February 23, 2010

Kitchen Before & After: Part 4

Tile Backsplash Installation

After drooling over Heath Ceramics tiles for several months, we decided that their colors, although beautiful, were just too earthy for the look we were going for. We decided on a gray and white glass subway tile with a random-looking horizontal pattern. You can see my review of the tile on www.glasstilestore.com.

Picking the tile was easy compared to the royal pain in the ass that installing it was. After viewing a few DIY Network videos on installing tile backsplashes and double checking that our math was mostly correct, we enlisted the help of friends & family (particularly my dad - who, poor guy, had no idea what he was getting himself into). We figured 2 & 1/2 days was more than enough time to complete the project (considering they said in the video that it would take a couple of hours). We underestimated a bit. Here's how it actually went down:

Day 1: Removed the infamous 2/3rds switchplates and outlets. Cut & installed backerboard.

Day 2: Placed 1-foot tile blocks in piles on the counter and figured out where they were going to go. Rented tile cutter.

Day 3: Took tile cutter back after realizing it was too weak for our beefy glass tiles. Rented new, more expensive tile cutter. Started cutting tile. Cut tile all day (thanks Papa!). Mixed thinset. Realized thinset mixed a little too thin. Re-read directions. Poured out thinset. Remixed to correct specifications. Started placing thinset, then tile on backerboard. Realized this is a 4 - 6 hands type of job. Enlisted more friends & neighbors.

Day 4: Finished placing tiles in 1-foot blocks along backerboard.
Note: glass tiles are heavy and like to slide down once you place them on a vertical surface. 2nd person needed to hold tiles in place while thinset dries.

Day 5: Grouted, grouted, grouted. Realized that fingers worked better to apply grout than any tools we had purchased. Sponged off excess, sponged off excess and then sponged it off some more. Applied band-aids to blistered and bleeding fingers.

Day 6: Cracked open a beer and enjoyed the beautiful new tile backsplash! I expect Dwell Magazine to be knocking on our door begging for a photo shoot any day now.

February 19, 2010

Kitching Before & After: Part 3

Kitchen Mini-Renovation

Although it was exciting to have a blank slate, it was a tough decision to choose the material of the new counter. We wanted the look and feel to reflect the informality of a cottage kitchen, but match the Victorian vibe of the house overall. I also wanted the counter to be made from a slab that was one whole piece to create a solid feel.

Granite? Too trendy. Also, too cold. Butcherblock? Too much potential for mold/funkiness. Tile? Maybe.. but it was so satisfying to rip out the old tile, it didn't feel like a good permanent solution. Concrete was also in the running, but of course the artisanal, locally-produced concrete we wanted runs upwards of $4,000 for our modest kitchen.

The solution turned out to be PaperStone, a composite of recycled paper and nut resins. It's eco-friendly, warm to the touch, and comes in giant 5x12 sheets that are cut to fit with minimal seams. Plus, the installer can create custom beveled edges and grooves. The friendly folks at the Alternative Building Center in Eureka hooked us up.

A new range, sink, and faucet were also part of the renovation. A lucky trip through the Sears appliance section yielded a stainless steel Bosch gas range that someone had returned. The $1,100 range was ours for $450. Score! Thanks to Overstock.com, a new stainless steel sink and sweet Grohe faucet were also in the works.

With the fugly tile, backerboard, and mysterious 2/3 switchplates removed, we were ready for our countertop guy to get cracking on the Paperstone.

February 17, 2010

Kitchen Before & After: Part 2

Why is it always so much easier to take something apart than put it back together? Borrowed some crow bars and hammers from the neighbors and started chipping away. This only took a couple of hours. The tile practically fell away from the backerboard (it must have known how ugly it was).

If you look closely, you can see the black mold to the upper left of the state-of-the-art Tappan dishwasher.

February 11, 2010

Kitchen Before & After: Part 1

When we moved in the kitchen was a charming yellow, which over time became a sordid, dingy yellow. Whoever installed the tile countertops did a pretty half-assed job. There were gaps where food and water could get in, leaving areas of frightening slime mold that I tried not to look directly in the eye. The tile itself had a "granite effect" in which the manufacturer stamped faux granite-like ribbons which mismatched to create a dizzying optical illusion.

Interestingly, the tile installer before us had brought up a partial backsplash which cut into the region where the electrical switchplates should be. Instead of cutting the tile to go around the electrical outlets, he cut the bottom third off the switchplates. I'm not sure how this passed inspection - I guess there was nothing really wrong with this. You be the judge.