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!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Kitchen Renovation Part 1 - The Before.

This was the introduction to our new kitchen: the Realtor's photo, neatly labeled. Looks decent enough. Lots of cupboards, wood floors, ceiling fan - dunno how folks survive without a ceiling fan in the kitchen - at least, in Texas!

Now, before I continue, allow me to show you a little sketch I made...
The living area of the house is one large rectangle, with a wall in the middle to separate "food" from "entertainment" or whatever you want to call the living room. That's it. A wall. There's absolutely no planning or design involved. The kitchen is a u-shape with a peninsula island and the fridge and microwave unit are on the opposite wall (big black thing in the sketch is the fridge.)

I discovered that a 'peninsula' island is different from a standard kitchen island in that it has one side attached to a wall, allowing open access to only three sides, where an island has access on all four sides. You learn something new every day!

Now that you have a line drawing visual, here are a couple photos to show you what it looked like in real life...

Here's that wall... photo from the front door.


Directly behind the wall is the fridge and microwave shelving unit


See how HUGE that fridge is? The space between the corner of the fridge and the corner of the counter is so small, I couldn't walk through the space carrying a full load of groceries. Aaaaand... of course I can't find a photo of the gap. Grrrrr....

And here's the kitchen as it was empty, just when I moved in.


Not too bad, really, is it? Seems to have lots of light and lots of space.

Would you do me a favor and scroll back up to the top photo, the Realtor's one? I'll wait.

See how dark the room looks? The kitchen is east facing, so first thing in the morning, the sun streams in and everything is bright and beautiful. By mid-morning, when the sun is climbing the sky and the rays are slanting inwards, things look a lot dimmer. After lunch, when the sun is on the opposite side of the house, it is quite gloomy. Refer realtor's photo, above. You can see through the window that it is still daylight, but he has the light on and it still appears dark. The cupboards flanking the window blocked a lot of light and that peninsula hanging cupboard closed the room in like a giant sunshade.

The lack of light bothered me from the outset, but there were several things that began to irritate me as time went on. That darned hanging peninsula. It is actually very low. If anyone was on the other side, like a friend chatting to me as I prepared us a snack or a cup of coffee, for example, they had to stoop down to see under it. Or I would smack my head on the edge as I reached across the counter. That was the worst, because I did it over and over and over and over again! I'm sure I have a permanent dent in the top of my head from doing it so often. Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Then the tiles on the backsplash. Fugly brown. What you'd find in a baby diaper.


Excuse all the stuff on the counter, I forgot to take a close up photo of the tiles and this one was the best one I could find.

That hood is what they call a "recirculating" hood. It sucks the air up through a filter and blows it back out the front. What happened was that each time I got distracted and Himself discovered a charred mess on the stove, the hood would recirculate the air into his offended nostrils. Which would just make him even angrier as he called me from the back where I was happy with something shiny, or from outside where I was preoccupied with a furry or fluffy butt.

Speaking of which - look!


Aren't they just the cutest fluffy butts? I love how the one on the back left has her beak full of munchies! They're all enjoying a home made protein treat.

Oh yes, the burned pots. So the recirculating hood was a very bad idea. That had to change - pronto!

The storage issue was also not as good as you'd think. Firstly, all the corner cupboards were built as long-cupboards-that-stretch-into-a-corner, with the crossover cupboard blocking access. Which meant, for the most part, the corners were utterly inaccessible unless I was willing to grovel on the floor and disappear halfway into it for the base cupboards, or perform a similar magician's trick standing on the counters. The corner in the furthest section, which you can actually see in the photo above of the fugly tiles, wasn't even usable. It didn't have any shelves. It is large enough that I could crawl into there entirely and pretend I wasn't home. If I didn't mind the spiders, scorpions, or whatever else was enjoying the dark and deserted space. Which I do. I mind very much indeed! Shiver... 

Also, there was no pantry space, no dedicated food area to store groceries. The only cupboard that was remotely suitable was one of those with the magical corners where food could get lost forever. And we had no entrance console for bags and keys and stuff.

Lastly, the wallpaper.


Large swathes of wall covered in pretty floral wallpaper. Pretty.. but very twee. So not what we had envisioned in our forever home.

When Himself's payout came through we debated for a couple of weeks on what to do with it and decided eventually to not do a single large upgrade like the master bedroom and bathroom, but to do a series of small home improvements instead that would add up to the larger amount. Gutters and a rainwater catchment system; a water purification system so that we would have drinking water and no longer have to buy bottles; a carport; and the kitchen. As labor is free (Himself and I don't charge for our services) and we would be reusing most of the existing kitchen, it would not be an expensive job. Time consuming, yes, but not expensive.

And so it begins...