Monday, May 27, 2013

Kitchen Project -- Take Six: a.k.a. Not All Ideas Are Good Ones

For our new cabinets, the refrigerator will be pushed in about a four inches. No big deal, except that meant I would have to fill in that space with new tile. So I pushed it back and noticed the wood planking underneath. My wife and I started talking and...well, you know how it goes. The next thing you know, I'm tearing out porcelain tile with the idea that we would refinish the planking.

Which wasn't a half bad idea, only:

1. It's pine, meaning it's soft. (Not great for a busy kitchen like ours.)
2. It had gobs of glue on it. (Messy. Dusty. Been there before.)
3. The nails were visible on top.


With the new cabinets arriving in a few days, we're scrambling to figure out what we'll do for flooring. Hardwood, like we have in the rest of the house? Tile, again? (Not a fan of tile right now.) Cork, perhaps?

We will see. In the meantime, here's a photo showing what we're dealing with.

What a mess.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Kitchen Project -- Take Five: Removing the Cabinets

Taking out the cabinets isn't an easy job, but doing the demo ourselves is saving us a little bit of money.

The upper cabinets came out surprisingly well. It was just a matter of unscrewing them and carrying them out. 

But, as you can see, the job is far from over. We have a lot to finish in the next several days. 

My building assistant and me

Friday, May 24, 2013

That hardware store smell

You know what I’m talking about. It’s that special smell that greets you every time you walk into a hardware store. I’ll just list the ingredients along with the recipe. Blend slowly and let your nose go wild. 

Hardware smell (six servings)

A pinch of mulch
A few pounds grass seed
Dash of fertilizer
Handful of pipe shavings with oil (from the pipe threader)
Squirt or two of WD-40
Half a dozen rolls of solder (lead-free!)
A spoonful of Quikrete
A pinch of fresh paint vapor
A variety of nails (by the pound)
Shingles (best when hot)

Half a pot of coffee (No flavored or decaf)
Several over-enthusiastic problem solvers
PVC and rubber hose to taste
Copper, galvanized and black pipe

At least one pocket protector

Mix all ingredients, then add in over-enthusiastic problem solvers slowly. Let stand in a cool place for 20 minutes. Make a pass through the tool aisle and it should be ready.

Note: Some like more mulch and less paint vapor; you also can substitute the shingles with some tar cement crack filler.

Friday, May 17, 2013

If I had a hammer

“I want my red hammer, Dad, and please put Mr. Flintstone on the computer.”

OK, why my 3-year-old has to indicate the “red hammer” is because, yes, he has multiple hammers -- made of plastic, of course. And why not? One must have multiple versions of such a tool that’s a cornerstone of any good tool box.

Hammers come in many types and sizes: the tack, ball-peen, sledge, framing and claw. Stone hammers date back to 2,600,000 B.C.

Today, the make or brand is just as important as the style, size and -- yes -- the color. I should mention that “Bob the Builder has a “red hammer.”

Now you have Estwing, Vaughan Mfg., , Hardcore Hammers, S-K Handtool , Snap-on Tools and Craftsman, just a few brands made in the U.S.A. The type of work you need to do will determine what kind of hammer to buy. Most utility or catch-all work can be done with the claw hammer. The claw hammer is the most commonly used hammer, and it's what I use most. I bought mine at a secondhand store and replaced the handle. Buying used tools is great because they are cheap and many times made in the U.S.A. because they're older -- and the money often goes to a good cause.

For rough carpentry or light to medium demo work a framing hammer is great, for big demo work, yes the sledge hammer is needed. The ball-peen is for shaping metal and the tack is for small projects.

The other thing to consider is the type of handle. You’ve got wood, fiberglass and metal with a rubber or leather grip. Yes, like coffee, too many choices.

Find one that feels comfortable in your hand and that is the right weight for you. A hammer is like a ball glove: You can’t buy one without putting it on or picking it up to see how it feels. And remember you can always add to the collection.

As for the red hammer, it’s a plastic claw or it might be a framing hammer, not sure, but it's made some good dents in our wood banister. We can’t seem to find it anywhere. (Hmmm.) As for Mr. Flintstone, I think he uses a stone hammer?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Kitchen Project -- Take Four: The Backsplash (part 2)

In a few weeks, our kitchen will be installed. In the meantime, we've been contemplating what to do with our existing backsplash. Do we tear it out? Do we install something else? And if we do, what should it be? We like our backsplash, and it will look nice with our new granite. So, we're going to try to salvage it -- and fill it in.

Our new cabinets will have a slightly different layout than our existing cabinets. So there will be a few places where we will need to fill in the backsplash.

The good news is that they still manufacture our tile. The lot number, of course, is different -- it's been something like five years since we first installed it -- so the colors might be off ever-so-slightly. But I don't think the difference will be too obvious, especially when the new (much darker) cabinets are installed and cast a hue on the tile itself.

So here we go...

I started filling in the first section, and will have to do a few other areas after I remove some of the cabinets. Here's a first glimpse of my handy work:

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Hippo of a Good Time

In 2009, my wife and I traveled to Portland, Ore. I had been to the area once before, long before she and I were dating, when I went to visit my uncle, who lived in Portland at the time.

One thing I remember from my earlier trip was my visit to Hippo Hardware. Perhaps "hardware" isn't the best word for it, but the store actually was a large collection of old pieces from homes. Old moldings, old register covers, old bath tubs, old light fixtures. A truly amazing collection.

So when Michelle and I went to visit Portland almost four years ago, we made sure to stop in there. The place was as fascinating as it was 15 years earlier. And, no, I didn't buy anything major -- but I did pick up an old skeleton key. It's a wonderful reminder of what perhaps was the best vacation of my life.

Check out their website. It's a great place to get ideas. Like these register covers, below. You just can't find this stuff in your ordinary home improvement store. These covers have character and history. They have a story. And they're able to tell that story in somebody's home.

The register cover selection at Hippo Hardware

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kid-friendly DIY

Being a DIYer isn’t just about making updates to the house. It’s also about creating furniture – in this case, a kid’s train and activity table.

All it required was about $50 in wood, some stain and the right tools. The train track top was about $15 from a local toy store. The table itself matches the Pottery Barn Kids furniture in my son's room, but the table -- although it looks very similar to one that Pottery Barn Kids sells -- is a small fraction of the cost.

The perfect table for trains, blocks and activities