In which the contractors came and went: Step 2 of the kitchen process

white kitchen with green gingham wallpaper, crappy countertops, and lots of green gigham accents

Where we started.  We did paint over the wallpaper many years ago.

The contractors came.

kitchen getting ready for countertop removal with tools

DH put the blue tape over the sink to remind himself that the water is off!

They took off the old ugly countertop.

The sink area sans countertops. Back of a gentleman working on a countertop removal.

One of our big hopes was that they’d be able to keep our fancy glass cabinet/tea nook (formerly microwave nook). They were.

drawers with counterop removed, showing green gingham shelf liner. Impressively the board for the tea nook remains unscathed.
Then the started putting the countertop on.  This was one piece with no seam.

Here you can see the other part of the countertop came in two pieces.  They matched up the seam really well and you honestly cannot tell here.

Here’s it all together with the sink put in.

There’s another seam in the middle of the stovetop, but you can only tell if you specifically know to look for it.  After the countertop, they moved onto the stovetop, though they did not actually connect it.

The next day the plumber (eventually) came back and hooked up the stovetop for us.  (Note in this picture and the next two that there is a drawer that no longer closes.)

He also put the faucets and garbage disposal in.  (I vetoed a soap dispenser because I hate not being able to see if something is empty and I also hate cleaning soap dispensers, so they didn’t drill a hole for it.)

  Here’s how it looks now.

We’re not done yet.  We need to shorten or replace that drawer so it closes.  We need to replace the gingham knobs and get new shelf liner.  If it were just me, I’d go with brushed metal knobs and plain white shelf liner, but DH wants to be more interesting in our middle age and so we’ve ordered 14 sample knobs of various dark blue on ceramic from home depot ($51, but I assume we’ll be able to return the ones we don’t use) and a bunch of one dollar shelf liner paper samples from Houzz.  There’s also some gold accents we’d like to replace with brushed metal.  And that little water tap is dangerously powerful– if we had a party, someone innocently eating cheese and crackers would get drenched when someone else tried to get some tap water.   I haven’t done a full accounting of how much all of this has cost, but for posterity’s sake, I need to note here that the plumber did $400 of additional work (on top of the turn-off/hook-up fees), adding and replacing valves before the countertop people came in.

So this is not the last post– a future post will have a final picture with better lighting and no green gingham in sight.

What do you think, grumpy nation?

RBOC

  • The price of cheetos in the vending machine went up.  My colleague counted over 60 individual cheetos in her bag (the claim on the bag was 42) and has decided she thinks they are worth three cents per cheeto.
  • Home Depot wanted us to get our water turned off on Friday so as to get the countertop installed the NEXT Friday, 7 days later.  Because they only do plumbing stuff on Fridays.  So we asked if we could get a refund on the plumbing install and pay our own plumber instead because I do not want to live without a dishwasher for seven days if that can be avoided.  Especially on less than a day’s notice when there’s a salmon dish in the refrigerator I have no interest in cleaning by hand in either the laundry room or the bathroom.
  • Turns out that the Home Depot person who said plumbing was only done on Fridays was incorrect.  We’re getting the water shut off on Thursday and turned back on on Saturday [update:  turned out to be very late on Saturday but they didn’t tell us they weren’t going to make the 9am to 2pm window so we were stuck at home all day, but by 8:30pm the plumber had finished].  Whew.
  • I don’t understand why it takes the car dealership so long to actually cash the check we give them.  You’d think they’d want to lock that $20K+ down ASAP.
  • I have to share this with somebody.  I was at the gas station making sure that my Accent’s tank could fill after the replacement EV and I was next to a young guy in a business suit with a new Insight, so I asked him how he liked it, and he told me that the dealership had given him a deal in which he pays his financing bills for 9 months on the LX model (that’s the low trim) Insight and in 9 months if all his payments were on time, etc., they would trade him for a new Touring model (that’s the leather trim with all the little things my car is missing like a built-in garage door opener and a place to put your glasses) for no additional cost.  He was super excited about this and I did not want to dampen his enthusiasm, but I had to wonder how much they’re charging him both for the cost of the car and financing that such a deal makes it worthwhile for them to give a new car in exchange for a used car (though I suspect it will be a 2019 Touring model, not a 2020, so maybe that will be part of it).  They did not suggest any such shenanigans to us.  I think they are very good at this dealership in reading the customer.  We want a quick sale at low price (usually a price that we provide them after bargaining with other dealerships) and that’s what they give us.  This gentleman wanted to feel like he was getting a steal, so they offered him something unusual.  I bet in the end they make more off of him.  But we don’t take much time and we get one of their cars off the lot and driving around town for more people to see it.  (I have to say, the Insight is a really nice looking car– similar to some of the higher trim Accords in terms of exterior features.)
  • … another problem with buying a fancy car is that repairs are a LOT more expensive than for a generic low-level car that isn’t a new model.  I am too embarrassed about how I know this to say more.  Especially not about right-side mirrors with cameras on them and garages that are just a little too narrow.  (DH says that at least my stupidity costs less than unnecessary rabies shots and is a lot less stressful.  I say that I don’t have the excuse that I was being heroic.  Also he didn’t use the word stupidity because he’s a nice person.)
  • Turns out water pressure is a bit high on our new drinking water spigot.  One can create a shower for someone in the breakfast nook by attempting to fill up a water glass.
  • Also the gas hookup is taking up a little bit too much space so we can no longer close one of our drawers– we will have to get that drawer shortened or a new one made.
  • I am starting to get hooked on SiriusXM — the ability to listen to classical music during my commute is pretty amazing (our local station does NPR in the morning and doesn’t switch over to classical until 10am and is back to news by 4).  But… probably not $15/month amazing, especially when I could pay a kid to rip all of our classical cds onto a flash drive or load up some podcasts now that I have a USB drive instead of a cassette player…  So I will let it lapse when the free trial runs out.

Getting rid of the ice maker and replacing it with a new cabinet: Step 1 (after initial payment) of the kitchen process

It’s been a long time since we decided to pull the trigger on updating our kitchen.  Much and not much at all has happened since then.  Much in terms of spending money and having lengthy email conversations with a home depot “designer”, but not much in terms of oh, anything actually getting done.

So, step 1 was to get an initial measurement, pick out a countertop, and lock in a price, which we did.  We chose from among many marblish looking quartz options, going with white arabesque, bullnose, 4cm, in the end.  That was the end of January/beginning of February.

Then we were told to purchase all of our appliances.  We did that too.  We got a metal sink with a fancy faucet and a new garbage disposal.  We went with a gas stovetop.  They’ve been sitting in our dining room in slightly open boxes since mid-February.

Then we had several months of back and forth with a really annoying emails with a home designer who would not listen to us and didn’t believe what the initial templaters had told us that we would be able to keep our fancy glass cabinet or that we wanted to replace the ice maker with shelves and not drawers.  He was either trying to upsell us or he was just incapable of communication (a white dude with an American accent, in case you’re wondering).  But we needed to get rid of the ice maker and replace it with a cabinet before we could set up measurement (templating) for the countertop and appliances to be put in.  (Why don’t we want an ice maker?  Mainly because it takes more electricity than the rest of our appliances combined.  But also because we’re not huge on entertaining like the former owners of our house were.)

See the ancient electricity sucking ice-maker?

Once we realized that Home Depot couldn’t handle custom cabinets, we called the place that originally put in our cabinets back in the 1990s (the previous owners kept good notes), but they of course no longer carried that model.  But they recommended a local custom guy who could copy the design and get us a cabinet any size we wanted.  This process took several weeks of back and forth communication as the cabinet store had to check on things and was only open 10-4 on weekdays.  Once we got the contact info of the cabinet guy, it moved much faster.  Though first DH pulled out the ice maker and realized we’d need to plug off the water tube to it and he didn’t want to do it himself.  The plumber came over right away and charged their regular fee plus a few dollars for parts and (this is important) TOOK AWAY THE ICE MAKER (yay!!!!!!!!!!).

 

Look! Shelves are possible!

The custom cabinet guy came and put in the new cabinet and moved around the door on the cabinet that hides the garbage pully-out thing that we never use because I think cabinets full of garbage get disgusting too easily and are hard to clean.  And I came home and saw this and freaked out.

That blue piece of painters tape is DH figuring out measurements to see if it's possible to replace the garbage can cabinet with a standard-size cabinet-- it wasn't.

This is the uncanny valley of cabinets. Just looking at it makes me feel creepy (and no, it isn’t the lack of paint).

See, all the other double cabinets in the kitchen (and there are several of them) face each other like these are facing each other, but they are the Same Size.  I had a small meltdown texting one of my friends while I waited for DH to come home.  Turns out DH and I had a miscommunication– he had asked me if I wanted this cabinet to be a standard size or if I wanted it to match the size of the smaller cabinet and I had not realized that was what he was asking.  After a lengthy problem-solving session (in which we strongly considered paying the cabinet guy to come out again to redo the entire thing) I realized that we could make this problem go away if it was more different.  Because the problem with the uncanny valley is when things are just a little off.  If they’re a lot off then you can mentally tell yourself it’s meant to be that way.

That turned out to be an easy fix.  We put the other cabinet back the way it was before and filled in the new hole and painted over it.

This doesn’t bother me at all! The doors are different sizes, they’re not facing each other like all the other doors, and they have different sized spaces around the edges. No more uncanny valley!

Whew!

Then we contacted the home designer to set up templating, and it wasn’t completely clear but it seemed like he’d agreed.  The last straw with was him getting DH’s (common) first name slightly wrong, getting it confused with a similar name.  “He doesn’t have any attention to detail!  And it has been MONTHS!” I complained to DH.  That and we’d asked him to set up templating on Friday and it was Wednesday and we hadn’t heard a peep from him (possibly he set-up templating for someone with a similar but different first name?).  So we asked his supervisor if we could switch.  And we got switched right away and the new designer looked through our stuff and said it looked like we just needed to set up templating.  And we updated her on our custom cabinet and asked about the glass cabinet and she agreed with us that the countertop templaters would let us know if we needed to replace it.  So then she set up templating and after she did that she contacted us to let us know when the guy would be coming (he came and the actual replacement should happen 3-4 weeks after we finished paying– which we’ve been having trouble doing since we have to talk to a specific person at our local Home Depot to pay and her schedule doesn’t match ours… he said we could keep the glass cabinet no problem, just as the pre-prder measurement people had told us, but if there was a problem we could replace it after the countertops were put in).

Our next step with the cabinets will be to get new knobs (either expensive indigo painted ceramic to play with the line around the backsplash or less expensive burnished metal to look classy), but first we’re going to get the countertops so we can buy some sample knobs and how things look.  (DH is leaning towards the indigo because it’s more exciting and I am leaning towards the metal because we are not exciting people.)  I think I will also replace the green gingham shelf liner with something in a matching indigo even if we end up with silver knobs, but I haven’t seen one that I love yet (plenty of great contact paper designs, but I want liners that don’t have a sticky back).  We’ve got time.

How much did the custom cabinet cost?  $275 for the cabinet.  $4 for replacing the round on the bottom and the nails to put it in.  The paint was leftover from when we had our kitchen painted three years ago so I’m not counting it.  Getting rid of the ice maker and fixing up the plumbing was $88.25 ($85 fee for coming out and $3 for a cap– they took the ice maker for free).  So… something under $375 for the entire process.  And worth it!  I am so glad that ice maker is gone even if we never put anything in the cabinet.

What do you think?  Am I the only person that second to last picture bothers?

Help me with countertops! (Please?)

Grumpy Nation!  I need your help!

So… we want to have countertops made out of quartz (or granite) that look like marble.

There are… options.

Which one?

Home Depot has two companies that make quartz.  One is Silestone and the other is Viatera.  Here’s the pictures we took at Home Depot and then the one on the right is the two Viatera samples we picked up (they didn’t have any other samples — that third picture shows minuet, a quarter, then rococo, and they’re on top of our current terrible countertop).

The main difference between the different kinds of marble-ish quartz seems to be density and darkness of the grey lines.  Rococo is busier than Minuet.  White Arabesque is busier than Snow Ibiza and so on.

Also there’s two different types of marble that the quartz is trying to imitate.  Calacatta marble is the one with the fat long marbling– it reminds me of bathrooms more than kitchens, and the quartz example counter at Home Depot looked like formica to me (though oddly, there was a great looking formica knockoff– if only you couldn’t see the seams).  I like Carerra style marble instead– that’s the one with the shorter lines.  (I guess there’s also statuary marble, but I haven’t seen any quartz knock-offs for that– probably some of what I think is Calacatta is actually imitating statuary, but without any additional color.)

One problem that I have is that I cannot extrapolate those small samples to an entire counter.  Are the busy ones too busy?  The sparse ones too sparse?

Viatera has a great webpage with lots of pictures of their different options.  When you click on a stone, it shows you a slab and pictures of completed counters.  The Silestone page is a nightmare to navigate.   (I am also really irritated with a half-dressed Cindy Crawford [only wearing a top, for tops on tops, get it?] sitting on a kitchen counter on their first page and if you accidentally click it, you see a guy WEARING SHOES standing on top of another counter.  I MAKE FOOD ON THAT COUNTER.   GET OFF.  Also, WTF, aren’t women making most of these design decisions?  Supermodels are not doing it for me.)

I found a fantastic discussion on a houzz forum with pictures talking about quartz alternatives for marble.

The prices in the first picture are mostly the “non-sale” prices because apparently there’s some kind of sale going on, but it isn’t an easy to explain one, so I don’t actually know how much they cost or even their prices compared to each other.

What should I be thinking about as we decide on a countertop design?  How are we going to decide among all of these different kinds?

How thick?

The internet thinks I should be choosing between 2 cm with 3 cm edging or just straight up 3cm.  But home depot only seems to have 2 cm and 4 cm?  I’m not really sure that’s true though… How should we decide on thickness?

Edging?

Almost all the kitchen countertops we’ve seen online have either sharp rectangular corners or softer “eased” rectangular corners.  But there’s a huge wealth of different edging options. Should we just do what everyone else is doing or are there benefits to other forms of edging?

Other recommendations?

We have no idea what we’re doing.  Any suggestions on counterops would be highly welcome?

Grumpy nation!  Help a grumpeteer out!

p.s.  Several of my colleagues have built their houses from scratch and that sounds like a nightmare.  I get anxious just imagining it!

DH researches cooktops

Here is his final report:

TL;DR: gas cooktop, Samsung NA30N7755TG @ ~$1400.

Note that reviews do not seem very useful. Professional review websites do not review all the options, e.g., only reviewing 36″ cooktops, not 30″ cooktops, or they tend to parrot back Consumer Reports, or they have a clear bias without seeming to cover all aspects (e.g., everyone should go induction). Reviews on online stores (e.g., AJ Madison, appliancesconnection.com, amazon, and Home Depot) are not in high numbers, tend to be copied from each other, often are acquired through promotions, do not go into great detail, and are either 1-star due to failure or 5-star because there’s no failure. All cooktops seem to have failure issues…sometimes broken out of the box, other times completely failing after months or 1-2 years, but it looks like gas cooktops have fewer quality control complaints than induction cooktops.
I mostly used the above-mentioned four websites to shop around.

I would rather go with my gas cooktop top pick over my induction top pick, but the electrical engineer in me wishes that wasn’t the case. If we decided to re-wire that outlet for a 40 or 50 Amp circuit (it is currently 30Amps), then I would want induction instead.

The deciding reason between my two top picks is that the gas cooktop’s layout is just so much better, with a good burner in the front-right (the big burner is in the very center so I’m not as worried about scorching the wall). In comparison, the induction cooktop’s two front hobs are each only 6″ diameter, and our normal pans are 8″. So with the induction cooktop we would end up cooking on the large back hob 90% of the time. I am pretty sure I will find it very annoying to have to reach back to do stir-frying, flip pancakes, etc. I do wish the gas cooktop was only 4 burners, instead of 5, but I guess if they’re going to put the big burner right in the center then they may as well put burners in each of the corners.

Both of the below cooktops have the power I want. Neither seems to stand-out in terms of quality or brand-name. Both would fit (though we may want an extra half-inch of countertop front-to-back for the gas cooktop). Gas has open flame which I’d really rather avoid, while induction has a fan/noise which I would somewhat like to avoid. I am mostly ignoring the fact that we would need new pans for the induction cooktop, because it would be so much easier to keep clean that I would be happy to get new cookware. An unknown about induction is whether or not we would be ok with the controls (on/off/power setting etc)…I’m guessing we wouldn’t have a problem but some reviews are negative about induction cooktop controls.

Gas:

For gas, there were three main points.
First, I wanted just 4 burners. Second, I wanted a high output on at least one burner, at least 18+k BTU. These two wants are hard to find together. Nice 30″ wide cooktops (i.e., ones with a high output burner) almost invariably have 5 burners, while 4 burner systems are almost invariably low-output. I care more about the high output, so that wins out over the number of burners.

The third main point was that space/installation constraints prevented several models from working…primarily spacing constraints to the back wall, or from the top of the counter to the top of the silverware drawer under the cooktop. The top of our silverware drawer is 5″ below the top of our current counter.

It would also be nice to have dishwasher-safe grates.

My final pick was:
Samsung NA30N7755TG (black stainless steel) or NA30N7755TS (stainless steel) for ~$1400. 5 burners. 22k BTU center burner. Dishwasher-safe grates (according to Home Depot– Samsung says not so much). Explicitly requires less than 4″ from countertop down to the top of under drawer. Comes with griddle and wok grate.
Note that it requires 2&7/8″ from the back of the cutout to the back wall.
It does not state how much countertop is required from the front of the cutout to the front of the countertop…we should be fine with the current countertop size but would probably be better off with another half-inch of countertop.
Consumer Reports gave a 36″ Samsung gas cooktop its top rating…and it looks like this is the newer version of the 30″ model that corresponded to that 36″.

My runner-up was:
Cafe CGP95302MS1 for $1400. 5 burners. 20K BTU center burner. Dishwasher-safe grates. Explicitly requires less than 4″ from countertop down to the top of under drawer. Comes with griddle. This model was roughly the same price as my top pick, the same layout, and the same space constraints, but it has a bit lower output, and it requires a total of ~5.5″ of counter-top behind and in front of the cutout, which means a total countertop depth of 19.5+5.5=25″, while our current countertop is only 24.5″….that’s probably not a big deal since an extra half inch of countertop might be nice anyway.

Induction:

For induction, there are four main concerns.
I want just 4 burners or as close to that as possible.
I want a high output on at least one burner, at least 3500 kW with boost, and I wanted that burner to be 10-11″ diameter.
I want to be able to fit the silverware drawer, which is currently 5″ below the top of the countertop.
I want to keep the current 30 Amp circuit breaker, which eliminated most of the high-end (i.e., high output and large diameter burner) options. If we relax this constraint we get a lot more good cooktops to consider, but random websearching suggests that would add a few hundred dollars to installation.

Spacing from the front of the countertop, and from the countertop to the wall, can also be an issue…but it’s less of an issue than for gas cooktops.

This is a good FAQ: http://theinductionsite.com/selecting-induction.php

This website had a good collection of info
http://theinductionsite.com/buildin-residential-30-inch-induction-units.php

Induction cooktops have built-in fans that automatically turn on to keep the circuitry cool. They can also make noises due to motion and flex in the pans. They also require space for airflow in the cabinets below the cooktop…that shouldn’t be a problem for us because that volume is mostly empty and open.

My final pick was Bosch NIT5068UC for $1500.
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Bosch-500-Series-30-in-Induction-Cooktop-in-Black-with-4-SpeedBoost-Elements-including-Two-3-700-Watt-Elements-NIT5068UC/304812437

Runner-up:
-Bosch NITP068SUC for $2400, which meets all the requirements above, and has a somewhat nicer layout than the NIT8068UC…but $900 is a big price difference.

Comments, Grumpy Nation?

Time to think about the kitchen remodel again

We took out the broken trees and put in new trees, so it’s time to think about remodeling the kitchen again.

house 049

The gingham wallpaper is long gone. I swear!

Here’s our master plan:

1.  Keep the flooring and floorplan as before.

We decided that it isn’t worth the additional expense to do something that might make things worse.  If we had a contractor/architect we trusted we’d be more likely to be willing to mess with this, but we don’t, so we’re going to satisfice on this dimension.

2.  Replace the countertops.

I want quartz countertops that look like marble to replace the cheap white laminate or whatever it is that turns yellow if you bleach it.  Quartz and Granite have a lot of properties that I like– easy to clean, tough to crack, great for pastry (currently we do all our pastry stuff on a granite-top bureau in the dining room).  DH also looked into “dekton” which is “in” but it doesn’t look any better than quartz and has a tendency to chip/crack according to consumer reports.  I want quartz instead of granite because it is easier to get quartz that looks like marble!  (I’m leaning into being forced to have a white kitchen.)

3.  Get a new sink that is under the countertops (instead of having a lip) and doesn’t get that irritating water puddle.

I’m thinking stainless steel, keeping a double sink.  I like double sinks.

4.  Remove the ancient ice-maker (near the sink) and replace it with a cabinet.

We’re not sure that home depot is going to be able to handle making a custom cabinet, but our previous house-painter had someone good that he uses (who replaced a bunch of kitten destroyed cabinetry in our bathroom) so we might be able to get that figured out separately.  Absent that I guess we could put in a wine fridge or something in that empty spot, but that would only be for increasing the value of the house, not something we would actually use.  (We already have one of those hidden garbage drawers that we never use next to the sink.)

5.  Replace the 30 inch electric stovetop.

This is our current sticking point.  I feel weird replacing it given that it you know, still works.  But DH doesn’t like electric (electric is slow to heat and cool… you get used to it, but it is easier cooking with gas) and says it’s rusting, which I guess it sort of is, but only around the burners not actually on top of them.  If we were better about cleaning you’d never know.  And it’ll be easier to replace it when we’re getting new countertop anyway.  DH thought about expanding it, but then we might have to cut into our cabinets which we don’t want to do.  Besides, we never use all four burners at the same time anyway.

We thought we were going to just get gas.  We have a gas hookup under the range that has never been used, but in theory could be easy to get in working order.  At least, it’s more likely than if there wasn’t a gas hookup there.

But then DH started looking into induction stovetops.  I was initially hesitant as I thought you had to buy special cookware.  Turns out you just need to have *nice* cookware with magnetic bottoms, which our le crueset and caphalon stuff already have [UPDATE:  our caphalon stuff is at most marginally magnetic on the bottom… if we went with this option we might have to get a new “induction ready” set, or we’d just be down to two le crueset and the cast iron skillet].  Induction stovetops are also safer– no open flames, no carbon monoxide, etc.  And they’re way faster than electric at heating things up.  But they might hum, which would be annoying.

DH is thoroughly investigating each of these options and has been instructed to come up with a top choice from gas and a top choice from induction.  This will probably take considerable time, knowing DH.  Right now he’s annoyed by how everything he’s been looking at seems to have a combination of 5 and 1 stars (and nothing in between)… quality control is not a priority for companies.

And that’s it.  We already replaced the fluorescent lighting and we already have fancy under lighting.  The cabinets already have all sorts of fancy drawer choices.  The pantry is still amazing and will not be touched.  We might replace the refrigerator, but that’s something that can be done separately given there’s already a big space for a fridge.  We decided not to do the ovens because I like having a double oven and even though the top oven is a really bad height for me, it’s a great height for DH.  So I can just keep using the bottom one.

Once DH has finished his researching, we plan to make an appointment at home depot and get them to hire contractors from the nearest city to take care of everything.  That worked well with our bathroom flooring.  We’re not going with a local contractor because all the ones with webpages have horrific looking “after” photos.  I mean, I get that some people have really bad taste, but that’s not something you want to advertise on your website!

Tell me about your stovetop.  Or any kitchen renovation thoughts.