All hell started breaking loose in Minnesota with COVID-19 last week but thankfully our contractors kept on trucking! None of them seemed terribly phased, but then we also try to stay out of their way and were already pretty much social distancing for the past two months (because new baby + winter).
One of the electricians came back on Monday to finally finish up the kitchen electrical. We have outlets! We have a light fixture!
The light fixture was interesting since it apparently had multiple wiring options but didn’t come with instructions. One of the down-rods also didn’t seem threaded correctly and we discovered a little too late that the fixture was designed for the electrical box to be oriented a very specific way. Thankfully the electrician was able to come up with solutions for both these issues and still get the fixture up!
Unfortunately he also discovered that a hole had never been cut in the back of the sink base cabinet for the outlet for the dishwasher and when he tried to cut a hole it didn’t go so well.
He was also short one breaker for the electrical box and Menards was out* so only half our kitchen had power by the end of the day.
On Tuesday the plumber came back to hook up our dishwasher and stove. Do you have any idea how happy I am to have a dishwasher again?! The stove, however, was still part of the half of the kitchen that didn’t have power so we had our eleventy-billionth instant pot meal.
Wednesday seem to be the big day around here. The electrician came back and got ALL the outlets working! They moved our fridge out of our dining room! They patched the hole under the sink! And do you know what that means?
At least with the big stuff anyway… Matt and I still have a bunch of small(ish) stuff left to do:
Hold onto your hats folks, last week was quite a ride even without the COVID-19 uproar.
Do you want to know how to give a perfectionist an aneurysm? Use non-paintable caulk on painted trim pieces.
Not only was this a Shit My Husband Broke situation, it was also a Stupid Shit My Contractors Did situation. I can forgive Matt* because he’s not a professional, but it was a majorly rookie mistake for the contractors so I was pretty miffed. There’s something incredibly disheartening about going to paint your trim** and watching the paint just bead up over every spot that was caulked.
I had Matt be the one to contact our project manager because I was pretty pissed/ready to cry and figured he would be much more polite about it. I think I was even more offended by the whole situation because I thought I had finally freed myself of all the old un-paintable caulk that had been in the mudroom from the beginning.
I pried off all the bad caulk that Matt had put around the window (which thankfully came off very easily) and on Tuesday our Project Manager and another worker spent several hours scraping off and redoing all the caulk that they had done. I did not envy their job since the offending caulk was not just in long beads along the edges but had also been used to fill all the nail holes left from putting the trim up.
The electricians also came back on Tuesday afternoon to figure out what the heck was going on with our living room light. Turns out something had happened to the (very old) neutral wire during the breaker box work so they were going to have to run a new one. By the time they left the living room light had been removed and the hallway light was mostly detached, but there was at least a plan.
Finally we reached Wednesday. WEDNESDAY! Countertop day. It seriously felt like Christmas. The countertop guys got here bright and early…. and then things started going downhill.
The contractors had had to cut out a chunk of the casing between the kitchen and dining to be able to slide the slab under it, but it was still a little to low on one side. Ok, problem solved with a multi-tool…whose battery died almost instantly. Luckily they had a spare. Then there was concern about the stove opening not being wide enough to fit the stove back in. Cabinet got shifted a bit, problem solved again.
Then the installers seemed surprised that our existing faucet did in fact require three holes (plus optional sprayer). Wait, what? We said we planned on keeping that faucet from the beginning, it shouldn’t have been a surprise! Turns out based on where the seams were on the counter slabs they would only be able to drill 3 holes at most and we needed a minimum of 4 for the dishwasher air gap.
I have no idea why they didn’t realize this was going to be a problem ahead of time…like, oh, when they came and measured. Even if they couldn’t have changed the seam placement, we could have at least had advance warning to find a new faucet. Thankfully Menards had a single-hole faucet in stock that 1) I liked and 2) was affordable.
While the installers were explaining the faucet situation, the electricians were on day number three of trying to sort out the living room ceiling light and running into new and exciting problems on their end. They had planned to run a neutral wire over to ceiling box in the hallway, but there were joists in the way so they would need to cut a hole in the ceiling which would need to be covered by a plate (I’m assuming there was going to be some sort of junction there which it why it couldn’t just be patched). No bueno. Well, would we be ok with installing different light fixture to hide it, like an elongated LED? Nope nope nope. Ultimately they did some more extensive rewiring in the living room, but still had to cut a hole in the wall. At least it was a patch-able hole.
After those issues got sorted out things went a little more smoothly. We hadn’t expected the plumber back until Friday, but he was able to swing by to hook up the sink. They also got all the backsplash tile set.
After people left for the day things went downhill again when Matt discovered we no longer had power to our bedroom. What in the hell is wrong with our house? It was annoying, but not a big enough problem to call the electricians back outside of their normal work hours.
So on Thursday the electricians came back bright an early for round #4. Luckily the bedroom issue was just a tripped breaker and the reason we didn’t figure it out ourselves was because it was on a 20 amp breaker*** and we assumed all those were related to the kitchen and therefore intentionally flipped off because the wiring wasn’t finished yet.**** They also got the ceiling light in the living room working again!
Also on Thursday the backsplash tile got grouted then they came back on Friday to seal it.
I didn’t have a chance for many pictures since I try to stay out of the contractors way and most things were already covered up/fixed by the time people left for the day. But hey, it will make for a more dramatic reveal, right?
*Well, I could have forgiven Matt… but then he dressed poor Elsie in a horrendously clashing outfit and decided to test all out smoke alarms while I was sitting with a previously-calm infant. I wasn’t that mad at about the caulk but he seemed bound and determined to piss me off that day.
**It was taken down then re-installed so all of it needed a touchup
***Long story short, the wiring is jacked up so it made it very confusing when the electricians were installing the new box.
****Matt would like to make it abundantly clear that he had thought about trying to flip the 20 amp breakers, but was told not to do it by our project manager (which was the right call to make given the knowledge at the time).
This was another week mostly dedicated to mudding and sanding the patches that got put in last week. Once the drywall was finished we got our toilet back!
Matt and I did some speedy priming and painting before the plumber got here so we could easily reach behind the toilet. We still have to touch up the trim that was covered by the vinyl and cut in all the edges, but it already looks so much better!
While we’re fine with painting walls and trim ourselves, I was adamantly against painting the ceiling so we included that in the work for the contractors. Not only did the kitchen ceiling need to be painted because of the patching, but it also had some weird splatters that needed to be covered up as well. With how tall the ceilings are I have no idea how gunk got splattered up there, but the good news is that it’s covered up now!
This may be one of the most boring photos in the history of blog posts, but seriously, do not underestimate the power of a freshly-painted ceiling.
Some mysterious purple paint, which I believe is a water-proofer, got put up where the backsplash tile will be.
On Wednesday they replaced our breaker box…which meant we were without power for most of the day. We dealt with the lack of power by leaving the house to run errands and bringing Elsie to visit Matt’s co-workers. By the time we got back they were just finishing up restoring power, except for the ceiling light in our living room which was mysteriously not turning on. And yes, we did try the obvious fix of trying a different bulb just in case there had been a freak timing incident. The electricians had originally hoped to do the breaker box and tackle all the kitchen work, but because of the mystery light incident they’ll need to come back another day.
Since it was a quieter week for the contractors, Matt and I started prepping some of the work that we’re going to be doing ourselves. We’re going to be re-painting the mudroom (same color, it just needs a refresh), replacing the baseboards, and adding a built-in bench so we’ve been priming, caulking, and buying wood.
On Monday the fabricators came to measure for the countertops. The plumber also came back to keep troubleshooting. Unfortunately they exhausted all the less-invasive options they could think of and decided a hole really would need to be cut into the ceiling to find a place to tie the sink vent into to.
…which meant on Tuesday we had a hole cut into our ceiling.
Good news: that’s the extent of the damage to the kitchen ceiling. Bad news: they’ll need to cut into the upstairs bathroom wall instead. Good news: it’s an excuse to start removing the awful vinyl from the bathroom walls. Bad news: $$$
Turns out the pipe they were trying to connect to for venting is downright decaying near the top. It’s also full of vermiculite which is what has foiled any attempts to trace the path from the kitchen to the exterior. In order to replace the damaged pipe they need to cut open the wall behind the toilet in our upstairs bathroom… just as Matt’s sister is coming to visit us. Awesome timing.
On Tuesday they also sealed the mudroom tile and started re-attaching trim. Honestly, I’ll probably re-do the baseboards to match the dining room at some point (which is much closer to the house’s original trim) but it’s easy enough to DIY and given the extra unexpected expenses that have popped up during this, I don’t want to pay a premium for professionals to do it.
They also demoed the bathroom the bathroom wall.
On Thursday the plumbing FINALLY got sorted out. Matt’s sister arrived that morning and nothing says “Welcome Guest!” quite like being down to one (mini) bathroom and having your water turned off for a chunk of the day.
There’s also new PVC pipe in our basement and attic since they replaced pretty much everything that they could access. I suppose it could have been worse. My aunt and uncle used to have a 1850’s-ish farmhouse and a lot of the plumbing was put in just as plumbing fixtures were getting standardized. Whoever did the work chose to use the discount fixtures which meant that they weren’t compatible with today’s fixtures.
And on Friday we rested. And by “rested” I mean “waited for the contractors to schedule the inspector since the walls can’t be put back together until then.”
This week was mostly putzy finishing work on the walls–Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were devoted to mudding and sanding the drywall joints. It takes an annoyingly long time since you have to wait for each layer of mud to dry before moving on.
On Tuesday the mudroom tile got installed!
…and then on Wednesday it got strategically pried up. Turns out the mosaic squares aren’t perfectly square. That combined with our non-level, not-square floor meant some of the spacing would be wonky and really obvious once black grout was added. This meant the tile guy and our project manager spent a chunk of the day popping out certain tiles and then re-laying them to even out the spacing. While not a fun time, this was apparently the easiest option (and I greatly appreciate their attention to detail).
See all those whiter/hazier spots where the mastic has oozed up and is showing? Yeah…those are all the spots they had to fix tile by tile. (The weird dark line across the middle of the floor is just a shadow)
Wednesday also brought a little inspection drama. We’ve been going back and forth about how to get the sink properly vented and the last plumber who looked at it thought he had a solution that wouldn’t involve ripping out the walls and ceiling. Then he talked to the inspector about it and the inspector wasn’t on board. So then our project manager brought the inspector over to show him what we’re working with…which is a hot mess. Now they have to figure out a way to vent the sink that will make everyone happy.
On Thursday the mudroom tile got grouted! I am ridiculously excited about this fairly simple floor. So excited I apparently missed getting a picture in time for this post…whoops! We also continued the plumbing drama and hauled the plumber back in to brainstorm. He says he hasn’t been stumped yet… which is all fine and dandy, but there’s a big difference between “this can’t be done” and “this will cost several thousand more than you expected to get done.”
Despite the plumbing complications, the cabinets were (mostly) installed on Friday! They didn’t permanently secure some of the base cabinets or hang the cabinet above the sink since parts of that may need to be demoed (again).
Basically this week was one giant effing headache for a lot of people.
I got a call last Thursday from our contractor asking if they could start working on the window on Friday. While this may be rather short notice for most people, I had already told them our schedule was very flexible since Matt and I are both sitting at home with a newborn for 3 months. I was actually thrilled to hear to they could get working on it!
So here it is, one last look at our current kitchen. (Ok, these pics are actually a little old but I didn’t have a chance to take new ones and it looks more-or-less the same, we just upgraded the appliances since then).
Time to say buh-bye to the old window and helloooo window that will allow for cabinetry!
Isn’t it lovely? Very industrial-chic. Not to worry though, there will (obviously) be more finishing work happening.
The outside looks a little less classy at the moment. Because we have asbestos siding, the contractor had to do a little bit of a hack fix to avoid disturbing it. We’re going to paint the filler panel to match the window trim for now, but I’m thinking about adding window boxes to help hide the panel and visually balance both windows.
They also demo-ed the mudroom tile while they were here! It’s hard to see in the Before pictures, but it was an unfortunate pinky-beige and I am VERY glad to have it gone.
Apparently this was some very stubborn tile and they had to pretty much pulverize it in order to remove it. Bad news: there is a coating of dust that permeated most of the house. Good news: this is probably the worst (read: dirtiest) part of the demo work.
“Week” One was really only one day since they started on Friday, but I’m already happy with the progress!
We’re getting close to work starting on the kitchen! We don’t have an exact start date, but it should be early-to-mid February. Finalizing the countertop is last big decision and we’re just waiting on some quotes there. The contractors have hauled off our beast of a sink (cast iron) to check the fit in the cabinet and the tile we ordered has arrived (190lbs to–thankfully–be picked up by the contractors). One of the cabinet guys dropped by yesterday to double check some measurements and I was able to sign off on cabinet colors at the same time.* I’ve also got the last few (non-structural) details finalized.
Choosing a light fixture was a struggle–our kitchen shape is basically a wide galley but track lighting doesn’t suit the look I’m going for. I was originally looking at semi-flush mounts with diffuse shades and multiple bulbs, but I wasn’t finding anything that was really jumping out at me. Eventually I started looking at island lighting to try and find something a little more elongated (and since we have pretty high ceilings we’re able to accommodate a fixture with more of a drop). That’s when I found this beauty.
Next up we had to finalize cabinet hardware. I actually had a vision in mind, it was just a matter of finding something that actually matched it. This can often be easier said than done, but I actually didn’t have too much difficulty.
Cabinets will be getting glass knobs with oil rubbed bronze bases… except I couldn’t find glass with ORB so I had to settle for acrylic. I’m hoping I still like them when I see them in person! The drawers will be getting oil rubbed bronze cup pulls with a more squared off shape. Because we have a few longer drawers in the layout, they’ll get two pulls each instead of one centered pull for balance and scale.
Paint & Paper
I’m not planning on changing the paint color at all–Benjamin Moore Paper White is perhaps my favorite cool neutral. The dark blue base cabinets will have enough color that I don’t want the walls to compete with it. I’m also going to be bringing in some accent wallpaper for the back of the glass cabinets and one of the mudroom walls. The backdoor will also be getting a paint makeover. I need to get the wallpaper before finalizing the color, but am currently eyeing Benjamin Moore: Tranquil Blue. Thankfully there’s no rush on this part since I’ll be DIYing it once the contractors are done with their bit.
*They got the base cabinet color perfect on the first try, but when they tried to color match BM’s Simply White it was more Simply Cream. Luckily they brought some other white samples with them and one of them was a near perfect match to our trim so I didn’t need to go back and forth trying to perfect a custom color.
Now that baby Elsie has finally joined us, we’re back to picking up steam on the kitchen remodel. We’ve finalized the sink and light fixture so now we’re moving on to counters and tile!
For counters, I knew I wanted something that resembled marble, but wasn’t marble. Some people are cool with the maintenance and inevitable staining that comes with a true marble countertop, but I am not one of those people. This meant my options were a quartz composite or solid surface (ok, there are lots of marble-patterned laminates too, but we didn’t really want to do with a laminate).
Silestone’s Et Satuario is pretty close to the look I’m going for as is MSI’s Calacatta Bontanica. We wanted to make sure we considered Cambria as well since they’re a Minnesota company, but unfortunately I wasn’t really feeling any of their options.
The way our remodeling company works if that they estimated a certain amount for the countertops in our initial quote. Countertop prices depend on the fabricators so these were the options I sent to them for quotes and hopefully at least one of them falls within our budget!
Today we also got ourselves out of the house to make a final decision on tile. The mudroom tile was an easy choice–I knew I wanted a white, penny hex tile because it’s pretty traditional for houses of this era. Added bonus: it’s also really cheap!
Backsplash was a bit of a dilemma. I had originally found an amazing starburst pattern at Lowes. Buuuut when we actually got to a point where I would consider ordering it it was listed as “no longer available.” I even chatted with a sales associate to see if there was any chance of it coming back in stock before January, but they didn’t have any information on it. Googling the brand and pattern didn’t get me anywhere either. SO BUMMED! It was such a nice combination of visually interesting without being over-powering.
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find anything with a similar feel so I had to re-think my plan. I knew I wanted a ceramic or porcelain for the same reason I don’t want a natural marble counter. Glass tiles are cool too, but just not the look I’m going for. I also wanted a solid white so it won’t compete with the counter pattern. After thinking about it for a while, I decided that an arabesque or subway tile would probably be the best fit for the house and we ended up going with a handmade-looking subway tile. It’s a classic shape with a little bit of texture and organic-ness so I think it will work out very nicely.
Last week we had our pre-construction meeting with our contractor. It was actually a little more chaotic than I had imagined. The meeting was at our house and involved the sales manager and designer we had already been working with, plus our project manager, plumber, and electrician. I went over material selection planning with the designer while everyone else poked around the house trying to figure out exactly what would be involved for the minor plumbing and electrical work being done.
Shockingly the electrician thought everything looked straightforward on his end. He was even pretty un-phased by this hot mess concealed behind an innocuous wood panel in our kitchen wall.
Because this is an old house, of course something had to be jacked up…in our case it was the venting for the kitchen sink (which no one had actually expected to be an issue). Turns out that our sink is not properly vented, BUT if you take a quick look at the plumbing in the basement it looks like it should be vented…the second pipe just doesn’t actually vent.
Now, to fix the venting issue, they’re going to need to rip out a chunk of the wall and section of the ceiling. Yay…. It’s going to add to our cost, but because it’s a code issue it can’t be skipped. The upside (?) to this is that we know the toilet in our upstairs bathroom has some plumbing issues that can only be fixed by ripping a hole in our kitchen ceiling…the same part of our ceiling that will already be getting a hole ripped in it. So we’re going to see if it’s possible for the plumber to fix that issue while the area is accessible. This will of course add even more $$$, but it would be less than if we had to rip a second hole into our ceiling later on.
The other fun thing we learned is that based on their current timeline, demo is estimated to start in mid January. For those of you not following along, baby #2 is due in mid January. My sister just also started her own kitchen renovation less than a month before Christmas so clearly this kind of planning is a family trait.
Thankfully nothing else is standing out as a glaring problem. In the next week or so I need to meet with the designer to sign off on the final cabinet plan, door styles, and cabinet colors. I’ve already got our sink ordered so next up is deciding on a countertop since that will require time to be fabricated.
Whelp, we did it! Last week we signed the contract for our kitchen remodel! It’s a little scary since it’s quite a big investment, but I think it’s going to be awesome and MUCH more functional once everything is done. Right now we’re waiting on the contractors to get the necessary permits from the city before anything else goes forward, so in the meantime I’ll be sharing more of the planning process.
Phase 1: Pre-Planning
Before we even started getting quotes from contractors we had figure out a general idea of what we were planning. Even if you plan on DIYing, this is still a good starting point. I started out by putting together a mood board of my general design plan.
Then, based on the design ideas, we put together lists of Need to Have and Nice to Have and established our ideal budget and max budget. You can also start with your lists and come up with a design second, I just happen to be more visual (and we also had a general idea of our goals).
Need To Have:
Replace all existing cabinets
Add base cabinets along window wall
Add cabinets to the left of the sink
Update ceiling light
Some solution to the too-low window
Move/cleanup existing outlets
Nice to Have
Extend existing wall of cabinets to the ceiling
Glass doors on upper cabinets
Replace window with shorter window to clear countertops
Replace mudroom tile and add insulation under the floor
Add a proper (exterior venting) range hood
Add exterior light above the back door
I had a fairly detailed design plan from the get go, but even if you don’t, it’s good to have a general idea of what you’re looking for before you start getting quotes. Are there any appliances you want moved? Anything you want to add or remove (versus just replace)? Any existing fixtures you plan on keeping? Do you have any material preferences?