New Shoes in the Rain

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Well, well, well....the Smith manse is looking a bit spiffier these days, with the addition of new countertops in our galley kitchen!

The genesis of this started, oh, years ago, from our obsessive viewing of HGTV (and it's not just my wife, as I like many of the design and real estate programs) and the desire to update our kitchen.  You see, we attempted to sell and relocate a couple of years ago (a story I'll tell at length at some point in the future), and while our kitchen contained a new-ish fridge, range and microwave, the countertops, primary lighting and wallpaper were original equipment from our home's construction in 1987.  And at the suggestion of our realtors, we did nothing to it except clean thoroughly, as our realtors felt that most homebuyers could look beyond any dated decor and foresee placing their own stamp on the space.

So we were unsuccessful in selling.  Then, in the early part of 2009 we decided to strip dated wallpaper from our downstairs bathrooms and our kitchen.  Thankfully, our son and his wife had bought a wallpaper steamer when they purchased their current home, so I could use their device and take my time.  Over the course of about six weeks I completed all of the stripping and repainting, finishing with the kitchen.  My wife and I both liked the outcome but kept thinking that the counters were really dulling the effect of our efforts.  So we looked and thought and looked and thought and did.....nothing.

Not because we didn't want to, but because we couldn't really justify granite countertops, even in such a small space.  But somewhere along the line we were at a home improvement store on one of our wandering Saturdays (my wife calls them "Rick days") and happened into the kitchen cabinet section and found a decent selection of countertop pieces with the laminate surfaces already affixed.  And to our surprise, many of them had the look of stone, but at a fraction of the price.  We agreed that this would be a worthwhile undertaking to inexpensively facelift our kitchen a bit further, but time passed and we occasionally saw these prefabricated countertops again and picked up a few surface samples to look at in our kitchen.

Gradually we settled on the color choice for WHENEVER we decided to go forward.  And more time passed....

But a couple of weekends ago we accompanied our son, his wife and our adorable granddaughter to IKEA, north of Cincinnati.  If you're not familiar with IKEA, look them up online.  It's a veritable Mecca of home furnishings and fixtures, and they have many, MANY kitchen models set up to show how easily you, too, can remodel.  The kids obviously plan to redo their kitchen, but that probably accelerated our interest, and, before you know it, the following Tuesday I was removing the backsplashes from our counters (they were separate from the countertops).  My wife questioned my motives and, indeed, my sanity, as our daughter and her family will be visiting for a spell later this month.  I explained that I had to sand and paint the walls behind these backsplashes and that I would see to it that it looked presentable.

In truth, that sanding and painting job was a little easier than I anticipated, so my next step was to see if our son, who had worked in residential and commercial construction during and immediately after college, would be available to assist (which is pronounced "do it for me") that weekend...LAST weekend, to be precise.  He was, so now we were heading down that road and gaining speed!

Friday night I cleared the space beneath the sink and removed it and the garbage disposal (we had decided to keep all of that).  Then I called our preferred home improvement store to ascertain which location had the goods we needed, and on Saturday morning our son and I set sail to buy it all.  But first we had to unload the truckload (I'm not kidding) of tools and aids necessary to this job.  And our son bought a table saw for the occasion, and assured me he would be using that device for lots more than our little kitchen job.

Removing the old countertops was really not difficult.  What was difficult, though, was dealing with the walls in our kitchen.  The house was constructed by an independent homebuilder with, shall we say, liberal definitions of quality control.  So my running joke is there isn't a square angle in the entire house, and the walls of the kitchen were no exception.  And the countertops we bought had the backsplash already built into them (four inch height), so there was no allowance for a slight curving of the backsplash to hide imperfections in the plumbness of the wall.

So, to make a long story short, after about eight hours of effort on Saturday and another five or six on Sunday, our kitchen renovation was complete.  We were absolutely stunned by the results, and since I had removed the plumbing, I insisted on replacing it myself (after all, I had to so something on this job, right?).  All went well, except....

....a guyser when we went to use the dishwasher.  A vent piece that sits atop the sink (most everyone has something similar) had fallen out of the cover and thankfully we were standing by when Old Faithful appeared, so that we could shut everything off.

....the seal around the garbage disposal decided that now would be a good time to fail, so a couple of abortive efforts and finally the purchase of some plumber's putty did the trick.

Am I happy?  Absolutely!  Did the job come in under budget?  We really didn't set a budget, but the whole job was completed for just over $300, which ain't bad, regardless of how you count the money!  And is my wife happy?  Oh, yeah!


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