Putting everything back together again

This kitchen renovation is kicking our rear. So much prepping in order to get ready for cabinets. Let’s see, where was I when I last left off? Oh, right… thinset, framing, and plumbing.

As soon as the thinset was removed from the floor, John the Builder (man I get a kick out of calling him that because it sounds like Bob the Builder) had the drywall installers over here. In fact, they were a day early! I always hear horror stories about renovations taking 10x longer than expected, and workers being delayed by days or weeks. Lots of the waiting game. We haven’t experienced any of that at all. John has been so on top of this renovation from day one and I couldn’t be more pleased.

As soon as the thinset removal people left, the drywallers arrived to hang drywall, tape and float the seams, and then texture everything. I have hung drywall before, but I don’t do it often and it takes me FOREVER. This two-guy team was in and out and completely finished with everything in a day and a half. They were awesome.

They started by hanging all the drywall. Here’s the pantry getting closed back up after the pocket door install.

They patched every hole and covered every crack.

Once all the drywall was in place they used mesh tape to seal all the seams. You can see it because it’s bright yellow.

From there they applied joint compound over all the mesh tape.

They used a quick-dry joint compound so that they could texture just a few hours later. During that time they took a nap in their truck in my driveway (I found that somewhat hilarious for some reason) and then left for lunch. When they came back they hung some plastic to protect the rest of the house from the texture overspray.

In rapid time they had textured everything and were done! In case you are curious about how to texture a wall, I don’t have any photos, but basically you use an air compressor with a texture attachment (looks like a little paint gun) and a bucket-type attachment called a hopper. The hopper holds the texture while the gun sprays it on the wall. I am not 100% but I think that the texture is just watered-down joint compound. I might be wrong on that though.

The texture looks very tan when it’s wet. You know when it’s dry because it turns white.

We did have some collateral damage with the texture. Several doors in our house now have texture overspray on them. Fortunately texture isn’t waterproof, so all you have to do is wipe it off with a wet rag (and maybe a little scrubbing).

After a couple days the walls were totally dry so I started painting in preparation for the cabinets to go in.

I started with the ceiling and painted it the same white I always use for ceilings and trim – Alabaster by Sherwin Williams. For ceilings I always use flat paint, but on walls I like satin finish. Here you can see the difference in color on the ceiling:

For the walls I painted my new favorite neutral – Stucco by Sherwin Williams. I started painting this house grey and greige colors, but I am now repainting the entire house this neutral warm-toned stucco. As much as I love the grey colors in photos, living in a grey house makes me feel like I am in a dreary overcast winter and that gives me the sads.

The paint guy at Sherwin Williams shared a tip with me that I thought would just rock my socks off, but I was very underwhelmed with the actual execution of it. He suggested I buy a metal paint screen that goes inside a 5 gal bucket and then just paint directly from the bucket instead of using a tray and having to continually refill the tray.

I tried it, and I HATED it. Maybe the tip will work better with a different paint screen thing, but this entire setup just made a huge drippy mess. I gave it a fair try though, so in my not-professional opinion, I will never paint out of a 5 gal bucket ever again.

I now will tell you about a plumbing fiasco I had, then finish off the post with a comical story that proves how much of a ding dong I am. Okay, plumbing first…

Remember when I discovered SharkBite plumbing fittings (amazon affiliate link) and I said I was looking for excuses to do plumbing because it was so fun? Be careful what you wish for!

When we had the pocket door next to the fridge installed they wedged a 2×4 right up next to the water line for the the freezer ice maker. Obviously this situation here is just not going to work. You couldn’t even turn the handle to turn the water on.

Here is the final finished plumbing product after many hours of drama. So pretty looking:

I used these SharkBite fittings…

…and I also used these tools:

Here’s where things went bad… Before the drywallers could finish their job I had to remedy this little plumbing situation. No problem! I’ll just use SharkBite fittings. I’ll be in and out in half an hour. Um, no.

The problem started when I used my oscillating tool to cut the copper pipe. I read online that if you can’t fit the little pipe cutter tool into a space than you can just cut the pipe with an oscillating tool.

When I cut the pipe it didn’t make a perfectly level, clean cut. It was ever so slightly angled and had one very tiny ridge on the top of it. Maybe if you are actually welding pipe together this would have worked, but because I was using SharkBite parts, when I attached the SharkBite fitting it just leaked and leaked and leaked. (The water was shut off at the street but there was still a continuous dripping that never stopped.)

Thank goodness I had purchased the SharkBite part that allows you to remove the fitting once it’s installed. Otherwise we would have had a huge fiasco on our hands (it was after midnight at this point and no Home Depots were open). We managed to get the fitting off the pipe and I tried everything I could think of to smooth out the end of the pipe. Nothing worked.

After a frustrating few hours (and a little bit of a panic attack… “What do I do? It’s midnight and my house is flooding!”), I finally just took a chunk out of the 2×4 so I could get the pipe cutting tool to fit around the pipe. Once I was able to cut the pipe with the real pipe-cutting tool it made a perfectly level, smooth cut. The fittings slipped into place and they never leaked again.

The moral of the story? If you are using the instant clicking SharkBite fittings, you must make a PERFECT cut on the pipe or it will leak.

And now my I’m-a-ding-dong story…

We decided to donate our entire old kitchen to Habitat for Humanity Restore. We liked the idea of donating everything to a charity for a good cause, the ease of donating to one place as opposed to trying to sell it ourselves, and also the fact that it’s a tax write-off. Win/win/win for everyone involved. They came by on the drywall day and picked everything up.

In a mad dash to donate as much as I could get rid of, I was pulling old doors, random mantles, tile, etc from the shed (all left by the previous owners). I wanted Habitat to take away as much stuff as I could give them. They also took all the old cabinets, Silestone countertops, sink, etc. They gave us a receipt for the donation and went on their merry way.

Not more than 30 minutes after they left Ben was like, “Did you save any tile for all the patch jobs we need to do?”

Doh! In my mad-dash to donate ALL THE THINGS, I gave them ALL the tile. The same tile I needed to patch this:

And this:

And possibly even this (we are considering adding marble thresholds into the bathrooms before the wood floors get laid, and we might need to chip away a little bit of tile):

(We don’t love this tile and I do plan on replacing all of it in the future, but probably not for a few years. I can’t live with holes in my floor for that long!)

I called them Monday morning to find out if the tile had been moved to the show floor yet. It had. They had no inventory and no idea if *my* tile was still available so I raced up there in a mad dash hoping against all hope that it would still be there. This store is not anywhere near where I live and was super inconvenient but it had to be done.

I searched high and low for my tile…

And finally. Finally! There it was. Someone had already bought a bunch of it, but they had more than enough so I grabbed 10 of each of the two sizes and went to check out.

The total came to around $7 and I handed her my card. I wasn’t about to ask for it back for free. It was my mistake and I was happy to purchase it back from them. As soon as she started to run my card, the checker was like, “Are you the one who called who accidentally donated all your tile?” I was all, “um… ya… that’s me. Not very bright, I know.” And she was like, “Girl, take your tile! I’m not going to charge you for it. lol.”

Sometimes you do dumb stuff and you can never make it up, but fortunately for me I was able to get enough tile back to patch my floor. Lucky day for sure.

On a very exciting note, I am sitting here waiting as I type this for the cabinet guys to show up with MY NEW CABINETS. I can’t wait. It feels like Christmas morning.


     

The best way to remove Thinset from a cement foundation

In addition to renovating completely gutting and starting over in our kitchen, we are also replacing all the flooring in the common areas of the house (kitchen, entryway, family room, dining room, hallway). The majority of the house has tile so it had to be removed first.

Ben and our son, Travis, spent several days with sledgehammers breaking up all the tile.

We were then left with thinset under the tile, adhered to the cement foundation. Thinset is an adhesive mortar made of cement, fine sand, and a water-retaining agent. It is usually used to attach tile to cement.

I did tons of research online and read a bunch of forums and everything I read said to rent a chipping hammer with a scraper attachment, so thats exactly what we did.

After clearing out all the tile it was time to start chipping the thinset off the floor. We even found a few youtube videos of the chipping hammer in action and it seemed like a slam-dunk. We were naively excited about this project and thought we’d chip it all up and be done in time for dinner.

Um… ya, NO. Ben and I both spent a couple hours with this chipping hammer and pretty much got nowhere. We did a small patch, probably around 6 sq ft worth of flooring. I’m sure the chipping hammer is great for other applications, but for removing thinset it was a big fat FAIL.

We called our builder, John, who is overseeing this entire kitchen renovation production and he said he’d send a guy over. Long story short, a crew came over to remove the thinset and brought with them a… chipping hammer. And, like us, they got nowhere fast. So they came back a few days later with this bad boy:

This is a buffer tool called a Floor Maintainer. They attached a special disk to the bottom called a Diamabrush.

This buffer not only removed the thinset, it pulverized it. I don’t understand why during all my research NOTHING I read suggested renting this tool. It made removing thinset a breeze. If we had known how EASY it was to remove the thinset using this Floor Maintainer we would have probably just done it ourselves and saved the $500 we had to pay to have the work done for us.

The only negative to using the Maintainer is that it created a huge amount of sand-like dust on the floor. Of course, it wasn’t any worse than the little bits of thinset flying all over the place when we tried the Chipping Hammer. And believe it or not, the drywall removal and repair caused way more dust in the house than all the other work combined.

For a moment there I felt like I was in a Trading Spaces episode and Hilde had decided to turn my kitchen into a beach oasis by pouring sand all over the floor.

Now my floor is clean and smooth and ready for hardwood!

We aren’t actually putting down the new flooring until the kitchen is mostly complete, so it will be another several weeks before we see a pretty new floor in here. The flooring company wants to put it in last to avoid other work crews coming in and out possibly damaging it.

So, the moral of the story? Ignore the internet at large and rent a Floor Maintainer with a Diamabrush instead of their recommended Chipping Hammer. You are welcome.


     

We’ve got pocket doors, counter-height walls, and under-cabinet lighting!

The kitchen renovation continues! We are just plugging right along, trying to live our normal lives amidst this chaos and dust. It’s been so much work, and living in a house during a major renovation is definitely not for the weary or faint of heart!

After we finished demoing and filling up the huge dumpster, it was time to prep for the framers and electrician. I did as much as I could before they all arrived in order to cut down on the cost. Time is money so if I can remove drywall for them, or cut down some studs or something, they won’t be here as long and we save money.

In order for the framers to lower the bar-height wall to counter-height, we had to trim down some copper piping where the sink goes.

I assumed a plumber would come out, but our builder, John, who is running the show around here assured me it was an easy job that I could do myself, thus saving a few hundred dollars. John is seriously the bomb dot com and I will absolutely hire him again in the future. He has been great to work with.

He told me to go to Home Depot and buy a product called SharkBite. They make copper pipe fittings that don’t need to be soldered. You just push the fitting on and it “bites” the pipe and creates a seal. I was sold. Done and done.

Before doing plumbing work you need to shut off the main water to the house. I taught Travis how to shut off the water and gave him a quick course in plumbing. Our house only has a shutoff at the road. Some have a 2nd near the house.

Once the water was shut off, I flushed as much water out of the system as possible by turning on the bathtub and letting it run dry. After that I used my little pipe cutter that I use on conduit when I make curtain rods to trim down the copper pipe.

The copper pipe was easy to cut and only took a few rotations of the little pipe cutter.

There was a little water left in the kitchen pipes that drained out once the pipes were cut – hence the water on the floor. I quickly snapped on the Shark Bites and then turned the water back on. They haven’t leaked at all and have held really well, so I am now totally sold on this product. I keep trying to find reasons to do more plumbing.

This bit of plumbing was the only issue standing in the way of the framers coming to frame out everything, so once I took care of this issue we had the green light to start all the fun stuff!

Here they are cutting down the bar-height wall to turn it into a counter-height wall.

And here’s the finished wall! Can I get a holla?! I am so super excited about lowering this wall. It really opened up the entire kitchen.

They also framed out for our new pocket doors. We cut away as little drywall as we could get away with. They did a great job and I was impressed with how quickly they did all the work.

The two pocket doors we installed came pre-made. They just framed out the opening and then installed the pocket door frames.

Here’s the new frame into the pantry. It made a big mess in my laundry room and it messed up the tile, but it was so worth the extra mess to have this door frame installed.

The last thing the framers did was widen the opening for the hall linen closet. It had a single door and was awkward and hard to get into so we widened the closet to accommodate french doors. We are going to install floor to ceiling shelving to hold all our linens, pillows, towels, etc. Our coats are going to be moved to the mud room.

During all this chaos the garbage company came back and retrieved their big huge dumpster. We had them pick it up because they were charging us by the day, it was totally full, and we naively assumed we were done with it (we now have a huge pile of wood and drywall in our driveway that we are trying to figure out how to dispose of).

Next up, the electrician. This was the biggest and most expensive of all the extra work we’ve had to pay for so far. They were here two days and their work included installing 9 can lights, wiring for under-cabinet lighting, adding 5 new plug outlets, and moving several plugs and switches.

In preparation for them to arrive John had me go around and roughly mark where I wanted all the new outlets. Here is our desk area. For this area we are adding under-cabinet lighting that is on its own light switch. We also had to add 2 new plug outlets and move one over to the left to accommodate our new cabinets.

Here’s what it now looks like with all the wiring finished.

We also added 9 new can lights. The electrician was awesome and installed every single light (and connected them all) and never once went into the attic. I was impressed.

Here are the finished can lights. We haven’t added bulbs to them all yet (no reason other than I just haven’t gotten around to it).

The area where the fluorescent lights are will eventually have two pendants hanging down. We are waiting until the island and countertop are installed to wire the pendants so we can make sure they are exactly centered over the island. The fluorescent lights used to be boxed in like this:

When we pulled the box down it fell apart. We were planning on donating it to Habitat for Humanity but it broke. :( We did give the fluorescent lights to the electrician’s helper though. He seemed grateful.

The biggest project of all was adding the under-cabinet lighting for the kitchen area (the desk area was also difficult but was a smaller project). In order to wire it all so it is on its own light switch they had to drill through every stud around the entire length of counter area. Good thing we have drywall people coming to install and finish all that.

We are going to add LED lights under the cabinets so they had to run a different type of wiring. It is a lot smaller than the standard wiring they were using for everything else. I’m not an electrician so I can’t give you any info about this because honestly I don’t know!

The electrician also had to move the light switch over for the hall closet…

…and added a plug outlet in our pantry for our two mini-fridges. When we added the fridges I just punched a hole in the wall and plugged them on the other side of the wall. Totally not to code so we had them fix that.

The last thing they did was add two additional plug outlets in the dining room. We are adding base and upper cabinets in here so we wanted plug outlets above the countertop. We opted to leave the current outlets as well so we can plug stuff in inside the base cabinets.

Whew! Tons of work going on around here. Today we have floor people coming to professionally clean the thin-set (glue that holds tile to the floor) off the floor. It is adhered too well and we couldn’t get it off so we had to call in the big dogs. After that, sheetrock (drywall)!! Once the drywall is hung, taped and floated, and textured, Ben and I will paint, paint, paint all the ceilings and walls and then… dun dun dun… the cabinets go in! I am hopeful that we will have cabinets installed sometime next week. The next several days will be crazy busy and I am hoping the drywall is finished by Friday so we can spend the weekend painting.


     
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