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.

Super Post

It’s a super post friends! It has a little bit of everything. We’ve been busy on our vacation week off of work! So… my family has been coming over occasionally these past few weeks helping us drywall in our kitchen. We had quite a big job after removing a wall, and tearing some trim out in there. The drywalling is mostly done, except the seam where the living room ceiling and kitchen ceiling newly meet up. That’s going to take a few more coats to smooth out. Let’s talk about the floor though. This is how we prepped our kitchen for porcelain tile.

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We bought a bag of Versabond dry mix. Then we added water. Our end result was slightly thicker than pancake batter and it worked great. Oh, if you ever have to mix something like this up, invest in a “mixer” drill attachment. Our’s is that fuzzy metal piece you see in the picture. Pro: It’s heaven-sent. Con: It wears out your drill battery.

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We swept and vacuumed our plywood subfloor and then poured a small puddle of the Versabond onto the surface. It doesn’t take much to cover a 3’x3′ square. We had purchased a trowel tool with 1/8″ teeth. I used the flat side to smooth my puddle over the plywood, and then went over my work with the grooved side, kind of combing the mixture into a lined pattern.

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I won’t lie. It’s a messy job. I was the first person to try it out and found my groove right away, so I “mudded” most of the kitchen while Kevin assisted with pouring more mud and also laying the concrete board over the surface and drilling it into place.

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Our concrete board (or backer board, rock board, or whatever other name it has) had indentations where we should drill. It was about 60 screws for a 3’x5′ board. Remember extra drill batteries or find a corded drill if you are doing this yourself! Once you start mudding, you shouldn’t stop. We drilled while the mud was still wet and got great results. Walking on it right away didn’t seem to be an issue either.

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That’s about how far we got before running out of the Versabond mixture. Not bad. We were back at it first thing in the morning.

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It didn’t take long before getting to the point of having to make custom cuts… which is not our favorite. The board cracks pretty easily. Kevin found it best to make a very deep score in the board before snapping the cut you want to make. We managed… and finally, finally the concrete board was down. Woohoo!

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I don’t have pictures, but we did use a mesh tape to cover the seams and use more versabond to seal the tape to the floor. Without getting super specific, our next step was priming. Then we popped into Home Depot and found a product I have since fallen in love with.

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Homax texture in a can. See… the walls and ceiling in our living room are an orange peel texture. Maybe sand. We’re not sure. The walls in our kitchen are flat. Homax in orange peel, when used at the “fine” setting makes an identical, seamless surface on the areas where the two rooms join. It’s amazing. A+.

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Here’s after we primed and sprayed the flat wall in the kitchen. The texture is subtle, but I think the camera does a good job of picking it up. It feels like it’s been there all along.

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Next up is kitchen cabinets. And shims. Lots and lots of shims.

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I will be sharing more very soon. We are tweaking the finishing touches on the cabinets as I type this. Now… it’s your turn! Encourage me by mentioning something you’re working on!

Windows: Bad to Bright!

Before I get going, guess who moved in?

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My new loves. The cabinets!! Admittedly though, one has the door installed backwards and we are missing some paneling for the sides of the upper cabinets. Remodeling Problems. Speaking of problems, onto today’s post. My almost un-salvagable window trim.

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It’s bad. We’d love, love, love to get new vinyl windows installed, but it’s out of this years budget. Sad day! So I’m getting my hands dirty covered in paint to get these babies looking like something special. First, I trashed the beige mini blinds.

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Ahem, beige mini-blinds? Can you take all the beige light switches and outlet covers with you? Then, I removed the window hardware.

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Hiya neighbors. I am lucky that my camera blows out the windows from far away… We do not have the best view. Next, I removed the frames and took them outside for some priming. I had previously putty-ed up the nail and hardware holes and lightly sanded the frames.

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I used an angle brush on the inner beveled part of the windows, then went over the square frame parts with a 3″ roller. Gave it 2-3 coats. Very, very happy. And… that’s as far as I am. Priming is tedious, yo! Can’t wait to show you the final result. In the meanwhile… what are all you working on? Anything household items that are getting some love or a makeover? Tell me about it!

Out with the Old, In with the New!

It is thrilling to stop all the de-constructing and tossing, and finally add something of our own. It is fresh, new and clean. It is ours.

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Okay. It’s just subfloor. But I want to dance all over it. Stand back, y’all. But that’s not all we’ve accomplished on this 4 day “vacation” of ours. We also removed some hardwood in the living room to make space for our future seating nook.

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Bold. Bold to remove the hardwood. After that, we rented an electric stapler with 1″ staples to lay down our first subfloor. My dad supplied an air compressor. While Kevin cut subfloor to size, I stayed inside and stapled everything down. 1,700 staples later, that floor isn’t going anywhere.

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Fun drinking game: take a shot every time our Rigid Wet/Dry Vac photobombs. What’s next? The trim on the windows needs to get a healthy dose of paint. We have to spackle up some damaged areas first though.

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I have an extreme distaste for badly stained wood. I simply CANNOT wait.