over the past four hours or so:

the Corian guys sand the section that goes around the cooktop jack installs the light switch sanding the piece that will go on the side cabinets more sanding and yet more sanding a closeup of the counter the side cabinets, with new countertop the rest of the countertops, now done!

Posted by Lori at 03:16 PM | Permalink
Day 30: Running Water

Now that the countertops are in, Jack is busy installing the faucet, the airswitch for the disposal, and a strip of under-cabinet outlets. I think he's here later than he really wanted to be; apparently the Corian guys were a bit behind schedule.

It turns out that the switches that have been hanging out of the walls for a few days were temporary; the new ones that are going in are all black, except for the phone jack. The normal on/off toggle switch on the stair wall has been replaced by a combination on/off toggle and dimmer switch. Personally, I preferred the on/off toggle only; I don't share the previous owners' obsession with dimmer switches (which are EVERYWHERE).

the cooktop and faucet haven't gone in yet cooktop in, faucet going in more sanding jack installs the outlet strip under the cabinets end of day

Posted by Lori at 05:27 PM | Permalink
January 15, 2004
Day 31: Hardware, Insulation, and a Yummy Red Couch

The new couch arrived before Jack did this morning, at around 10:30. We didn't schedule the delivery very well weatherwise; it snowed 2-3" last night, so the wood floors in the living room are now covered with muddy boot prints. The red ultrasuede fabric seemed to come through the rough-and-tumble assembly process—not to mention the snow—with only a few stray bits of grit and styrofoam clinging to it, however, and it looks fabulous.

The main kitchen news today is that the cabinet handles came in; Jack is downstairs installing them now. We also asked him to do some work in the garage—namely, insulating under the soffit, replacing the worn weatherstripping on the garage door frame and the door itself, and improving the seal on the door from the garage to the house. (The idea is to keep the pipes from freezing again as well as keep the basement from getting so cold —the wall under the soffit adjoins to the basement laundry room, and there were gaps you could see through around the ductwork). Aldo is doing the garage work at the moment.

Who is Aldo, you ask? He's the kid (about 20-22 years old) who rang the doorbell about an hour after Jack arrived this morning. I went down to answer it, and he just stared at me for a few seconds, as if surprised that the homeowner was actually home. (Or maybe it was the lavender hair I'm sporting at the moment.) I smiled at him and raised my eyebrows expectantly. He finally said, "is Jack here?" I replied that he was... somewhere, and that he could feel free to roam around until he found him.

I then returned to my upstairs workroom, where I've been unpacking and cutting up cardboard boxes for most of the day. Now that the kitchen is almost done, I'm starting to freak out that the rest of the house is in such disarray. Actually, "starting to" isn't quite accurate; I freaked out completely last night. The good news is that when I was done melting down, Al and I were able to come up with a plan for clearing out all the crap and finally getting everything put away, thrown away, or hauled away to charity. It begins with chopping up and bundling up every empty cardboard box I can find. Whatever the garbage guys don't take tonight, I'm bringing to the trash/recycling transfer station tomorrow.

the red couch handles! me cutting up boxes

Posted by Lori at 04:34 PM | Permalink
January 16, 2004
Day 31: Never Has Putting Away Dishes Been So Much Fun

Jack had promised me dish-ready cabinets by the end of the day, and he was as good as his word. After he finished getting all the handles on, he had Aldo vacuum out the dust, and I followed up with a sponge after they left.

I ran two loads of dishes through the dishwasher before going to meet Al for dinner (everything was dirty and/or dusty from the move and the remodel), and Al spent the late evening cutting shelf liners and putting dishes away. He's having a ball trying to decide where everything should go. I figure some of the decisions will be revisited once we've had a chance to really use the kitchen, but we've got to start somewhere.

One of the things we're finding is that although the kitchen in Mountain View was significantly larger, this kitchen has a bit more cabinet space (probably due to the lack of windows and full, rather than half, walls). Couple the extra space with the diligent weeding we've been doing, and it's looking like we'll actually have room to grow.

the new dishwasher gets a workout al putting away dishes the tea cupboard

Posted by Lori at 12:13 AM | Comments (2) | Permalink
January 17, 2004
Day 32: Final Payment

Rylan and Aldo were arriving just as I was leaving this morning, and Jack was here (but Rylan and Aldo were not) when I returned around 3:00. He was just leaving me a note when I pulled in; the gist was that the kitchen is DONE! Well, not *done* done—Al and I still have to paint the ceiling and the backsplash (we're still deciding whether to have a tile backsplash or not)—but Jack's part is complete.

The entire job was done completely on budget (in fact, I think it was a few dollars less than the estimate); the only extra kitchen-related expense was the wastewater pipe relocation, and we paid Dennis for that directly. We obviously paid extra for the garage, roof, staircase, and upstairs vent work, but that was stuff we would have needed to hire someone to do anyway—having Jack do it was just ultra convenient. We're both really happy with the quality of all the work and the attention to detail. Heck, we're really happy with the attention, period—we'd heard stories from friends, relatives, and strangers about contractors who would disappear for days or weeks at a time without explanation.

Despite their (sometimes hilarious) bickering, Jack and Rylan were extremely nice and fun to be around, and they seemed to attract top quality subcontractors (Dennis Wasserman, the plumber, comes to mind, as do the tile guys, whose names I never got). Jack was very organized and (I learned one day when I found one of his lists) always had a plan for what would be done each day.

It occurs to me that I've never once posted the link to Jack's design/build company, Once and Done, Ltd.; now is probably a good time, since we've had a very positive experience and would recommend him to others in the Philadelphia area. The photos below show the kitchen as it looked after Jack left today (note that the protective film is finally off the fridge). I'll post more photos when we get the ceiling and backsplash painted, but the day count ends here. The final payment has been made, the keys have been turned in, the shop vac will be picked up tomorrow, and it's just us in the house again. We can't wait to get cooking.

the full kitchen, shot from a spot next to the pantry looking into the kitchen from the stairs the cupboards and countertop on the dining room wall the fridge and sink, as seen from the dining room the microwave, cooktop, and oven, as seen from the dining room

Posted by Lori at 01:10 AM | Comments (2) | Permalink
January 20, 2004
All By Myself

"Jack's not coming tomorrow," I said to Al last night before getting into bed. "It'll just be me and Annie."

"You sound sad," said Al.

"I am, kinda," I replied. "I've gotten used to having him and Rylan around." I've always liked having people around, but not having to interact with them. It's why I chose a huge school like UGA for my college education, and why I like living in cities. Having a contractor in the house was perfect: I could talk to him occasionally, but I usually wasn't under any obligation to do so.

Anyway, as I said, it's just me and Annie now. Today we're going to haul some more trash to the dump and cut up some more boxes. Or at least, I'm going to do that. Annie will probably just watch from her spot among the sunbeams.

annie has found a sumbeam amid the boxes

Posted by Lori at 01:29 PM | Permalink
January 22, 2004
Box-Cutting and Couch

Slowly but surely we are putting the house together post-kitchen remodel. We were able to get a couple rooms in order when we first moved in (namely, my office and our bedroom), but with all the kitchen stuff still in boxes, Jack's tools and the new and old appliances stuffed into the dining room, and the storage room and garage being used as cabinet staging areas, it's been hard to unpack, weed, and set up rooms until now.

The dining room is still the staging area rather than an actual dining room; it's home to the Donate and Toss piles, as well as the old fridge, which is for sale on craigslist. We'd happily give it to charity if we could, but so far we've been unable to find a qualified charity in the Philadelphia area to take it. If you have a suggestion, let us know.

The Sell pile has moved to the guest room, and all the boxes of food that need to be sorted and stashed in the pantry are in the middle of the kitchen. Meanwhile, I found a nice sisal rug to go under the yummy red couch, so the living room is starting to shape up. Well, at least the couch side is; there are still a few kitchen boxes in the opposite corner, and yesterday we found out that Al's huge TV was damaged in the move. (It worked for a couple months, but then stopped turning on; the repair guy showed us where one of the internal doodads had been knocked off its mounts. He said that the connections might've worked for a while—and might randomly work still, which has been our experience—but the thing is quite broken.)

Al is responsible for the now-organized Donate, Sell, and Toss piles, which I'll be adding to (and subtracting from, as I make trips to the dump and Goodwill) over the next week or so. I've also been cutting up boxes like a maniac and taking them for disposal/recycling (I'm not sure what it is that the city of Philadelphia does with them).

Oh! And yesterday I got to do my first baking in the new kitchen!—yay! A friend gave me the Moosewood Dessert cookbook over the weekend, and I used a recipe for sour cream coffeecake in it to make Jack and Rylan some cupcake-sized regular and blueberry coffeecakes. (Jack came by in the afternoon to look at our sponge drawer, which I thought was opening weirdly but which turned out to be perfectly normal, and to adjust the lock on the garage door.) There were a few extra coffeecupcakes, so I got to try a regular one, and there were four blueberry ones for Al.

al sorting piles in the dining room the dining room finally has bare floor! me cutting boxes me with my tongue out the couch, with flash the couch, without flash

Posted by Lori at 01:12 PM | Permalink