Thursday, July 31, 2014

What I do in exceedingly rare bits of spare time

A house project that was supposed to happen this winter never got started until this summer. It was a significant refresh of our 17 year old kitchen, which hasn't changed one iota since we moved into the new house back then. Same appliances, same everything. Can't complain about the appliances. The GE refrigerator moved here with us from Michigan. It is 25 years old and has performed flawlessly over those 25 years. We bought that when we built our house in Michigan. Here's what our kitchen looked like before the upgrade.

Nothing wrong with this really. The formed Formica counters are perhaps a bit dated, as are the white appliances. We upgraded the flooring and cabinetry when the house was build from the builders standard fare. I still like the ceramic tile, and the oak cabinets with hardwood dove-tailed drawers are in excellent shape. No need to replace this stuff.

The stove was looking a bit ratty and one of the big burners didn't fully work anymore. The fridge is no doubt an energy hog compared to today's models. The Maytag dishwasher was getting pretty rusty inside too. Seems everything is stainless these days. So with some great deals over the 4th of July holiday, I bought four new appliances. No doubt stainless will now go out of style next year.

We decided to go with natural granite counter tops. I selected Merrimack Stone because they were next door to work and were willing to wiggle a little on price. I saved money by removing the old counter and doing the new plumbing hookups myself.

Cathy and I did not want another 4" tall back splash, and in granite, was a bit pricey anyway. So we found a deal on natural travertine stone tile and went with it. Of course, I didn't have a wet saw, and I would have to cut around 75 tiles. Renting would be stupid expensive, as I didn't plan to do it all in one weekend. So I read good reviews about a cheap Skillsaw brand wet saw for $89. I bought one, and it worked extremely well for this job. It took about four evenings spread over two weeks to cut and place all the tile. Of course, it had to be grouted and sealed too. Don't forget the sealing bead at the counter too, which I left a 1/8" gap for.

Because the old back-splash cut into the window casing, that all had to be replaced. The outlets were tough. Some required deep "U" cuts into them without breaking them. Travertine is a pretty soft, porous stone, so it breaks easily. I think out of about 150 tiles placed, I broke only one. So this is the result of the work thus far.

This last photo shows the impact of LED strip lighting under the cabinets. This stuff is getting cheap now. Just peel and stick. This is not hardwired in, there is a small transformer behind the paper towel roll. Very efficient. Just a few cold-to-the-touch Watts totally lights up this otherwise dark corner. The travertine is imported from Turkey, the granite comes from India. Seems almost blasphemous to use imported granite when you live in the Granite State, but we liked the pattern and the price was right.

Cabinet hardware has been added too, now that we've been in the house 17+ years. The biggest pain in the ass was the fridge. It was 1/8" too wide. Somehow I mis-measured the standard 36" opening to be 36". It was actually about 35.75", and the 35/75" fridge was not gonna go in there. So I had to remove the floor-to-ceiling cabinets from the wall and move them over 1/2". This caused a trickle-down effect, making the expensive, custom moulding at the top too short, opened a gap in the front of the cabinets, and changes in baseboard. The crown moulding at the top had to be special ordered from Aristokraft, unless I wanted to replace all of it in the whole kitchen. What are the odds the pre-finished moulding will match my 17 year old moulding?

Remaining are painting the walls and trim. Other rooms need repainting too, not having been touched in 17 years. Only my son's room was painted after he moved out.

One other weekend project I finished earlier this summer. The pressure treated front steps to the house were looking a bit decrepit. The vinyl composite materials available now are much better than the stuff that first came out. The early stuff had terrible problems with fading and mildew staining. The new stuff has thick, solid layer of vinyl wrapped around it now, so it is about as weather and stain proof as vinyl siding. I'm a big fan on maintenance free exteriors. Treating our front and rear decks every year has gotten old. Here's what the new steps look like.

I kept the stringers underneath, as they were in fine shape. Low key, fairly low budget project, huge improvement in curb appeal. We plan to live here at least a few more years, so I'm looking for ways to improve the resale of the house when the time comes and let us get a few good years in a spruced up house until then.


DaveP said...

Nice work, looks great. Yeah, I am in the process of raising my farmer's porch up back to level, which means, I will end up having to dick around with my steps. I'm also going to replace with some kind of composite, as I'd rather be riding my bike, then doing unsatisfying work, like staining a bunch of boards.

DaveP said...

PS: The kickboard looks nasty and the walkway looks cruddy (couldn't help myself.)

Hill Junkie said...

Yeah, the kick board is vinyl, but it is still dirty from the pressure treated wood I pulled up. Needs a scrub.