Base Cabinets in Studio

Getting home I knew I had several things to work on in preparation for Christmas, but my cabinet project looms over me like a monkey on my back.  I kind of want to get it done so I can get back to working on arts and crafts.  Plus installing these cabinets will free up garage space and I can get the Jeep out of the cold and rain where it sits slowly rusting away.

Today I was able to install the three base cabinets in the auxiliary office area of my studio.  It took me a leisurely hour and a half.  Of course this is where learned if I did a good job framing the new walls, because I would be able to tell if things were out of square or not plumb as soon as I put in the base cabinets.  Turns out I did about a “C” job for my first go at framing AND drywalling.  For whatever reason my floor (I made myself) under the cabinets was out of level so I had to shim like crazy.  This is opposed to the floor in the studio above where I installed cabinets previously…I didn’t have to shim anything from what I remember.  Oh well.  Also my wall was a little out of plumb and the corners aren’t the most square.

Once the first cabinet was leveled I added yet another block behind the wall to provide a secure mounting point for the base cabinet.  In hind sight I should have shifted my studs so that there would be one behind each cabinet.  Oh well.  Adding blocks was easy because the back of the wall is still exposed….(eventually I’ll build a bookcase so I left off the drywall…that’s why I still have access).  With the block added I drilled and screwed the cabinet in place using some #10 2-1/2″ black oxide cabinet screws; following the Shenandoah Cabinet installation guide.

I then laid down more shims so the middle 12″ drawer cabinet would be at the same height as the first cabinet, and it would be level.  Once in place I flushed up the face frames and clamped them together; the face frames of the two cabinets.  I then drilled some countersunk pilot holes and fastened the face frames together, all flush and even.  Next I added another mounting block and fastened the cabinet to the wall, screwing through the upper back hardwood mounting rail.

Upon inserting the final cabinet I realized I forgot to center the cabinets on the wall.  No big deal but the gap on the left side was a little bigger than the right…so I quickly disconnected  and centered the cabinets…no big deal.  I laid some shims down and inserted the last 18″ cabinet.  Everything checked out level and looked good so I fastened the face frames and mounted the unit to the wall, including one “no-no” screw running through the side of the cabinet into the wall (“no-no” cause there is no hardwood mounting rail on the sides of the cabinets).  It’ll be fine…cabinet’s not going anywhere.

I trimmed out the gaps on either side of the cabinet assembly with some 1/2″ trim that came with the cabinet order.  I glued and pinned in place the toe kick too. Finally I hoisted the premade laminate countertop up to see how bad it fit.  I had the counter made under the premise I’d frame the area to fit the countertop at exactly forty eight inches wide.  Well I messed up a measurement and ended up with about 48-1/2″ wide.  Plus the corners aren’t square.  Long story short I either need to live with it or get that countertop remade at about $100.  We’ll see.  The wife says it looks fine.  I’m not worried either way.

Probably back to art tomorrow but then at some point I’ll install the sink base and last wall cabinet.

Bird Killer

It’s Sunday night after a long weekend of work.  I got a fair amount accomplished this weekend and have the sore muscles and drooping eyelids to prove it.  Saturday our little guy wasn’t feeling well so instead of visiting relatives down south we stayed at home.  I was happy to have a bonus free and open weekend so I spent Saturday morning finishing up the cabinets in the upstairs art studio.  Photos for all the weekends activities are below, I’ll give you the rundown up here first.  Always seems tough to integrate photos into these WordPress posts and I don’t feel like battling the computer tonight.  So words first then pics.

Friday we fired up the pellet fireplace for the first time.  We watched the Quadrafire DVD that came with our EDGE60 unit and learned how to use the fireplace and thermostat.  Everything worked well enough so we should be all set for when the cold weather hits.  This time of year is great as we haven’t had the heating or cooling on in about three weeks.  The house just hums along at 70 degrees consistently with little or no change.

I started by carving out a rectangular piece of drywall and screwing it over the hole the plumber created to access the pipes we needed to relocate.  I then made a feeble attempt to put drywall “paste” spackle over the seams.  I really hate dry walling…I mean screwing the drywall up is easy enough, though I even screw that up.  Spackling is just plain a pain in the ass and I have no patience for it.  Clearly it’s a task meant to be delegated to others in exchange for currency.  After the hole was patched up I placed the last cabinet and screwed it into place.

Next was installing the long counter top.  I put my Stanley “L” brackets into place, five on each long leg and a couple on the short legs.  Over the open bay where the mini fridge is going I screwed a strip of wood on the wall.  This is to support the counter top over this open area.  Once all the bracket were in place I installed the counter top and using my 3/4″ blocks as spacers, and my family as a weight, I screwed the brackets to the counter tops. Topside I installed two trim pieces on either side of the drop down section.  There was a 1/4″ gap where the counter met the cabinets on either side.  I used the simple 1/4″ half round trim that came the cabinets.  I put adhesive caulk on the back side and pinned it in place with my air nail gun.  The nails shot through into the cabinet walls but they are in a place where they shouldn’t hurt anyone.

Finally I installed the cabinet pulls.  I created a few templates on paper so that I’d consistently drill the mounting holes.  The pulls came with a variety of screw lengths; I measured the thickness of the door and test fit a screw to select the right screw.  The leftover screws are great to have around for future projects or to give to my kid.  It’s really important to get the hole locations right as I struggled a bit and had to over bore some holes to get things to line up.  Lastly I’ll run some clear caulk on the counter edges to close off some of the gaps where the wall waves in and out.  We chose not to install any back splashes on these counters.

Saturday afternoon I attempted to commit suicide by excavating the cistern access and digging a drainage trench.  After thirty minutes I was heaving up specks of lunch and seeing yellow spots.  I muscled through it and was rewarded with just a little bit of chest pain and random anxiety fits.

I went up to Lowes and picked up 50′ of solid plastic pipe material, 4″ in diameter, a couple plastic caps and metal rings which, when all strung together, created a way for water to exit from around the excavated cistern lid area.  I had to dig down far enough to expose two electrical boxes and then trench down enough so the laid pipe would allow the water to travel down hill so to speak.  See, the electrical boxes were allowing water to build up and ultimately travel into our basement.  This little heart and back breaking maneuver I pulled off this weekend should eliminate the water in our basement.  After laying the pipe I covered the one end with stone and the rest of the pipe with the excavated dirt, clay and grass.  I used about ten bags of river pebbles around the lid to make it easy for water to find the drainage pipe.  I’ll pick up some more stone for around the roof washers as well.

I used some of the hand excavated soil in the bed area nearby, as well as wheel barrowing in some from my top soil pile.  Yes the wheel barrow tire is fixed and holding air.  We then spent today planting the rest of the boxwood bushes and relocating some other little plants whose names escapes me at the moment.  I topped everything off with a wee bit of mulch to secure the soil for the winter.

Out back I spread some more mulch around the hydrangea bed.  We picked up two variety of black berry bushes on sale at Lowes for five dollars apiece.  These I planted in our berry bush area, the future pathway that will lead to the veggie garden.  While fixing up the bird netting around the berry bushes I sadly discovered why they call it bird netting, seems I caught and killed a song bird in our netting.  So that puts me at net zero in terms of helping / hurting birds.  In an attempt to improve the situation for our aviary friends I started cutting the netting in half length wise, as I had the excess netting layered over itself which I think made it a trap to animals.  Well laziness is the mother of invention, or at least it is with this Industrial Designer so I just ripped out all the bird netting.  In its place I tied three horizontal strands of yellow twine, about 16″ apart.  I’m pretty sure I saw a TV show where these guys at Penn State said this would stop deer.  Actually they said three strands about 16″ off the ground (spaced apart by 16″ or so with the middle strand a bit higher) would keep dear out.  Something about deer don’t like to step over stuff.  Anyway I did the typical fence thing so we’ll see how that goes.  I did the same around my Arctic Kiwi trees too, which have grown to the exact height they started at six months ago.

Ok, that’s more than enough for one weekend.  Here are the pics in no relative order.  Cheers.


More Cabinet and Countertop Installation

This weekend was fairly productive around the homestead.  We found time to do fun stuff too but my primary focus was getting the cabinets installed in Christine’s studio. The photos below walk you through the steps I took.  So far it’s been fairly easy.  Our set up involves two levels of countertops that alternate high, low, high.  The taller cabinets on the right are for the sink and fridge section.  The lower center section is more of a desk height and the far left is taller sink height to accommodate a pass through into the crawl space.

Everything turned out to be fairly level so I didn’t shim very much.  It’s a long sixteen foot run of cabinets but because it’s so cut up level wise I just made sure all the face frames were tied together and true.

I ran into just a couple hang up and really only one deal breaker.  There was some rough plumbing pipes protruding from the wall.  I was going to just cut a hole in the end cabinet and worry about re-routing the plumbing later but the pipes hit the cabinet right at the height of the cabinet floor so simply drilling some through holes wasn’t an option.  I’ll need to have a plumber come out and re-route the pipes first then install the cabinet.  I had one outlet in the way but I simply cut a hole in that cabinet for now.  The outlet actually needs to be moved to accommodate a mini fridge so it’s good that it was there in the first place.

I was able to install two of the countertops and finish up the install of most of the cabinets so at least some of them could be moved into.

Rolling Along

Everything is rolling along nicely.  I got the First Energy thing cleared up.  We, in fact, have two meters.  I know, but envy does not look good on you, so stop right now.  Turns out they should’ve just moved the one from the temp pole to the house.  Alas, instead, they installed a 2nd meter on the main house, leaving the temp one to fend for itself in the front yard.  That explains the two bills I was getting and so forth.  They did not budge on my $500 electrical bill, so alas I’ll pony up the cash for that and beg our HVAC guys to get the real furnace in place ASAP.  Apparently the temp electrical furnace is not that efficient. 

We met our trim carpenter out at the house yesterday to discuss the nuances of the kitchen countertops.  He’ll be charged with orchestrating the ballet between himself and the countertop fabricator to get the cabinets, counter and range to all align perfectly.  Anyone who even remotely knows me that being off by a 1/4″ is an option.  I get this trait from my mother; makes her proud.  At issue here is the drool worthy possibilities that can come to fruition if all goes well.  I have no idea if it’ll turn out right and look good, but we liked what we saw yesterday at the house.  The base cabinets are gathering in the kitchen, awaiting their installation.  Door fronts are milling about as well, but they won’t go on until the last-minute.  Most importantly is the intersection of the door fronts, countertop and the range details.  The door fronts will be flush with the face of the range.  The counter should be 2″ thick (which is all the rage these days) and should line up perfectly with the range top as well as a perceived shadow line across the top of the range.  The range will protrude forward from the countertop a couple of inches, into the kitchen.  If all goes well, I should openly weep every time I enter the kitchen and feel compelled to crack open a bottle of wine in celebration.

From the Wolf website, this is our range. Brilliant how it lines up with these cabinets. This is our gold standard for alignment in our kitchen.

Once the range is lined up everything else should follow suit.  As I may have said previously, we stole our kitchen design from an issue of Dwell magazine.  I really wanted to steal verbatim so to speak but as you’ll see we changed it a fair bit to make it our own.  The idea is to make the kitchen cabinets look like individual pieces of furniture instead of cookie cutter kitchen cabinets.  We did add wall cabinets to the recipe (I caved).  And in a swift move we plugged in a tiny pantry between the freezer and range countertop. Here’s a pic from Dwell of our inspiration kitchen.

Image from Dwell magazine showing the inspiration for our kitchen. In the end ours will look like a distant cousin of this one.

 We ended up going with laminate door fronts to save cost and to get a better color match with the dining room table.  The countertops will be (knock on wood) Silestone in grey expo.  My brother / expert craftsman that he is, made / is making the cabinets.  Here’s a computer model I made showing you what the kitchen will look like.  Nifty Wolf range CAD file from their website is cool.

Model I made of our kitchen, compare and contrast to the Dwell kitchen we used as inspiration. No pendants by the way, they'll go over the dining room table.

Additional progress, and some of my sanity restored, as well on Sunday meeting with Eric and my wife.  Those two figured out what we’re doing with the fireplace.  No Silestone, rather we’ll use cultured stone everywhere, right up to the EDGE60 fireplace door.  We eliminated the two wing walls to provide a simpler look to the whole show.  In the floor Eric’s going to try a cement hearth that is flush with the hardwood.  There’s a chance it’ll crack but we’ll give it a go.  Capping everything off with be the cherry mantle.
We’re also having Eric paint the vanity we bought from Home Depot for the half bath.  He’ll paint it satin black and we’ll distress it from there.  Should be an interesting side project. 
Beyond that, we’re rolling along and hitting on all cylinders.  Once all the cutting is done this week, we’ll get the HVAC finished up next week including our gas furnace.  Today’s emergency was trying to get sizing information to the HVAC contractor so our furnace is sized correctly for the house.  Not too big, not too small.  Just right.
That’s it for now.  Talk to you later.

Decisions, Decisions.

Building a custom home, not surprisingly, involves a lot of decision-making.  As our “ship” is outfitted and readied for her maiden voyage, rapid fire decision-making becomes a must.  Unless everything is planned ahead of time, to the “Nth” degree, all that can be done is making design decisions on the fly at the end of the project.  Our New Year’s weekend was fairly successful in terms of picking things out.  We are to the point where we have to “run with it” and hope for the best. 

3x6 white glass subway tiles for master shower. We fell in love. They cost a small fortune. Debating pros and cons of selling a family member to pay for them. Both boys have been on their best behavior since we started contemplating. The cat on the other hand....

All the flooring and tile work is selected except carpet and the master bath tile.  We fell in love with some really cool glass subway tiles.  So much so that they may find a home not only in the shower but also on the Master Bath wall behind the sinks. They cost a fair bit so I’m searching for the best price.  In the meantime we were successful in picking out vanities for the boys bathroom and the half bath from Lowes and Home Depot respectively.  The boys vanity continues the all white theme of the room.  The half bath vanity will be a dark chocolate-brown, vessel stand.  We’ll play up the brown / black wood theme with accent walls at either end of the small space. 

Siding going on the garage.

Light fixtures continue to trickle in.  Pretty much all of them are selected and on order.  Still need to pick out a marquee light for the half bath (which we pretty much have picked out; just need to order).  For the track lighting I let the electrician know what we wanted.  He will provide us with a parts list that I can use for ordering components.  Nothing fancy will be required for our track lights.  Simple white track heads will suit us fine.  One can spend a fortune on track lighting fixtures.  We will not. 

Sconce from Restoration Hardware. Code requires enclosed lights for closets, even though our lights will be no where near clothing, and the LED bulbs will generate virtually no heat. These industrial looking sconces include glass jars to meet code.

We’re working on selecting the countertop material for the kitchen.  It will be Silestone quartz.  We selected this material because it’s low maintenance and looks nice (obviously).  It’s pricey but in the grand scheme of things it’s not too bad.  To keep things consistent we’ll do the same color counter in the half bath.  Additionally we’d like to run it around the fireplace and inset it into the hardwood floor to act as a hearth.  We need to work out the details with the installer in the coming weeks.  Color wise it’s still up in the air.  Two of the three colors are less expensive; just want to make sure we like what we choose.  Basically trying to get a cement look to everything.

Countertop colors: Grey Expo (left) or Murango (right)? There's a third color, "Cemento" but we don't have a color chip for that. It looks like an expensive version of Murango.

Work wise, siding is on one side of the garage.  The plumber is migrating back to the work site along with the winter snow.  Our 50 gallon electric hot water tank should be installed tomorrow.  We’re also having the shower hooked up in the basement now, even though we don’t plan on finishing the basement for a while.  No sense the shower stall sitting all by its lonesome in the corner of the basement, unattached to anything.
The Jeep is finally back in working order so I drove him (her?) out to the site after work today.  Needed to pick up drywall finish samples for the ceiling.  Two options.
Me: “Honey you want ‘STD’ or ‘Spatter’?”
Wife: “Excuse me?  Sounded like you asked me if I want an ‘STD’?”
Me: “Yes, ‘STD’ or ‘Spatter’?”
Wife: “What the hell were you doing? Is this why you’re so late from work? Unbelievable. Well I guess ‘Spatter’ given the choice, you pig. Though frankly if you have an STD….Unbelievable.”
Me: [Sigh]
Me: “No, we need to pick out a finish for the ceilings.  See…”
[I reveal two drywall finish sample boards that I picked up at the house].
Wife: “Oh.  In that case I vote STD.”
Me: “STD it is”

For those of you keeping score at home, when you build a house you have to decide all kinds of mundane crack pot stuff. In this horrible picture you can (not) see the difference between "spatter" and "standard" knock down finishes for ceiling drywall.

STD is a standard “knock down” finish for drywall ceilings.  Spatter looks about the same, though maybe a little more “pop corn-y”.  They don’t do the old school mop finish any more like we have in our cookie cutter colonial now.  Frankly, if you’re looking at our ceilings, you’re either passing out from all the booze we gave you or we did a horrific job decorating the joint.  Stop looking at the ceiling and look at our glass tiles already, gheez.
Interesting note, Kitchen gets a flat ceiling texture….oooo….gonna paint it a color.  Oh yeah.
Here are miscellaneous other pics of the project. Stay warm folks. (House is freakishly warm by the way….and humid as Brazilian jungle).

Basement. Latest flooding occurred when sump pump pipe came apart. Squirted water like Old Faithful on New Years Eve. "What's that noise?" "Dunno, I'll go downstairs and check.....woah Nelly, what the f..."


Front door. Architect and brother say we should've used lap siding. Wife and I voted board n batten. You'll see, there's a method to our madness. I promise.

 P.S. Don’t get burned like we did (at least if you’re indecisive like us).  We had to pick all our plumbing fixtures out months ago, so the plumber knew where to run the pipes (I guess). Since then we’re digging “oil rubbed bronze” (ORB) a lot more than “brushed nickel” for the metal in the house.  So much so that our exterior doors have nickel hinges and ORB handles.  We thought about changing the half bath faucet from nickel to ORB but our plumbing supplier would charge us a 50% restocking fee to change faucets.  Let this be a lesson to you. Tell your plumber or supplier, generally what you want but don’t let them buy the actual faucets until the last possible minute.  We shot ourselves in the foot, and our plumbing supplier’s policies only exasperated the situation.  It wouldn’t be bad except some of the fixtures we wanted to change were really pricey.  Now we’re stuck.  With our current house we ran into plumbing selection issues too and butted heads with the builder.  Something about plumbing I guess.  Anyway, learn from our mistakes. Never again.