lattice1

I took this shot of Radio the other day and realized that I never really shared pictures of the rear deck without all that broken lattice.

To prove I’m capable of not rambling, there’s nothing much to say here – just wanted to show our current, much improved, view!

horizontal fence

photo 3

That little door may have been the worst part.  It was too narrow to walk through while holding a box or grocery bags.  I’m guessing the previous owner installed the lattice because they used to have a hot tub back here and wanted some privacy.  We don’t have a hot tub but would love one.  If we get one, we have the fenced yard for privacy or just… don’t care if someone decides to spy on us.

lattice2

lattice3

The rear deck now feels open and much larger.  We have a better view of the yard to check for deer before we let the dogs out and can easily monitor the dogs when we leave them outside for a few hours.  The broken pieces, splinters, and exposed nails are gone.  This is good news all around.

I need to take a shot looking back towards the house, but the porch is currently littered with my compost bin, folding chairs, and our wood pile so it’ll just have to wait.

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Heating part 2: the new wood stove

by Stef on October 10, 2014

in Wyoming Home

Before we had a gas line plumbed for the stove and fired up the boiler, we had to fill the propane tank to the tune of just under $700.  We also negotiated a contract for 1,000 additional gallons over the course of the winter, at a potential cost of roughly $2200.  When you get contract propane prices, it’s generally done on a pre-buy program where you pay for a set number of gallons and anything you don’t use is credited back at the next year’s rate.  Luckily our contract is a bit easier – we have a guarantee for 1,000 at our rate and are not penalized for non-usage. We pay for what we fill, nothing more.

Since we haven’t yet spent a winter in the house, we don’t really know how much propane our boiler system could use to keep the house at a reasonable temperature.  If we use everything in the tank and our 1,000 gallons, that’s roughly $3000 worth of propane.  Over 6 months of winter, we’re looking at $500 per month which is crazy pants to me.  Mind you, I’m making a lot of assumptions and casual rounding here.  We could have a mild winter, we could have a very long winter.  We use the propane for cooking as well as heat.  We could blow through everything and need an additional 1,000 gallons, we could not even come close to using our planned allotment.  The house was empty for so long that our local propane company was unable to give us any historical on usage.  Regardless, any way you look at this, propane can be really expensive.

We already talked about needing a secondary heat source and based on allllllll of this rambling, the boiler baseboard system and propane is actually going to be our backup heat.  The house has a killer hearth and chimney smack dab in the middle of it, so we knew from the start that we’d be purchasing a wood or pellet stove.  I considered running through our rationale for wood vs. pellet, and if it really interests you, I’m happy to share, but I’ll be honest…  I wanted pellet, Alan wanted wood and I just didn’t care to keep discussing the options.  At this point I probably sound like a pushover who just goes with what he says, but we both had compelling reasons for our preference.  There are pluses and minuses to both options.  I was probably 60% pellet, 40% wood.  Alan was 99% wood, 1% pellet.  With those numbers, realizing he’d be manning the stove 90% of the time, I went with his choice.  So it goes in marriage.

Quadra-Fire 4300 Step Top Wood Stove

In the end, we chose a Quadra-Fire 4300 Step Top Wood Stove that we purchased from a local Quadra-Fire retailer.  While we were visiting family in St. Louis over the summer we stopped by a store to look at some options in person.  As someone who owns a retail business, I’m always wary of being “the price shopper” because, frankly, it can be super frustrating to spend time with a customer listening to their concerns, identifying the perfect item, pricing it out, only to have them buy from another shop or online.  When the salesperson pushed to give me a price I made it very clear that we lived in Wyoming and probably wouldn’t be able to purchase there and he didn’t need to waste time quoting.  He did anyway and gave us a great price but once we added in $300-500 for shipping along with higher St. Louis sales tax, any savings disappeared.

If you are considering a wood stove, I’ll pass along the info that he was happy to offer a 10% discount on the stove.  We didn’t get 10% off at at our local store but we did coincidentally buy during their Friends and Family weekend which ended up being an even better price.  In addition the Friends and Family event, prior to hitting the store I signed up for an online coupon on the Quadra-Fire website that saved us an additional $200.  Thanks to their discounted price and my coupon, I didn’t haggle one bit.  With the stove as assembled, all the pipe supplies for installation, a 5-piece set of fire tools, and tax, we were out of the store for just over $2200, a price we’re very happy with.  The MSRP listed on Quadra-Fire’s website is just the unit itself.  The stove can be somewhat customized with a pedestal or leg base, and a plain black or gold accent door.  The stove we purchased, their last one in stock and taken directly from the floor, was built with legs and a black door – exactly what I wanted!

stove

Getting the stove into the house was a bit of a process because it’s a big ‘un.  At the store, they forklifted it directly into our truck bed.  Once we got back to town, we used our own forklift at the shop to move the stove to a flatbed trailer.  Alan drove the trailer home, backed it into the yard, dropped the ramps, then used an appliance dolly and help from friends to get it off the trailer and onto the back porch.  Before Alan’s dad arrived the guys finally wrestled it into the house.  I just looked up specs and see that the main unit alone weights 412lbs.  If you buy a wood stove this large, plan on getting some help!

All the boxes on top are new pipe to hook it up to the existing chimney.  Before we purchased the stove we took advantage of the store’s offer to send over an installer to quote everything we’d to get the stove hooked up.  Normally, the installer said he likes to drop a new pipe down a chimney so he can guarantee a new, sealed path for the smoke.  For some unexplained reason, he said this couldn’t be done with a our chimney and we just needed to hook up to the existing pipe, using a piece that takes the 6″ stove outlet and increases to 8″ to meet the existing fixture. You can see the existing 8″ piece in the photo above, sticking out of the chimney.  It’s stuffed with old towels to prevent heat loss.

stove2

I wish  I could walk you through some progress pictures, but this is another project that happened while I was at work.  First they climbed on the roof to inspect and clean the chimney before this work took place.  When the installer took a look at the house, he noted that there wasn’t a cleanout for the chimney so he said we’d have to brush it out then use a shop vac to suck out the mess.  I suggested that maybe the chimney went through the crawlspace and there was a cleanout below, but my idea was quickly dismissed.  Guess who was right?  The guys found a cleanout in the basement and sweeping the chimney was far less dramatic than expected.

After cleaning the chimney they took one look at the plan to take the pipe from 6″ to 8″ and were pretty much like yeah, no.  Instead, they chiseled out the 8″ pipe, inserted a new 6″ pipe to match the stove outlet.  By the way, every time I say pipe I feel like there’s a more accurate word I should be using, but I’m pretty sure that’s just what it’s called.

stove3

You deserve a better picture, but I was literally taking it over their shoulders with my phone.  Were this blog making us some money, I could maybe interrupt their work and be like guys I need pictures for my blooooooooooog but it doesn’t and they worked hard all day, so here’s a blurry picture!  We thought the chimney was solid rock but didn’t know for sure until they started hacking into it.  Definitely rock.

Quadra-Fire 4300 Step Top Wood Stove

Here is the stove finally installed! You can sort of see where they patched the concrete, but I think they did a beautiful job.  We now have a safe, direct pipe to the chimney which makes me feel a little better about the concept of lighting a fire in the center of our home to keep us warm.  Since I mentioned safety, I’ll address one small issue.  This stove was physically the largest we could cram onto the hearth, which was very intentional.  We have suitable easement from the post to the left and to the back of the hearth, but the distance from the carpet is not necessarily ideal.  The stove specs outline clearances for Corner, Alcove, Backwall/Sidewall installation but don’t directly list the specs on an almost open install like this.  We’re far enough off the carpet to be safe, we do have to watch carefully for embers.  We run a much greater risk of just getting the carpet dirty than it actually being a hazard.  We still want to replace this carpet with wood down the line and when that happens, we’ll consider adding a tile border around the hearth.

firewood

alan2

As far as how the stove is working out… It kind of freaked me out at first! I didn’t rationally want to be stressed about it, but building a roaring fire in the middle of your home, with a curious dog poking her head in, is kind of crazy.  I won’t say there was a full adrenaline rush, but I had this little gut feeling of “fire in the house! the house is on fire!”  I’ve settled down about it, but was stressed about going to bed with the fire still burning the first few nights.  I’m not unwilling to man the stove, our household chores just naturally fall to whoever is better at them and we try to do them without nagging from the other person.  For now, he builds the fires and loves it.  I don’t know if the novelty of the work involved will eventually wear off, but for now we love having an evening fire (even when it’s maybe not necessary) and like all hanging around, dogs included, to monitor things while the fire gets going.

I’ll talk more about average costs and how the stove is working once winter starts and we get a better grasp on how effective it is.

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Our butts were quickly kicked into gear when Alan’s parents came to town a few weeks ago.  Now, it’s my parents turn and they arrive in just under 2 weeks.  My parents have their own place in town and won’t be crashing with us, so this time around our focus is on finalizing public areas of the house and getting my shit out of their house.

With my desk, computers, cameras, knitting, and general office-y things still holed up in my parents living room, we need to focus on my office.  Though it was once a dumping ground, at this point we’ve unpacked 95% of the boxes, donated a ton of stuff, and trashed the rest so the office is cleared out enough to get to work.

office junk

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Although it seems totally unrelated, allow me to back up and talk bout how we heat the house, which will give a roundabout reason for why this room is my office.

Winter in Wyoming means we can always expect a few weeks of temperatures in the negatives, easily hitting -20 for at least a week.  Thanks to our severe temperatures and remote location, it’s just assumed among the locals that you have at least two sources of heat, if not more.

When we looked at the house, we saw baseboards throughout.  Instead of electric baseboards that I’m used to, we have a hydronic system where a propane fueled boiler heats water which then runs through the baseboards.  As part of our riduclous run-around foreclosure buying process, we never actually verified that the heat worked and just assumed any expense for getting the system operational.  Because we weren’t subject to the normal terms of a mortgage, we didn’t have to verify that the system was operational and just accepted that we may end up facing a worst case scenario.

To keep a long story (somewhat) short, the system wasn’t de-winterized prior to inspection so our inspector couldn’t test it.  The propane tank was also drained below 5%, so the bank needed to leak test the tank and then actually fill it with some propane.  At that point, it would have become an argument of who should assume the expense for the propane.  After our inspection concluded, when we relayed news that the system wasn’t de-winterized, the bank “sent their own contractor” to the house and passed along his contact info.  In addition to declaring in no uncertain terms that the system worked, this contractor said he loved the house and would love to bid on any handyman work (we were talking hand railings, not heating systems) that we needed done.  Our initial suspicion was to not trust the word of the bank’s contractor because… of course… but after talking to him on the phone, him leaving his business card for us at the house, and him repeatedly saying how much he would like to do work at the house, we decided to take his word on things.  We thought – why would he lie to us and then so blatantly intend to cross paths with us again?  This was dumb of us.  Of course.  He may have turned on the system and been like, yeah, it works! but he definitely didn’t properly charge the system and heat up the baseboards.

Because we purchased the house over the summer, propane and heat took a very back seat to other issues.  Somewhere in the first few weeks at the house, one of our hot water heaters stopped working.  We had a local plumber come out, he replaced an element, all was great.  While he was here I asked him to just take a casual look at the boiler.  He fired it up and pretty much immediately noted that the system wasn’t actually pumping water – our pump was bad.  We know this dude personally and he wasn’t messing with us.  Great, let’s replace the pump.

While he was looking at the boiler, I had him roughly explain how it worked.  He pointed out 5 separate thermostats which we identified around the house… well, we identified 4 of them.  The 5th wasn’t yet connected but was labeled “new bedroom”.  Problem is, we were told that there was no heat in the addition, an issue that we accepted and planned to remedy with a huge stove, some fans, and maybe a space heater if necessary.  “New bedroom” could only rationally mean one thing… the new bedroom upstairs in the addition.  We ran up there and – duh, there were baseboards.   Obviously we should have seen this, but we hadn’t been in the room more than twice prior to the incident and just stupidly overlooked them.  So we…. did have heat in the addition?  I figured this was the best time to ask him about a different rogue thermostat in the addition.  We knew it was there but it didn’t seem to be connected to anything.  He looked at it and immediately recognized the brand name as a radiant floor heating brand and ran down to the basement.  Uh, guys, turns out we not only have baseboard heat upstairs (Alan’s music room), we have radiant in-floor heat downstairs (our main living room).  So the addition is fully heated and everyone is stupid?  Between our realtor, their realtor, the inspector, the bank’s inspector, our handyman, the propane guy, and our own stupid asses, no one realized that the addition, a huge room we’d been stressed about heating, actually had the best heat setup in the house.  OK.  THAT MAKES SENSE.  I was annoyed at our collective stupidity, but hooray for happy surprises!

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This floor is heated!

Let’s breeze through the rest of this. That original plumber was too busy to schedule the work immediately so we talked to a different company that happened to be doing work at our shop.  After finishing at the shop, a worker came to the house whereupon he stayed until literally 11:45 pm.  I just… cannot.  I repeatedly suggested he call it a day and offered him dinner because what else do you do when a worker is there until 11:45 pm, which is certainly shitty for the worker but also kind of shitty for us?  After hours of work he couldn’t get the system to charge, but also couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t.  The next day Alan tried to cycle the system himself but it just kept bleeding and refilling for hours with zero sign of progress.

In a fit of desperation, Alan went into the crawlspace which was… flooded.  AMAZING.  He looked around and found a few locations where the pex was clearly cut.  I mean… we took these foreclosure “issues” with a grain of salt.  Ok, sure, they (whoever “they” is, I have no idea) kicked in the back door, they took the lights, took the appliances, took the wood stove.  They left live, uncapped wires everywhere.  Everyfuckingwindow crank is broken to the point where you kiiiind of have to assume it was intentional.  This is fine.  We knew this.  It’s annoying, but we accepted it.  Cutting the pex lines in the crawlspace?  COME ON.

Once the issue was identified, it was a pretty quick fix.  Alan and the contractor replaced the lines, and, with the new pump, the system charged right up.  Everything worked, all the different rooms started cranking out heat, good news all around.

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Since I’ve already rambled about baseboard heat to the tune of 1,300 words, I’ll save our secondary heat source for another post. Meanwhile, this boiler discussion was also intended to answer the original question of why the second guest room has been dedicated to office use.  It’s beeeeecauuuuse…. the boiler is installed my office closet.  At first I was like OMG THIS IS SO UNSAFE WHY IS NO ONE ELSE BOTHERED BY THIS?!  Apparently, verified many times over, though not ideal, it’s technically not a hazard in terms of ventilation since it vents directly to the outside.  It is a a bit louder (not bad, like a subtle white noise) and warmer in the room than we’d want.  While I wouldn’t put a kid in this room, if we do have kids some day and the guest room becomes a nursery, this could be a guest room if we just warn people yo, don’t touch the boiler.  I know it kind of sucks.  I told you the house was a little weird. Putting the boiler in the closet feels like a very lazy solution when the basement is available (unless it was done prior to the basement which I really can’t answer).  The boiler isn’t ancient, but it could be newer and more efficient, so if we ever replace it, I think we’ll take on the task of rerouting everything to the basement.

I’ll probably follow this up by showing the wood stove that Alan and his dad installed during their trip.  Once that’s done, we can get back to the fun stuff of dealing with my office and getting rid of those insane stripes!

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Master bedroom carpet

by Stef on October 7, 2014

in Wyoming Home

Though the kitchen is far from finished, it’s finally functional and I feel like we can move on to other things in the house.  I know that real time blogging is a thing these days, but we’re currently finishing projects far quicker than I can snap photos and do a write up about them.  I’m over the kitchen at the moment (I love it, but god let’s stop talking about it) so I can now run through the other things we’ve made progress on.

Working furthest back, here’s a quick look at the carpet that we had installed in our Master bedroom.  If you recall from the house tour post, the upstairs was juts a lavender plywood subfloor when we looked at the place.  Based on the little scrap of carpet left in the bottom of my closet shelves, losing the original carpet was not a big loss.  I suspect, though would rather not confirm, that it was ripped out thanks to some stinky animal issues.  Thankfully this didn’t affect our subfloor and the bedroom smell is totally neutral.

masterbath

Carpet was a huge point of compromise for Alan and me, something I’m generally not very good at doing.  I categorically detest carpet, he wanted it in the bedroom.  Leaving the plywood subfloor was out of the question (comfort) and installing a wood floor was out of the question (price) so, thanks to a lack of options, Alan got his way.  Now that the carpet is installed, I can admit that he was right.  We don’t currently have any heat in the bedroom and the carpet is nice on bare feet.

I mentioned awhile ago that we batched our install with my parents.  Since the store is 90 minutes away and they needed new carpet, it made sense for us to pick the same carpet and same pad, and just lump the jobs together.

My mom and I both liked the idea of picking a style with subtle texture.  I wanted something berber-like/super low pile.  It was a totally casual, easy process which is kind of shocking because I can almost never be described as either casual or easy going.  She set the basic price point (like $2.99/ sq foot or below) and we breezed through them with just a yes, no, no, no, no, yes, maybe, no, yes.  I then went through the ones we both liked and narrowed us down to 3 choices.  She selected the pattern from those.  She narrowed us down to general color pallet – tans or grays.  I narrowed these down to two colors – one light tan, one super light gray.  She picked the final color.   Just like that.

carpet3

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The carpet we chose is Smith Pond by Millcraft, color is Khaki, and we purchased from a local Carpet One store.  Our choice was $1.99/sq foot at the time of purchase, but appears to be on sale at the moment.  The carpet is of lower-ish quality, which we selected because neither of our bedrooms are high traffic areas.  We did upgrade the pad for $0.50/sq foot to a Tempurpedic brand pad.  That is our general policy on carpet – cheap(est) carpet, upgraded pad.   Despite my almost universally budget obsessed/cheap ways, we did not price shop.  My parents have used Carpet One before and we don’t really have other flooring options in our area, so we just went with the listed price, no haggling at all (I know! shocking!).

carpet1

carpet2

These pictures are from immediately after install.  I refuse to paint any of the wood in this room so adding more wood via floors would have been cr-azy.  What else can I really say about carpet at this point?  It both brightens and softens the room.  It’s cozy underfoot.  It’s wholly without sheen, which was really important to me.  I think we’re all happy with it in the end.

 

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Sealing the countertops

by Stef on October 2, 2014

in Wyoming Home

kitchen new 1

First up, I promised some photos that actually show the kitchen in its reassembled state.  The dishwasher directly next to the stove isn’t my preference, but I’m still thrilled to have one.  If I knew they’d be installed side by side, I probably would have made a better attempt to get matching appliances.  At the same time, it’s suuuuuch a whiny thing to even consider! We have brand new appliances, a major treat in itself, so worrying about matching handles is like the epitome of ridiculous.

kitchen new 2

The back of the cabinets remain unfinished for now.  I’m currently debating between corrugated steel for a barn/industrial look or painted bead board for a far more country, comfortable look.  Those are two very different options and I think they’ll sort of drive the feel of the entire room, so I’m sitting on the idea for now.

raw wood

And here are the installed, raw countertops!

I selected butcher block countertops for our kitchen because they were in front of my face in the store and reasonably priced.  That was pretty much the extend of our selection process. Problem is, I have literally no idea how to properly care for them.  I’ve seen them around the internets, sure, because at this point, they’re well on their way to becoming the mason jar and subway tile of 2014.   I definitely never intended for this to be an amazing DIY blog with sweet tutorials and helpful information.  If you’re looking for The Answer on how to care for butcher block, I’d move right along.   If you want to see what we tried, well…

First up, I did what every blog enthusiast does and checked around popular blogs.  I quickly narrowed down our options to mineral oil or Waterlox.   Some of my favorite blogs have been installing butcher block lately and almost all of them chose to use Waterlox prior to install.  Essentially, you seal both sides multiple times, sanding in between each coat, and end up with a gorgeous, deep finish.  Problem is, we have nowhere to actually apply the Waterlox.  It’s SUPER dusty in Wyoming, so outdoors was a no go unless I wanted to ruin the finish between each coat.  We have the space to work indoors, but I have asthma and I’ve read that Waterlox is fumey.  Even though it’s easily the most beautiful finish I’ve seen, I couldn’t rationalize using something that needed days to air out before installation.  I also intend to work directly on these countertops – I want to be able to chop without a cutting board, roll out pie dough, knead bread, etc.   I very much do not want to be careful about using cutting boards and protecting the finish.  I embrace character.   An old post from House Tweaking convinced me that I really wanted something I could easily spot fix with just sandpaper and a fresh coat of finish.

All but decided on mineral oil, I somehow stumbled on a post from Apartment Therapy that recommended Bee’s Oil,  a mixture of oil and beeswax.  I changed my search terms to “butcher block beeswax” (confirmation bias, anyone?) and found enough posts to slooowly start convincing myself that an oil/beeswax blend was the way to go.  Perks: the finish builds up over time, it should be super simple to apply, it’s waterproof, and ::trumpet:: Bee’s Oil is available through Amazon Prime which is my #1 criteria for buying anything.

supplies

Once the Bee’s Oil arrived, I pretty much flew by the seat of my pants.  Some people use an orbital sander, some sand by hand.  Some sand the entire counter with progressively finder sandpaper, some sand between coats.  Which is right? I have literally no idea.  Our counters didn’t have any sort of coating from the store that needed to be sanded off.  I whipped the table cloths off and ran my hand across the surface which… was already really smooth.  I’d already geared up for this endeavor by picking up a sanding block with varied papers, plus a super fine 320 sanding sheet.  Honestly, after one fine sand, the surface looked pretty rockin’ to me.  I just dove in with the Bee’s Oil.

I went through a ton after the first coat.  I feel like I lost more in the rag than I actually got on the surface.  Side note – so (so so) many people mention keeping their wet rags in a bag under the sink for repeat use, but wet oil-soaked rags reminds me of our hazardous disposal at work.  I’m generally pretty cavalier about these sorts of things, but oil soaked rags of any sort are a firm safety hazard to me.  I wanted to waste less wax and use less rags.

1 coat

Back to the first coat – I rubbed it on in the direction of the grain, let it sit for probably an hour, then buffed the excess away.   The photo above shows the counters after one coat.  It darkened the counters just slightly and added a nice sheen.

Second coat – later that night I used a gallon size baggie as a “glove” and applied a second coat.  The baggie was a total game changer.  I used much less product but got more on the surface.  I could also feel the resistance of where I’d already applied wax vs. not.  There was almost no waste and my hands stayed much cleaner.  I left the second coat to sit over night.

The next morning I buffed out the second coat with a paper towel and decided to just drop some water on the counter and see what happened.

water drops

I’d call this a success!

Two coats in, I feel like the countertop is pretty well moisturized.   I intended to follow the advice of “once a day for the first week, once a week for the first month, once a month for the first year” but I’m not sure that’s totally necessary.  There was a marked difference in the finish between yesterday morning immediately after buffing and yesterday evening while I was cooking dinner.  The oil continued to soak in and went from a *slightly* oily/waxy finish to being nice and dry.  I’m going to adjust on the fly and just continue applying an additional coat every other day or so for the next week and see where things end up.

finished

I obviously took these photos at various times of day over two days, but I think this photo is very representative of the countertops as they are today. This back piece next to the stove has more obvious variation and character than the long piece, to the extent that I wonder if the boards are intended to have a “top” and “bottom” and are installed opposite of each other.  From a distance, it’s not a big deal at all.  Were I master of the universe, I much prefer the tones of this board and would like it on the long bank of cabinets.

sink hole

I mentioned our hole next to the sink thanks to that rogue 12″ cabinet causing issues.  For the time being we’ve stuffed the trash can in there which is huge upgrade in functionality over having it stashed away in the old laundry room.  Radio can open the lid, so we’re using the scrap cabinet back to block the hole until we devise a better solution.  I’m thinking about cutting down the back piece into a door and hinging it for access to the trash can.  A door front would be ideal, but we’ll never find this 1980s wood grain in the proper door style, so the close match is better than nothing.

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The little kitchen that could

by Stef on September 30, 2014

in Wyoming Home

First of all, I promise this is the last post of late night, blown out kitchen photos with junk everywhere.  If you survive one more post, I’ll stop reusing the same pics with dogs in them and actually show you that our house has been CLEANED and is lovely and bright and we can put things away and didn’t entertain guests in slob-like conditions for a week.  Promise.

Like any good DIY project, our plan to just “add a dishwasher! NBD!” snowballed into a fairly major project that (of course) set a few other projects in motion.  I can be ridiculously long winded on the easiest of projects, so I’ll try to take you through the steps as clearly as my brain can manage. First up, we wanted to install the dishwasher to the right of the stove, which meant removing this bank of cabinets.

remove cabinets

The tile floor doesn’t run under the cabinets so we knew we’d have to loosen the countertop and lift the cabinet up, rather than slide it out.  By the way, I should make it clear that I had no part in any of this.  I ran the shop last week to give Alan time at home with his Dad.  I found it super stressful to be gone all day, unable to hover and supervise (obsess) and never really knew what to expect when I got home each day.  On the plus side, I got to…. not help.  In order to raise the countertop and lift the cabinets up, the small row of tiles above the sink had to come out.

clean sink

I’m not really attached to the tiles, but now that they’re gone we just have damaged drywall showing.  Bad tile is less bad than no tiles, alas, they had to go.

Once the cabinet was out, the guys test fit the dishwasher and realized the cabinet we intended to use, easily accessible from the end of the cabinet row, was 15″ not 12″.

15 cabinet

I hope you know I’m not serious about these MS Paint photos…  My computers are still at my parents.  We’re making do here.

At that point, they stopped work for lunch and came into the shop to chat things over.  Their plan was to find another cabinet base at the store and try to stain it to match.  I love them both and love the work they were doing, but… no.  No way.  We could have probably fudged a decent cabinet base, but I knew the door would never match.  Instead of close enough I suggested we aim for intentionally different and maybe build some shelves that could hold small baskets or cookbooks.  During this discussion I realized we already had a 12″ cabinet to the right of the sink next to the fridge.  Though it was clearly more work, I suggested they swap in that cabinet, and leave the hole by the sink. Yeah, we’d still end up with a hole, but better to have it on the end of a row and slightly hidden than have one just randomly in the middle of a row of cabinets.

With one problem solved, we moved along to the next.  Since the 15″ cabinet wasn’t relocated, once the 36″ cabinet was added on, we had an extra long row of cabinets.  How extra long? Exactly 3″ too long.  Our longest butcher block slab was 8′… and this section became 8′ 3″.

new counter

I’m very in tune with my personality in that I know I’m neurotic and don’t even try to hide it.  I know the guys were just trying to make me happy and I know they wanted to do things the right way, but repeatedly being told nope, it won’t work so we’re doing this had me on the verge of a freakout.  I’m crazy, but not rude, so I was thankful and gracious in person.  Oh god, at least I hope I was.  I’m definitely genuinely thrilled with the work they did in the end.  Still, I think we’re all lucky that I was away at work so I wasn’t huffing around, sighing dramatically, being a baby.  I say this because — weeks ago when we decided that the butcher block wouldn’t work for the sink corner, I came to a point of peace about things where I realized that we could just use the extra pieces to make a 12′ long built-in desk in the living room.  The materials were a sunk cost at this point and we need a huge desk, so it was a happy accident, I suppose. To make the desk happen, I was determined to only use one 8′ and one 4′ slab for the counters, by any means necessary.  Those extra 3″ were determined to ruin things.

Because I imagined the countertops as a temporary solution, I rationalized that we could cut a 4′ slab down to 38″ for the piece next to the stove, then install the extra 10″ against the wall, and use the 8′ slab to make up the difference… resulting 7″ of extra space for a bookcase on the end of the row.  See my sweet rendering below if that doesn’t make sense.  Yes, this is a mildly sketchy solution to things and I was obviously trying to be stingy and preserve materials for a secondary project.  My sketchy ways go entirely against the way that Alan’s dad does things, which is: do it right, do it right the first time, do it right the first time even if it’s more expensive/difficult.  He wanted to use one two 8″ slabs and neither of the guys bought into my roundabout plan for piecing things together so we could save the extra slabs to make a desk.

I still maintain that my method would have worked and, with enough sanding, wouldn’t have been thaaaaat obvious.  I believe there’s a balance between the fights you fight and the fights you give in on… and this was the place to give in.  Getting huffy and being like No! Fuck all that work you already did! Do it my way because of reasons! would have stressed everyone out, put Alan in the middle of things, and achieved very little.

Bottom line – I lost the fight, as I probably should have.

corner plans

My plan, because I’m cheap

We noticed some slight warping on the slabs which is entirely our fault from the way they were stored these past few months.  Among the house-wide chaos, the slabs were regularly propped up against the walls, then moved to test the baseboards, then moved to relocate furniture, etc.  We also saw dramatic swings in temperature thanks to a few freak 30° nights without heat before we got the boiler working properly.  The guys installed the countertops with a perpendicular corner per my wishes (just prefer it that way) and we have a slight bow in the center of the counter.  Like, less than 1/16th of an inch.  I think it’ll largely sand out once I seal the wood this week.

new counter

::sad trombone:: I will now repost the exact same picture from above which shows our “new” bank of cabinets with butcher block installed.  Since we didn’t have a sealer on hand, my in-laws rigged up this classy table cloth solution to keep the raw wood clean until I can get it sanded and sealed.  Even though we just switched cabinets around, this long bank makes a monumental change in the way I work in the kitchen.  It’s AMAZING.  Like, SO GREAT.   I can’t give the guys back the time they spent on my kitchen but I can feed them well because food is how I show love.  This weekend it was rainy and gross so I made Big Breakfast (that’s a family term, officially referred to as such) of eggs, home fries, biscuits, sausage gravy, and bacon.  Then when that was done I made an apple pie.  Then when that was done I made some homemade chicken broth then use the broth to make chicken corn chowder, then while that was happening I used crab leftovers from dinner the other night to make seafood broth for gumbo.  Table-clothed countertops be damned, we ate well and I loved every second of it.

I think you’re now up to date as things stand today in the kitchen.  I know it’s totally annoying that I didn’t show a full countertop picture but that’s because I HAVEN’T EVEN SEEN THEM MYSELF.  Everything was covered and arranged as seen above when I got home and I got distracted with family fun time.  I ordered a sealer online and expect it to arrive today.  If it wasn’t already clear, yes, we chose to install the countertops without pre-sealing them.  I’ve spent a lot of time reading about different options for butcher block care but I’ll save that for an update once the product arrives and I have a sealed countertop to show for it.

 

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Kitchen game plan

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