Sunday, July 31, 2011

Conservation, Proportion and Perspective

    The granite comes tomorrow, so all the undercounter appliances went in this week. The Bosch dishwasher went in first. We are having a cabinet panel made to go on the front and it will be several weeks before it is ready. Ed was very careful to make sure the dishwasher went in plumb, square and level. It also had to be set at the perfect depth to accept the finished panel. It's a good thing he has a very exacting personality.
    Next was the Kitchen Aid trash compactor. Now our first thought was "Who needs a trash compactor? How hard is it to take out the garbage?"  But then we realized two things: 1. For two people who recycle, we still make an amazing amount of trash.  2. When company comes, the trash pile is bigger than the laundry pile, which is substantial.  It's a practical luxury. Ed wanted the reveal around the edge to be perfect, so we took it in and out to adjust the levelers about seven times.

    Meantime, back at the ranch, the Wahkiakum Conservation District is doing some creek restoration/salmon habitat recovery work in  the creek that flows through our place. Hopefully this will prevent Wilson Creek from eroding further into our middle pasture. Part of the plan is to build woody structures that will divert the force of the water back into a more natural channel and re-build the bank. They will also plant trees and native shrubs to shade the creek and provide proper fish habitat.

   They brought in load after load of trees with root balls. These are trees out of logged areas that for whatever reason were not good for lumber, or are from blow-down areas. Truck after truck came rolling in. For two days ...  I was only down there with the camera for the first few loads. Later today I'll walk down with the camera to get a picture of the whole pile because it is a huge mountain of timber.

    I have been dreading trying to grout the fireplaces. The slate is rough and uneven and I've heard horror stories about people not being able to get the grout washed off the face of the stone. I made a mock up out of left over slate pieces and applied a sealer. After it was dry I smeared grout all over it and wiped it up. Success! The only problem was that the stone sealer/enhancer made the slate very dark and shiny. Better dark and shiny than a muddy mess, so we went to work on the real thing.
   Thank goodness for willing granddaughters! We started by re-tiling the hearth front on the upstairs fireplace. I buttered the tiles and Elicia put them into place. Then came the grout. Elicia made a hundred trips up and down the stairs with buckets of fresh water. She rinsed and wrung out sponge after sponge without complaint.
   We noticed that the abrasiveness of the sanded grout seemed to tone down the shiny sealer. That's fine with me. It has a more natural look now.

   Yesterday while Elicia filled nail holes in the baseboards, I cleaned up the grouting mess, vacuumed up dust and grit, and mopped the floor. The rugs went down and we unwrapped the new chair. Somebody had to give it the rest-test, and Elicia gallantly volunteered. It seems to be working.

    Later Ed and our neighbor Rick carried the sofa upstairs. I thought this room looked huge when it was empty. But as things come in, the proportions seem to take care of themselves.

   While Elicia and I were working upstairs, Ed and Rick were working on framing the columns in front of the garage. This was one of those things that never got done when we were building the apartment. Once the apartment was done Ed started in on the house, and know the rest. Since the stone guys will be here in a few weeks, this needed to get done right away. Four more columns in the front, and four in the back.

    When they were done, we noticed something odd. The columns on the garage were the same size as the house but the proportions looked wrong. Then we realized it was all about perspective. The house sits on a higher foundation than the garage, and is bisected by the line of the porch. Ed will shorten the garage columns by about six inches. While they won't be as tall as the ones on the house, they will appear to match because they will be proportionate to the garage.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's All In The Details or Full Speed Ahead

   Before I left for a short trip out of state I finished the slate tiles on the downstairs fireplace. We liked the soldier rows on the hearth much better than the larger slate pieces we used upstairs. Ed went up and chiseled them off the upstairs hearth and I'll re-do them. It's easy to re-do now. Once those granite hearth tops go on, it would be really difficult.

   Some of the furniture has begun to arrive. We received the upstairs sofa, an end table, and two Morris chairs. I was a little nervous about buying furniture on-line, since my prior experience was such a nightmare.
   We bought the chairs and sofa through Furniture Butler  ( and I couldn't be happier with their service and the product. The sofa is comfortable and the leather is delicious. We're going to leave it in the wrapping as long as I can stand it to keep the last of the construction dust off. The sofa will get carried upstairs when Ed has a stronger helper than I am.
   See those columns? Those go from the top of that cabinet to the ceiling at the on each side, of course. The columns mimic the front door and the exterior porch detail.
   Ed has finished all the window and door trim, and has been working on the baseboards. Elicia and I will give the window and door trim a sanding and second coat of finish in place. Ed did the same for the baseboards prior to installation, because who wants to spend a week crouched down on hands and knees to do that? While I was gone he installed almost all of the baseboards, and he finished them today.

   On the way home from the airport yesterday, I stopped at Lowe's and picked up the Bosch dishwasher we ordered. That needs to get installed before Friday, since we're hoping the granite will come then. Everything is proceeding at lightening speed!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Upstairs Downstairs

   Ed dislikes jumping from one project to another. If he's working on trim, he wants to complete all the trim before going to something else. Unfortunately, on a project this size that's nearly impossible to do. Before he could install the downstairs door trim, he had to tile the powder room. I originally ordered four boxes of tile instead of six, so we had to wait until the two extra boxes arrived.
   These mosaic tiles have woven mat backing and are a little different than working with larger tiles. The mat is water soluble so that it dissolves in the thin set to firmly set the little pieces. Unfortunately that also means if you use a wet saw to cut to fit, the backing immediately begins to dissolve, and you're left with a fist full of little tiles. I had bought a dry saw with a diamond blade that looks like an itty bitty skil saw. It works like a champ.
 Setting the mosaic tiles was different than setting regular tiles. The thin set squishes up between the tiles if you set them too deeply, leaving no room for grout. It's not grouted yet, but it's beautiful. I think it would tend to make me dizzy in a larger room, but it's perfect for this tiny powder room.  This room will have a pedestal sink, toilet and a little pine antique cabinet.

   Once that was done Ed returned to trimming out the downstairs windows and doors. He sorted through the finished lumber (remember the dungeon?) and decided which pieces he wanted on each window or door, made a cut list and set to it. I would have measured one door, cut and installed the pieces. Ed says it's much more efficient to measure all the doors, cut all the wood, then install. He's right, of course. I'm just not that organized. By last night he had the craftroom, back bathroom, and hallway doors completely done, all of the windows trimmed, and everything but some of the crown molding over a few doors completed.
   We need to get the fireplaces tiled before the granite hearths come, and that's my project. I told Ed I'd like to do this by myself, knowing full well it'll take me a lot longer than if he did it. He has more than enough to do himself so he gladly agreed. I had to stop and ask him a question or two but he has been very patient and supportive, to the point of very diplomatically not pointing out my mistakes, and there are plenty. I did the upstairs fireplace first, hoping to iron out any difficulties there.
    I love the look of the old Rookwood keystone fireplace tiles, but since I haven't won a lottery, I decided to use slate tiles instead. I used some stained glass techniques to make a pattern for the keystone pieces. Using the wet saw, I cut those pieces out of 12"x12" slate tiles. Slate is essentially compressed mud, and is really easy to cut. With a marking pen, I numbered the backs, drew an arrow indicating which direction was up (really...I have to) and set them aside.
Every piece that had to be cut was a trip up and down the stairs. Mark the piece, go down the stairs, change into outside shoes, cut the piece, change into inside shoes, up the stairs. Check the piece for fit, repeat.
   When I bought the pieces for the hearth sides, I assumed they were 18"x18". They aren't....and this was the second time I've assumed I knew the size of tile. My mantra is now "Assume makes an ass out of you and me". So I took the 16" tiles, cut the height to match the hearth, and just worked with what I had. I'll do it differently downstairs.
    I had a few problems with the first row of mosaic, and the pattern is off a bit, but I'll do it differently downstairs.
   I mismeasured the cheaterboard that represents the height of the granite piece, but I'll do it differently downstairs.
   Today we're off to Home Depot to pick up some more mosaic pieces and 3"x6" slate for downstairs. That little adventure will be next week. At least I won't have to go up and down the stairs.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Solid As A Rock

   This week has been a little frustrating. Things seem to get started, interrupted, then need parts. It's a long way to the store and it feels like forever to completion.
   Monday, Independence Day, Ed mowed the west pasture. Maybe someday we'll hay those fields, but not now.  Tuesday was "go to town" day, which means Home Depot (water softener, miscellaneous parts) and groceries. Wednesday we finally got to work.
   We knew Bergenson's Tile and Stone was coming out to measure on Thursday. All the cabinets had to be in place for the measurements. Ed finished hooking up the stove venting and got the front on the hood cabinet. He also put some additional blocking under the island and bolted the whole thing to the floor. Once the granite is on, it'll be as solid as a rock.
   Thursday evening, Jeff arrived to measure the cabinet tops. I thought he'd know.... measure. Silly me. He walked the site and looked at all the counter top areas, checked for problem spots, and discussed options and solutions. Then he brought out a machine that looked like a laser level on steroids and began mapping the counter tops.
    The stylus is tied to the computer and as he touches various points on the surface, it enters data into the computer and draws the area. Once that's done, he goes back to the main screen and enters the overhang, rounded corners, and whatever quirks are required for that particular piece. When he's back at the shop he can plot the pieces on the slabs. He will also take photos of the individual slabs, then cut and paste them onto the layout as they will actually appear when installed. Instant gratification! I'll be able to see them two weeks before getting them.
   The craft/utility room won't have granite counter tops. In preparation for the stainless steel counter tops, Ed screwed 3/4" plywood down. He bolted the island down to the floor, finished wiring the two island electrical outlets, and hooked up the outlets for the central vacuum. That door clears the cabinet and plate cover by about 1/4". What planning!
   I love the central vacuum system. Since we're no longer dealing with major construction debris, I can now use the house vacuum. No more hauling that huge shop vac up and down the stairs.

   The craft room cabinets are now in place. The surface is prepared for counter tops....except...I couldn't find an appropriately sized stainless steel laundry sink at any of the box stores. I ordered a Franke 20"x20"x10" sink on line. The good news is, it'll be delivered to the house. The bad news is, it'll take a week. As bad things go, that's not so bad.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

That Sinking Feeling or What's Cooking?

   What a week! Things are starting to move ahead at a breakneck speed.
   I began the week by cutting out the slate for the crown and keystone which will go on the fireplace. The slate is really just a very soft sedimentary rock..barely rock in fact. It was very easy to cut. I had my pattern pieces all mapped out, and just marked them on the back with a Sharpie pen like I do stained glass and cut them. They fit well on the flat. We'll see what happens when I put them on the fireplace. I hope for the best.

   Ed installed the trim piece for the upstairs family room window. Yes, it's a little corny but I'm not exactly what one would call "sophisticated". Now that all the window and door trim is done in the upstairs, I need to give it a light sand and another coat of urethane.

  I also drove into Oregon and picked out slabs of granite. The granite fabricator needs a 4-6 week lead time, so I needed to get this show on the road.
   This is a big ticket item and I was nervous about making the wrong choice. When I went into the slab warehouse, I was overwhelmed by the choices. They are all so beautiful. Carrie at Elemar gave me a pad of paper and pencil and helped me organize a list, then turned me loose to wander the warehouse. As I walked around I wrote down the dark colors that appealed to me, and in another column, the light colors.
    In cruising the internet I already had some ideas. Some stone, like the Hurricane was much more of a pumpkin color than I had expected. It is beautiful, but I crossed it off the list. Others, like Alaska White were more bland than I had thought. I also brought my paint, floor and travertine samples. This was an enormous help.
   Finally I narrowed it down to three. Golden Night will be for the kitchen perimeter and kitchen desk.

 I chose Matrix Motion for the kitchen island. The grain and movement is very similar to Golden Night, and the colors are the same, but in reverse. I'll also use this for our bathroom vanity to compliment the silver travertine.

   The other bathrooms have walnut travertine on the floors and in the showers. This was where taking flooring and paint samples was really helpful. The granite I expected to use here was too much like the travertine. Others were too orange. The Juperana Persa was just right.
   Cut-offs from these pieces will be used to make the fireplace hearth seats.
 Ed has been working to get the cabinets in. He's had some help via his pastor, Ryan Frank. Tuesday they started with the upstairs vanities, then moved to the library.
 I can't help but grin every time I see these shelves. I have boxes and boxes of books in the barn just waiting to be put up. Do I use the Dewey Decimal System? Do I arrange them by subject matter? I'll probably re-arrange them several times. Too bad I gave away all those cookbooks. There is plenty of room for them now!

   Ryan was back on Thursday. The upper cabinets in the craft room went up, and then they started on the kitchen. By Thursday evening, the kitchen upper cabinets were installed, and my stove (Sr. Bridget) was ready for hook up.
     Friday Ed connected the stove to the gas line fitting, slipped the vent into place, and slid Sr. Bridget into her new and final home. She looks pretty good for 90 years old. I put on all the handles and knobs I found five years ago, and she's ready to cook up a storm. I can hardly wait.
   Yesterday afternoon Ed and I had the lower kitchen cabinets in place. We positioned the peninsula
, put the back on, and placed the supports for the breakfast bar. After that, Ed finished setting the island. Except for installing sinks and appliances, we're ready for granite.

   Sinks are my next object of anxiety. The interior dimensions of our sink cabinet are 32"x22". Who knew that most large kitchen sinks require an interior dimension of 34"? Not I, that is until now. I also need 3-4" behind the sink for the faucet mounting, which means the sink will need to be 18" wide. I can kiss my composite sink goodbye. I really didn't want stainless steel, but I'll take whatever works. Stay tuned.