Thursday, November 30, 2006

Kitchen Counters Meet Tile Saw

The secret to successful tiling involves planning ahead and filching a dental pick from the hygienist during one's annual teeth cleaning (or ok, just asking worked for me - they had a stash of broken ones). Invariably, thinset will be squeezed up in between the tiles, and anything which would be above the grout line needs to be removed. The dental pick is essential for picking and scraping out that extra gunk.

Materials: Tile, latex modified thinset, blue tape (needed to hold on that edge while it dries), earplugs, safety glasses, 1/16" spacers

Tools: Level, MK Diamond 770 EXP tile saw, 1/4" notched trowel, a bucket, 80 grit rubbing stone, dental pick, those tile crayons.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Seal early, seal often

At Ballardia Classic, we learned the hard way that light-colored granite is porous, and therefore easy to stain with oil, coffee, lemons....things that you are rather likely to spill on the kitchen countertop. Fortunately MasterWholesale in Seattle has a great selection of poultice products to "draw out" stains from granite.

You would think I would have learned my lesson and purchased nicely dense DARK granite this time, but no, I prefer the look of light colored granite. So I'm sealing 3 times - before installation, after installation and before grouting, and after grouting.
So far I've been happy with the basic TILELab sealer from Home Depot.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Prepping the Kitchen Counters for Tile

I need to tile and grout minimally the area around the kitchen sink before we can call the plumber in to install the new sink, dishwasher, and disposal, and until we do this, we have no kitchen plumbing.

I bought ¼” HardieBacker Cement Board from Lowes, in a convenient 4x6’ size which Just Barely fit in the back of my Volvo. The HardieBacker site has explicit installation videos, which I found quite educational. The score-and-snap method worked fine to cut most of the drywall sheets down to size, but I had to cut the sink cutout using a carbide tipped blade in my Jigsaw, and filed it down in a few places with a rasp. Once it was sized to fit, I set the cement board in latex modified thinset on the plywood top my carpenter built, and since the counter was going to be covered by tile, I wouldn’t care about nail pops, so I just used 3/4" roofing nails to secure it. Super easy. I secured the seams with mesh tape and more thinset.

And then…..time for my Trusty Tile saw. I bought a saw while remodeling Ballardia Classic, faced with the realization that tiling work was Expensive, but was one of those lovely remodeling tasks that simply required Patience. I can do Patience….sort of.

But Tile Saw rental proved to be a problem. They rent big burly tile saws at Home Depot, which I can’t lift. So I’d have to wait for Martin to get the saw out of my car whenever I wanted to rent it, and then I’d need a rapid completion schedule for its return. It was pretty easy to justify my own saw. I bought the MK Diamond 770. It has great reviews, and I can lift it (well, barely). It was quite pricey, but I figured I could sell it on Craigslist when done, so it might work out around the same as the lesser saws.

Tile For Less had Santa Cecilia granite tile, which looks much nicer than this picture, and conveniently blends right in with the two things we are most likely to spill on the countertop - red wine and coffee. Since I purchased the tile fromTile For Less, they charged me $7.99/sq ft to polish the edge of the tile so the countertop edge looks finished. They can also do a beveled finish, which costs more, so luckily I didn’t like it.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Kitchen Project Begins

We roped our favorite carpenter into giving us a dryer vent. Merry Christmas to us! And since he was over, we had him replace the existing kitchen countertop with a plywood top which I could tile. Now we have no kitchen plumbing, and the pressure’s on. Or off, depending on the intent of that phrase.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I’m thankful for a dishwasher, disposal, and dryer vent….
At least, I would be if I had them.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Fixture Shopping

I hate shopping. If I paid no attention to price tags, shopping might be easier, other than finding footwear for my size 10 feet.

One year, Martin & I went to Florence, Italy, and for some reason the lines at all of the tourist attractions were Discouragingly Long, so we wound up shopping. Martin Loves Shoes, so Florence, with a Shoe merchant on every corner selling lovely handmade Italian shoes, combined with a Comfortably Low Euro meant a Fine Vacation for Martin. In every shop he'd find something he liked and ask for a size 44, they'd hand it over, and a Shoe Purchase would ensue. In every shop I'd find something I liked and ask for a size 41, and they'd laugh and suggest I try Men's.

At one point, I did try a clothing retailer, and found a pair of pants to buy. Curiously, the hemline was 5" too long for me. So I'd really like to know where this 6'2" Italian chick is buying her shoes!

But back to Remodeling Shopping. House Remodeling Shopping is sometimes just as challenging as shopping for my footwear, with house parts having to be appropriate for a 1930's house, actually fit in odd-size rooms, and, well, be Free. Or as close to it as possible.

The bathroom fixture shopping is easy (though not Free). I’m going to repeat Ballardia Classic’s 2nd bathroom, which I think turned out quite well, with a Kohler Memoirs toilet & sink. Generally mail order from companies like and have worked out well for me.

I'm also repeating the same Hansgrohe faucet I used in Ballardia Classic, from the Home Depot website.

Kitchen sink & faucet shopping is more work. There are not many options for the kitchen sink; I need a 33” inch white one, so I’m going for Cheap, from the Home Depot website. I miss my Franke fireclay farmhouse-style sink from Ballardia Classic, but it won’t work with the sink cabinet here.

I found a great faucet with a pull-out sprayer at, which is always worth a check for home improvement goodies.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Houston, we have a problem

At first glance, it seemed like the dishwasher installation would be relatively easy. We’d already located a super convenient 24” cabinet to the left of the sink and removed it, leaving a perfectly sized slot to slide in the dishwasher, then it would simply need to have us (and by ‘us’ I mean Martin) drill a couple of hoses and connect the dishwasher to the sink. When we were upgrading the Original Classic Fuse Box, we had the electrician give us an under-sink outlet for both the dishwasher and disposal, and a disposal switch, so we were set there.

I should perhaps explain that unless we hire a professional, Martin is In Charge of Plumbing. I don’t do Plumbing. It’s messy and smells bad. Yuk.

But I digress. What we discovered was that there was no handy location to simply plug the dishwasher hose in, as there had been in all prior dishwasher ventures (Martin’s an expert, this would be his 4th). This one requires delicate plumbing surgery. We have two options:

1) Martin could do it, and he would be very grumpy, or
2) We could call in the Real Plumber and have him do it

Option #2 is clearly the winner. But the scope creep is inevitable. If we’re replacing the sink plumbing, we should Obviously get a new sink and faucet. And why get a new sink and put it on the old, outdated countertop? We should Obviously replace the countertop. After all, I'd just gone from this kitchen (yay!):

To this one (Boo!):

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Appliance Shopping

We got the cheapest possible stainless Bosch dishwasher – must be a Bosch now; I’m a convert because of the noise. Martin would like to run the dishwasher when it’s ready, regardless of the hour. I’d like peace and quiet when I sleep. The solution? The Bosch dishwasher. Previously we had a GE dishwasher, and while we liked its better glass and stemware rack, it made loud growling noises all through the wash cycle. For Domestic Harmony, Bosch is the way to go.
We also purchased a Very Large GE fridge which only fits in the kitchen if placed directly in front of the back door, blocking access to the yard. As the back steps are completely rotted, really this is a Safety Feature.

The Plan is to wall in the back door, swap the existing back kitchen window for a set of French doors, and build an Enormous Deck.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Primitive Conditions

We are not the sort of people who can live without a dishwasher or disposal. Our sink strainer is perpetually filled with decaying Raisin Bran and our countertop is buried under the piles of every dish we own – dirty of course. Fortunately a 10% off Lowe’s coupon has arrived in the mail, and guess what we are buying.

And did I mention the dryer situation? Back in August, when we realized that we would be buying a dryer-free house, Martin upgraded the washer/dryer in his rental condo, as the tenants were complaining about it. He then retrieved the old dryer for our use in the new place, and started calling himself the Reverse Slumlord, since we’re taking the appliances snubbed by our tenants. Unfortunately, there’s a REASON the tenants wanted an upgrade. The dryer takes about 2 hrs to dry a big load, and for the last 30 minutes, it makes a loud beeping noise and HAS NO VOLUME CONTROL…

We also have no exterior vent, so every time we want to run the dryer, we have to open the window and shove the aluminum duct outside.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Nothing says "Grandma's House" like her paint colors

White walls, white ceiling, white trim....argh!

At a minimum, I've got to paint the living/dining room and FAST, before I go crazy. This of course does not bother Martin in the least, as he does not like color. At most, I know I'll be able to have one beige-ish color and an accent color. Strangely, this makes the decision process much easier.

I'd like a dark accent color, but due to the lack of lighting in Ballardia, the house won't support it.

I have my fan deck ($10 from Sherwin Williams), and the Sherwin Williams site also has this lovely Color Visualizer online, which I've never actually used, but I like knowing that it's there. After looking at the colors that I'm not changing in the house, I've chosen Heather (SW0086) as my shade of beige, and Mocha (SW6067), both in Eg-Shel, and Downy (SW7002) as a complimentary white for the ceiling.

Why Sherwin Williams? As I'm doing the painting myself, and planning on living in the finished product, I love their zero VOC Harmony Interior Latex paint. Check out the dangers of VOCs on the EPA web site.

I have a few painting tips -
1) a really good 2" angle sash brush is an absolute must. I like the Sher-Tip brushes, and have had mine for years (and at least 5 full interior paint jobs).
2) tape to carpeting with masking tape, wood floors with blue tape
3) Home Depot carries rolls of 3' wide heavy paper in the painting section. This is the best stuff to protect floors as you paint the walls - fix a line of tape on the floor, then tape the paper to the tape on the floor.
4) If you are planning on stopping the painting activity for hours, days, or months (guilty!), wrap the roller in plastic shopping bags and stick in the fridge. This prevents the paint from drying on the roller, so it can be just taken out of the fridge when ready to resume painting.