Tile and Countertops

For today’s post, I’m going to shut my mouth and let the pictures do the talking. Mostly. Just so you know, this isn’t the end of things, even though I included a “before” and “after” photo. We still have LOTS to accomplish…

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I’m taking the remainder of the day to start filling up the cabinets… since the kitchen is finally, finally in a LIVABLE state!!!

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Wish me luck!

The Science of Cabinetry

Cabinetry installation. Some might say it’s tough. I’d have to say it’s on par with a Special Ops assignment.

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We started by deciding exactly where to place the cabinets. We actually had a pretty good idea of this when drawing up plans with a cabinetry design person at Lowes. There had to be at least 30″ between the first cabinet and the wall to fit the standard size of an oven.

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So, we placed the 3-drawer cabinet 30″ from the wall. Easy breezy. Next we pushed the sink base cabinet flush with 3-drawer one. We had to drill them together at 2-3 points. Using a few vice grips we picked up at a local hardware store for $3 each, Kevin made sure the two cabinets had a nice, even seam and used 2.5″ screw to attach them at 3 points.

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They say “Start installing at the highest point of the room”. Picture Kevin crawling around the floor with a 6′ level muttering under his breath. We eventually concluded that this was the small 3-drawer cabinet in our situation. We marked the studs in the wall behind the cabinets and started jacking the cabinets off the floor with wood shims. I should mention that we started with the assumption that it’s important for the backside of the cabinets to be flush with the wall. So our job started looking like this:

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If the cabinets are jacked off the floor a few inches at the HIGHEST point of the room, how high will they be off the floor at the lowest point? We didn’t think about this at the time, and it was about at this point that the project took a nose-dive. We collectively spent about 12 hours working on getting the cabinets level by adding and taking away shims constantly. Every little change shifted the way something else looked. Finally, Kevin insisted we had to unscrew all the cabinets and take away all the shims. It wasn’t a good moment, but it ended up being the right choice.

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Making sure those cabinets are level is of utmost importance. It decides how level your countertops will be installed, and it IS very noticeable. Even 1/8 of an inch is significant.

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In the end, we only put 1-2 shims under each cabinet, and ended up shimming between the backside of the cabinet and the wall more. Also, we switched to a plastic shim, just so that if there were ever to be unseen water, the shims wouldn’t rot and fail at supporting the cabinets.

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We used a 3.5″ cabinet screw to attach the cabinet to the stud. It might not look like it, but we stuffed enough shims between the cabinet and wall so there wasn’t any free space in there. You don’t want to have any free space or when you drill, it will end up “sucking” the cabinet to the wall, giving you a warped cabinet. Not a good look.

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Once everything was all screwed in nice and tight, Kevin used an oscillating tool with a cutting attachment to shave off the exposed part of the shim. Some people snap them off, but that technique wasn’t working that well for us.

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Pile o’ shims and some fabulous-looking base cabinets. Happy day! But wait… that’s only half the job!

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We didn’t get out cabinet duty that quickly… We had to install some uppers too! We needed some heavy lifters for this job, so we called my dad and brothers over for some help lifting those awkward cabinets up onto the wall. Here, my dad is getting ready to install a scrap piece of lumber to the wall.

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Basically, that piece of scrap has to be drilled into the studs super level, and with enough space for the cabinet to fit snugly between it and the ceiling. That way, back of your cabinet can rest on it, and you can avoid bearing the weight of bulky cabinets while trying to level and shim the cabinet into place. Here’s Kevin, clearly posing for a drill-that-into-the-wall shot.

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The eyes give it away. Nice, honey. Somehow, I missed capturing the installation of the first cabinet and jumped back into it after they had installed and removed the scrap wood. Here’s the jump:

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That piece of scrap wood collected quite a few names while it was here. Shoe. Cleft. Shelf. Foot. Hunk’a Junk. I don’t know which is technical. Anyways, next step was to lift the shelf up onto the wall.

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Once we knew that it fit nice and snug, we took it down and drilled some pilot holes.

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Then we drilled it up there with those 3.5″ cabinet screws. And so on and so forth for the other wall cabinets. And now the kitchen looks like a kitchen. Sort of.

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Pretend you don’t see the tile. That’s a post for another day, and it’s definitely not finished yet. But we have a deadline… because the countertops are going to be installed in T-minus 12 days! The major kitchen remodel portions will be completed ON the anniversary of the first day we got the keys to our home sweet home. Ahh! I simply cannot wait to get our stove back in there and make a box of Macaroni and Cheese. I know, I’m ridiculous.