Our kitchen remodel started yesterday, and I am KICKING myself for not taking a Day One photo. Fart! Jack, our contractor, called today and said that the soffits are now gone, but that he found a wastewater pipe behind one of them. He said we should check it out and let him know what we think. (Um, what we think? Do we have any options available to us now that the soffits are down?) Since I don't have a photo of yesterday's progress, I'll do my best to describe it:
The refrigerator was moved from the kitchen into its temporary quarters in the dining room. Since it's only a year old, according to the old owners, we'll probably try to donate it to Habitat for Humanity or another charity. For now we're leaving it plugged in because we have a (very) few items in there that need to be kept cold, and our new fridge hasn't arrived yet. I know it seems silly to replace a practically-brand-new fridge, but (a) as a tall person, I hate bottom-door fridges, and (b) it's too deep and partially blocks the door to the dining room. We're getting a counter-depth side-by-side fridge to replace it.
The counter from the fridge to the sink was removed, as was the sink itself. I couldn't tell for sure, but the dishwasher might have been disconnected; this would make sense, as they had to turn off the water anyway to move the fridge (it has an automatic ice maker). Might as well cap the water line to the dishwasher, too.
That's about it for Day One. Doesn't sound like much progress, but we were so excited to see *anything* done that we were practically beside ourselves. I can't wait to get home and see what happened on Day Two. This time, I'm taking photos!
The photos below show the kitchen and dining room before we moved in (so the photos on the fridge, the stuff on the counter, and the dining room furniture belong to the old owners). It should be pretty clear why we wanted to remodel.
Having so recently lamented that I'd forgotten to take photos of Day 1, the first thing I did upon arriving home tonight was whip out the camera and start documenting. The main things to see today are that the soffits are down in most of the room, the appliances and cabinets are piled willy-nilly, the upside-down sink tops another pile, a few tiles have been pried up, and (from yesterday) the fridge is in the dining room. There's also the matter of the wastewater pipe, which you can't really see in the photos (it's in the corner where the soffit was in the appliance jumble photo, but since it's black, it blends in with the shadows). We've decided to just work around it for now, and decide what, if anything, needs to be done to it later. We might paint it or otherwise camoflage it, but we're not going to move it.
I was home today when Jack and another guy drove up in a panel truck and started clearing out all the appliances and cabinets. The whole process took about an hour, with lots of swearing and arguing over what would fit through the door and what wouldn't, and constituted the work for the day.
The photos below show the kitchen sans cabinets and appliances; the dining room, which is currently a staging area for our Toss and Sell piles as well as Jack's tools; and the wastewater pipe. In the last photo, you can also see Annie walking down the stairs.
Nothing happened today, probably on account of the snow, sleet, and freezing rain we were getting all day.
Today the ceiling came down and the tile came up. I imagine the ceiling was removed to make way for the new recessed lighting; why the tile came up is obvious. A bunch of bags of rice also appeared (or at least they're rice sacks—I didn't look inside to see if they actually contained rice); what those are for I can't imagine. A tarp was already covering the pantry door, but some new, heavier canvas drapes are now hanging from both kitchen entryways. Oh, and the remaining cabinets also came down.
Jack and his partner/assistant/worker bee arrived fairly early this morning, around 10am. I was upstairs in my room, quietly writing a few Christmas cards while they argued loudly downstairs. Lots of "fuck off!" and "don't you tell ME to fuck off!" and so on. After about 10 minutes of this I got up to do my morning step workout, and they must've realized I was home, because the arguing ceased. Or at least, I couldn't hear it over the music.
By the time I finished my post-workout shower, they were gone, and the rice and the drywall went with them. I don't think we were expecting the drywall to come down; maybe it was too icky to keep?
Today's photos show, from left to right, the area where the fridge will go, the plywood subfloor, the wall with the chimney flue (i.e., the fireplace is on the other side, in the living room), and the wall adjacent to the stairwell.
Called Gerhard's this morning and paid the balance on our appliance order; the new fridge, microwave, oven, cooktop, dishwasher, and compactor will arrive on Tuesday the 16th. We have to take delivery by then in order to get a bunch of rebates that will make the appliances a heck of a lot more affordable.
Today was the day the cabinets were supposed to come; at least, this is what we remembered from our conversation with Jack about the start date, which was based on the cabinet delivery date. I was kinda glad they didn't come, since we're obviously not ready for them yet—the tile has yet to be laid, and there's no drywall up. There's probably other stuff that needs to be done that's less obvious to me, as well.
So, no cabinets... and no Jack. It was a quiet day of Christmas card writing for me.
Something electrical was going on today. I arrived home from a quick trip to Home Depot (I removed the built-into-the-wall towel and tp holders from the upstairs bathroom, and I needed drywall patches to cover the holes) to find the garage blocked by Jack's Nissan Frontier. He moved it so I could get the car in, but I still had to do the limbo under a piece of PVC propped across the door into the house.
I introduced myself to the guy on the ladder in the kitchen, since he seemed to be a recurring character. He informed me that his name was Rylan, and he was Jack's "angry, 24 year-old son." That explains all the arguing.
Jack pointed out to me that the shaft with the fireplace flue in it was now open, so if I wanted him to run coax through the bedroom floor, he could do it. (We've been running a cable up the staircase from the living room until we can arrange for a "wall fish," as the cable installer called it, and it's totally sucked. We keep tripping over the cable, and it looks horrible.) I said I thought it sounded like a good idea, but I'd check with Al to make sure he didn't have something else in mind. Al OKed the idea too, and Jack ran the cable.
Some of the electrical/cable running work involved taking off the wall plates on either side of the fireplace in the living room, and in the process, a couple tiny pieces of metal—square with a hole in the center—ended up in Annie's bowl, which was under one of the plates. I caught her trying to eat one of them around 4:00; I hope there weren't more that she actually got down.
Jack also mentioned that the cabinets had shipped; "they have to go to a distribution center first," he said. So maybe we'd misunderstood about the date—I guess 12/10 was the shipping date rather than the arrival date. I told him that the appliances would be coming on Tuesday, and he said fine. I hope there'll be somewhere to put them, because surely we won't be at the appliance-installation stage by Tuesday...
The photos from today show the PVC pipe (now in the kitchen); Jack's bags of electrical tools; some new lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling; and more wires, probably associated with the phone and cable. (Jack asked if he could move the phone jack from the not-very-useful spot next to the stove/cooktop over to the dining room wall, which made sense to me. I also asked him to run some cable over there, in case I want to have a TV in the kitchen while I'm cooking.)
Jack and Rylan were here for most of the day today. They had the water turned off for a few hours, and there was lots of hammering and the smell of burning wood and metal, but I had to ask what the main accomplishments of the day were. It's all inner guts work right now—nothing so obvious as new tile or cabinets—so it's hard to tell what's different from one day to the next.
Rylan pointed out the "disaster in the corner" for me to photograph, but it was Jack who explained what said disaster consisted of. Basically the plumbing and some of the electrical had been in the soffit, outside the framing timbers, and since the soffits aren't coming back to hide all this conduitry, it had to be re-routed. (Now that I know what I'm looking at, I can plainly see what he's talking about in the third photo from Day 6.) It's also now clear why they removed the drywall—it wasn't because it was icky, but rather so that they could get access to the framing, pipes, and wires. (This also explains why some of the drywall is still up on the walls that didn't need major pipe or wire work.) They finished running the cable up to my room, and added some CAT-5 while they were at it. The cable I need right away, but the CAT-5 is just in case. We might be able to use it to hook up the second airport base station up here.
While working on the disaster in the corner, the moulding on the staircase to our bedroom popped off the wall, and several pieces of plaster and/or paint chipped off. Jack said these will be repaired later, once they're done banging around in the walls.
They also got some plumbing work done (which is why the water was turned off), but it's leaking a bit, so they've got to re-do some of the work on Monday. (Again, I can see now why they had to do the plumbing work in this photo from Day 8—the bendy white pipe is outside the framing and needed to be moved inside.) We're also to keep our eyes peeled for a leak in the wastewater pipe; apparently it's significant but intermittent, so we'll have to try some tests in our bathroom this weekend.
Jack says the tile goes in once they're done with all the wiring and plumbing; I'm hoping for Tuesday, since that's when the appliances arrive. The cabinets are apparently coming on Wednesday. I had to give Jack another check to pay for them, which means we've now put up more than half the estimated cost of the remodel. (Each check after the deposit covers a "progess billing", though the first one was due when we handed over the keys, before any progress was made.) Welcome to the world of residential construction.
The photos today show the "disaster in the corner" (the re-routing of some copper pipes and electrical wires); the coax and CAT5 running through the wall and up the chimney column; Rylan putting away some tools below the re-routed PVC off the wastewater pipe; and the new phone and cable jack. This last photo also shows how the temporary lighting plugs in (!).
I was here for most of the work today, but I didn't ask what was going on. As a consequence, taking photos tonight was a Myst-like experience in puzzle-solving. Here are the clues:
Lots more electrical work today. Oh, and I found out the reason for all the holes in the basement ceiling: Jack added some new circuits (too many things were on too few circuits previously), and to wire them, he had to get from the circuit box in the front closet to the kitchen. He did this by going through the basement ceiling—and to snake through all the duct work and other wiring in the soffits down there, he had to drill access holes. You can see in the photos below the orange cord in one of the ceiling holes; it emerges in the kitchen and passes through some holes in the framing. I believe it's going to the cooktop, and possibly the oven as well.
The yellow cord, which was added yesterday in a similar manner, goes to a couple new GFCI outlets (code requires that kitchen outlets be GFCI now; it didn't when the house was built). The receptacles will probably go on tomorrow. One went on today, on the short dining room wall—and at the same time, the drywall on that wall came off, presumably so a new light switch could be installed (it's the blue box in the photo of that wall). We'll now have switches at both entries to the kitchen, which makes sense, don't you think?
I know Jack was in the laundry room a lot today, presumably snaking wire; it's possible that the bit of copper pipe in the third-to-last photo is also his handiwork.
The other big news of the day is that the appliances arrived. Well, all except the trash compactor, which is apparently coming next week. They're currently piled up in the dining room, awaiting drywall, tile, and cabinets...and of course the completion of the electrical work. Jack said they should be done with that tomorrow, and that he hopes they'll start re-drywalling tomorrow afternoon. The tile guy is supposed to come tomorrow and verify that everything is good to go; my assumption was that the tile would go in on Thursday, but I didn't actually hear Jack say that, now that I think of it. He just said that the tile goes in once the drywall is done. He also said that the cabinets are coming tomorrow, but they, like the appliances, will have to cool their jets for a while. Theoretically we could store them in the garage, since I'm taking the car to my sister's tomorrow, but if they're not installed by Sunday, we couldn't get the car in the garage upon our return. Given that the tile won't be finished until Friday at the earliest, I'd say chances are slim that the cabinets will be installed before next week. I hope they fit in the dining or storage room, or we'll have to park at an odd angle in the alley out back.
I'm in Maryland at my sister's house, so Al is in charge of taking progress photos tonight. I'll add them to this post when I get back on Sunday. He says they finished wiring the outlets today, and that—drumroll, please—the cabinets arrived. I told Jack before I left this morning to go ahead and put them in the garage if they came; it won't be a big deal to park the car behind the garage for a few days when we return. (The cabinets probably won't be installed until next week.)
Today's update is again via Al, who was home in the evening to see the results of the day's work. The biggest development is that the drywall (and some plywood) is back up. This marks a turning point for us, as we'll be able to see things going in from now on, rather than coming out. (To be fair, the days of wiring constituted new, constructive work, but wiring is not as easy to appreciate as drywall, tile or cabinets—and the wiring work often required some extra demolition.)
In other news, a few days ago I came up with a theory as to why the wastewater pipe was leaking intermittently (which I won't share here). Al related it to Jack, Jack concurred, and it was agreed that we would have the plumber come in to repair the leaky flange. Al and I discussed changing out the toilet at the same time, since Al didn't like the existing toilet, and it doesn't match the new green paint anyway. (The bathroom used to be painted the same color as the toilet, but now that the walls are green, it makes more sense for the toilet to match the white tub.) He has searched the web and picked out a new toilet, and it will be installed tomorrow when the plumber comes.
Al gave me today's update in person; he arrived here in Maryland tonight on the train. He didn't have time to take photos before he left (and Jack was still working anyway), so we'll take some when we get home on Sunday and add them to the bottom of this post. The main thing on Al's mind is that the wastewater pipe, which we dealt with on Day 2 by not dealing with it (we'd decided to do nothing for now and either paint it or box it later if necessary), is sticking out of the plywood far enough that it will overhang the cabinets.
It turns out that leaving the pipe as-is and painting it if necessary was never an option. I'm not sure how we failed to understand this point; perhaps we didn't accurately communicate our intentions to Jack, which caused him to think it not necessary to mention that boxing or moving were the ONLY choices. While it would certainly be preferable to move the pipe rather than box it, given that the box will overhang the cabinets even more than the pipe itself, moving it will likely be expensive, and it could set us back a day or more now that the drywall/plywood is up. (The time to do this work, if we'd wanted to, was while the walls and ceiling were open.) In any case, we spent the ride from the train station talking about what to do. We finally resolved to box it, even though it would probably look weird. I lamented that leaving it as-is wasn't an option, and Al lamented that we hadn't moved it before—or even today, since the plumber was already there fixing the flange and installing the new toilet.
On a more positive note, the tile arrived, and Jack said that the tile guys will be coming on Monday to lay it. He apparently picked out a grout in a color called Pewter, which I think ought to be a good match for our Seaspray tile (which isn't as green as it sounds—in fact, it's gray with a bit of brown streaked through). The new toilet went in without a hitch, the flange is fixed, and Al also had the plumber install a new drain in our shower (the old one was badly rusted). There's also a new drywall ceiling.
Al looked at the pipe again when we got home tonight, and he's decided that he wants to move it. Even though he asked me specifically to dissuade him from changing his mind about boxing it, I know that this is the right thing to do, so I'm OK with the decision.
Al just called Jack, and the call confirmed that we've done the right thing: Moving the pipe won't set us back more than 1/2 a day at most, so our #1 concern is not an issue. And the cost, while nothing to sneeze at, isn't huge in the grand scheme of things. Having to look at that boxed pipe—especially for Al, who's a "buyer's remorse" kind of guy—would be a lot worse.
Jack said the plumbers will come out on Tuesday morning, and if he has time once they're done, he'll start hanging cabinets. Yeah, baby!
Ya-HOO! The tile guys are downstairs laying the new tile in the kitchen as we speak. They arrived at about 7:45 this morning, I let them in, and they got to work. Very exciting. I just went down to take some progress photos, and about six tiles are now down; the first hour or so of banging was the
Wonderboard PermaShield going in.
Man, I thought it was exciting when things were moving *out*. How much more exciting it is to see stuff going *in*!
I did my step workout upstairs in my office/workroom and then went down to take photos of the tiling midpoint, and I found that I'd missed it. These guys work fast! I think there's still the grout left to go after they get all the tiles down, so hopefully I'll get one more set of in-progress photos before they finish completely.
I came down for the grout stage and stayed until they were finished; the whole process didn't take long at all, and I'm really thrilled with the results. This is all the work that will be done today, as the tile needs to set overnight.
Dennis and Fred, the plumbers, are here, moving the wastewater pipe behind the framing. We're not positive, but we think it's costing us a bit more to move it now that the drywall and plywood are up than it would have if they were still down.
The good news is that the plywood they removed to get to the pipe exposed some duct work that we hadn't photographed before. It must have been done on Thursday or Friday, while I was gone and Al was at work. (You can see the duct, and the marking on the plywood that I'm assuming indicates where the vent should go, in the last photo.)
While the plumbers were working, a new workmate of Jack's (name unknown) was patching and sanding the circular holes in the basement soffit. There's lots of banging and drilling noises coming from the kitchen now, so I'm assuming that the soffit work is done and the cabinet hanging has started. I'm going to go take a peek.
Nope, no hanging yet—just getting ready to hang. The unidentified guy is putting up some metal trim on the dining room doorway, and Jack has re-hung the plywood and is adding some insulation around the ductwork, I believe.
Jack and Rylan were here for a couple hours this morning, during which time they moved the lower cabinets into the kitchen and polyurethaned the wood floor transitions. The cabinets look GREAT, but the kitchen just shrank to about half its previous size. I have to keep reminding myself that it was a tiny kitchen before anyway; any illusion I had that it was larger was caused by the removal of the old cabinets, appliances, wall, and ceiling.
My cousin M asked this weekend how big our kitchen was, and I said it was about the size of my parents' sunroom, where we happened to be sitting at the time. My dad said, "oh, no, it's bigger than this. *With* the cabinets in you probably have as much floor space as this room." I looked at the kitchen after it was tiled, and I was pretty sure I was right about the size. Now that the cabinets are in, I'm more sure than ever that I was right. The table we were sitting around in the sunroom would fit in the center of our kitchen, but the chairs likely would not.
Actually, since we used 13x13 tiles, it's pretty easy to figure out the size of the room. By counting tiles from the Day 15 photos, I'd say it's about 9' x 11'. Definitely small—but boy, will it be beautiful when it's done.
Al and I left early this morning to do some day-after-Christmas shopping at the three C's—Crane's, Crate & Barrel, and Cloggenhoggen (Al's name for Conshohoken, where there's an IKEA)—and by the time we returned home, Jack had been and gone. The lower cabinets are actually installed flush against the walls now, the lightbulbs are sticking out of newly-cut ceiling holes, and the lightswitch on the hall wall is hooked up (no more plugging in bare wires or extension cords in the dining room). The combination of a few more inches of floorspace and the brighter lighting give the kitchen a more spacious feel than it had on Tuesday.
I had suggested to Al last week that we unpack the kitchen boxes *before* the kitchen was finished, so we would have time to sort through all the stuff before we put it away. Our movers were shocked to find that the kitchen in Mountain View yielded 14 dishpack boxes (the estimate for a kitchen that size was 7 or 8), which means we have too many dishes, glasses, silverware, and gadgets.
Tonight is the night we're starting the unpacking process—Al is downstairs working on it right now—and I can already tell we're going to run out of garbage bags. Not for the dishes, which we'll set aside for donation, but for all that packing paper. Our movers double- and triple-wrapped everything we have!
Jack, Rylan, and Unidentified Guy arrived early today (actually, I think Rylan and U.G. were here first) and worked until about 5:00. I was busy painting the master bedroom the same color as the master bath, so I didn't go down much, but boy, was it LOUD. Al called in the middle of some serious powertooling, and I couldn't hear him.
When all the noise was over and I heard Jack leave, I went down to see what they'd been up to. The fridge box and the cabinets above it are up, as are the upper cabinets along the sink wall. The oven and cooktop are also in place.
I was feeling a bit depressed in general tonight, and while moping in my chair, I suddenly thought, "what if we've gotten so used to not having a kitchen that we don't use the new one once it's done?" I mentioned this to Al, and he said he'd had the same worry. I think the reason it'd popped into my head is that I was thinking about washing my hands in the kitchen, and that reminded me of washing my hands in the OLD kitchen. What a gloomy place it was! Dark and cold and grungy. Our new kitchen will be so different... and I'm sure when I'm in a cheerier mood I'll go back to thinking about all the wonderful dinners and baked goods I'll be able to make.
Bonus before-and-after photos of the master bedroom:
Jack & co. didn't come today, and I can't say it bothered me. He's really been so attentive to us that I began to worry that his other clients might be wondering where he was. Al said he thought he remembered Jack saying that he had to do some electrical work on another project; sounds good to me!
THE MICROWAVE WENT IN TODAY!!! Ok, that's not the only thing that happened, but after living with just a coffee pot (for the first two weeks) and an electric kettle (for the past week), it's practically a technological revolution to have a microwave at our disposal. So far we've only opened and closed the door a few times; we haven't actually cooked anything in there yet, though we've discussed making popcorn tonight.
The rest of the upper cabinets were also installed today, including the one open cabinet we asked for on the dining room wall. We were planning to use it for cookbooks and a wine rack, but now we're thinking we might store wine above the cabinets, where the soffits used to be.
I asked Jack about whether the compactor and dishwasher had to be installed before the template for the countertops could be made; he said no. (Now that I've looked at what *has* been installed, I can see that the dependent items were the lower cabinets, the cooktop, and the open cabinet.) He also said that the countertop guys would be coming on Friday to make the template. Hopefully the actual countertops will be installed in about a week.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.
I haven't said much about our new kitchen since the last payment was made and Jack & Co. left me alone in the house with Annie, but we absolutely love it. It's about 9 months since we started the remodeling process, and we have a few observations about what we like, what we would have done differently, and what we still have to do.
|We painted the backsplash blue. Or rather, I painted it blue. We cooked for a couple weeks with the drywall exposed, but after splattering oil on it one night, I decided it was time to prime and paint. It took a while to find a color that would look nice with the countertops, the cabinets, and the floors (I took both a tile sample and a countertop sample with me to Home Depot to hold paint chips up to, which helped a LOT), but we ended up with something we both really like. Someday we might install slate or glass tiles over the paint, but for now, we like the backsplash the way it is.|
|We've yet to paint the ceiling. I'm nervous about wrecking the cabinets with drops of paint, and I got pregnant shortly after painting the backsplash, so the ceiling remains unpainted. There've been proposals to have Al paint the ceiling or to hire the job out, but so far, nothing has been done.|
|We wish there was a switch for the under-cabinet lighting by one of the doorways. We LOVE the under-cabinet lighting (I even prefer it to the overhead lights) and use them all the time. The only switch for them, however, is next to the sink—and given that they're often the only lights on at night, it'd be nice if we could turn them off on the way out of the room.|
|I wish the cable outlet were separate from the phone jack. In fact, I wish it were across the room, under the corner cabinet. At the time of the cabling I was thinking that we'd want the TV out of the way, so I suggested that the cable outlet go on the dining room wall. As it turns out, the TV would be more out of the way if it were under the corner cabinet, because the corner is deep enough to actually accommodate the TV. The dining room wall counter really isn't. Still, since moving the little 9" TV down from the office-turned-nursery, we've spent even more time in the kitchen. It's nice to be able to cook without missing sporting events or favorite shows.|
|We're glad we planned where everything would go *before* we started putting things away. As the end of the remodel drew near, and we could see what our drawer and cabinet options were, we sorted through all our dishes, cookware, and silverware and figured out what we wanted to keep and what we wanted to give away. (We had a lot of duplicate items from when we combined households.) Once we had a final inventory of what we were keeping, we went through the kitchen figuring out where everything would go based on how we thought we'd use the kitchen. I don't think we've moved a single thing since we put it all away; the arrangement has worked out beautifully. Al's favorite storage area: the snack drawer. Mine: the tea cabinet.|