Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Holidays!

We went out looking for our Christmas tree today. It was considerably warmer than last year but much more muddy. We were happy to get a ride back from the tractor to avoid some of the nastiness. The lot we've gone to is right outside of Orono (where the University is) and you walk in, tell them what size of tree you think you'll want (we said 6 feet tall), and they tell you where you can find those kind. You bring it back, put it in your car, and then walk back in and they charge you based on what you said you'd find. So refreshingly honest here. It's nice.

On our way back to the house we realized that this is most likely the first Christmas tree this house has ever had (remember that we're in a house that was built in a Jewish neighborhood - walking distance of the synagogues) so it feels kinda special. And, the smell in the house is heavenly.

Decorating the house for the first time also feels very gratifying. I love the holidays and knowing it's in our own house this time feels so great. I was psyched to hang our stockings on the mantle and am very excited to hang some garland on the stair railing. There's a bit of mistletoe in our archway and and we hung our new wreath on the front door and some lights out on our porch. Ahhh, home. I'll put up a few more pictures once the house is decorated.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I know, I know...

Driving through our first Bangor snow on the way to breakfast this morning, Thom remarked that it has been a while since I posted anything on the blog; indeed, this is true and I humbly apologize. I think that ever since Thom's hospitalization in October, things have been pushed aside for the time being. I do want to emphasize, however, that I have all intentions of finishing up the kitchen over our holiday break in January. We'll be doing a lot of traveling to the West Coast to visit family but then we'll be back and I plan to finish everything: trim, baseboards, backsplash. We even made a sweet deal with Sarah & Ken ( to trade some technical work for some plumbing, meaning that we'll have a working water and ice maker on our fridge after the holidays. Woot! So, that's the update, folks. I'll at least try to get a few pictures up of our decorated home - it's our first holidays in the house and I'm beyond excited!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Blogiversary!

It's officially been one year since we looked at the house and I started the blog just a few days later. We thought we'd take this opportunity to share our lessons learned in the past year of home ownership and home improvement:
  1. Spend more time learning about the neighbors. I thought I did a good job of this - coming by at different times and walking through the neighborhood, etc. but we are constantly reminded that we didn't do enough by our noisy and expletive-weilding neighbors across the street.
  2. Don't get personal. I took the whole offer process a bit too personally, basically trying to be empathetic to a family who lost their mother in the house. In the end, it's a business deal and I think you're better off keeping within that mind frame.
  3. Whenever you think something will be easy you're wrong. I think that's a good premise for life, really. Basically, if you think a project will be easy and you begin a statement with, "It will only..." you're just wrong. I'd assume it will be ridiculously difficult and then you can always be happily surprised if it's easier.
  4. Good friends are as valuable as good tools. As readers have seen, we have spent the last year praising Paul and other friends who have come around to help us, give us advice, or just be supportive through the process. We are too thankful for their guidance and help.
  5. Find your niche in your marriage and in your home improvement project. Thom and I spent a bit of last year arguing about different projects in the house. It comes down to realizing what you're each good at and allowing time and space for the person to do that. We've realized that we can work together in small spurts of time but that long projects generally end up in an argument. Not good for the project and certainly not good for the relationship.
  6. Doing your research really makes a difference. Being an academic, I tend to devote a good portion of my time prior to any major undertaking conducting an extensive literature review. I like to get a good idea of what I'm getting into and what I'm possibly up against. I think this has really helped in the long run: I am able to better understand the scope of the project and what are possible challenges and issues I might run into. Using books like the Home Depot tips book, the This Old House magazine and website, and especially - I cannot begin to tell you how much I have learned and it really makes a tremendous difference in the end.
  7. Take time to smell the roses. After all the hard work you do, it's important to take time to enjoy the fruits of your labor too. I have found immeasurable satisfaction in the positive feedback I've gotten through this blog, through having little parties at the house, and through just being able to sit back and see how far it's come. You always realize how much more you have to do but stopping to see the progress now and then really helps keep you motivated.

Those are my pearls of wisdom. I'd love to hear your "lessons learned" in your home improvement process as well!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Alas, fair readers, we have not had much to report as of late. After Thom's surgery things have been a bit slow and I'll admit it, I've been more than a little preoccupied by thoughts of a baby. No, not yet, but maybe sometime soon.

Anyway, in lieu of any new progress we are instead sending out our Halloween wishes. We present our first carved pumpkins in our new house. We're having a big bash on Saturday night too! I'll post a few good pics afterward too. Happy haunting!

Monday, October 6, 2008

A night in the emergency room

Thom woke up in the middle of the night with abdominal pains, which turned into nausea, which turned into worse abdominal pains. I was in the middle of weatherstripping and rushed him to the emergency room. Ten hours later I am now home. After myriad tests they found he had appendicitis and took him in for surgery at 9:30 - by 10:15 he was out. Very easy and all went swimmingly. He has three little band-aids - that's it.

He's spending the night in the hospital and I'm home to feed the cat and get a few hours of sleep before I re-join him in the morning (did I mention another nice thing about our house is that it's 3 blocks away from the hospital?). Send him your healing thoughts, friends. He feels so much better already!

And, bonus: the surgeon took some really cool photos of the appendix - pre- and post - maybe I'll post them :)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Autumn Day in Maine

While we did make some very un-sexy house purchases today (extra insulation for the attic and weather stripping) we spent the majority of the day out playing in our lovely state. A great deal of the day was spent finding our way through a corn maze, finding some pumpkins, and picking some apples. Although a chilly day it was a fun one. Here are a few photos of our day at Treworgy Orchards in Levant, Maine.
An aerial view of the corn maze - pretty cool, eh?

The chosen pumpkins

Thom blaming me for getting lost in the maze

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Almost done!

I slept in this morning, which was quite lovely. I came downstairs and looked again at the kitchen (which held up to a very pleasant girls' night last night, I might add) and am still so happy with our new floor and the whole package altogether, really. I think the most satisfying thing was going back to our punch list and crossing off almost all of it! What's left now are the moldings, the baseboards and thresholds, the backsplash, and then we get to call a plumber and have our water line installed so we can have ice and water in our fridge finally.

We've come a long way. We learned a whole lot, swore a lot, and gotten a few cuts and bruises, but overall I think it's been totally worth it. Here are some before and afters once again.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Kitchen Floor - Part Deux

It's in! And it's gorgeous! I'm very happy with our new cork floor in the kitchen and, once again, have to give a big shout-out to Paul, who really did most of the hard work. You saw what we did last night (along with lovely Leslie's help!), which constituted a lot of the "hard" work. This morning, we started at 7am and put the underlayment down and then went ahead and got started.

Below is the first course, which was probably the toughest. It was a lot of making sure it went in right and the cuts, particularly around the heater pipes, were correct. Once that was in, it was pretty much smooth sailing. While the directions didn't suggest doing so, we did stagger the seams, which I think makes it look better and is much stronger.

I would definitely recommend this product (HD ordered - $2.99 sq ft) and this project to anyone. While we of course still will have to put the thresholds and baseboards back in as well as a bit of quarter-round here and there, it's pretty much done. Altogether, it took 3 hours to do the prep work, including removing thresholds and cutting out the door casings. And then about 3 and a half hours to do the actual floor (the kitchen is 13x14).

One tip I would have is to definitely buy the little kit you can find at HD for installing engineered floors. It came with a tapping block, the spacers, and a metal pull bar. It was about $20 and wasn't recommended in the directions but it made the whole thing a lot easier, in my opinion. Besides that, it was just a jigsaw and a circular saw to do the rest. Easy-peasey.

Friday, September 26, 2008

New kitchen floor - Part I

Paul and Leslie called around 6pm, wanting to know if I wanted to get started early on the floor in the kitchen. I said, of course, and we listened to the debate while we started prepping the kitchen. The first task was dislodging the four thresholds (basement, hallway, dining room, mudroom). Three came out relatively easily but the last one, leading to the mudroom, was a bit different. This required actually cutting off a piece of it as it was originally the threshold leading outside to the back porch. I don't know what we'll have to do with that but that will be at some point later.
Then it was removing baseboards and undercutting the door casings. I was happy to use my newly purhcased jamb saw - which is totally awesome, by the way - and then Paul came in with a chisel to get out the rest.
With moving the appliances, it took about 3 hours to do those few things. I'm going to get up at the butt-crack of dawn tomorrow to run to HD. I was told, by the HD people, to buy vapor barrier even though this is an above-grade installation. Paul recommends (as do the directions) to just use polyethylene underlayment so I will be getting some of dat instead. Paul will be here bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed at 7am. I hope we can nail out this puppy in a few hours - I'm trying not be overly optimistic though; as I should know by now, it never is as easy as it seems.
I'll show you what I can when it's done! Say goodbye, ugly, asbestos-laden vinyl!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Some miter nice work

I've been putting off the daunting task of reattaching the trim to the top of our cabinets. When we pulled down the soffits this summer there was a long expanse of trim over the window and when it came down, so did a bunch of the attached cabinet trim. What this meant was not only did it need to be put back up, but it needed to be recut and [insert music of impending doom here] mitered. 

I was honestly freaked out about doing this. Not only was my last dose of geometry in the 10th grade but, for some reason, cutting angles seemed scary to me. I sucked it up today and bought a $14 miter box from HD and decided to give it the old college try.

For my first attempt, I feel pretty good about it - especially without power tools. It's not perfect (the home improvement mantra in the Bangor Foursquare) but it's better than it was (the new addendum to the home improvement mantra). 

I've definitely got the home improvement bug back, that's for sure. I think I over-exhausted myself this summer but now with a month off I feel it pulling me back in - so much so that I think I'm going to put up the crown molding myself this weekend (Thom's going home to Seattle to visit) and we've got renewed vigor to do the floor next weekend when he's back. Huzzah! 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Miscellaneous work today

We had originally planned to do some weatherstripping today but upon finding out how much all that crap really costs, we have decided to put it off until Thom gets back from Seattle in two weeks. We spent the day then doing some miscellaneous tasks around the Bangor Foursquare.

First, was flipping our mattress - it's a king size foam mattress so this was no easy task. Upon flipping, we found myriad vomit piles our cat had kindly left us. This disgusting mess prompted a deep cleaning of the entire house, including all rugs, comforters, pillows, and blankets, not to menton some major mopping. Yuck!

Second, was finally cleaning our hardwood floors downstairs. I know, I'm embarrassed to admit it, but we finally cleaned our newly refinished floors (that's right, almost 8 months later). Of course we had been sweeping and Swiffering this whole time but we had not taken the chance to buy the stuff our floor refinishers had recommended, Bonakemi. Once I bought it a few months ago I was loathe to do it with all the kitchen debris and crap that was all over. Now that we've hit a bit of lull, it seemed like the right time to do it. This stuff works wonders! Our floors now look like they did when they were first refinished. Beautiful!

Third, was the lawn. It was time to mow and so we decided to re-seed a bit too. That's also marked off the list.

Next, we have been complaining about the lack of places for towels accessible to our shower in the bathroom. We had bought some hooks on clearance from Target a million years ago but had never hung them up. That is now done and it will be quite nice to have a place to hang clothes and towels instead of putting them on the toilet.

(As an aside, it looks like the days of the upstairs toilet are dwindling. We have been waiting to do the tile floor up there until we were ready to do the toilet at the same time - well, that time may be any day now, unfortunately.)

Thom also worked on putting up a few pictures in what he lovingly calls his "man village" upstairs. He found some nice little pin-type hooks from a company called Ook (they're called Ook Shields) at HD a while ago that do minimal damage to plaster walls and these seem to work well.

Finally, in the spirit of autumn and inspired by our visit to the Common Ground Fair yesterday (a very cool all-organic fair in Maine), I decorated a bit of the house with some mums, gourds, and fake leaves. I love fall! Hooray! I think we're going to go to the pumpkin patch when Thom returns to find a few pumpkins and some apples. I'm ready to bake and maybe make some yummy applesauce. Can't wait!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's not much, but it's something

As one might guess from the lack of regular blog updates, not much has been going on in terms of new work in the Bangor Foursquare. But, do not despair, eager readers, as some progress has been made.

While I teeter back and forth on the idea of bringing in a contractor to do the cork floor (it was expensive, okay, and I'm worried that if we flub this one, there's no take-backs), we did decide on the backsplash. While I originally wanted slate tile I found that it isn't easy to clean. Thom wanted subway tiles but I felt this was a bit too blah. Then we fell in love with glass tiles but found out that they were quite out of the budget. So, we compromised.

We found a website called where we were able to buy a few sheets of 1-inch glass tile mosaics for about $9 each. We're going to combine three of these 1-inch tiles along the side of the subway tiles, but placed randomly throughout the backsplash. This will break up a bit of the monotony of the plain subway tile and give us a bit of the glass we wanted. I think it will be a good compromise and the blue of the glass tiles really goes well with the paint. I don't know when I will be brave enough to put them up (I have never tiled before but have seen it done a million times on t.v.) but when they're up I think they will look really nice.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

New range hood

Ah, fair readers, we have returned with another kitchen project. After our hiatus, we decided to accomplish one more item on the Punch List: our new range hood. The old one worked intermittently and it was so disgustingly loud that I couldn't wait to get rid of it. This one now matches our fridge and range and is deliciously quiet. All that is left of the original ugliness is our dishwasher (well, and the floor of course). I'm supposed to get a bit of a check from my upcoming book so I think I may use the proceeds to buy that. 

Even better news, we didn't argue. It may be that we were trying to do too much at once or that we did projects that were too lengthy but this one, while not necessarily the easiest, was rather short and sweet (if you consider two hours short). The main trouble we ran into was getting the space in the back by the existing drywall to accommodate the wire. It required a bit of carving but we finally got it right. The floor is the last big project and that will probably be in a few more weeks. I'm anxious to have it done but have decided to let Thom and Paul do it. It's tough for me to have the last big project be done by someone else but I think it's good for the guys to have some bonding time and for me to be a little less Type A.

What's left on the Punch List:
* Molding
* Trim on top of cabinets
* Tile backsplash
* Floor
* Water connected to fridge/freezer

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The latest

I know it's been a while. After starting school last week and then getting our camera and laptop stolen, things have slowed down considerably. No new work on the kitchen but I am admittedly enjoying it. Even without it completely finished I love how the cabinets look painted with the awesome Ikea countertop. We are going to put up the new range hood this weekend so that will at least be some additional progress. I'll haul out the old digital camera to take some photos of that at least.

In the meantime, we got a letter from Bangor Gas, letting us know they were considering installing a gas line on our street. We were quite excited, particularly given the high cost of heating oil here in New England. We called a couple contractors to get an estimate on conversion to find out that with our extremely old furnace (we found the original bill of sale dating it at 1954 - yes, I'm actually serious) they wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole. When I asked the ballpark of a new furnace I was told around $7500. Obviously, we will not be getting natural gas this winter. I hope that some of my summer teaching/research money will be spent upgrading us, however. So that's that.

Not much else new. I spent a bit of time outside this past weekend digging up some iris bulbs for transplant and hope to buy a few tulips, daffodils, and hyacinth for the spring. That's really about it. We're waiting to put in the kitchen floor until we get some help from our superfriend Paul, which may be a few weeks. Like I said, I hope to update a bit this weekend but we'll be taking a bit of a hiatus for a bit - sorry, loyal readers.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mean People Really Suck

You may recall that I was quite upset recently about the thief who stole my two peonies. Well, another jackhole broke into our house tonight and stole Thom's laptop and our digital camera. That's right, blog fans - no more digital photos for a while of the kitchen. Both things were not new nor expensive but it's just the idea that some stranger was in our house. Yuck. The weird thing was that these were the only things taken - only 10 feet away was Thom's Wii and his games, two checks on our mantle, and a bunch of power tools they walked by on the back porch. Probably stupid kids. I'm going to check out some pawn shops tomorrow and look for the stuff. Jerks. I'm thinking about putting another passive-aggressive note in the window. Any suggestions? I thought about saying something like "Cash reward for information on our stolen computer and camera" and then not actually giving out any reward when they tell us who did it. They'd probably steal more stuff then though. A-holes.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Cool find - I almost forgot!

I forgot to mention that yesterday when we were putting the doors and drawers back in the cabinets that Thom ran across these calendars on the bottom of one of the cabinets. They're all from 1978 - it seems like the decor was certainly from the '70s so maybe this is when the construction took place. If you look closely, they're all Jewish calendars with Hebrew, etc. We both grew up Gentile so we can't tell you much about them besides that but we've enjoyed learning more about the Jewish tradition of this neighborhood and this house. (Did I ever mention that we found mezuzahs in the doors and kept them up there? Well, we did.) It seems much of the neighborhood was built in the 1920s after The Great Fire to be within walking distance of the synagogues downtown. We like to pay homage to the home's history in whatever ways we can and learning more about the Jewish culture is one way we're doing that.

Giving thanks

Loyal readers know of my frequent shout-outs to people (like our friend Paul) who have helped us. Today I give thanks to the other important players in the kitchen renovation thus far: the tools. I'm sure I'll be able to identify a few more as we finish up the floor and put the molding back up but up to this point, these have been the starring actors in a supporting role:

Today's Savior: The Cabinet Hole Maker Thingee

We saw them at the store and we said, "Nah, we don't need it. We can measure." It's totally worth the three bucks, believe me. Once we had this thing we could just zip along making holes perfectly in proportion to all the rest. Totally worth it. Totally.
The Pinch Hitter: Paul's Awesome Drill

We bought a drill back before we got the house and I admit it, we bought a cheap one. It's kind of like eating low fat ice cream for a long time and then suddenly eating the real stuff - ooh, baby, it's gooooood. Paul's drill is the real ice cream. Ours is the froofy low fat stuff that's totally a piece of crap.
The Small Things in Life: A Good Tape Measure

This was another learning experience. We have a few cheapie tape measures but Paul's rocks the house. It's sturdy, it stays where you want it, and it's 25 feet long. You can't shake a stick at anything that would be longer.
The Underdog: Lady's Mate Tool Kit

Many have laughed at it but all have come to respect it. My mom bought me this tool kit back in college and it has been nothing but awesome incarnate. It has everything you need: hammer, tape measure (granted, a cheapie one - see above - but it works), both types of screwdrivers, a utility knife, a wrench, needle-nose pliers, electrical tape, assorted screws and nails, and a scissors. Not to mention that it's ALL pink. Hell yeah.

Thank you, dear friends - you were the true heroes in this production. I look forward to many more cherished moments with you again (well, not Paul's stuff...we have to give that back).

"It looks bigger, doesn't it?"

I think that after putting the cabinet doors back on last night and then the new hardware today I really started "feeling it." I think up to that point I was really fixated on all the little issues and problems instead of seeing the big picture. Seeing it today now makes me realize that we really have come a long way. I am starting to feel it now - yes, it looks better. Of course we have lots of little things to do (and a big thing: the floor) but it's better. We keep walking in and saying, "It looks bigger, doesn't it?" Definitely doing away with the dark cabinets and wainscoting was a good decision. Anyway, all in all, I am happy - despite my Type A tendencies. 

No witty title

I'm tired so not quite verbose but wanted to share that I got the drawers and most of the doors back on the cabinets today after cleaning out the entire contents of said cabinets and wiping them down. We also finished sealing the countertop so all should be ready to go. We went perusing for tile for the backsplash today but have not yet come to a decision. Thom is definitely sold on the shape of the subway tile but I'm not sure if slate or regular white ceramic is the way to go. I think the white would be classic and easy to clean but I love slate. Dunno.

I think tomorrow will be mostly a day off - maybe mopping the filthy floor and finally doing some dishes. I guess I'll put the cabinet hardware on, at the very least, so as to not mess up the nicely painted surface. Good night...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Thom did it

"I can do it," I offered. He replied, "No, I want some blog love. All I ever see is, 'Oh, Susie!' 'Susie is so wonderful, Susie is so amazing.' Where's my blog love?" So, Thom, here it is: your blog love. 

Thom worked on the last bit of the countertop adjustment today as I was finishing painting the trim in the kitchen. He worked that puppy good too -- he sanded the little bit of a lip that we had on the butt joint above and now it's bootiful! Way to go, dude!

We also just finished putting on the first coat of the Behandla wood treatment oil on the countertop. You can see what it looks like before above and below with a coat of oil on it. It's just gorgeous and really soaks up that oil. We'll have to put a couple more coats on yet today and then let it dry but it will look really nice, I'm sure.
As I said (and you can see above and below) I also finished painting the trim and doors in the kitchen too. I took a bit of a hiatus yesterday to help with move-in at school. All of the first-year students' enthusiasm made me a bit nostalgic, remembering good times and what seemed to be much simpler times too. With this in mind - as well as my exhaustion - I've decided to put off the floor for a week or two. While I'm itching to have it all done and get out of this chaotic mess, I fear my energy and my patience has temporarily run dry. Besides, it will give us a chance to re-group and figure out what the heck we need to do to put this floor down. Anyone else done one of these floating floors? Tips? 
However, all is not lost to exhaustion. I'm going to run to Lowe's and get the cabinet hardware today and perhaps I'll put the drawers and doors back on tomorrow. The idea to replace the drawer slides is a bust, though. All of our drawer boxes are open (i.e., no sides of the cabinet box) so there is no support for us to put in the new fangled ones I wanted. Oh well. I also need to work on getting the crown molding back up and get a few new pieces made. Onward!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Inching toward completion

I got the second coat of the paint up today (it's Silvermist by Sherwin-Williams, just in case you were curious) so I don't really have any new pictures to show - it pretty much looks the same but just better close up. I also just put the first coat of the alkyd paint on the cabinet boxes - I'm hoping to get the second coat on in a couple hours so all of the painting will be technically done today. I'm sure there will be a bit of touching up here and there, especially after we put in the new range hood, but for all intents and purposes, the painting will be done. 

So what does that mean? That means we might be able to do the floor this weekend. I opened up a box of it last night to find, however, that there were no directions included. I don't know if just that box is missing the instructions but I found some online at the Lumber Liquidators' site that I think should work equally well. It looks like the biggest concern will be making sure the floor is level - this freaks me out a bit as it's certainly not level and I'm not terribly excited about the prospect of putting some kind of leveling compound over the vinyl and waiting for it to dry. Yuck.

Beyond that, nothing profound to share today. I spent the day listening to '80's music on the cable television station. I realize this dates me, but these were definitely the anthems of my youth. Sadly, though, I see a lot of issues that may have subconsciously infected my psyche over the years from this music. For instance, there are a lot of songs about men stalking women who don't seem to be interested in them (e.g., maybe Jesse's girl isn't interested in you, then what, Rick?). Also, a lot of music about "bad boys," "nasty boys," and so on and so forth (although I have to wonder what Gloria Estefan's definition of a bad boy is in relation to Janet Jackson's). What did I learn about male-female relations from these songs? Probably nothing good.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kitchen as Life

Graduate school ruined me forever. Like many others, I found that I became much more analytical after passing through the socialization process of graduate school, so much so that I really have a difficult time enjoying the simple things in life any longer. I have a difficult time watching television, for example, without over-analyzing everything that passes before my eyes -- don't believe me, just ask my husband. What I used to look at casually and with humor I now closely scrutinize to the point of disdain. What does this have to do with my kitchen? Let me explain.

I have the first coat of paint on the kitchen walls. As the photo above demonstrates, it looks very nice. Yes, very nice -- that is, until you look closely. Then you see all of my errors and boo-boos. There's that spot of joint compound that was sanded well and there's a corner that isn't quite smooth. 

The moral of the story? Life is enjoyed much more when one doesn't look too closely -- and the same goes for my kitchen.

I'll get the second coat on tomorrow and then start painting the cabinet boxes, and after that, I'll paint the woodwork. We definitely need a backsplash to break up some of the monotony of color but we haven't yet decided on what this will be. I'm leaning toward slate tiles but we'll see when it's all said and done.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Primed and ready

I spent another day priming - the second coat on the woodwork and on the walls. You may say, "But, Susie, you did a pretty cruddy job. I can still see some of the yellow." If you'll recall, however, I primed all of the kitchen back in February before we moved in, so I just spot primed where we had skim coated and/or done some patching. So, the plan is to start putting the real paint on the walls before going any further. While I got the countertop all on today and everything lined up pretty well, I decided to wait to seal it after the painting is done. That means I'll probably do one coat tomorrow, one on Thursday or Friday, and then paint the two coats on the cabinet boxes. This means that we may or may not get to the floor this weekend as planned. Honestly, I'm just exhausted and I need to go back to work a bit this week. 

I also wanted to update from last night - Thom got home and we did the honors of turning the water back on only to find it spraying all over the bottom of the cabinet. Oopie. Thom fixed that and then we found water leaking out the side of the garbage disposal flange. Double oopie. So we fixed that. Ah, home improvement - there's nothing like fumbling around and learning as you go. No casualties, however - and that's always nice.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Man, I'm wiped. Thom's back to school this week (while I still have one more week yet to go) so I got up when he did and started in on the kitchen. The first thing I actually did was clean up the sty that has become our house. I think living with the chaos of the kitchen has started to spill over into the rest of the house, as in: "Why dust? It will just get dusty again from the construction" or "Why clean the floors? We'll just track more junk on it from the kitchen." Well, enough's enough already so I picked up at least a little.

Then I worked on two projects that took way more time than I thought they should have, and pretty much, when all is said done, both sucked equally much. I have decided that I dislike painting wainscoting as much as I dislike putting in garbage disposals. Well, regardless of the odiousness of these two tasks, they got done.  You can see my plumbing handiwork below (someone wanted to see our dual shut-off valves - also in the photo). I used a HD trick (the book is very helpful, by the way) of stacking a bunch of big books under the disposal to prop it up while I made the connections and got it screwed back on the flange. I guess it made it easier but it still blew.
The wainscoting is now primed with the first coat but may need another coat. I'm not sure if I ever shared this or not but when the big kitchen remodel was done circa 1970ish, they decided to paint all the woodwork in there to look like wood. It's so silly. There is beautiful woodwork that looks to have been stained in its earliest iteration (I saw it when I removed the baseboards) but they must have thought it was too light so instead of re-staining it, they used a faux-wood brush and painted it dark brown. It's just hideous but I suppose it went fabulously well with the harvest gold motif. So, yes, it may need another coat of primer before it's painted.
The second coat of primer is also now on the cabinet boxes so they should be ready for the real paint - maybe tomorrow if I can still use my hands. I'm hoping we get the last piece of countertop on tonight and then I can also sand and seal the countertops so we can start using them!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

For cryin' out loud - it's ALMOST done

It is now midnight on Sunday evening. Thom and I have been working since about 9:30am. I had really hoped we would have all of the countertop in by this evening but we're just 20 inches of shy of finishing the #*@&)! thing. It's been one of those days that you realize you did a helluva lot of work but you don't really have a ton to show for it. You think to yourself, "I know I'm exhausted. I know I worked all damn day. Why isn't it done?"

It started out okay. We had cut the small piece of countertop over the lazy Susan yesterday but were a bit confounded on how to affix it without access through the cabinet. We decided to screw on a couple of 2x3s to the walls to act as braces and then since the range is flush with the edge of the cabinet, to use the brackets that Ikea provided on the outside. It's a bit ghetto but it's on there and it's not going anywhere, dammit, and if anyone looks at it and says, "Hey, why are those there?" they will be summarily booted from our home. I'm just warning you, okay.

We also spent about 2 hours making the drywall patch by the door (you know, that place where the MENSA member had cut out the plaster?) before trying to affix the countertop over there. I think it was right around that time that we heard a "POP!" and then I saw a spark and a little poof of smoke come out of the light switch by the door. I went downstairs to see that the breaker had tripped. We were just so near tears at that point, shaking our fists at the heavens, and screaming, "WHY!?!?!?" God chose not to answer.

I think at that point we got into a huge argument and almost threw in the towel for the day. After a short time out for both of us, we rallied. I think at this point we might have gotten something to eat and that seemed to greatly improve my outlook on life and my outlook on my marriage. While going to get some take out we stopped at the hardware store and got a new 3-way switch (that was the one that popped). I had read on the Internet that these are often caused by loose connections. We weren't sure if this is what it was or if we had wired something wrong weeks ago (groan) but this seemed implausible if it's worked fine for all of this time. After eating I re-stripped the wires, reattached them to the switch, and hoorah - all works fine. It was just a loose connection after all. Crisis averted.

In the MEANTIME (sheesh), we got the long piece of countertop cut and then started on the sink cut out. I think this is where most of the day went, to be honest. Cut after cut after cut, inching away at the lines and getting it to fit just-so. Thom gets all the credit for this one, man. He was so patient with that stupid jigsaw, he deserves a big ol' pat on the back. Three cheers for my husband! Hip, hip, hooray! If nothing else was accomplished this weekend, Thom has become Power Tool Extraordinaire. He rawks.

So, after many hours, we got the cut correct. I put the plumber's putty around the lip (and then pondered how to get it off my hands for about 20 minutes - thank goodness for vegetable oil) and then I spent another 90 minutes trying to get those stupid little brackets back around the edge of the sink. I think this is what probably got me closest to the edge of insanity. We then got the new faucet on (it's purty!), put on the handy old FIXA diffusion barrier over the dishwasher, and then screwed that piece of !#@!& onto the cabinet. 

We ran out of steam but know we can finish the last 20 inches tomorrow. Then we'll have to put the BEHANDLA sealer on it. Hopefully I can then finish priming the cabinets and then get them painted this week. I'll then get the doors and drawers back on and then we're almost done. That's right: only the painting, trim, new hardware, new vent hood, and new floor to go. Oi.

Here you are, photos for your viewing pleasure:

What it looks like now
New faucet and the last little stinking piece left on the far end
The drywall patch and the offending light switch

Saturday, August 23, 2008

One down - three to go (plus our sanity)

Well, as Thom predicted (don't tell him I said he was right, it would totally ruin the dynamics of our relationship), things took much longer than expected today. After I woke him up, we pondered the removal of the garbage disposal from the sink and then the pipes from the faucet. We took a quick trip to HD, and to our delight, found someone wonderfully helpful there who told us how to remove the disposal and suggested that we cut the pipes and use a new compression fitting with a shutoff valve instead of having to deal with soldering and all that crap. This was a good idea, in theory. We got home and saw the above, and realized there was really no room for us to cut the pipes below the old shut-off valves. So, while we pondered this new obstacle we decided to take off the old countertop - as you can see below.

We drove back to HD to ask about this (and take the aforementioned photo with us) and to buy a circular saw to cut the new countertop. HD dude was still there (and still really helpful) and told us not to worry - it was okay to have two shut-off valves. We have been really conscientious doing this whole thing so we would never make a future owner of the Bangor Foursquare say the same words we have had to say over and over again: "What the hell did they do this for?" But we realized this was a moment where we would have to go back on our vow. 

So we started cutting the pipes with that handy little pipe cutter and then found we couldn't get the compression fitting to go on all the way. As Scooby would say, "Ruh roh." While we pondered this new obstacle, we started cutting the first piece of countertop with Thom's new circular saw (after saying a prayer and crossing myself several times, I left the room to allow Thom to do the actual cutting). Here's what the first piece looks like - pretty schnazzy, eh?

Obviously you need to ignore the gaping hole in the back and the once primed cabinets without doors or drawers but you get the general effect.

After that, I checked out the compression fitting issue and realized we had turned the pipe cutter the wrong way when we made the cut, which made it impossible to get the new fitting on. I re-cut with it facing the correct way, we tested it out, and voila! We have two shut-off valves. Hooray for shoddy work!

After cutting the next little piece of the cabinet we realized that with our existing Lazy Susan (no relation) corner cabinet, there is no way to access the inside of the cabinet in order to attach the countertop to the cabinet (they hadn't done this with the formica either - we found it was just sitting on top of it). This new conundrum resulted in several snarky debates between us so we decided to call it a day. We're off to the National Folk Festival again for the rest of the night - I'm gonna get me one of them there corn dogs and ponder the new challenges that await us tomorrow.  Perhaps, with luck, we'll have a sink back in by 2010.

The view from down here

I just have one more screw! One more! I let Thom sleep in this morning and I have attempted to remove all of the screws holding in the old formica countertop myself. What this has entailed is a lot of lying on my back staring at the ceiling so I thought I'd share the view I've been looking at for the last hour: our new light and ceiling. I know I've shown these to you before but I was pleasantly surprised to see how nice it all looks from the floor. Much better than close up, anyway.

I'm waiting for some good ol' WD-40 to kick on the one last screw holding the countertop in - the brackets holding the sink in were much easier than this little bastard is. Grrr. Where are my woman muscles? Anyway, if all goes well (did I just jinx myself?) we'll have the new countertop on by tonight and I will update y'all on that too. Wish us luck - you know we need it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Removing countertops

Who knows what wonderful surprises lurk under old work? Ah, yes, more surprises here in the Bangor Foursquare... Thom was concerned about how much time removing the countertops was going to take this weekend - he is worried that between removing the sink and putting in the new ones, we will run out of time. Moreover, it's the American Folk Festival this weekend here in Bangor and I know he wants to go down to that at least a few times.  So I thought I'd do a bit of a dry-run with the small piece of countertop that is by the side of the outside door. What I found was that actually removing it wasn't all that difficult but that getting to the two screws (yes, they only put in two) was what was the most challenging - strange angles and such. Anyway, after about 10 minutes I got it out to find this nice surprise. 

I'm assuming they did this to accommodate the adjacent door but it's just ridiculous. Why would you cut out the plaster (on both sides, mind you) and part of the door frame to put in a stupid formica countertop. How idiotic. So, drywall patching once again...sigh. At least we know it's easy to take them out, right?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Primer on cabinet boxes

Last night I primed the drawer fronts and this morning, instead of doing actual work, I put the first coat of primer on the cabinet boxes. This, to me, at least, seems to be the biggest difference I've seen in the kitchen. It seems much bigger now and certainly brighter - but that may be due to the fact that we have a million halogen lights now hanging in our kitchen (Thom has compared being in the kitchen to standing on the surface of the sun). We are looking into a dimmer but these seem relatively more complicated with 3-way switches. We'll see what we can figure out.

In the meantime, we went to pick up the cork flooring we ordered from HD. We had originally planned to get it from Lumber Liquidators but they stopped carrying the plain kind we wanted and after paying the ridiculous shipping charges from Ikea I was much more reticent to pay any more shipping. So we have it now and I'm excited that we now have all the pieces of our mini-reno in house. I don't know when it will actually all be put together but at least the stuff is all here now.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What a wonderful community

While Thom and I endlessly complain about our real neighbors and how noisy they are, I am so happy to have such a wonderful and supportive virtual community here online. How nice it was to see so many positive and motivating comments from my virtual neighbors. Thanks for the pep talks and the extrinsic motivation - I needed it!

Upon coming home from work today I checked on the doors and they certainly don't look as bad as I perceived yesterday. There are 6 of the 19 doors, however, that seem to have some weird cracking on them. They're not big spots but I'm still at a loss why it happened. It didn't do this with either coat of primer but stuck through both coats of paint. I am not sure what to do now or if I should just let it go. We'll see how it looks by the end of the week when we're ready to put the doors back on and they've cured a bit more.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Last coat of paint is on cabinets

I just finished the second coat of paint on the kitchen cabinet doors. I'm a little concerned about a few things that have popped up today - a couple of the doors seem to have some cracking appearing that almost looks like a crackle type finish, something I was certainly not going for (and I have an inkling that these are the doors that were under the sink and had visible water damage after 30 years of being there, but I may be wrong) and some of the paint today on the back sides of the doors had an oozing kind of problem - hard to explain but it almost looked like the paint was overworked and dragged, even though I did not overwork the paint. I'm concerned we have some sort of weather issue since I'm doing it in the basement but who knows. I know they will in the end be fine and no one will probably see some of these things but it just niggling at me: another project that has turned out not quite right. 

I was talking to my best friend Tracy today (hi, Tracy!) and I mentioned that I think it's starting to not feel fun anymore - a sure sign, to me anyway, that I'm probably due for a break. I have had a great time doing all of this stuff until the Drywall Incident (yes, it's traumatic enough to have now risen to the level of proper noun) and some of the bloom has now left the rose. Eh, I don't know. Perhaps going back to school in a few weeks will be good even though I am slightly dreading it. Bleh. 

On another bleh note, Thom mentioned the other day that he saw some big cracks in our bedroom ceiling. I knew one was there as I had looked at it disdainfully on multiple occasions, but when I looked today I saw that the ceiling is now covered with hairline cracks that were never there before. I checked all the other rooms upstairs and one other room seems to have developed these as well, while the three other rooms are perfectly fine. It looks as though someone skim coated these cracks at some point, with them obviously popping back up now,  while the other three look to have a completely different texture, perhaps pointing to a re-plaster or perhaps it's drywall - it's tough to tell. I'm not sure if this is also weather-induced but we're going to have to figure out what to do. I seem to be doomed with ceiling problems.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Killing time while the paint dries

It's Saturday and I'm in the home stretch of the cabinet painting. I just put on the first coat of the paint on the back sides of the doors, waiting for it to dry a bit before I flip it over and paint the fronts. I had worked with this paint before (Sherwin-Williams' ProClassic) when I repainted Thom's dresser and found it a bit hard to work with  - it is very tacky and you really can't work at all with it once you lay it down. That being said, I went all out buying a very expensive Purdy brush that was recommended to avoid brush strokes on the cabinets. We'll see how it looks after the second coat tomorrow but I'm not sure if any of this made any difference. It's supposed to be self-leveling paint, a type of alkyd but it's still looking a little brushy to me. I do like the color though and will be happy to see it in the kitchen.

In the meantime, just wasting some time. We're excited because we're finally going to see Sarah & Ken's house tomorrow for brunch - they are our blog and home improvement inspirations (I definitely recommend reading their blog if you  haven't already done so). When we get home, we're also going to sneak in to the home next door, which is for sale and is having an open house. We heard they bought it as a flip, a while before we bought ours, and we're excited to see what it looks like.

Otherwise, just plotting the next steps in the mini-reno in the kitchen. The plan is to prime and paint the cabinet boxes this week after detaching the old countertops and to install our new, beautiful Pronomen Ikea countertops next weekend along with our new sink faucet. After that, we'll have to do some patching of the backsplash area and then we can paint the wainscoting, woodwork, and walls probably the weekend after. The new cork floor is supposed to be in soon and so that will get put down last. I'm not sure when we'll get to putting the tile backsplash on (I'm rooting for mini slate tiles) but that may have to wait until a weekend after school starts. So, we're trucking. 

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Priming cabinet doors

My back is killing me but I just finished priming the kitchen cabinet doors (as per the This Old House Magazine insert from August's issue). I was lucky enough to find that we have clothesline down in our basement on which I could hang them to cure completely since TOH suggests using cup hooks to hang them to dry between steps. In a couple hours I will venture back down to sand the first coat and then I have a feeling I'm going to have to do a second or even third coat of primer to get it perfectly smooth. So far, then, these are the steps I have followed:

1) Remove doors, labeling inside boxes and doors and removing hinges and numbering accordingly.
2) Use TSP substitute (wear those gloves and eye protection!) and wipe down to remove three decades of grime and grease. Let sit for 3-5 minutes and wipe down with clean cloth.
3) Fill holes with wood filler, let dry, and sand off excess with 100-grit paper.
4) Sand all surfaces with 100-grit paper to "rough up" the surface of the cabinets and the boxes (at this point, I also used a tack cloth to remove the dust).
5) Drill holes and screw in cup hooks on tops of upper cabinet doors and on the bottom of lower cabinet doors.
6) Prime one side with sandable primer (I am using Sherwin-Williams' Prep Rite Classic as it will go well with their ProClassic paint later - no skimping on paint or cheap brushes), let dry to the touch, flip over, and prime the other side.
7) Once dry to the touch, hang doors to dry completely.

Step 8 will be later today, then, sanding with orbital sander and 220-grit paper to smooth out brush marks.

So, that's that. I hope this turns out well. Thom is worried the kitchen will be too bright with white cabinets (well, they're technically going to be Sherwin-Williams' Alabaster, a bit more cream than just plain white) and the halogen lights we just installed but we'll see. It may be that we install a darker tile backsplash to balance it all out. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cat/kitchen mystery solved

I am taking a break from sanding the cabinet doors (my back is killing me) and decided to update all of you on a deeply pondered mystery here at the Bangor Foursquare: Why does the cat avoid the kitchen? I had wondered if it was because of the nasty vinyl flooring giving her vertigo or the fluorescent lights. She has been hanging out in the kitchen considerably more since we removed the fluorescent boxes a month ago and, as you can see, the floor remains. This case is closed. 

On a related but altogether different note, we now have to figure out why she hates having her picture taken. She does everything she can to avoid looking at the camera, leaving us with hundreds of great pictures of her behind and her side but rarely of her face. Having her for 11 years now, that translates into a lot of butt shots of our cat.