It’s been a little more than a year…

so it has been more than a year since we began our home renovation. We’ve lived with the design for some time now and have added a few things that I had not blogged about. You really do get tired of it all near the end when all the details finally come together. Lets see some pictures of what it looks like! These aren’t even the most up-to-date. We took these before the microwave left the buffet. Getting photos of this space is difficult and all the feedback we get from guests who have been to our house is how the photos do the space no justice. Photos of cupcakes and friends courtesy of Erik Lee of Elusive Media.









Truthfully, there are few things that we have yet to finish. 1 shelf still sits in our basement that is to go above the microwave, we have a gap above the stove we have yet to fill, we never made an organizer for above the fridge to keep the baking sheets/muffin pans vertical (this is something I want ASAP) and we still have to touch up paint in some spots.

I’m not sure how much of this we’ll realistically get done. We are expecting a baby girl around the New Year and getting ready for her arrival is the biggest thing on our to do list (and our biggest expense). We tore out the ceiling in her room. We had water damage from our leaking flashing around the vent pipe, then Hurricane Irene (har har har), bad patch jobs from rewiring our house and a step crack that just wouldn’t go away.



We also have not done much with our yard as we had hoped. We cleaned out under an area of trees near our driveway but never got around to removing arborvitaes. Day after we started this project was when we found out I was pregnant!



I hope we can get some of these items done before my shower next weekend and since it looks like we’ll be staying home all weekend, that will be entirely possible! Did you hear it’s suppose to snow??

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We Have a Backsplash!

Ah winter. The cold, the snow, and a feeling of accomplishment about what we have done conspired to make me lazy and not get any more done on the kitchen through most of January and February.

Shoveling, Yuck!

We decided to get some help with the backsplash from my step-brother Gary. Gary has been doing tiling for years. His expertise would help us get it done in one day, make straight lines, and keep us from bickering with each other.

Irene was also worried about laying out the tile properly to avoid weird joint patterns in the corners and at the ends. Gary explained that with a brick pattern, like our subway, there isn’t much you can do about the layout of the tile. Whatever situation you are trying to avoid with the first row, if you shift the first row you will end up with it again in the second row. He did explain the one thing you can do with corners is to put a long piece opposite a short one to create the illusion of continuing the pattern around the corner. The only thing we had to decide was to center the tile on the window or on the sink. We chose the window so the tiles on each side of the window would be the same. On the other wall we centered on the stove since that is the prominent feature.

After making some lines to establish our centers we got mastic on the wall and started sticking up tiles.

Areas that did not require cuts, like behind the stove, went up very quickly. Irene learned how to use the tile saw to cutout around electrical outlets. She cut out this piece being installed here.
We also learned how to use this this scoring and cutting tool. Just don’t try to cut longways like I was here. I ended up breaking this piece. If you are cutting shortways, however, this tool is very fast.

Areas around the windows like this took longer because of all the cuts we had to make.

Working with Gary was a lot of fun and he is a good teacher. Pretty soon I was cutting tiles around the outlets and window sills too.

The chair rail decorative detail took a little bit of patience, especially in the corners. Gary handled these complicated joints. First we tried to miter the joint but the gap was too big. Gary coped the two corners for us! Thanks, dude.

By lunchtime we had put all the tile up so we cleaned up, ate lunch, and got ready for grout. Grouting for me was harder than putting the tile up. I am just not good at it, I guess is the same way I suck and spackeling. The grouting was also very messy so there are no in progress pictures of that. Sorry everyone.

Before grout.


After grout.


We still have to grout at the top around the chair rail. There is a lot of mastic behind those chair rail tiles and it needs a few days to dry.

Now that it’s in I can see why backslashes are so popular, it really makes the room pop. I even think it makes our narrow kitchen seem wider. The white tile wasn’t my first choice (I wanted glass) but it looks really nice with our color scheme. Irene couldn’t be happier with it. A quick note about the grout joint spacing. Irene initially wanted as small of the grout line as possible. Gary thought we should go with a 1/8″ spacing so we could use the stronger sanded grout and give more texture. That’s what we ended up doing and having that line of matte grout between the shinny tiles gives the tiles another dimension and brings out the bevel even more. It looks really classic and clean. We choose the whitest grout we could get without special order, Bright White, but we talked about the possibility of going darker in the future using a dye kit to give it another dimension.

P.S. Our cat likes the backsplash too.

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Base Molding

Ugh! Molding. We are still, very slowly, chipping away at the final touches. Before starting on the base molding we borrowed a miter saw from a coworker. It makes cuts so much easier and more precisely than doing it by hand.
Miter saw

We wanted to try and match base molding that is in the rest of the house the best we can. It is thicker than what is available from the big box stores. We were aided in this by finding some old molding caps in the attic. I cleaned, primed and painted them and then Paul installed them over some 1×4 pine boards. Neither of us realized until we started putting the caps on the baseboards that they were all slightly different!! We looked around the house and discovered the caps are a little slightly different if you look closely, especially the ones between the old and addition. Even in our doorway to the kitchen, one side is different from the other.

After doing the longest wall like this both of us decided it just didn’t look right. The caps were small enough that they just didn’t look right on top of the 3/4″ thick 1x board. We were also having problems marrying the moldings between the rooms since the kitchen sits higher. This is where the internet has failed me. All the pros talk about how you SHOULD make the rooms all the same height. Apparently they live in a perfect world and only do brand new construction homes. Our house would never be the same height unless we added another floor on top of the existing throughout the rest of the house – completely impractical. No one will see much of the molding and as long as you trick the eye, not many people will even notice it.

We decided to rip it out and go buy some stock base molding you can get at a big box store that is similar in profile but a bit taller and thinner. We needed the trim taller to cover up some really sticky black mastic that was used to hold on plastic base trim. It just doesn’t come off without messing up the plaster. As long as it isn’t too much taller, you really won’t notice it unless you really look for it. This seems to be the best solution and easiest to accomplish. In the grand scheme of things, this is really a minor thing.

While Paul was at the store buying the new trim he decided to buy a book to help him with the trimwork. He looked a a few different ones and decided on Sunset’s You Can Build Trimwork. It was the only one to try and cover what to do when things don’t line up, a constant in our old house. Plus it covers some other projects we need to tackle, like shelves. With this book, and a coping saw Paul learned to cope inside corners.
Coped base molding

It took about three days piecemealing the work to get the new base molding in. We think it looks good. Some pictures of our progress.



Caulking behind the fridge.

We solved the problem of making the two different heights meet by returning the shorter one into the taller one, like this.
Trim of different heights meets
We still have to caulk a little bit more to make it seemless and put another coat of paint on the corner. Cutting out the small pieces needed to make this corner was a pain, but it looks really good. We’ll show you the finished product asap so you can see that it really does work. I love the extra detail while also blending it into the old.

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When is done? and 1 year home anniversary..

Happy New Year! We are not quite *done* yet. Haha! We met our date of a kitchen to cook in but not all the finishing touches. Seems like when you get to the end of a renovation, it’s slow going to get everything finished. The moldings have been difficult (we tried to match to the rest of the house, ripped it out and put in something new – we started crown molding and ripped it out, we’re more than halfway done and we have a whole post coming on THAT) and we had to wait for our final pieces from the tile store for our back splash. So much for backsplashing before 2011. We aren’t going out of our way during the week to do renovation work so hopefully this weekend the crown will be done and we’ll have plenty of photos to share by the end of this month to do an official ‘before and after’ post.

I have some kitchen organizing post coming with photos of how it’s all arranged. I think it’s important since not everyone has a huge kitchen.

I have to crunch all the numbers to see how much we spent but the original $8k estimate I don’t think was met. Probably closer to $9k including tools but still not bad.

Would we do this again? Absolutely! We saved tens of thousands of dollars and were able to buy some great products that we wouldn’t have had the money for if we paid someone else to do it. It was frustrating, we did have fights but we figured out what our strengths and weaknesses are as a renovating couple.

Besides all that, our 1 year Home anniversary is coming up on the 15th!! Paul thinks it isn’t until we ‘moved’ in but we plunked down our hard earned dollars and generous wedding gifts to buy this place. The last year has gone so fast and we accomplished a lot as home owners. We rewired 80% of our home (yes, I really helped!), painted all the rooms on the main floor, partially repaired the plaster where it was needed and just about completed a full kitchen gut and renovation.

The next year doesn’t hold as much fun or excitement but I hope we still can get some great projects done. We need to clean out our yard, repaint the house since it was done very poorly, insulate the attic, finish ceiling plaster repairs and although it’s not a lot of money it’s a ton of sweat equity!

I can foresee that this will take the most of our time and I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes so long we don’t get it all done this year. So Happy almost 1 Year anniversary, house! You’ve proven to be a bit of a money pit right now but we couldn’t be happier.

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Final inspection

It was Paul’s every other Friday off so he scheduled the final inspection with the township and picked up our tiles. We passed!!

It wasn’t without incident though. Remember when we called the township about what we needed for permits, inspections, etc? I thought it was weird they only needed to do a final inspection for plumbing, well, turns out we were suppose to have a rough-in inspection, too. I even had Paul call the office a second time because it didn’t sound right. Paul made his case with the inspector, showed him some pictures (thankfully, we took photos of everything) and it wasn’t a problem. Our only real change was a vent, otherwise I don’t know if we would have gotten off so easily. It was short, he only took a look in the basement and made a comment about how fancy our range hood was since it really vented outside (he doesn’t see that too much anymore, apparently). We didn’t get a sticker or anything but we’ll get some paperwork we’ll put with the rest of our house stuff for the future owners of our place.

After that, Paul picked up our tiles at Mohawk. We have a single corner tile that didn’t make it so we’ll have to go back for that sometime. I thought the tile we were buying was made here in the USA but it all is stamped Spain. That was a bit of a bummer for me but it is nice tile.

The beveled tile, chair rail and pencil bullnose

This weekend we’ll be doing some molding work. We picked up a miter saw from my coworker Steve on Thursday night. Thanks, Steve for letting us use your tools! We’ll have to go back to get his tablesaw to rip a piece off another molding to use with the leftovers in the attic.

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A Kitchen with all the trimmings..

Well, almost. We’ve been taking it easy and trying to do work just on the weekends. Paul did spend some time this week figuring out how he was going to create the window jambs. The existing jambs used 3/8″ thick wood. While you can get 3/8″ thick wood at Lowes, they don’t have it in 7-8″ wide that we needed. Why do we need such a wide board? Because we added 3″ of thickness to the walls. Home Depot didn’t have anything other than 1x lumber. Paul called a local lumber yard hoping they would have a better selection. They didn’t. In fact the person on the phone wasn’t very nice or willing to help. So much for local places being better in this case.

Paul spent the rest of the week thinking of other options including getting 3/8″ x 8″ wide planks milled down for us or trying to use his router to do it himself. He wanted to keep the window openings the same width so we could reuse our existing window shades. I reminded him that they were not very expensive and it wouldn’t be a big deal if we had to replace them. So we decided to use some 1x8s for the jambs.

We won’t rehash all the gritty details on how to trim out a window. Paul found it easier to put each piece in one by one. You could also build a three sided box and slide it into place. That wouldn’t work with our old house as most things aren’t plumb or true. One other thing, the jambs don’t need to go right up against the window. Cut your jambs a little short and line them up so they are flush with the drywall. Cover up the gap with the window with some quarter round or shoe, which is like quarter round but one side is longer. The later is what we used because the jambs are so deep. We also didn’t use an apron as you can see. We’ll decide if we want to after we install the tile backsplash.

Paul got the one behind the sink done Friday night and the other one on Saturday. Here are some pictures of the progress.


Pardon the dirty dishes…

Saturday and Sunday I caulked and painted the windows. We used some “bathroom/kitchen” silicone on the outside of the window above the sink and thankfully I did this well because it isn’t paintable (and I used it on the cabinet filler *doh* gotta re-do that). I saw it was drying quite shiny so I looked at the tube. It’s great for the sink, undercabinet and other high water prone areas but we needed something paintable for inside the windows. We had some caulk from our unfinished exterior window caulking adventure which was paintable. I cut the tip to 1/8″ and still used tape. I find when tubes are new, the first 1/3 of the tube doesn’t come out smoothly. After that, I don’t bother taping because it comes out much more predictably. I wouldn’t suggest that for caulking a bathtub. Always tape because it’s super sticky stuff and mostly not water soluble.

After 4 hours of drying, I went back in with trim paint that matches the cabinetry (according to the good people at IkeaFans) in Benjamin Moore Simply White in Aura Semi-gloss. I used my Premium XL Tight Spots 2″ Angle Short Handle Brush. I discovered this line of brushes on younghouselove.com and I’ve been hooked. It’s sythentic and so affordable. Seriously, it was $5! I also am getting much better at cutting in by hand which saves so much time taping. I think everyone should learn to cut in by hand without tape, it’s faster and cheaper.

Ta da! The sticker means we passed electrical inspection, we have one on our electrical box too.

I painted some of the other trim we have in the basement for the base molding and we’ll be re-trimming the pass-through window. Hopefully our tile comes in this week or early next since we want to do our backsplash over Christmas. We also need to source a table saw to rip some trim. We think we found a pretty darn close match to the cap of our base molding but it includes one extra detail that needs to come off.

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We found a buffet!

This is another long overdue post but I found a buffet on Craiglist! I have been stalking Craiglist for a few months now looking for a buffet to go in our kitchen for our coffee/baking station. I found a few I loved but no one ever returned my call or email. Then there were so many that were 6 feet in length so just too long and some were over priced. I got this lovely for $100 a few days before Thanksgiving. She needs a bit of wood putty on 2 of the large drawers but she is mostly in beautiful shape. The owner inherited a set from her mother so it’s atleast 50years old.

I’ll figure out if I want to strip and re-stain after we’ve lived with it for the rest of the winter. Hopefully I can figure out what hardware I want to buy for it too.

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3rd Party FINAL Inspection

PASSED! Woo! Next we schedule the township inspector for final of the plumbing and electrical. That’s our latest update. We’ve been decorating for Christmas and cooking up a storm. We’ll have a better update later tonight but I needed to post this up.

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All the small things

With all the appliances now in, we have a bunch of small things left. Well one big thing, the backsplash. Friday, I put in our order for the beveled subway tile Irene picked out. The company is Cobsa and it’s made here in the USA. Irene originally was going to go with Lanka (less money), which Mohawk Tile in King of Prussia carries, but this was whiter and had more choices for chair rails and bull nose.

Last Wednesday was the night I re-did the undersink plumbing. That was also the night my new LED driver came. I called up Elemental LED to complain and get some answers after receiving two drivers that caused my lights to blink. They explained that they have more quality issues with the “mini” drivers, which is what I bought. They offered to send me a 20W driver, which is a more robust design, for free to make things right. Of course I accepted. So Wednesday night I swapped that out and then left the lights on for an hour. No blinking this time!
LED Lights on and solved

Thursday night I installed our slide out trashcan under the sink.
Installing slide out trashcan
Slide out trash can installed
I guess it was an easy night. It’s inconceivable that that’s all I did, but I can’t recall anything else.

Friday, besides ordering our tile, I scheduled our final electrical inspection with the third party inspector! That will be happening Monday. I took some unused plumbing parts back to Lowes. I cut a piece of wood to go to the left of the dishwasher. That just needs to get primed and painted before I mount it up.

Next up was working on trimming out the windows. I first removed the rest of the trim from the window behind the sink. Then I added some insulation around the window. This should have been done when the windows were installed but I guess the company that was used didn’t care about doing a good job. Sadly I’m sure all the rest of the windows in the house don’t have insulation either. One more project to add to our list.
Window insulation

Don’t mind our two Grow Pals on the window sill. That is kind of a gag gift from our friend Jenny for Hanukkah . See Jenny, we really did put them in water.

Saturday and Sunday no work really got done. Saturday night we attended a friends wedding. Sunday we had brunch with some friends and then I spent the rest of the day catching up on yardwork that I have been neglecting. Irene decorated inside for Christmas, then we threw some lights on the house Sunday night.

We did take one trip to Lowes so I could buy the wood to create the window jambs. Sadly they don’t carry the size I want, a 3/8″ or 1/2″ x 8″ wide select pine. They didn’t have that size in oak or poplar either. I’m going to call a local lumberyard tomorrow (Monday) to see if I can get that size and how bad the price is. My other options are to make the jambs out of plywood (don’t know how it will look when painted) or use 1×8.

So our to-do list looks like this:

  • Paint and install trim to left of dishwasher.
  • Trim out windows.
  • Install base trim.
  • Install crown molding.
  • Paint all that trim.
  • Install the backsplash.
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Plumbing an Ikea Domsjo 36″ Double Sink

Prior to installing our Ikea Domsjo 36″ double sink I searched, on Google and Ikea Fans, for what I would need to buy to plumb up this sink (the drain portion). There really wasn’t much in the way of answers. Apparently a lot of people did not plumb the sink themselves. Although I installed the plumbing last Saturday and Sunday I wasn’t happy with it. There was a lot of wasted space underneath and I knew I could do better. It was just a matter of finding the correct parts.

I should mention that Monday and Tuesday this past week I had to fix some small leaks in the plumbing under the sink. Monday we discovered it was leaking where the plumbing hooks to the strainer. This is because the tailpiece (that’s the official name for this part) with the dishwasher connection on it was supposed to have a gasket with it. It didn’t come with it. For the other tailpiece I guess you are supposed to buy a separate gasket. How stupid is that? The other leak was because I missed gluing two pieces of PVC together. It was the one all the way in the back. Oops!

So this is was take one. Notice how low the horizontal pipe that connects two sink outlets together is.

Drain plumbing take one

Drain plumbing take one

Now before I continue I want to share what I learned about kitchen drain piping. There are two ways to connect the drain piping to the sink strainer; slip joint and direct connection. The strainers that come with the Domsjo are the direct connect type. The slip joint is more popular though. There is the first challenge. To confuse you further the company that Home Depot carries calls the direct connection Hi-Line instead.

The last challenge with this sink is that all of the kits available for double sinks are for center-to-center distances of 11″ or greater. If the outlets in the Domsjo double were in the center of the bowl the center-to-center would be greater than 11″. But the outlets are more towards the middle of the sink and the center-to-center is approximately 10.5″.

So here is what I bought.

Parts needed

Parts needed


Closeup of sink kit

Closeup of sink kit

You will notice the kit package says 16″. We will deal with that in a minute. The part to the left is a branch tailpiece with slip joint and 3/4″ branch. The 3/4″ hose barb is where the dishwasher drain hose connects. Some dishwashers have a 5/8″ hose. Make sure you buy the correct size for your make and model. There is another kit that has the dishwasher connection built in. We can’t use this however, because of where the threads that connect the two parts are. Also make sure you get the direct connect version and not the slip joint one. But yes the branch tailpiece is a slip joint.

Once you take the parts out of the kit and fit them up you will see that it is indeed too long.

Drain kit is too long

Drain kit is too long


The solution is to simply cut it! When you cut it make sure you leave it long enough to fit well inside the slip joint. A hack saw will do. I tend to cut crooked when I use a hack saw so I used a saw I bought especially for PVC pipe and a miter box. Saw blades with course teeth are better than fine tooth ones when cutting plastic.

When you reinstall don’t forget the gaskets.

Don't forget the flange gaskets

Don't forget the flange gaskets


Also don’t forget the slip joint gasket and nut.
Don't forget slip joint gasket and nut

Don't forget slip joint gasket and nut


This is what it should look like when you are done.
Continuous drain kit installed

Continuous drain kit installed

If you don’t have a dishwasher you can hook your trap right to the outlet. To connect the dishwasher we need to add the branch tailpiece.

Branch tailpiece in place

Branch tailpiece in place

I will mention that I cut both the “tee” part of the continuous drain kit and the branch tailpiece. You may also need to cut yours depending on height of your trap. I wanted to make sure that the slip joint connection between the branch tailpiece and trap was above the waterline of the trap. I cut 1/2″ from the tee part and 2″ from the branch tailpiece. The part that is slid over the branch tailpiece is called a trap adapter. All I needed to do to complete the installation was cut and glue in piece of 1.5″ PVC pipe between the trap and adapter.

Putting on purple primer

Putting on purple primer


Putting on PVC glue

Putting on PVC glue


Drain piping installed

Drain piping installed

Isn’t that better? Now we have a lot more room underneath the sink for all those cleaning products and supplies. You could even fit two 8 gallon trash cans under there if you wanted to.

As a side note, we’re probably a minority but we decided NOT to use a garbage disposal. Irene finds them really gross, a pain to keep clean and they can be smelly. There is also a lot of evidence that it is bad for the environment and taxing our water treatment centers (pun not intended but we pay more in the end). Some parts of our country have banned them all together and others are offering a food composting program. We are trying to compost as much as we can, which is difficult and not convenient. I hope with the recent news that our Township/Town wants to be more ‘green’ that a program comes to us soon.

Update:
PS. We’ve been getting a lot of hits lately about the thickness of the countertop. Ikea says it needs 1.5″ or 3.81cm for the Domsjo. This is to clear the doors and prevent the sink from wobbling. Common stone thickness, regardless if it’s engineered or from the earth, is 2cm (mostly out west in earthquake zones) and 3cm for the rest of us. Unless you are ordering a custom slab, you will only find one or the other size in your region. Our quartz is 3cm or 1 1/4″ thick. We had no problems clearing our doors nor do we have a wobbly sink. We also should note we ordered these countertops from Ikea, and the Kitchen Manager said it wasn’t a problem. If you live out west and can only get 2cm you’ll need a plywood backing anyway for support of the stone, And be sure the countertop company knows you require atleast 1 1/4″ for your sink if they are not familiar with the Domsjo. Here is an ikeafans 2009 post on the subject. If you are using plywood backing or ordered a super thin slab, you may need to poney up more money to get what you need, hacking doors is NOT a lot of fun.

PSS – the ikea website SUCKS, stinks, etc. It is hardly updated so while it may say the domsjo isn’t there or not available, always call your local store for availability.

Posted in Appliances, Plumbing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments