Monday, July 27, 2015

It's Backsplashin' Time

Captain Ahab's white whale. Jay Gatsby's green light. Monty Python's Holy Grail. Sarah's penny hex tile backsplash.

The thorn in our side keeping us from wrapping up this kitchen renovation. Several weeks ago, we had a Saturday planned to knock this thing out. There was quite a list of seemingly small tasks we wanted to tackle. Well, D had to be done before C, C had to be done before B, and B had turned into a royal pain in the A. By the time we got to the backsplash, I had to head out for band practice. Sarah and my dad went to work, and knocked out a small corner in the few hours I was gone.

Measured, cut, ready to install.

To say they were frustrated would be a bit of an understatement. Using the wet tile saw dampened the adhesive holding the tiles to the sheet, and they'd fall apart. Hand snippers took forever and made jagged cuts. But there was no turning back now.

Oh that's gonna look GOOD.

The next day, Dad calls. "Consider your backsplash done." What??? If you've read the blog before, you know dad does a bit of handy work. He called the tile guy he'd worked with before, and offered to pay for him to come finish it up. Uhh, YES PLEASE THANK YOU VERY MUCH! Even with all the help dad has given us throughout this process, this was possibly the biggest help.

Monday morning, dad's tile guy arrives. An hour late. Ok, I get it. You're doing someone a favor, contractors are almost notoriously late, etc. He then spends 15 minutes complaining about the tile we've chosen - how hard it is to cut and install - and ups the quote he gave dad by several hundo. Sarah didn't get a good vibe from this dude AT ALL. I mean, he's a professional tile installer, and the first thing he does on a job is start complaining? I tried this at my job and it didn't go over so well. Anyway, besides just plain not liking the guy, Sarah definitely didn't have the go-ahead to pay a lot more money than dad had offered. She asked him to leave.

This was a whole new level of frustration. Sarah emailed her tile rep, told her the dealio, and asked for a few installer recommendations. She took some pictures, contacted the installers, and waited for quotes. After some back and forth, we settled on a guy to come knock it out.

Installer #2, let's call him Chaz, comes the next week. We were so excited to come home from work and have our backsplash done. Halfway thru the morning, Sarah gets a call from Chaz. He says he should be halfway through, and he's gone about 2 feet. This tile has him beat. I mean, Chaz really felt defeated and was very apologetic. He didn't even charge us for his time. The wet saw wasn't working for him, and neither was using a dry saw. He thought this might be a bad batch from the installer or something like that. Yet another huge bummer.

Sarah contacts her rep again, who contacts the manufacturer, who gives recommendations on how to cut the tile. Put tape across the sheet where you are going to cut, and THEN use the dry saw. Sarah reaches out to Chaz again, and he's anxious to give it another shot, but after some phone tag we make the decision that we're just gonna have to do this ourselves. When? Well that's another story.

I was headed out for a weekend with the band, and Sarah had a weekend alone with the little project manager. He may be cute but he is AWFUL with a tile saw. Long story short, we had van problems and ended up coming home late Friday night. Dad came over Saturday, and they were gonna knock out that backsplash!

The manufacturer's recommendation of taping the sheets before the cut worked like a charm. Sure, it still took a while. But it was really happening.

Once C was down for his nap, I was able to help out. And that's when we realized we didn't have enough tile. I guess cutting the sheets messed up our math, because we did the square footage calculations like 5 times. Luckily, the shop is just down the street AND had some in stock. Dad had to leave later in the afternoon, but Sarah - like the determined champion - kept fighting. There were some spots where her pregnant belly wouldn't let her reach and I chipped in, but this was all her. This was her pièce de résistance. And she crushed it.

Then we grouted. And this massive kitchen renovation has light at the end of the tunnel.

Next up: the final overview. What we knew going in, what we learned, how dumb we are, what we can do better, how much you'll have to pay us to do this at your house, and some more hilarious gifs.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Disclaimer: This is not the final kitchen post. SORRY.

Home renovations are not for the faint at heart.  We knew this going in but it's sort of like someone telling you what it's like to be a parent; you have to experience that shiz before you can proudly call yourself a member of the club. When you choose to DIY said renovation, there is a whole new level of cray happening because you are the only one to blame for mistakes and delays. But it's way cheaper. And Nick and I are frugal. Like, we love a pair of rhinestone jeans as much as the next guy but why pay $100 for some at the store when you can bedazzle a pair you already own?*

*This example comes from a real life conversation he and I had.

Saying all that, I think we did pretty good on The Great Kitchen Makeover with regards to both time and budget. Coming in at 6 weeks for a total transformation seems encouraging when you consider we both work full time, have a 22 month old who loves to "help" and one of us is knocked up with a baby girl.  We most certainly had some hiccups along the way but we count ourself lucky that it was nothing major.

So let's pick up where we last left you. Our beautiful new hardwoods were in and the slate was blank.  Our mighty troops rallied that Saturday and we began to put shape to the room. 

Ever the project manager.

All of our base cabinets (if you remember, had been assembled over the prior weeks in preparation for this day) were set in place.  The new IKEA line (SEKTION) has some pretty noticeable improvements from its predecessor, AKURUM, which we installed in our den.  Most noteworthy being ease of installation.  By securing a rail to the wall (that we checked to be level) the cabinets hooked on to the slots and were supported by adjustable legs in the front.  Similarly, the upper cabinets hooked on and were secured to the rail.  This was nice because we needed to do some adjusting of the uppers to ensure our future counter would align with the uppers, making for a straight termination point for the backsplash.  All I can say is: MATH. 

I had grand aspirations of setting up my phone to capture the process via time lapse but it honestly went so quickly that I missed my chance.  It was really quite simple. 

Best reno picture ever?  You decide.

Feeling accomplished, the other half of our crew painted the walls with Sherwin Williams Quietude.  Our muddling master, Melissa, turned out also to be a professional edger.  Her, Coach, Crissy and I knocked out the walls in a no time.

Look at her go!

Our momentum was deceiving.

The counters were due to be templated that Monday morning and so everything needed to be level, square and secure.  We spent our precious few hours of Carter's nap Sunday to make sure that was the case and waited for our guys to arrive.  It would take a week to fabricate the counters so we were in a bit of a holding pattern with no real progress to be made.


Cabinet shells in, cover panels on.

If you ever wondered how they template countertops...

Let me give you a quick glimpse into our lives that week.  With our kitchen offline, we had a makeshift kitchen in our den (with the refrigerator, microwave, a few plates and silverware, snacks and basic staples), our cereal bowl-sized sink in the bathroom down the hall for washing plates, and everything else from the kitchen in the living room. ("Honey, where's the salt and pepper?" "In the small box by the fireplace in the living room on the other side of the house."). As someone who prides herself in efficiency, this was about as far from it as it gets.  But it was just a season.  We grilled out one night for dinner, used the crockpot one night, my mom made a lasagna for us one night, and we went out a few times to eat.  Carter's obsession with waffles (or "laffles " as he calls them) developed that week as using a compact waffle iron was a tricky way to get a warm breakfast without any real appliances. 

This got old a lot quicker than you'd think.

One thing that we were able to knock out was installing the trim and shoe moulding in the dining room.  Nick's Dad trimmed out the newly widened opening and floor moulding while we were at work one day.  It went a long way in making the space look more finished.  I eventually (as in last weekend) got around to puttying, sanding and painting all of that trim.  I woke up the next day after crawling all over the floor feeling like someone had used me as a punching bag.  It's always cool when you realize you aren't 18 anymore.  Bruises in weird places...butt all knotty. elude me.

Seeing the truck pull up a week later with our gorgeous counters in the back was one of the most beautiful sights I'd ever seen.  ''Twas the sight of progress.  I had selected Hanstone's Pewter Quartz and my sales rep recommended The Countertop Factory for fabrication and installation.  They did a lovely job.  Seaming at the waterfall edge was my biggest concern (it's a bit of a tricky detail) and they did a fantastic job.  I only had two seams planned based on the slab size (never over a dishwasher or sink) and they virtually disappeared.  And within a few hours, our kitchen was really looking like a kitchen.

Waterfall edge and offset cabinets allow for stool space.

If you look close you can see the seams...but I've seen a lot of counters in my day and they did a great job.

Once the counters were in, it was finishin' time.  Hang doors, install drawers, drill for and install hardware.  Adjust doors to sit level, add bumpers, install toe kicks.  Install shelves and other organizing voodoo.  Move crap back in!

We had two drawers that hadn't been put together yet.  According to my sister, they are now the most important drawers in
the kitchen. 

"What's the situation, Dad?  Do we adjust the doohickies?"
One miiiiiinor hiccup.  Don't worry.  We resolved it.

See the wonky panel next to the sink?  That's the dishwasher with integral panel front.  It took some adjusting.

Glass upper cabinet doors in, toekicks installed, hood (with no vent pipe) up.

Post its are my preferred method of organization.

Dining room side.

It's a short paragraph (a lot of pictures), but let me tell ya, it's the kind of work that sucks your soul dry.  The only thing I can figure is that it's all tedious, semi-time consuming work and yields very little visual results.  So maybe we just didn't feel like our results matched the effort we were putting in.  Or maybe it was because we were doing that work after Carter was down, on week nights, after long days at work.  Adrenaline was waning by the 4th week and we had to take turns being the cheerleader for the project.

But we did it! And ahhhhh, to have a functioning kitchen again was a thing of beauty.  The only major thing left to do was the backsplash. 

The *#@&! backsplash...