I Need 7″ of Wood


I’ll start by saying this was not a measuring error. When I bought two 97-7/8″ countertops from Ikea, I knew I’d be about 7″ shy of the total countertop length I needed. It did not, however, seem worth it to pay $129 for a mere 7″ (cue the ribald comments).

So I’ve no countertop for the cabinet to the left of the stove. And there must be a cabinet to the left of the stove. In the former kitchen configuration, having one side of the stove abutting a doorway was a daily annoyance.

I’m considering two options: White marble with grey veining to pick up on both the sink and the appliances (with the justification that serious bakers use marble on which to roll dough); or stainless steel that picks up on the appliance color, and on which one can set hot pans with impunity.

I suppose I could make the length of butcherblock I need, but I’d never get it to match perfectly – those zig-zaggy end-to-end joints are beyond me. Soapstone would work well  – but I love soapstone and want “my” kitchen to have that surface for all the counters. I’m afraid if I use it here – in what I hope will soon be someone else’s kitchen – I’ll become prematurely disenchanted.

What say ye?

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Does This Mean I’m an Adult?


For the first time in my entire life, all my appliances match. I guess this means I have to start acting like a grown-up…which should probably include cleaning up this unholy mess.

But last weekend, we had Lie-Nielsen in town for a Hand Tool Event at Popular Woodworking (lots of fun…but I’m exhausted), and this weekend, I’ll be in Vaughan, Ontario, at the new Lee Valley Tools store (I’m sure it will be lots of fun…and exhausting).

I have my drawer slides in my cubicle at work, though, and clean dishes. Progress!



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A Rough but Productive Weekend

8 a.m. Friday.

At 7 a.m. Friday, I ran the old dishwasher one last time.

I’ve been working on my kitchen almost non-stop during my waking hours (which feels like most of them in the last 72) since 7:30 a.m. on Friday. My friend and neighbor, Jason, was off from his day job as a chef on Friday, but before he went back into restaurant and catering world, he was employed by a general contractor. So Jason can do just about anything that needs doing – and he can lift heavy stuff (countertops) and – perhaps most important – he’s a genial guy and easy to work with. (And did I mention he can lift heavy stuff?)

That wall has more hills than central Kentucky.

That wall has more hills than central Kentucky.

As I drank my coffee (for which I used the old sink to fill the pot for the last time), I began tearing out the old cabinets around the dishwasher and pulling up the last of the tile and hardboard underlayment – then pulled 200 more staples from the floor. (I still can’t recommend fencing pliers heartily enough!)

Jason showed up while I was unloading the dishwasher (into the living room, as one does). We disconnected the old machine and sink, and moved them aside (OK…I threw the sink in the backyard for now; the dishwasher went to another neighbor). Then out came the hammer drill and there went the cats. Jason cut channels for conduit and GFCI plugs in the plaster-0ver-brick wall; I went shopping.

No, not for yet another pair of black boots; I needed a faucet, because the old one wouldn’t work in the new sink. Fastest sale ever. I walked in to Keidel’s, looked around for three minutes and said, “I’ll take that one in brushed nickel and a new strainer and baffle for my disposal.” (Really, it was defensive shopping – I’d scoped out online what I wanted…and knew I had to run a gauntlet past Aga cookers and Thermadors to get it. So pretty! So exorbitant! So never going to be able to afford! So, not worth salivating over.)

As soon as I returned, I got busy on the cabinet bases. After a fair amount of struggling in vain and an enormous number of expletives, in the end I had to settle for damn-near level instead of level. There’s only so much a girl can do when floors and walls exist not in the usual three but in an apparent five dimensions. (No really – I am wholly convinced there is some electromagnetic force interacting with gravity and pulling things into configurations that were once but theoretically possible. I concede that force may exist only in my kitchen; I should charge extra for it.)



Then we ran into a little bit of trouble. Game over for the day; there would be no new sink on Friday (poor me; I had to go up to the kitchen sink on the third floor – which used to be a separate apartment – to fill the tea kettle).

So then Jason went shopping (for PVC, purple primer and PVC glue – which is not nearly as exciting as shopping for shiny faucets).

Saturday, bless him, Jason actually came back. With his help, I got the butcher block onto sawbenches so I could cut it to size (damn is that thing heavy) then notch out the corners for the sink’s apron. With the counter and sink installed, Jason hooked up the water lines and opened the valves, I grabbed the handle and…Yay!

Note the, er, saw stops. (Good thing I never actually eat the canned goods I buy.)

Note the, er, saw stops. (Good thing I never actually eat the canned goods I buy.)

I’ve never before been so delighted to see running water. Silly, I know, because there remains an immense amount of work to be done (and almost all of it from this point on by me…not least of all because Jason has probably blocked my number), including (but not limited to, I’m sure) the upper cabinets (though all the pieces are cut and stacked up on my bench), face frames, doors, drawers, hinges, drawer slide installation, hardware, the cork floor…

But a stream of water out of a new faucet into a new sink feels like real progress. I actually once again have something that looks and functions vaguely like a kitchen – and already, it looks a damn sight better than the old one.

Today, Jason finished up the electric for the most part (but for a broken fuse; thanks Home Depot – 10 minutes work later this week whenever) with new junction boxes and cutoff switches for the to-be-installed Tuesday dishwasher and the once again working disposal.

As he worked in the basement, I applied the first of many coats of mineral oil on the countertop, which will be eventually be followed by wax…and here come the “you should have used X” comments; please be gentle, I’m exhausted.


Viola-approved (though it’s possible she’s just looking for her peripatetic food bowl).

Oh right – I made a little more progress on this wall, too.

Oh right – I made a little more progress on this wall, too.

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$450 is a Lot of Money*


Perhaps I should have been a plumber (despite the fact that I hate working on plumbing).

My lunch break today, such as it is, involves meeting a plumber who is moving the gas line for my stove from one wall to the opposite wall in the kitchen.

See the back of the stove in the picture above? It’s pulled out about 3′ from its current and soon-to-be-former location. See the plug on the opposite wall, and the piece of tape just above the baseboard denoting the position of the new pipe? That’s where the stove is going. And all pipes, valves, etc. are easily accessible from the basement.

After assessing the work, said plumber has determined it will take around 18′-20′ of flexible piping, 8″ of iron pipe and a shutoff valve.

It will cost between $450 and $500, and take about an hour and a half.

When I bought this place 13 years ago, it had an electric range, and I prefer cooking with gas. So I had to have a line installed (off the existing service for the furnace and water heater). It cost $75. I still have the receipt. Unfortunately, that fellow retired so I was forced to find a new plumber.

I realize it’s been more than a decade…but $450+ seems like a lot of money. Is this local and respectable (according to Angie’s List) business overcharging me? Did the cost of flexible piping skyrocket? Are valves now at a premium?

I know I should send this guy on his way and get a second (and maybe a third) estimate… but I dearly want to be able to finish installing the cabinets on the wall from which the stove is about to move, and need the old gas pipe out of the way to do it. I also want to be able to make a proper pot of Earl Grey when I get (back) home from work this evening. But a $450+ check for the privilege will likely see my crying into my cider instead…which will preclude installing anything.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

* With apologies to Wilbur Pan

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A (now Un)Hole-y Mess

test-fitI’ve been mum here as of late – too much plaster and joint compound crusted on my fingertips to type.

The base cabinets for the sink wall are finished, and after hauling them home two weeks ago (which took three trips in my Subaru), the first thing I did was give them a test-fit of sorts. Yup; ‘em’ll work. (They will, I’m hoping, look much better once the face frames are on.) They’ve been relegated to my dining room ever since.

Instead, I moved on to the cabinet tear-out on what I thought was the less problematic wall – an interior one with no plumbing with which to deal. And I thought the interior wall was drywall, so it would be relatively easy to run a new 12-gauge wire to my electric panel and install a few pigtailed receptacles (after being taught how to do so properly and to code by my kind electrician neighbor, Jason). And yes, it is drywall…of sorts. It’s that old 3/4″-thick stuff with the really hard 1/8″-thick shiny layer on top that crumbles with an alarming spiderweb of cracks in all directions, no matter how sharp one’s razor knife or one’s new drywall knife.


I mean really. Who leaves holes like that?!

Also, the last person to install cabinets (in the late 80s, I think?) left some large holes that mice seem to have found handy; to avoid contracting hantavirus, I had to wear a proper respirator whilst cleaning up decades-old droppings. (There were, as far as I could tell, no fresh droppings. Good kitties.)

So most of my recent kitchen rehab time has been a mix between trying not to electrocute myself and trying to patch old walls perfectly with thinner, modern materials. I had to screw braces across the interior of the holes to give the new drywall and shims something to which to attach (rather than cutting back to the studs), so I cleaned out my scrap bin of a lovely assortment of cherry, walnut and white oak offcuts. Whomever gets inside that wall in the future will be wondering what the hell was wrong with the last person…just as am I.

With the exception of a skim coat, the holes are patched. There are three new electric receptacles installed, and new plugs in the old ones (grounded outlets seemed like a good idea).

Bplasterrepairut things are now dire because I can no longer make a cuppa; I’ve turned off the gas to the stove and moved the range out of the way so I can install the subfloor on that half of the room. Tomorrow, I pick up my cork from the store, then finish the base cabinets for the run on that side. While the cork acclimates (two days at least, I’m told…but I fear mine will acclimate for far longer), I’ll get those base cabinets installed. (My countertops are acclimating right now in my hall…even though they needn’t.)

Then comes the scary part: the sink wall. It’s an exterior wall, with plaster over lathe on brick. I’ll be hiring my neighbor to help with the electric on that side, and a plumber to deal with the sink and dishwasher. I can only take this DIY-thing so far and keep what’s left of my sanity. With help, hope and a checkbook, the goal is to have the old out and the new in on that wall within a day (it’s also where the stove will end up…must not forget to tell the plumber to run the new gas line).

I can’t wait to get to the part where this is fun. That’s coming, right? No? Oh dear…I need a cuppa.

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A Little Sole Searching

parer3weeksOne benefit of being overworked is that I’ve had to live with my kitchen floor in its current state of less-than-grace. I simply haven’t had time to do much of anything in my kitchen over the last few weeks other than make coffee.

I was, of course, wearing proper(ish) footwear when I tore out the tile and underlayment, and taped butcher paper atop the pine underneath. But walking around in my soft-soled slippers has revealed to me a surprising number of staples that my eyes missed – sometimes by stepping on them (good thing they’re not too pointy), sometimes by stepping alongside them close enough to poke them through the paper.

stapleSo, I keep the fencing pliers handy, and have found myself pulling a staple or two at least every couple of days. You’d think I’d have found them all by now…but I doubt it. I don’t make a habit of sidling around the walls; I should do that to reveal the outliers. (At night, with the lights off, so my neighbor doesn’t think I’ve gone all “Yellow Wallpaper” on him.)

My soft soles have also, I’m sad to report, revealed what my eyes tried to deny: The gaps between some of the boards are just too large to live with, and there are a couple of soft spots in the wood. It would, I’ve concluded, be a fool’s errand to attempt to sand and refinish the floor, and expect potential buyers (or me) to be pleased with the results.

I’ve decided on cork. It’s hip and eco-friendly, and should appeal to the late 20-somethings and early 30-somethings who are the typical Northside homebuyer. Oh – and I like it, too (though I’m a bit overwhelmed with the choices).

I’ve been reading (a lot) about the product and talking with experts. After much deliberation, I’ve decided on the glue-down rather than the floating variety. There are – of course – competing theories as to which is appropriate in a kitchen. But what everyone seems to agree on is that the cork should not run under the cabinets. Bonus! Less of it to buy. And no grouting.

So the next step (after pulling the base cabinets and removing the remaining underlayment) is to nail down new 1/4″ ply, then install the new base cabinets. I guess I’d best finish those, post haste.

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Worst $20 Tool Purchase Ever? (And Actually, it was $40)

jigBefore moving forward on the cabinet build, I had the onerous task of drilling all the shelf pin holes in the 42″ upper cabinets (nine of them). So I went to the two area woodworking stores and bought a shelf-pin-drilling jig from each at $20 a pop. I was planning to do a tool test of sorts.

The results? Not good. Neither of the two were properly aligned top to bottom, so when I flipped the jig(s) to register against the other side of my workpiece, the holes didn’t line up across. They were, according to the packaging, supposed to – but on one jig they were off by about 1/16″ and on the other by 1/8″.

So I did what I should have done in the first place: headed to the drill press after laying out all my hole locations on a piece of 1/4″ ply, and made a proper jig.

It took me about 30 minutes (which includes finding then digging out the drill press fence  from under a pile of crap), and it made the rest of the process go faster. I made the thing full-size, so I had to align it only once on each workpiece, clamp it in place, then climb aboard and drill (I kneeled atop the work as I drilled to help keep my jig tight to the work).

And while the jig didn’t make long to make, it took me almost three hours to drill the holes (If my math is correct, there were 720). Damn was that boring work.

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