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Posts from July 2012

Almost a Kitchen

Last week can be compared to knitting a stockinette sweater for a Sumo wrestler. That sweater where you measure, knit for an hour, measure again and get the same measurement (you knitters know exactly what I mean).  

Of course, it's those slow little things that mean I have walls with no seams, and cupboards that hang straight and those little details that were missing in my old kitchen, so it's all fine.

Day 14 & 15

The wall was extended about 6 inches so the back of the fridge doesn't show.  

Extended wall

It also meant that one of the "extra" little edges Buddy seemed so fond of is gone making for a nicer transition from the dining room to the kitchen.  There used to be a little ledge coming out from that white coloured wall.  Silly.

Wall from dining room side

I also made some decisions about counters and backsplash.  The brown granite was out of stock {sad face} so we chose a black one (which has all kinds of brown and grey tones to it). It goes very nicely with the slate tiles we chose for the backsplash.

Granite and slate

Yesterday stuff started to seriously progress.

Day 16

The molding went up on the cabinets.

Molding on

Some nifty little extra cabinets were installed over the window.  Our contractor just had them made for us.  I like how he adds those extra touches.  He also decided a shaker style trim would look best around the windows and doors.

Nifty window cabinets

Now I want that as all my trim.  We have rather ornate trim and Buddy was afraid of the mitre saw so there's rosette blocks and big corner trim pieces everywhere--so not our style.  But that's another job for another time (or never).

They came up with a solid solution to the chimney area:

Chimney hiding solution

Now you can't even tell it was there AND we have a cupboard!

And our pantry is in.

Giant pantry

Notice the cup and broom for scale? Yes, it's HUGE. It's five feet wide and over 6 feet tall. It will have maple sliding doors which means we can see half of the contents all at once. The shelves are only 12 inches deep which keeps things from getting lost in the back. This cabinet was our idea (inspired by Ikea)--a good solution for a small kitchen.

Today Kenny paints, installs the trim and I'm told the counter might be installed. Last night they worked until 9pm and I believe they're going to do the same today.  I suspect he wants the work done by the long weekend and I'm totally fine with that!

Two and a half weeks and it's starting to look good

Things a moving along in the kitchen.  The day-to-day changes are less dramatic than they were and there is more wait time for things like drywall compound to dry and cabinets to arrive, but I'm told we're ahead of schedule so I'm happy.

Here's a recap of the last week and a half.

Day 8 and 9: Drywall

Day 8 Drywall

Day 8 Drywall up

Everything is now closed up and the rebuilding begins.

Day 10: Floor

So far, this has been my favourite day.

Day 10: Bamboo floor

Gorgeous eh? It's bamboo, natural colour, vertical "grain" (can grass have a grain?). It's sturdy, but soft and warm underfoot and is definitely not ugly ceramic tile.

Day 10: new floor meets old

I love it. They did a nice job where it meets with the existing floor and the giant step up is completely eliminated. Kenny left it uncovered so we could enjoy it's beauty all weekend.

Day 11: Plaster and CABINETS!

And our first glitch. Can you see it?

Day 11 Cabinets

Because there's a lot of duct work and funny little jogs in the transition from the kitchen to the dining room, there was a bit of a debate about how big the threshold should be. The cabinets decided for us and Kenny is building out the wall this week. It means some fiddling with the crown moulding in the dining room, but I'm sure you see this has to be done.

So far, this has been the only issue. Really, I can't complain.

Day 11 Bye bye ugly brick

More cabinets. The brick will be completely covered. I love how they built a special cupboard just to hide it.

Day 12: Lower cabinets

Lower cabinets

I even have pot drawers!

Day 12

Apparently there will be little cupboards over the window. I confess we let the contractor decide on a lot of these things and didn't ask a lot of questions. I think we're just happy to have something functional, but I'm loving these extra touches.

Day 13 Day of Rest

The remaining cabinetry isn't ready so today was a day off.

Today I believe my pantry arrives. I also think I hit the point where I'm a bit tired of not having a kitchen. We're at day 17 of that!

One week of kitchen renovations

I've been sending updates to my coworkers every day by email.  Seems a bit silly since I have this blog and everything.  So I'll just cut and paste everything in here (duh!).

Day 4:

Small steps on that day.  All the joists have been “sistered” to new boards to make everything level (it sloped 2” before)  The whiter boards are the new ones (you can see how they aren’t level with the old ones so the floor is more even).  And you can also see the little beach under my house!

Sistered joists

Xander has a new heating duct that isn’t jimmied together (they didn’t connect the elbows with anything so they kept coming apart). For all the gory details of how we put holes in our brand new house to fix this, stroll down As She Knits Too memory lane.

New heat duct for Xander's room

And the 2” tripping hazard in the transition from dining room to kitchen is eliminated!  Seven floors will do that to a house.

That’s a sample of my new floor too! Bamboo in Natural Vertical.  There's no way to match the hardwood on the rest of this level and while it's lovely, it's not really something we would choose so we decided to go with something completely different and a bit more modern.

Floors will be level!

This is the design idea we're going for with natural maple cabinets, bamboo flooring and a light, airy design. That's important since we are losing some of the natural light with the window change and because semi-detached houses are already a bit dark since the sides don't have windows.

I think some outside stuff is happening too since there’s siding missing.

Fixing outside vent

Shit, I just realized Kenny filled in the window area we boarded up with siding.  I mean just now.  Huh...

Days 5 & 6:

Pot lights are in:

Day 5 Pot lights

Heat/cool vent is now not under my stove but behind the door where it should be:

Floor vent

The pipe used to run under the floor completely uninsulated.  Now it’s all cozy.  This is good.

Stove is now properly vented (no more bathroom fan!)

Day 5 Proper stove vent

Stupid window that’s been broken for 3 years is gone

Day 4: Window is gone

And here’s the outside view.  Amazing match on the siding (it’s much cleaner than the original stuff, but colour is quite close)

Day 4 Fan vent and new siding

The back window has been made smaller so I can have a corner cabinet where the chimney is (the old window went right into the corner which is sorta dumb).  He used the leftover siding where the fan vent was to fill in the space so it’s all older siding here.

Day 4 Window opening

Inside view.  The window is on order.

Day 4: Window made smaller

Monday was all about plumbing.  The octopus that used to be our pipes, duct and wires that looked like this:

Octopus of pipes

Is now this:

Day 6 Sink plumbing

The pipes are sitting in a bed of insulation.  Very nice and tidy.  Kenny even redid our outside water access so everything shiny and new. 

Day 6 Pipes and insulation

Day 7: Closing Stuff Up

Kenny-awesome-contractor started putting things back together yesterday.

Solid, level, insulated subfloor (there must be 100 bags of insulation in there):

Subfloor installed

Window (I have no idea how he got this so fast!)

New window

New window from the outside

Nice neat pipe area which will be behind the fridge

New stack

Today looks like drywall.  Friday is floor.  I like this part because it's starting to look less like a pit and more like a room. 

I’m pretty sure this will be our countertop (it’s on the cabinet sample which is on the floor sample):

Cabinet, floor, counter, possible paint colour Granite counter sample

It’s really hard to photograph with an iphone at night…

I think I want a blue kitchen but want to find backsplash tiles before I decide.  I want glass mosaics but need to see what the budget says.  


3 days of kitchen demolition

Well, we're now kitchenless in the strictest sense of the word. Here's a little photo-essay of the last 3 days.

Let me say I am dizzy with happiness that I didn't have to do this work myself.  Kenny, our contractor is amazing.  The worksite is pristinely clean at the end of each day.  I only see the results of his work not all the crap he's clearing out.  Amazing.

Day 1

All the cabinets, appliances and some of the dry wall on the walls is removed.  That takes most of the day.

And yes, the freakin' stove was built into the window.  

We'll get to that chimney in Day 2.

Silly sink area is no more.

Day 2: The Floors

I actually felt a bit sorry for Kenny on this one.  Busting up a ceramic tile floor is a lot of work.  I know because I did the bathroom one.  And knowing how Jimmy Thousand Screws works, I suspect that this floor has some surprises.

I was right.

By the end of the day, there was still a floor in the house.  That wasn't what we expected.  That's because there were a lot of floors.


I bet you're wondering about that hole.  I think Kenny *needed* to know what his work was for the next day so he did a bit of cutting.

Here's a closeup:

That's dirt and garbage and THE GROUND in the hole.  And some funky tiles.

Here's the run down of the floor situation from top to ground:

  1. Ceramic Tile
  2. Cement board (it was screwed in with so many closely packed screws that Kenny couldn't get the pry bar in to get the board up.  Not fun)
  3. Plywood floor 
  4. Floor joists.  These were built ON TOP OF what follows next.  What kills me is that they built a whole new frame for the floor and didn't fucking insulate.  I repeat there was absolutely zero insulation in the floor.
  5. Old floor 1
  6. Old floor 2
  7. Original hardwood floorboards
  8. Original joists
  9. Dirt (And apparently a fuck-ton of garbage but it was all gone when I saw it.  Did I mention I love my contractor?)

That's a lot of floor.  And explains the 2 inch step from dining room to kitchen.  That's going to be gone in the new kitchen.

Oh ya, the was surrounded by drywall for about 30cm over the counter, then it was exposed (and the drywall was just sawed off, no trim, special).  Anyway, we expected it to go to the floor, since it goes through the ceiling, is exposed in Xander's room and comes out the roof.


It's floating.  I suspect there used to be a stove where the shovel handle is.  We were going to remove the bricks and support the rest at the ceiling level but whacky enough, this chimney is also on the other side of the semi-detached house.  Weirdness--a shared chimney.  So it stays and we work around it.  I bet Kenny will make sure it's stable though.  Old houses are so funny.

And it turns out the wall between the houses is even thinner than we thought.  It's basically an internal wall--they have plaster and lathe and knob and tube wiring (not sure if it's active or just the remains) and on our side of the timbers we have insulation and well nothing else.  Not to fire code, but I don't think there was a fire code in the 1900's when this was built.

I don't think I posted this before.  This is photo of our house:

See the date? 1913.  Ours is the house to the right of the horse cart (!).  It's the semi-detached on the very right with the steps going up the middle between the two porches.  So while they didn't build them like they used to (ie my house is still in pretty good shape), they also don't build them like they used to (ie they put a full cinderblock wall so both houses don't burn together!)

But I digress...

Day 3

We are floorless.

The worst news is that the house is 2" off level.  The better news is that it probably won't sink anymore because someone lifted the middle of the house a bit and built this nice cinderblock support.  For all I've said about the reno work done by previous owners, this one gets a big thumbs up from me!

Those are also the original joists.  They look good.  And yes, our kitchen sits on dirt (and a lot of junk).  Now it looks almost like a beach (as you can see I focus on the positive--maybe I'll rake it later like one of those zen gardens).

Here's Craig surveying stuff late last night:

You will notice he's almost hip deep to the joists. He pronounced it "not horrific".

I believe there's some insulating happening today.  And some "sistering" of the joists to level stuff up.

The good news is we're into the putting stuff back together phase.  Hooray!

Saying goodbye to my kitchen

Tomorrow is the BIG day!  My kitchen is being completely destroyed and a new one will rise from the ashes.

Well, there's this big inconvenient, expensive thing that happens in between, but it's easy to be positive the night before the BIG day.

I live in an old house.  It's at least 100 years old because I found a picture of it in the archives from 1910.  Old houses are interesting places, if your idea of interesting includes, crooked, hacked together, weird and drafty.

My kitchen has likely been renovated several times and we're pretty sure the last time was in the early 90s.  I could live with that, except it was renovated by a crazy person.  My kitchen is messed up in ways that I didn't know could happen until I bought this house.  On one of those HGTV "holy fucked up houses shows" messed up.  We've been here 5 1/2 years and it's time to say goodbye.

Of course, I need to document the fine features of my soon to be destroyed kitchen.

At first glance it looks like a normal, perhaps a bit dated, plain, functioning kitchen, and it's not like we had to pump our own water or anything, everything worked.  It's just that stuff was a tad off kilter.

Let's start with the floor.  Ceramic tile.  But why use 1 colour when you can use lots of colours and arrange them in a pattern?


It's even more interesting when you don't plan your pattern out in advance and things get a bit tricky in the corners...can you see there things went awry?

Another thing about this tile is that it's freezing in the winter.  Right at the top corner of the above photo is where it gets coldest--wear your shoes to wash the dishes cold.  The kitchen is not over a basement and one of the goals is to take up the floor and find out why the hell it's so cold by the sink.

Speaking of sinks, that's another fine feature of this kitchen.  For reasons known only to the guy who did the work (I have ceased trying to understand this guy long ago because I like my sanity) the counters are only 19" deep.  Standard counters are 25" deep (seriously, go check).  Throw in a standard kitchen sink and you get this and it makes you and the floor all wet when you wash dishes.


And try to get a frickin' pot into the sink to fill it with water.  We usually keep an old towel on the floor because of all the spills. The light switch in reach of the tap is also a big no-no since wet hands and electricity are kinda not good together.  Details, they're important. (That molding under the cabinet likes to fall off when you're doing the dishes too).

I bet you already noticed the fine tile work.  Tea pots AND flours from two different tile lines. Pretty.  There's a third tile motif on the counters.  Yes, my too narrow counters have unglazed tiles.  The kind with little pores and holes that fill with raw chicken juice and assorted bacterium.  Mmmmmm salmonella.

I try not to think of how dirty these are.  Sometimes I tell myself that they're really full of Comet cleanser so we're just eating a lot of bleach. 

The other neat thing about these counters?  The guy who built them was clearly concerned about them staying affixed to the cupboards he built (wait, that's next!) so he used a lot of long screws to set the plywood onto which the tiles are glued.  Good, long, pointy screws that scratch your hands when you stick stuff into the cupboards.

Fine finishing work eh?  And yes, the cupboards were "custom" built to accommodate the 19" depth.  The doors were purchased and the stains don't quite match since the frames are plywood.  Oh, and the upper cabinets were made shorter by 6" because of the narrower counters.  And our guy didn't really know what to do with corners, so he just butted them against each other creating these long areas which aren't reachable, but into which your stuff tends to migrate.

We found some good shit in there when we cleaned out that cupboard. And it turns out the upper cabinet cubby corner is where our surplus mugs hide.

I saved the stupidest thing in our kitchen for last.  The gas cooktop.  It's on the opposite side of the room and it's literally the thing you walk into when you come in the back door (my back was pressed against the door to take the picture below).  The cooktop is taller than the window behind it (I'll get to the blue plastic in a minute) so it was set out from the window and that shelf was put in behind it.  It used to run right into the pantry (you can see where the stain is missing in the picture) but I took out that piece in the first year so we could slide our portable dishwasher into the space.

Stupid cooktop

The shelf was about 13" wide and just floated there--WTF?

Under the shelf/stove is even funnier.  That's where the heat duct is.  So what did they do?

Yup, they just worked around it.  I suppose you have to admire buddy's ability to jimmy stuff. 

So back to the blue plastic.  That's a garbage bag holding in broken glass.  We broke the window on the outside trying to remove the old deck of a billion frickin screws.  We were impatient, and well the piece of the deck was heavy and into the window it went.  It wasn't a big deal until we looked at the damage inside.  Buddy built that shelf into the fucking window frame.  We would have to chip out the tiles or perhaps even have to remove the cooktop to change the window.

That was the final straw.  I started trying to come up with a plan to finance a new kitchen.  And for 3 or so years, that window has been boarded up and that duct tape and plastic has been accumulating almost as much grease as our "venting fan".

If it works in the bathroom, it'll be fine for the kitchen (and yes, we unscrew the grate and wash it but it's still gross).

So now the kitchen is empty and tomorrow the contractor will bust it all and take it away.  The only thing I liked about the kitchen was my fridge, which we bought and is now in the dining room as part of our makeshift kitchen area.


The next 4ish weeks are going to be interesting but it's totally worth it.