Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Monday, October 17, 2016

Kitchen Renovation Part 5 - Ceiling

This is SO exciting! We're into the final stretch, only days away from completion. 

After exhaustive research including pricing, ease of installation, availability, and online reviews, we opted for tin ceiling panels from American Tin Ceilings. We ordered some samples and color swatches, made our choice, and dug into the bank balance. Eeep! 

Here is the before of the ceiling. The center right was where the concussion cabinet was removed and across from there you can see the two different colors that the ceiling was painted. It was fairly obvious and bothered me every time I saw it. Which, of course, was often because I knew it was there and was bothered by it! LOL

The panels were delivered in a very neat bundle ahead of schedule. Actually on a Thursday, which meant we would be spending our weekend installing ceiling. Originally they were scheduled to leave the factory on Friday, so we would have got them around Tuesday. One occasion that arriving ahead of schedule was not appreciated, even if it was appreciated, if you know what I mean! ;) Actually, though, we were impressed with the speedy delivery and thrilled that it meant we could get stuck in and get it done.

There were three square boxes with the panels and one long box with the molding. Each panel was separated from the others by neatly wrapped paper.

The installation guide was fairly simple and easy to follow. There are also How-To videos on the website, which we watched. Step one was marking the first line of the panels. Himself arranged two ladders, the smaller one for him and the safety-bar-designed-for-clumsy-wives* for me. It is definitely a two-man job, so I was up and down that ladder doing the fetching and photographing in between the holding and helping.

*No, I did not fall off the ladder. Instead I fell off the table I was using because I was too impatient to fetch the ladder. I did, however, manage to stub my toe on the ladder and bleed on the floor a little, so it is not going to snow in Hawaii after all.

The panels go up from one corner and they're not difficult to install with two of you. We went for the Snap Lock system which installs directly onto the ceiling, no furring strips or any other time/money-consuming preparation. Just several boxes of #6 coarse drywall screws and a drill with a screwdriver attachment and you're all set! The only thing they don't tell you is how to support the corner of the very first panel. I phoned the Helpline and they told me to just stick a screw in it. So simple! We propped it up with a piece of wood instead, as we had a handy-dandy cupboard right below it.

Our biggest headache was getting the corners perfectly aligned. You need to ensure your up-and-down and left-and-right joins meet perfectly at the corners, or your tiles will be off further down the line. We ended up having to remove some tiles to work our way back to the off-kilter one at one point, and were extra careful with our matching up going forward.

We added a chalk line at the edge of the ceiling where it is open plan to the living room and ended it off at a fixed point along that line. We bought a huge paper guillotine that worked well to cut the straight lines of the tiles. The cut edges were screwed through wooden shims that Himself cut from a piece of two-by-four with his table saw. The shims prevent the tin panels from being flattened at the cut edge. ATC recommend you use paint sticks, but we didn't have any, so he made them. (Shameless plug for my amazing man!)

No, there is nothing wrong with my clock! It works perfectly and I can read it faster than a normal one. It's especially designed for deranged unusual people like me.

The panels have to be cut wherever there is something in the ceiling like air vents, downlights, light/fan fittings, etc. Himself had already completed the cut and installed the air vent and the next one up was the fan light fitting. We changed out the light fitting (scroll up to see the original - pretty but very Victorian and not practical in our heat) for a new fan/light combination.

Cutting the straight edges on the guillotine were a snap. Cutting out any edges, straight or curved, in the middle of the tiles turned out to be a lot trickier! We chose the Antique Nickel option and the two sides are almost identical. This means that you have to be positive which side is up. Two sides of each panel are "female" and two sides are "male" so that each panel slots into the previous set, and you have to be careful to have the panel pointing in the right direction, with a male sliding into a female edge. Holding the panel with male-male edges or upside down and you're cutting into the wrong corner of the panel.

This was annoyingly easy to do - and we ended up with several incorrect cuts. Even after lots of practice! Grrrrrrr!

However, we did use these pieces in the ends and corners, so they didn't go to waste, and we did order some spares in case of mistakes, so it all worked out in the end. And Himself got the cuts right way up and right direction most of the time! He also wore a protective glove for handling the cut edges, as you can see in the previous pic. I stepped on a cut piece and the edges are fffff.... sharp!

In case you're all wondering if Himself really did the work all alone, no. I would help him slot it into place and he would put in a screw on each side to hold it steady. Once the panel was stable enough for me to let it go, he put the last four screws in while I got down and fetched up the next panel, making it more of an assembly line affair. It was during these "down" periods I'd quickly snap a shot.

But it occurred to me that you all might be wondering where I was in this flurry of photos, so I went to a lot of trouble to set up the (uncooperative) camera on auto to take a pic of us together. Himself is not the most patient man and held little truck with my fiddling with the camera instead of working my assembly line duties, so I had a limited window of time for set up.  Multiple tries later, this is the exclusive one you get, and it really is an action shot snapped as we were fitting the panel into the set. The only other legible one has an awkward view of my ass climbing the ladder and I'm not sharing.

However, it's time for another #bragonyourman as I show you his absolutely perfect cut for the next air vent. Each line exactly correct! And he calls me a perfectionist?

We needed the light to work by as the day progressed (I've shown you before how dark this room gets in the afternoon) but the fan blades were not ticklish as they whacked the back of your neck. So I removed the blades. The fan motor ran on double time after that, but it was just for a short while before we actually had to remove the fitting entirely, so Himself gave it his dubious approval. It worked well, and didn't overheat or seem to suffer much harm in the 20 to 30 minutes we had it running. I got a matched set of fan lights, so this one is moving into the garage anyway. I thought black would look better against the ceiling than white, so I got a pair of black units. You can see how stark the vents are against the tin, but the new black fans are almost invisible against the ceiling. Superb! Here Himself is adding the last screws without the fan blades whispering in his ear.

We opted to complete the bulk of the ceiling and do the finicky edging last. I don't know how ATC thinks it should be done, but it worked out well for us. There was a lot of cutting and shaping involved in this section, and we used up most of the mistake cuts as well as about a dozen more panels getting it all done.

All in all, this took two days: Friday and Saturday. On Sunday Himself put up the crown molding. It comes in 4' lengths and he was able to do it on his own using a brad nailer. While simpler, it was more awkward fitting the corners, and the miters and coping didn't always fit comfortably. I'd say there was more swearing in this section that in the rest of the ceiling! In the end, Himself opted to have me caulk and paint the corner gaps than lose his temper and possibly a thumb trying to cut it into shape.

The new cabinets didn't work out with the crown molding, the doors are too high, so quarter round wood cut and burned to match the cabinets did the trick.

Isn't it absolutely fabulous? I cannot tell you how thrilled I am!

While he worked on the molding, I put polycrylic on all the wood and worked on the curtains. A few more finishing touches and we're DONE!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Kitchen Renovation Part 4 - Reconstruction

It has been a long, slow process, but we're in the final stages. I'm a little late with the updates, because I've been busy working. To be honest, Himself has done most of the work, I've just been the unskilled labor assisting. 

As you saw in the Dismantling post, Himself had to cut away all the damaged sheet rock and he fitted new sections like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Then it was all finished, plastered and sanded. 

Once he was done, it was my turn to wield a paintbrush and properly prime all the sheet rock, old and new, with appropriate dry wall primer.

This is how it should have been done in the first place, before the wallpaper was installed. The walls soaked it up like a sponge! We used one gallon just on the section you see here! But the finish was marvelous at the end. :)

And Himself took out all the upside down old electrical outlets and replaced them with right way up GFCI outlets, which are fancy doodads that trip the circuit when you overload it rather than start a small house fire.

Then the cupboards started going back up. We used an hydraulic car jack, some wooden boards, and a lot of puffing between the two of us. LOL. Himself installed a new outlet for the hood and outlined where the hood and mural would go.

And then installed the hood.

And the other cabinet. Although I liked the look, it was off kilter with that big gap on the side, so Himself built me some shelves for my spices and cooking oils and stuff. We couldn't do anything about the configuration, as the kitchen door is right on the left of this photo and there was nowhere for that cupboard to go other than where it went. (Right on the left. Ha! I'm so punny!)

The side wall behind the fridge was also completed. You can see in this photo how close the door is to the cupboards.

The overhead shelves reinstalled. You shoulda seen the puffing going on with THIS one! We had to lift it up and over the fridge. Now, I consider myself fairly strong, but lifting this enormous thing over my head involved so much panting, I earned a starring role in a porn flick! Too bad I don't have the bod. Or a casting director handy to witness my inadvertent audition.

The paneling on the back wall was removed and it had to be replastered because of the horrendous glue that we couldn't get off!

Remember in my Decisions post I painted this wall with a rainbow selection? Well, we discovered that this wall had once been wallpapered and then painted over!  I was horrified! So this wall section was painted with shellac to ensure that the new paint would adhere properly and there would be no bleed through of all the paint colors. See how beautifully that worked? The shellac is on the top half, the plaster is primed on the bottom. Shellac stinks terribly, and dry wall primer is better for clean plaster anyway, so that's why we did a double action.

Next up - tile. The whole search for tile was like playing monopoly, but I eventually got it right with this natural stone. We laid it out and I sealed it all before we started. The guy in the tile section advised us to do that so that the thinset and grouting mediums would not be absorbed by the stone during installation. Good advice!

And Himself installed the new wood window and door surrounds while the sealant dried and cured.

You'll also notice a paint color difference on that back wall. Yup. I got my painting done before we started tiling so that I didn't have to fight with cleaning paint off stone tiles. I might be crazy, but I sure ain't stupid! 

Ok, that's it for this post. Stay tuned for the next installment! 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Kitchen Renovation Part 3 - Decisions, Decisions

Just a tip if you're thinking of renovating your kitchen and have an opinionated, impatient husband... know what you want BEFORE you begin.

We had an idea of what we wanted, and I had very particular ideas about what I did NOT want, but when we had chatted about the end result, it was in terms of vision, not actual, concrete ideas. That is a recipe for some irritation and a fair whack of bickering!

First decision was the new hood. Goodness! There are SO many options!

Source: Google Shopping

I learned that there are two basic models: vented and recirculating. We definitely wanted vented, so that narrowed it down a bit. A bit! Do you know how many different options you have available? Well, I finally chose two after a few hours of research (yes, hours) and presented them to Himself for a final opinion.

"No, we have to get LG or Whirlpool!" he stated firmly. "Those are the only two reliable makes." Say WHAT? I've just spent hours researching the very best models, learning about power and air circulation and dunno-what-else and he knew what models he wanted up front? Share, much? Only.. neither of those models had turned up in my searches. I found out why - neither of them offer any model in our price range of under $500. Back to the first two I had offered.

Just half a day on that. Not a killer.

Then we had the cabinet finish discussion.

I started by "painting" the cabinets in a photo editing program, which I unfortunately did not save to show you. Then we tried staining some wood and comparing it against the existing cabinets. We did not love any of them! Eventually Himself had an idea and experimented on the side of one cabinet. Bingo! It is awwwwwwwesooooooome! But I'm keeping it a secret for the big reveal.

Those were the easy decisions. Next up was wall paint color, which was slightly more painful. I went to Home Depot and got some samples that I pinned on the far wall, plus a whole slew of booklets to go through. Himself wasn't too impressed with any of them.

Then I happened to see some colors in a magazine that I liked, ripped out the pages and took them to Home Depot and asked them for a copy. I also found a room on Houzz.com that I liked and took a screenshot on my phone and asked them to copy the wall color there. I was really impressed with the software that allowed them to do that. Then I brought all the samples home and painted swatches on the wall. We liked the Chili Pepper color, so it got an extra big swatch!

We liked the pop of color it gave to the room, so we decided we would go with it. However, I'm a distrustful little puppy and did NOT order a whole bucket of the stuff. Instead I painted a small piece of drywall with it. I am soooo glad I did!

Bickering levels increased when it came to the cupboard reconfiguration. Himself said we would "play with placement" a little when we started putting it all back together. I did not realize it meant we would rearrange mentally and then put them in position physically just once. When I wanted to move stuff around and re-position, Mt Vesuvius erupted! "Make up your mind!" and "You said you wanted it there!" was hollered in frustration, along with "You keep changing things!"

Eventually it was all sorted out and cabinets were hung back up on the walls. I was adamant I did not want a cabinet back up on the wall by the windows, blocking the light again, but agreed to open shelving instead, which would allow the light through.

Of all the discussion and argument, our biggest head banging was tiles. We decided we wanted to get a mural to go beneath the hood, but couldn't find anything we liked. No, scratch that. We DID find something we liked. Isn't this gorgeous?

Not so gorgeous is that price tag! Ms Paul has several murals we liked, but no freaking way on the prices. And that's before shipping too!

So the Great Mural Hunt began. Hours and hours and hours online. Traipsing around every tile shop in three different towns, and then multiple drives down to San Antonio to go to the big tile shops. Not one single thing that made our hearts beat faster! Lots of tile, lots of very expensive tile, but no murals. Eventually we bought a bunch of Mexican picture tiles and came home to see what we could put together. I patched it all up like a quilt pattern and presented it to Himself for approval.

"That looks like a collage," he frowned. "I don't like it."


Eventually we found something online that we were both willing to live with, and it was on sale, so it made me very happy.

Finding backsplash tile was another exercise in patience. The Bratness coined a phrase that totally summed it up. I was fross. That's frustrated and cross. Yup, this entire decision making process made us both very fross!

I brought home dozens of samples and we stuck it up on the walls over and over again. I was almost on a first name basis with the ladies at the return counters of both Home Depot and Lowes! Nothing got final approval.

And here's where my wily refusal to buy the paint came in handy. When we put the paint up against the wall with the tile and the cabinets, it just didn't work. There's so much pattern and shape and texture in the kitchen now, that dark color just really didn't pop any more. It overpowered and was dark and gloomy.

One morning I happened to mention that the plain, primed walls were very good against all the pattern. The neutral finish was soothing and comfortable. Himself agreed. (We had agreement! Woot woot!) By sheer fluke, I had just bought a five gallon drum of paint from the oops department. It was going into my paint stash for furniture painting, but I pulled it out to paint the walls as it looked like an antique white. It wasn't. But the color is fabulous and I'm in love with it, so... phew!

Next up, we begin the reconstruction.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Kitchen Renovation Part 2 - Dismantling.

Dismantling Day!

Just kidding. It wasn't as bad as that, we didn't really need to bring in the big guns.

Only... our project began with a little misunderstanding. I was under the impression that we were going to do the kitchen one section at a time and so I obediently cleared the cupboard from above the hood all the way to the window. Himself looked at me in disbelief.
"Are you crazy?" he demanded. "It would take forever to do the kitchen that way. No, I'm going to take everything down and rebuild it entirely."

Say WHAT!?!

The first day began with me frantically packing the contents of the kitchen into whatever receptacle I could find and attempting to fashion an interim kitchen out of the way. Then Himself erected a large plastic "wall" to close off the kitchen from the living room and keep the dust out of the rest of the house. It didn't take us long to fight with that wall!

When he said we're going to "close it off" he meant CLOSE IT OFF! First it was stapled, then taped, then topped. Then he closed the air vents so that nothing would be sucked through the HVAC system. We had a small opening for access at night that was closed during the day with a line of tape, and it was the Most Annoying Thing Ever! I cannot tell you how many times Jock brought it down because he was determined to get his 90lb body through a 19lb opening. (Jock is in the top photo, in case you needed a reminder.) (No, the black and white, not the one on the tractor!)

Himself began with the peninsula hanging cupboard. I felt like singing Handel's Messiah. Hallelujah! Haaaa-le-lujah. Ha-le-lujah! No more head dents in my future.

Next, all the wall cupboards came down. He removed all the doors and then used a system of planks on top of a big 4x4 piece, with an hydraulic jack under another piece of wood. He would bring the jack up to hold the unit, then I would stabilize it as he undid all the screws. Then he would lower the jack and we carried it outside. All done very, very carefully. Very clever system. Very clever man I haz there! Proud, and all that. Yup!

(By the way, it is with great relief that I advise Himself is a great believer in TL:DR* - so I can brag on him as much as I like and he's none the wiser. LOL. He just checks out the pictures when I show him my posts. Gotta love it. Perhaps he's not the only smarty-pants in this family. hee hee)

(*Too Long; Didn't Read)

I know the structural footprint of the kitchen has not changed, we still have the outer walls in exactly the same place, but it feels so BIG now that all the cupboards are gone!

The tiles were all removed over the course of two days. What a job that turned out to be! Apparently, in the old days tiles were set into a thick layer of gunk called a mud bed. An apt phrase! This stuff is about an inch thick behind the tiles and getting them off was an exercise in frustration and an art with a hammer and chisel. Michelangelo had nothing on me!  I dunno how I got the job of removing tiles, but Himself showed me how to do it and then left me to it. Yes, I know this looks like he's doing it, but you can't see what them paws is up to! Oh, okay then, he did do some of them. But I did a lot!

As the mud bed was extremely thick, it damaged the drywall so severely that it all had to be removed. My not-at-all OCD husband cut it out in measurably neat and squared-off shapes. He reckoned it was to make it easier for himself to install the new drywall, as neat shapes are easier to fit, but I know better. Wait until I show you how the fusspot built our chicken coop!

Next we started on that wall. This unit was more interesting to remove because of that strange L-shape, but we managed it the same way. The fridge got moved around a lot during this project, it moved around cupboards and backwards and forwards in the kitchen, and even into the dining room for a spell. It really is a dinosaur of a thing and there were many occasions when I gave it the evil eye!

Oh, and we nearly set the house on fire with that fridge! Turns out the fridge has a dedicated plug point, and when we moved it to a new plug point, it melted all the wires and nearly set the place alight. Unfortunately, the phone was plugged into the plug on the other side of the wall that was daisy chained with it, and so our phone got fried. Most frustrating!

Again, the wall had to be removed where the tiles had been, so there was another spot needing new sheet rock. And now began the joyous progress of removing wallpaper. I have no experience with wallpaper, it's not an African "thing" and I don't think I've ever lived in a house with wallpaper before Himself and I got hitched. Well, not that I remember. I've never put it up, nor brought it down, so Google was my friend. In the beginning you will notice I began with the ubiquitous bottle of hot water. They lied, I tell you. That stuff does NOT work! An entire afternoon and all I got down was that little patch above the ladder!

P.S. That is not a large bottle of wine in the bottom right corner. It is a gallon of sweet tea. I mix up about five gallons each week for Himself. Sweet tea is very popular in hot weather in Texas and I had to learn how to make it. Although, by the end of that day, I'd have given my ladder for a gallon of fermented grape juice, I can tell you!

This picture is not that interesting in terms of deconstruction, but it is a really good illustration of how shadowed the kitchen gets in the afternoon.

A return to Google revealed an alternative method of wallpaper removal and so my clothes steamer was pressed into service. It is going to need a massive cleaning now to get all the glue and gunk out of the nozzles, but it was a huge improvement! Where that little square took me an afternoon, the entire kitchen barring the little patch around the window was done in a day using the steamer. By the end of that day, however, my desire for wine had expanded to a jeroboam of the stuff!

It turned out that the main reason we had such trouble removing the tiles and wallpaper was because the drywall had not been sized before being covered. No, it doesn't mean it was not properly measured. Sizing drywall means treating it properly to seal the drywall and prime it for the next layer: paint, wallpaper, tile, or whatever. As you can see here, the wallpaper had been installed directly over the untreated drywall - a major construction no-no. Himself and I considered just priming over the wallpaper, but on further investigation (I love you, Google!) we discovered we would just be making things worse for ourselves. It turned out later, as we were painting, that this was true, but I will explain that to you when I get to that part.

Removing the wallpaper involved removing the drywall paper as it was fused to the wallpaper glue. The drywall paper covering is not supposed to be removed, it is part of the protection of the drywall. The wallpaper also removed some of the tape that covers the joints of the drywall as the glue had fused onto that - an indication that it had not been properly plastered, if plastered at all, before the wallpaper was installed. Himself and I have been very disappointed in the poor quality workmanship that has been revealed in this house.

One final thing that was brought to our attention during the dismantling and our almost-fire: none of the plug points were GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) and they were all installed upside down. Now, GFCI was not a requirement when the house was built, but I cannot understand how an electrician could have installed all the outlets upside down! If we'd had a GFCI outlet, it would have tripped before melting all the wires and my telephone would still be taking messages!

Hence, part of the reconstruction would involve some rewiring and the replacement of all our outlets. Whoop-de-doo! Admittedly, GFCI's are not that expensive (about $5 each) and Himself is doing all the work, but it is still an expense that grinds my goat!

Well, the kitchen has been stripped. Now the fun begins as we start to rebuild it. Stay tuned!