Remodeling the Kitchen

I’ve Been Thinking About Obligation

I’ve been working for several months on a project that was at the head of my list of priorities and projects for this year.  Before I could start on the big pass-through countertop juniper slab, I needed to refinish a set of dining room chairs that belonged to my mother-in-law, Virginia, and which go with the table presently in my kitchen.  The table has been in continuous use in the house since it was moved here some twenty years ago, but the chairs had been languishing in the barn, getting ever more worn and decrepit with the years.  I moved them to the barn twenty years ago because there was no room for them in the house, and by the time we cleaned out the barn in the fall of 2016 so that we could put a roof on it, the chairs were in bad shape.  I decided that I had to try to restore them, and I put them on the deck, under the porch, where I intended to work on them during the winter of 2017.  My plan was to begin sanding and stripping them after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Flu intervened early in 2017, and then two more illnesses followed that took months to diagnose and treat, and it was October of 2017 before I was on the road to health again.  Of course, by then there were all the “getting ready for winter” chores to do, the end of the garden harvest to deal with, and then the holidays again, and it took every ounce of energy I had to get through those things.  The chairs had, at that point, been sitting on the deck for over a year.  One had a split leg, one had a broken arm (side rail on the top of the frame), and one had severe joint arthritis, and all were weathered, dry, splintery, and looked as if a squirrel had been chewing on them in the barn.  They all had my sympathy.

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Finally, in January 2018, during the mildest winter we’ve had here in many years, I began to work on the chairs.  Because of the arthritis in my hands, I was only able to spend a couple of hours a day sanding and stripping.  But every day I could, I was out working on those chairs.  They were so badly damaged, there were times I despaired of getting them smooth.  I thought sometimes I was going to sand right through a piece of wood before I got to the point where I stopped raising splinters.  The original finish, some kind of varnish, was worn, but stubborn, and had penetrated into the open grain of the wood.  I sanded and sanded.  I used a small palm sander when I could, hand-sanded when necessary, over and over and over.  I got sick of those chairs, I can tell you.  There were five of them, instead of the original six belonging to the set.  One of the captain’s chairs went to a family member years ago and was disposed of when no longer needed.  I wished at first for the full set, but by the time I finished the fifth chair, I was glad I didn’t have another one to do.

It took months to sand off the old varnish, strip the backs where the fine detail made sanding impossible, then fine sand again.  All of this had to be done outside, so the worrisome dry winter was something of a blessing for this project.  I worked on the lower deck, under a roof, bundled up when it was cold. I had to figure out ways to save my back while I was sanding, including sitting in patio chair, and balancing the dining chair on my thighs and shoulders.

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I didn’t work when it was really windy or when the temperature dropped below freezing, but I was out there on lots of days when it was 35 degrees.  Sanding is warm work.  When it came time to strip the backs of the chairs, I had a problem.  I don’t have a workshop, and you can’t use stripper outside at 35 or 40 degrees. It just doesn’t activate and loosen the finish.  I needed a space I could heat to at least 60 degrees.  I tried the pump house first, but with two freezers in it, it was too crowded and rather dark.  Then I thought of my greenhouse.  Even when it’s chilly outside, if there’s sun, the greenhouse warms up to at least 60, and I had an extension cord already out there, so I could plug in a small heater and warm it up a bit more.  I ended up stripping four of the chairs in the greenhouse, and it worked out well.  It was nice and bright out there, and since I could only work a couple of hours at a time, I was usually finished before the sun went behind the trees and I lost the good light.

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When I finally had the chairs sanded and stripped and finish sanded, and we had completed some structural repairs on several of the chairs, mending what was broken with screws and glue, it was time to apply a new finish.

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For the finish, I wanted to use a product I’d used before, years before, on some benches I bought unfinished.  It was called Bartley Gel Varnish, a rub-on finish that was so easy to work with and has held up very well on my benches.  Unfortunately, the company had been bought out some years back, and the finish went out of production for a while.  I took a chair down to the local hardware store, The Woodsmith, to talk to Norm about it, since he was the one who’d turned me on to Bartley’s and sold me my first can of finish all those years ago.  I wanted to ask his opinion of the wood in the chairs anyway.  He thought the wood might be beech.  He said definitely not oak, which I also knew.  The grain and softness of the wood is all wrong for oak, we both believe.  As for the finish, he said Bartley’s was being manufactured again by the company that bought Bartley’s, and I should be able to find it online, although he could not buy it for the shop because of California regulations.

I did find the finish online, now made by Seagrave and renamed Bartley’s Clear Coat Gel Stain (bizarre contradictory renaming, and it gave me some trouble figuring out it was the same varnish), but I couldn’t get it shipped to California.  It’s difficult to get some kinds of chemical products here now because of state regulations, so paints, stripping products, even cleaning products are less effective than they used to be.  I ordered two quarts of finish (thinking ahead to other projects and the cost of shipping) and had them sent to my daughter’s house in Reno.  I picked them up about a week later.  Then it was time to turn my living room into a woodshop.

The beauty of this finish is that it is a thick, wipe-on finish that gives a gorgeous, fairly hard, hand-rubbed glow to the wood.  It doesn’t run or drip like polyurethane.  Because of that feature, I could spread old sheets and towels on my oak floor in the living room and not worry about messing up the floor.  The finish is also not terribly strong-smelling, so all I had to do was crack the living room door and open a window, and keep the air circulating.  The other beautiful thing about the Bartley gel finish is that you do not have to sand between coats as you do with poly. It also dries very quickly, so you can do three coats in a day if you want to.  I generally put on a coat in the middle of the day, and another one at night, or a coat at night, and another in the morning, whatever worked best with my schedule that day.  It’s a rub on, rub in and off process, so it goes very quickly.  I worked with one chair at a time, because by the time I was done bending to coat that chair, my back did not want me to bend any more for a while.  I did plop a little finish onto my floor a couple of times, and it wiped right up and never left any hint it had been there.  But the chairs took on a beautiful golden glow.  I used two coats on most of them, but on a couple of the chairs, the ones with the most badly damaged wood, I used two coats to stabilize the wood, then lightly sanded the slightly rough spots and recoated a third time.  They feel like satin to the touch now.

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Image may contain: people sitting, table and indoorAs I was preparing to finish the varnishing, Dennis and I contacted the local upholsterer, George.  He’s retired now, but he still works on cars and does some furniture when he’s needed.  George gave me two books of upholstery material to look at, but they all looked like car upholstery to me.  That wasn’t what I wanted.  I looked at various materials, and I really started to panic a bit, thinking I wasn’t going to find anything that was just right.  Then George told me to go to Mill Ends in Reno.  It’s what it sounds like, a warehouse of fabric mill ends.  I’d been there before, years ago, for another project, but I’d forgotten about it.  I found a piece I loved almost right away at Mill Ends, and it only cost $25!

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These chairs were originally covered in a red plastic fabric you’d have seen on diner chairs and booth benches in the ’40s and ’50s (and into the ’60s because the stuff was tough).  The pattern was called “ice,” we were told at Mill Ends.  I wanted something deep red, because that’s the accent color in my kitchen, and it had to coordinate with my kitchen window valance, sewn for me years ago by my friend, Paula.  I love the apple print, and I love how Paula crafted the valance, and so the chair seats needed to look good with that valance.  The upholstery fabric I found was made of recycled leather with a vinyl top in a deep red diamond pattern, very retro looking, which is what I wanted, given the age of these mid-century modern style chairs, and most important, easy to clean.  Food dropped on them will wipe right off with no staining.  This was perfect for chairs that’ll be used in the kitchen by the family.  After a short delay while we waited for foam padding, George got to work and recovered the seats beautifully.  In the meantime, I cut out stick-on felt pads for the bottoms of the chair legs to protect the new floor in the kitchen. I was so happy the day Dennis brought the seats home from George’s shop, I sent him a jar of apple butter as an extra thank-you.

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We hImage may contain: people sitting and indoorad a bit of trouble getting the seats back on the chairs.  Dennis had started to number them when he took them off, but then he got distracted and didn’t number three of them.  We had a time figuring out which seats went on which chairs, and it was important because they were attached by several screws, and the holes had to line up.  He also found several holes that had wallowed out and had to be repaired.  George had a tip for that.  You pour glue in the screw holes, then jam several matchsticks into the hole.  When the glue dries, you can insert the screws, and they’ll be tight.  When we matched the seats to the chairs, and after replacing some screws that were so long, they might have punctured the new upholstery, Dennis got the seats reattached, and the chairs were moved into the kitchen and placed around the table.  Done!  Success!  Finally!

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This project would probably have taken somebody who isn’t disabled no more than a couple of weeks, outside the time it took to find the fabric and have the seats recovered. Somebody with undamaged hands could probably have done the upholstering herself.  The whole project took me about two months.  During that two months, I had a lot of time to think about these chairs, and why I was putting so much time and energy into them.  I love doing this kind of work, but it isn’t easy for me, and sometimes it is downright painful.  So why do I bother?  Why was I bothering with these particular chairs that were so badly damaged?

Part of the reason I bothered was because they belonged to my mother-in-law.  I’ve written about this before. Virginia and I had a complicated relationship.  I was never quite good enough for her only son, and I knew it because she made sure I knew it.  It’s hard to like someone who makes you feel that way, but I respected her for many reasons, and I grieved for her when she died.  She had a lot of courage, and I admired her for that.  Widowed when Dennis was only seven years old, already diagnosed with a disease that would cause slow, but complete, physical deterioration over the course of her long lifetime, Virginia persevered. She never gave up on life.  In that respect, she was a wonderful role model for me, and I have appreciated her example. Dennis and I naturally ended up with a lot of her things, and I’ve tried to honor her memory by preserving and displaying most of them.

Even though Virginia’s style was not to my taste, she had good taste, and the things she bought were of good quality.  The mid-century modern style of her dining table and chairs is not my favorite style; although I do like it, I really prefer older pieces, true antiques, and I like rustic.  But these pieces were well-made.  Dennis, his sisters, and his niece and nephews grew up eating at that table while sitting in those chairs. I just couldn’t bring myself to send those chairs to the dump.  Even though it would have been easier, I’d never have been easy in my mind about that.  So the other part of the reason I bothered with these chairs is that I just can’t bear to throw away something I know I can restore and make useful and beautiful again. And the chairs were in such bad shape, I don’t even think I could have given them away as they were.  I felt obliged, by some freak or fault in my own nature, to keep them and restore them and love them.

One day, when I was working on a chair, I said to Dennis, “These chairs better not end up at the dump after I’m gone!”  He said, “Well, I won’t dump them.”  And I said, “The kids better not either, after all the work I’ve put into them.”  But I had a lot of time to think about that as I was sanding, stripping, and finishing the chairs.  And what I’ve ended up thinking is that nobody should feel under any obligation to keep these chairs if they don’t like them.  I know mid-mod is not my daughter’s style, nor is it my daughter-in-law’s style.  Why should they have to live with a style that’s not what they like best just because I have made that choice?  They shouldn’t.  My choices are my own.  I make the best of what I find and what I have, and I love these chairs now because I have made them beautiful again.  But that doesn’t mean my kids need to make that same choice.

When I am gone, I won’t care about where these chairs end up.  However, having put months of work into them, making them pretty and usable again, I’m pretty sure somebody will want them.  I think they’re safe from the dump for many years.  And that’s really all that matters.



Remodeling the Kitchen

Countertop Resolution

As you may know if you read my last kitchen renovation update, we asked The Home Depot for a partial refund on our countertops, because of all the mistakes made by U.S. Granite, the company contracted with Home Depot to cut and install the countertops.  I asked for a 50% refund.  I didn’t think I’d get that much, but I didn’t figure they’d give me what I asked for, no matter what the amount was.

My letter to The Home Depot detailing all the mistakes and delays in the installation process went first to the customer complaints person at the Northtowne Home Depot in Reno.  She forwarded it to her store manager, who didn’t have the authority to grant such a large refund.  (The refund would have amounted to about $1900 if they had given us 50%.)  She had to bump it up to the district office.

At that point, everybody went on vacation.  And after we got home from vacation, the district manager went on vacation.   We finally called after two more weeks and were told we should have an answer in a few days.

It was pretty plain they were stringing the thing out, hoping we’d get tired of it and settle.  And that’s what basically happened.  After a month of waiting, the district office manager said she’d refund us $1000.  If we refused that offer, we’d have to deal with corporate.

Dennis didn’t want to deal with corporate.  I didn’t want to deal with corporate.  Neither of us wanted to bring a small claims court case.  We just wanted to be done.  And they knew it.

We decided to accept the refund offer of $1000.  It’s a little less than 30%, if my math is correct, which is unlikely.  But it’s enough.

I have to add that all the people we actually spoke to at the Northtowne Home Depot were polite and sympathetic and took our complaint seriously.  Nobody tried to brush us off or deny what happened to us.  I appreciate that.

That concludes the Home Depot/U.S. Granite ordeal.  The kitchen renovation isn’t finished yet.  Because of the months of delay, we weren’t able to move on to installing the microwave or backsplash or finishing the wall in our proposed timeline.  All that stuff was supposed to be done by spring, so we could move on to other things that need doing outside. And now it’s summer, and we’re involved in all the big summertime projects that have to get done outside in dry weather, like renovating the old house on our property that we call “the barn.” It has to be re-roofed and re-sided and critter-proofed this summer.  But we’ll get back to the kitchen in the fall.

There’s nothing quite like DIY, is there?  But at least when you do it yourself, you know the quality of your own work, and if it’s not right, you’ve got nobody else to blame, and nobody else to resent.  I’d rather be in that situation than fighting with so-called professionals to do a job right after I’ve already paid them.

Remodeling the Kitchen

Letter to The Home Depot

The following is our letter to The Home Depot requesting a refund. I know it’s long, and I don’t care.  We lived through three months of chaos and stress, so they can darn well read about it.  

After all the problems we’ve had the with the countertops we purchased from Home Depot more than 3 months ago, we really thought somebody would call, either from U.S. Granite, who was contracted with Home Depot to fabricate and install the granite countertops, or from Home Depot, who took our money (almost $4000) and contracted to provide the countertops we purchased.  But it’s been over a week now since the third set of countertops was finally installed, and no one has called to find out if we are satisfied with a job that went wrong so many times, we’ve almost lost count. We are not satisfied, and we are requesting a partial refund.

So, let’s run it down.

We sat down with a salesperson and our measurements at the Northtowne Home Depot in Reno in early March to work up a plan for the countertops.  We found some granite samples we liked and were advised to go to the granite supplier, Dal-Tile, and choose a particular slab of granite from which our countertops would be cut.  We did that the following week and chose a slab that Jeanie loved.  We then called Home Depot and sealed the deal with credit card information.  Within a few days, the company who would do the fabrication and installation of the countertops, U.S. Granite, called us to set up a templating appointment. The templater would digitally measure our space and encode it in a program that would then be fed to the cutting machine.

March 29, 2016: Templating proceeded with no problems.  The cabinets were brand new and newly installed, with no old countertops or anything to get in the way.  We were supposed to have countertops within a couple of weeks.

April 15, 2016:  Our countertops were supposed to be installed.  The appointed time came and went.  Jeanie finally received a call from the installer who said he would be there late in the afternoon. He never showed up, after we’d gone to the effort of moving the stove, the cutting boards that were our makeshift counters, and the essentials that we needed for cooking, and we’d covered the floor with heavy paper again to protect it from the workboots that tend to pick up gravel and mud outside and bring it in.  The installation was rescheduled for the following Monday after we called U.S. Granite’s manager to tell him that his installer never showed.

April 18, 2016:  The installer showed up bright and early and installed the countertops.  Not only did he not bring the brackets to secure the dishwasher to the countertops, he also did not adequately prepare to contain the dust produced when he cut the stone so that the sink could be set in the sink base counter.  Because he didn’t use any kind of containment procedure (like tarping) and because all he had to remove the dust was a wimpy shop-vac, we had rock dust throughout the entire house! Even worse, stone chips and rock dust coated our brand-new cabinets and all the contents inside. We spent hours on a step-ladder cleaning the cabinets and removing the contents, which all had to be washed before they (dishes, etc.) could be used.  The installers were wearing dust masks.  We, the homeowners, had no protection whatsoever from that dust, and we are still breathing it because it permeated every nook and cranny in the house.

But Jeanie loved the granite of the countertops.  This is a quote from her blog, written the next day:  “I got so excited when I saw the first top in place, and that was before the dust was cleaned off.  I love the granite I chose with its beige and gray background, black veining, and dark red flecks.” We were so happy with the granite choice.

However, after the installers had left and we tried to put the stove back in its space, it wouldn’t fit.  That was when we discovered that the countertops had been improperly installed, with one countertop overhanging the stove space by about 3/8”, which threw off that entire side of the kitchen.

After repeating ad nauseum to the manager of U.S. Granite what was wrong and what needed to happen next (either moving the countertops or recutting them), we were told another set of installers would come and look at the problem.  In the meantime, during all his measuring to figure out what went wrong and how it might be fixed, Dennis discovered that the bullnose overhang was different on all five pieces of granite.  None of them were uniform.

April 25:  A new set of installers showed up to move the countertops so that the stove would fit.  The countertops were moved, and the stove still did not fit.  Moving the countertop didn’t solve the problems.

The following week, the templater returned to check his program and discovered that the fabrication shop had miscut the bullnose depth on the slabs, and that was why they didn’t fit.  At least 3 of them would have to be recut, but U.S. Granite was hoping to get off cheap by not recutting all 5 of the pieces.

May 13: We drove back to Reno and looked at another granite slab, the second slab.  We didn’t like it as much as the original slab we’d chosen, and we were worried about the color, but we were told that because it had been raining, the stone had darkened, and that it would lighten up as it dried out.  It should match up, they said, when it dried out, with the pieces that were being left in place.  (One of those pieces was also miscut, but U.S. Granite  thought they could move it out away from the wall enough to leave it in place, although that would have made it difficult for us to properly set the backsplash tile.)

May 20:  The installers returned with three new pieces, the sink base countertop, the piece that abutted both the sink base and the stove, and the piece on the other side of the kitchen to the right of the fridge.  They installed the piece to the right of the fridge, and our concerns about color were immediately reawakened.  The new piece was substantially darker and browner than the original piece on the left side of the fridge, and it was very noticeable.   “It’s been raining,” the installers said.  “It’ll lighten up when it dries out.”  However, the new sink base piece and the piece next to the stove still did not fit.  The installers took the new pieces out, and we were left again without countertops on that side of the kitchen.  Dennis had to put our old laminate countertop back on so that he could hook the sink up again, so we would have water.

Within a week, the new countertop had dried out and was obviously not a match to the two original pieces that had been left in place.

May 28:  The templater returned to check the measurements once again and brought template cutouts to put down and try to determine the source of the problems with fit.  One of the problems was that U.S. Granite had not cut the sink base and stove section in one piece as had been originally laid out; rather, they’d cut them in two pieces (probably trying to save money), creating the necessity for a seam, and they simply couldn’t get edges and cuts to match up that way.

June 3:  We drove back down to Reno to see another new slab, the third.  This time, the slab had been set up in the fabrication shop at U.S. Granite.  It was dimly lit, and when we compared the piece of the original slab that we’d chosen back in March with the newest slab, we couldn’t tell if it was much darker than the piece that we loved and that we’d planned as the crowning glory of the new kitchen, or if the lighting was so bad, we just couldn’t see it clearly.  But what could we do?  Because of repeated mistakes by U.S. Granite, the countertop installation had been delayed for 3 months!  We told them to go ahead and cut new countertops.

June 6:  The countertops were installed and finally fit.  But to our dismay, the color was much darker than the original slab we’d chosen, with far more brown and beige in the background than the white and gray that Jeanie loved.  We had chosen the backsplash tile based on the original slab with more white and gray tones.  And now the backsplash tile does not coordinate nearly as well with the new countertops as it would have with the first slab we chose and paid for.

During this process, Dennis had to take out and then put back in and replumb the kitchen sink four times.  The dishwasher had to be taken out twice, and it marred the brand new wood floor we’d just installed.  The brand new cabinets were damaged on the top edges where the countertops were pried up twice!  We had to move kitchen paraphernalia so many times, we lost count.  And we are still trying to get the rock dust from cutting two sink holes cleaned up.

Dennis missed 5 days of work to be in the house when the installers and templater were here.  That is a significant loss of income.  We had to make two extra trips to Reno to look at slabs after our original choice was mis-cut and improperly installed.

Jeanie is disabled, and the stone dust mess in the house created by the first botched installation is more than she can cope with and clean up, not to mention the fact that it created breathing problems for days.  We need a professional cleaner to come in and thoroughly clean the house and carpets to remove the rock dust, which will be expensive.

For all of the above reasons, we are asking for significant refund from The Home Depot for our countertops.   This is to compensate us for the excess work, cost, time delays, and stress of this job which was botched not once, but twice.  So much for the dream kitchen; so much for the gorgeous countertops and coordinating backsplash.  We didn’t get what we paid for, and we feel cheated.

We trusted The Home Depot to contract with competent, reputable dealers and installers; in fact, that was exactly why we chose The Home Depot for this job.  We have been sadly disappointed.  Jeanie has chronicled this whole process on her blog (, and we hope to be able to report that The Home Depot did the right thing and compensated us for what their contractor put us through for the past three months.  If The Home Depot does not do the right thing, that’ll be reported too, and not only on the blog, but on every review site online.

We hope to hear from someone at The Home Depot shortly about our refund.

Remodeling the Kitchen

Hot Under the Collar

You know that saying.  You’ve probably said it.  But trust me, you have no idea what it really means unless you are a post-menopausal woman who’s just heard her husband blamed for a problem he had nothing to do with.  I am still mad!

We went to Reno today to the stoneyard, where we approved another pair of slabs.  As those of you know who’ve been following the kitchen renovation saga, the first time the granite countertops were installed, it turned out they were not cut to measurements, and they were incorrectly installed.  I don’t know who is to blame.  I do know that U.S. Granite, the company contracted by Home Depot to fabricate and install the countertops we purchased from Home Depot, tried to cut their losses by creating new pieces, from a new slab, for just three of the countertops.  They left two pieces in place.  And not only did the new countertops for the sink base and over the dishwasher still not fit, all the new pieces were several shades darker than the original pieces that were left in.  That is not what I paid for, and that is not what we are going to settle for.

We were told when we chose the second slab that the new pieces would lighten up as they dried out, which they did.  But because those pieces were cut from a different block of granite (from the same mine in Brazil) than the pieces cut from the first slab, they were very much a mis-match in color.  That means that the countertops for the whole kitchen, both sides, have to be re-cut.

After we approved the newest slabs today, we talked with the scheduler/manager of this branch of the company.  He seems a nice young man, but I was very upset with him today.  He mentioned that they are going to send the templater down again with thin wooden templates cut out to the measurements the templater took originally with a digital camera and program that encodes the information so that it can be fed to the cutting machine digitally.  That sounds good.  Then this nice young man says, “And you’ll sign off on the templates, and then we’ll come back and set the stones.”

Whoa.  I am nice, but I am not stupid.  I held up my hand.  “What do you mean, sign off on the templates?  Then if there’s a problem with the countertops, you’re absolved of responsibility?  I don’t think so.”  I told him straight out that we were not signing off on anything until the job was done and inspected for quality control.  And I told him a few other things, such as whatever crew he sent down to this job had better have the right equipment to control the stone dust, because I already have it all throughout my house, and I don’t need to be breathing it or cleaning up any more of it.

He said, “Well, we have to make sure that no one is moving slabs and causing a problem.”  What? It turns out the installer told the manager that Dennis had moved the slabs, and that was what caused the problem.

That’s when I got really hot under the collar.  “Honey,” I said to this youngster who could have been my son, “there is no way this man was moving those slabs around.  You know yourself how heavy they are.  You think he has one of those suction thingies they use to move those slabs hiding out under his tee shirt? There was no moving of slabs by anyone but your installers, so don’t let anybody tell you different.”  I must have sounded like his mother, because he backed down on that point and on the idea of us signing anything before the job is done.  And it had better not come up again.

Believe you me, Home Depot is going to get an earful from me tomorrow morning.  I am still steaming.



Remodeling the Kitchen

Wrong Again

I’d hoped by this time to be able to report that the replacement granite countertops were in, and that we were moving on to tiling the backsplash.  We bought the backsplash tile several weeks ago, just after the first countertops that were cut wrong were installed.  We’ve just been waiting for the second, replacement installation to start tiling.

On Friday, just before I left for my big birthday weekend, the countertop installers from U.S. Granite in Reno arrived to put in the new counters.  And guess what?  They still didn’t fit!

The installers brought in the new countertops, put them down, and they didn’t fit right.  The measurements appear to be off.  Fortunately, the installers did not glue them in this time, except for the 6’ counter along the fridge wall that forms my baking station.  And then another problem was discovered.  The new granite is several shades darker than the slab off the first block, so the new counters didn’t match the two corner pieces that were being left in place.  The installers removed the sink base and dishwasher countertops before gluing or cutting and took them back to Reno.  Phone calls between the installers, the manager, and Dennis were flying back and forth when I left for my trip.  Truthfully, I was glad to escape.

So, here we are waiting for another measuring session and for new slabs to be brought in, which we will have to approve, and new counters to be cut and installed.  The previous mistakes had already added a 5 week work stoppage to our renovation, and it will probably be another 5 or 6 weeks before the third round of countertops are installed, and if they are right, we can finally go ahead with the backsplash.  Now, it is really crucial to choose slabs that will look okay with the backsplash tile, because we can’t take that back.

When we chose the slab for the second countertops, we were told by the stone supplier, Dal-Tile, that since it had been raining, the granite had absorbed water and darkened. “It’ll lighten up as it dries out,” they told us.  It was raining on Friday when the installers brought in the countertops cut from those slabs. Dennis was worried about how dark they were. “They’ll lighten up,” the installers also said.

The replacement countertops haven’t lightened up and are significantly darker, more beigey-brown than the original slab we chose, and which we like the best.  The original slab had a lot more white in it, as you can see from the pics below.  This first one is of the original slab.



This is of the only replacement piece that was left in on Friday, and it is definitely darker than the original.



Fortunately, the backsplash tile I chose looks fine with both the lighter slab and the darker replacement, so hopefully, whatever we end up with in new slabs will also look okay. But it’s looking like they might have to replace the two corner pieces that we’d hoped to leave in, just to get a good match all around the kitchen.  The waste of it makes me sick.  However, we’ve talked them into leaving some of it behind (they’d better be doing everything they can to make us happy after all these screw-ups!), and I am hopeful that we can use some of it in the bathrooms and in my outdoor kitchen, if we ever get around to building it.

I am not a happy kitchen camper at this point, but it could be worse.  Dennis put the old laminate countertop back in so he could hook the sink up again (this makes three times now he’s taken the sink out and put it back in), so we have water.  We have a working stove.  I am grateful for that, at least.



If there is a tip in all this, it’s that you shouldn’t choose your granite slab after prolonged rain unless the slabs are stored in a dry warehouse.  Even when they are sealed, they will absorb water, and it does alter the color, making matching difficult. And that can make it difficult to choose backsplash material and other things as well.

I’d also say choose your contractors carefully, but you really can’t know what’s going to happen.  I chose to do this part of the project through Home Depot because I didn’t want to have to deal with contractors directly myself, and because we don’t know anything about any contractors in Reno, and there’s no one locally who installs granite.  We trusted Home Depot to work with contractors who can get the job done right.  Now we’re talking with Home Depot about how they’re going to make things right with us, because this foul-up has caused some significant inconvenience in our home and lives.

Remodeling the Kitchen

Of Countertops and Roll-Out Shelves

As some of you know, we discovered some major problems with our new granite countertops after they were installed.  Al, the templater that U. S. Granite uses, came out and checked all his measurements on Friday.  It turns out that his measurements were accurate, but the fabrication shop which cut the granite made mistakes.  The installer made mistakes.  As a result, at least three of our five pieces of granite (maybe four) have to be replaced.  The incorrectly cut and installed pieces were left in place, so that we do have a functional kitchen until the new pieces are installed.  Whenever that is.  We don’t know yet.  And until the granite is installed, we have to keep the floor covered.  Ugh.

In the meantime, over the weekend, Dennis installed the roll-out shelves I bought.  I had originally planned to buy cabinets with the roll-out shelves built in, but this would have added so much to the cost of the cabinets, I had to scrap that upgrade.  I already knew I could find after-market roll-out shelving much cheaper.  I planned to use chrome roll-outs on all the cabinets, but I failed to check and make sure that I could get them in all the sizes I needed for my various cabinets.  I could not get the chrome shelves in a 36” width to fit my big base cabinets on the fridge side of the kitchen.  What to do?

In a secondary search after the cabinets were installed, I found made-to-fit slide-out shelves from Slide-a-Shelf, sold on Costco Wholesale’s website.  Made to fit means that you measure your spaces and send the measurements off to the Slide-a-Shelf company, which then sends you your roll-out shelves made to your measurements.  And they are shipped within five days of ordering, so they must have some already made up in various sizes, right?

There are several choices of wood fronts ready to stain, so that you can match them to your cabinets, or you can choose a paint-grade wood front to match up to painted cabinets.  I chose oak fronts to go with my oak cabinets.  They came unfinished, of course, but all I had to do was slap on a coat of polyurethane (I have lots left over from the coffee table project) and presto!  I have roll-outs which look like they were made for those cabinets.  You can get these shelves in any size for one price through Costco, $79.99 for standard roll-outs, and $89.99 with the soft-close option.  That made these shelves for the big cabinets much more affordable than having them built in.  Shipping was free, another plus, because these things are heavy.  And if you’re a Costco member, there’s another $10 discount.





I could have gotten double rolling shelves, but I had already decided, based on my scribblings on my cabinet renderings, that I wouldn’t need the upper shelves to roll out.  I did decide to go with the soft close option, because Dennis likes soft close, but after they were installed, I realized that as big as these shelves are, and as heavily as they are going to be loaded, soft close doesn’t work all that well, and I could have saved that $10, which will amount to $30 for all three big shelves.  All the shelves are rated for 100 lb. carrying capacity.  As for installation, one went in really easily.  The other one, for some reason, was a bear, but Dennis finally got it.  There is some assembly required with these shelves before they can be installed, but it is nothing somebody handy with a screwdriver couldn’t handle.  Installation requires a drill and screwdriver.

On the other side of the kitchen, I only have three base cabinets that need roll-out shelving.  One is the sink base.  I wanted to have two roll-out shelves on either side, but because of the plumbing and the garbage disposal, only one would fit.  Dennis has drilled the holes for that one, which will hold the kitchen trash can and cleaning supplies, but he won’t install it until after the next round of countertop installation, because he has to crawl under that cabinet to hook up the plumbing to the sink, and the roll-out would be in the way.



The other two roll-outs hold pots and pans and plastic storage stuff.  On the stove side of the kitchen, I have tried to keep things in relatively the same space as they were before.  It drives us both crazy to reach for something and not find it in the place we’re accustomed to.  The older you get, the harder change is!  These roll-outs are from Lynk Professional, and I bought them on Amazon.  They are very affordable, very sturdy, and I think, quite nice-looking.  Dennis said these were a breeze to install.





I could have bought made-to-fit shelves through Costco Wholesale for all my cabinets.  But with the one-price-fits-all-sizes pricing, I’d have spent much more on the smaller roll-outs than I did going with the Lynk Professional chrome roll-outs.  I spent about $140 on the three chrome roll-outs.  If I’d gone with the Slide-a-Shelf ones, I’d have spent at least a hundred dollars more.  I did get the shipping free on these from Amazon, too.

My roll-outs don’t match, but I’m okay with that.  They are functional and affordable, and I’ll take that over “a foolish consistency” any time!


Remodeling the Kitchen


First rule of construction:  What can go wrong, will.  And it did.

The countertops were supposed to be installed on Friday.  Nope.  The installer ran into a problem at his morning job, and he never showed up on Friday, after calling to say he would come, even if it was late.  Neither Dennis nor I were happy about that, because we’d gone to the effort of moving the stove, the cutting boards that were my makeshift counters, the essentials like salt and pepper and olive oil that I need for cooking, and the utensil containers, and we’d covered the floor with paper again to protect it from the workboots that tend to pick up gravel and mud outside and bring it in.  But these things happen, right? We called and rescheduled for first thing Monday morning (today).

A new set of installers showed up a little earlier this morning than we expected them, and they got right to work.  The lead installer seemed to know what he was doing.  He was training a new helper, a gofer, who has aspirations of becoming a lead installer himself.  But it didn’t take long for the first problem to manifest itself.

The lead installer had not brought the bracket they use to secure the dishwasher under the granite countertop.  He said he’d let his boss know, and he’d come back to put the dishwasher in.  In the meantime, they’d go ahead with the installation.  I got so excited when I saw the first top in place, and that was before the dust was cleaned off.  I love the granite I chose with its beige and gray background, black veining, and dark red flecks.



And then the next problem surfaced.  The hole for a top mount sink is usually cut on site and outside because it creates a lot of stone dust.  But because our sink base cabinet is HUGE (bigger than a lot of kitchen islands), the installer decided he would have to cut the top for that area in situ to minimize the chance of it cracking.  Okay, that’s reasonable.  However, we didn’t know this was going to be the procedure because we’d been told otherwise, so we didn’t have a chance to curtain off the kitchen with plastic to keep the rock dust out of the rest of the house.  And as soon as the saw started up, the dust billowed out into the living room and down the hall.  Fortunately the doors to the bedrooms were shut, but the office door was open.  Rock dust all over the computer and printer, as well as the leather sofa and recliner, the coffee table and TV cabinet, etc., in the living room, along with the open boxes of kitchen accoutrements that I’d been using and couldn’t put away in the cabinets yet.  Not that that would have made any difference, because everything I did put away in the cabinets is also covered with rock dust.  It’s going to take some serious cleaning to get rid of it all.

All the countertops were installed, the only seam filled with epoxy, and off the guys went to their next job, while Dennis and I started our tasks.  Dennis worked on putting in the sink, and I started cleaning the rock dust off the outside of the cabinets.  (I couldn’t clean the insides because I didn’t have any water yet to wash the dishes before I put them back on the clean shelves.)

Dennis discovered that the sink wasn’t in exactly the same position it had been, so he needed to get a longer length of drain pipe.  I asked him to put the stove back in before he left to get his plumbing supplies, so I could start on dinner while he was gone.  And that’s when the next problem surfaced, and this one is a doozy.

The stove doesn’t fit in the space left for it between the countertops.  In looking at that run of granite, we discovered that the slab is about 3/8ths of an inch out of position.  The seam isn’t in the right place, the sink base countertop isn’t in the right place, and the piece that abuts it and the stove is therefore too long.

We didn’t discover this problem until after 5 o’clock, so we can’t call U.S. Granite until tomorrow morning.  After hearing about how strong the industrial grade silicone is they stick the countertops down with, we’re worried about our new cabinets.  We don’t know yet how they are going to fix this problem, but in the meantime, I’ll be cooking on the stove that’s sitting out in the middle of the kitchen.  At least I can cook in the kitchen, and the sink is now plumbed (my hero is multi-talented), so I have water again in the kitchen after how many weeks?  I’ve lost track.



The first rule of construction applied today. What could go wrong did.  But Dennis is mad enough that he’s going to make sure it’s fixed right.  And in the meantime, we’ve chosen the backsplash tile.  It’s going to look great with the new countertops and cabinets.