kitchen make-over

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May 282008

Not long ago, it was just an empty room, with some nice windows. Over the Memorial Day weekend, we installed the kitchen cabinets, and have taken yet another a leap forward towards our move-in day.

It was a very full weekend, and I learned lots of tricks as we worked with Tony Mowers, placing each cabinet, getting it level and aligned with it’s neighbors, and screwing it into place. We did the bottom row first, using shims to get each unit aligned with it’s neighbors, starting in the corner and working our way out. Basically, we drew a level line on the wall, at the top of each row of cabinetry, with marks where studs in the wall were located. Then we fit the cabinet in place, with a large level on top, aligning the front edges, screwing the cabinet to it’s neighbor, then into the stud in the wall.


Here is what it takes to install cabinets, aside from another person to help 🙂

  • short and long levels
  • clamps and shims
  • 3” self-tapping flathead screws
  • 1” wood screws (not shown)
  • plastic mallet for tapping things into adjustment
  • stud finder
  • power drills and screwdrivers and chargers and batteries
  • pencils for marking walls

For the upper cabinets, add a piece of 2×4 lumber to mount on the wall, to help hold the cabinets in place while we fasten them. You can see it in use in the pic at the top of the page — we screwed several of the upper cabinets together to align the faces, then lifted the whole unit into place and added screws across the tops and bottoms of the cabinets into studs. Then we removed the 2×4, filled the screw holes, and mounted the doors. It’s a surprisingly quick process, when you know what you are doing and have the right kind of help. Thanks, Tony.


The finished product, ready for tile and appliances. The white object in the center is a stainless steel backsplash, with a Kobe vent hood over it, for the BlueStar range. The microwave fits under the counter on the right, dishwasher in the island on the left, and the refrigerator goes on the extreme right. These are getting delivered in about 10 days, after the tile is done.

light and space

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May 232008

We’re having moments of enlightenment and pleasure as we put in our 12 hour days to bring the house to completion. For example, this photo shows the “great” room in the afternoon, where I am assembling our kitchen cabinets. This set of windows faces south and east, and we see these amazing slices of the trees and hillside. The big oak next to our house looks like a sculpture, and we are privileged to see it at this angle, branches reaching and twisting through space.


Ah, the cabinets. There are 15 of them, and I’ve got 11 done. The last 4 will be finished tomorrow, and we’ll install them this weekend. It took me a couple of hours to modify the drawer base on the right, removing 2 drawers and building a shelf for a built-in microwave. I’m rather proud of myself; I haven’t done simple carpentry in 20 years.

Most of the 3rd floor is painted, and here you see the bedroom and living room. The light and the time of day change everything, and I now understand why Nancy would ask for test color patches, then come back several times throughout the day to look at them. These two late afternoon photos look a bit similar at this time of the day, but actually show an unpainted bedroom wall on the left (with a test patch) and the fully painted great room. The bedroom ceiling is painted the same as the great room, and the color gets reflected, so the white primer looks like a color.

The pic of the great room at the top of the page shows the same color a few hours earlier, and it looks much lighter. Our house has moods.


The stairs are moving along quickly, and are starting to look pretty dramatic. I finished staining and adding a satin clear coat to the framing yesterday, and today, Steve and Tom Tillman are putting in the stair tread brackets. These are temporary treads; the real floating treads (more than 3” thick) are neatly stacked in the garage waiting for stain and finish. The center wall is going to look like art when we complete it with slats of clear douglas fir on the outside.

And finally, we have cedar siding done on one deck, and nearing completion around the front door and the other deck. What a burst of color and warmth, against the background of stucco and concrete.

color and texture

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May 182008

This week has brought a lot of texture to the outside of the house, and major progress on the inside. The driveway and curb have been completed, stained cedar siding is going onto the setbacks on the front of the house, and we’re painting and working hard on the interior stairs.

First, the driveway. Artisan Concrete (who also did our foundation) did the pour, while scattering pami gravel that I hauled on Tuesday into the fresh surface, troweling it in. All three things are going on in this photo below.


A couple of hours later, after spraying a retardant on the surface to keep it from hardening too fast, the concrete is set enough to hold the pebble in place. The pic at the top of the page shows Dominic power-spraying the surface with water, removing the top layer of cement and exposing the pebbles. The transformation was amazing and beautiful to watch.


Meanwhile, Nancy and I have been staining the cedar siding on sawhorses across the street. Mauricio has started to install it on the wall of the 3rd floor deck.

Aaand…today we worked on the stair framing. Steve & Tom Tillson installed the main stringers and framing posts a few days ago, and it’s my job to put walnut stain on them. Before and after.


This wood wall up the center of the stairs is going to be completed with narrow slats of clear douglas fir, spaced so you can see through it. The framing is dark, for contrast. I should have pictures to share by the end of the next week.

Nick Razo (Senior and Junior) are arriving Monday to start tiling the house. George and Nancy and I are moving along with the painting, and I’ll be assembling and installing kitchen and bathroom cabinets this week. And cleaning and priming the floor, and installing the ProFlex underlayment membrane before tiling. The stair brackets arrive Wednesday, and we have to paint them. I have less than 2 weeks to get everything out of our storage unit, so the refrigerator, dishwasher, washer & dryer, sinks, toilets, lighting fixtures and bathtub all have to come over soon. The garage is going to be packed.

it’s gone!

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May 132008

…or perhaps, “it’s there!” At the end of the movie “Groundhog Day”, Bill Murray has a moment of enlightenment when he realizes it’s a new day. We finally can see our house, in something like it’s final form.

Awareness pops in sideways. Yes, I made the phone calls: ask Bob Hartwell to get the scaffolding out of the site, ask National Construction Rental to remove their fence and the porta-pottie on Monday. Then there is the reality of arriving Monday morning, and seeing the house without all this stuff in front of it. The stucco color is really good, and looks different throughout the day, muted sage green in early morning and evening, bright under the midday sun, like the picture above. Proportions are great. Folks walking by like it.


Of course, it’s still a construction site. A pile of boulders sits in front of the property, now wrapped with orange plastic fencing, surrounded by orange pylons. Brent Harris’ skip loader and backhoe are parked, ready for duty. The driveway is graded and prepared for our final concrete pour tomorrow morning. Today was wild…I spent a couple of hours hauling 2000 lbs of pami pebbles (to seed the driveway surface) in 5-gallon buckets. With Brent’s crew (thanks again, Randy, Ernesto and Braulio!) we positioned three key bluestones in morter, and laid out the stress crack grid in the driveway, I got bids and ordered 54 steel brackets for stair treads, inspected the treads being cut and planed to size from huge 4” douglas fir boards, talked to a tiler about a bid, and talked to our tile supplier about crack-suppressing underlayment from ProFlex. I also put in a half day at work. Needless to say, I’m a bit tired tonight.

Tomorrow, I’ll be there at 7am to adjust the grid to meet Nancy’s specifications, deliver some 2×12 lumber so we can create a ramp from the side of the driveway into the garage, and continue work on stairs, cedar siding, painting and radiant heating while the concrete sets. Pedal to the metal.

Here is my drawing for the stair brackets, and some of the stair treads being manufactured by the Tilson’s in their shop.


I can’t believe I’m so excited that we have our first working toilet in the house 🙂

more railings

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May 022008

Now that the stucco is done, I’ve taken time off of work to install the cable railing system. It’s more than half done now, and the results are great! And my arms ache from the effort.

I bought cable kits from Feeney Architectural Products to do the whole thing. The first thing I discovered is that the self-swaging cable terminators require 9/16” holes in the rail posts on one end of each cable run. There are 5 cable runs, each with 12 cables…so I had to drill 60 9/16” holes through 2 layers of 1/4” steel. This meant that I had to purchase a really good drill (i.e. a guy toy, a Milwaukee 1/2”), a 9/16” cobalt steel drill bit (thank you, Grainger), and ultimately, a drill bit sharpener. I now have incredible respect for people who work with steel. It took a lot of strength and energy to drill those holes!


Let me start with the cable kits. Once again, we’re at the place where “some assembly is required”. Here is a set of cables, short 5-footers and long 15-footers, with a tube of locktite, the nuts that go on the threaded end, the swages that go on the bare end, and the stainless steel caps that finish them off.

The cable is threaded through the posts, a nut and washer goes on the threaded end (not visible), and a the swage slides onto the bare end with a nylon washer. The swage locks onto the cable, so it can only be pushed in one direction. These are the 9/16” holes I drilled, with 4 swages installed, and a 5th swage going onto the cable.


The almost-finished product. Nuts on the threaded ends on the right have been tightened to make the cables taught. The next step is to take a cutting wheel to the threaded shaft, trimming the excess, add a drop of locktite, then snap a finish cap onto the end. The result is the neat, clean installation you see on the left.

By the way, I left some extra threaded shaft on the end of each cable, so I can pop the caps off and tighten the cable if it stretches over time.

Meanwhile, work is starting on the inside stairway. Steve and Tom Tillson have started making templates for the 4×12 stringers that will go up the center of the stair well, which will support the floating treads. I had a load of 4×12 ‘selected grade 1 structural kiln-dried free-of-heart-center douglas fir’ (aka ‘select 1 struct KD FOHC DF’) delivered to their shop today. They are planing the 16’ beams down to size, and I should have some pictures and progress to report within a few days.

George, Nancy and I continue to prime all the walls, paint ceilings and door frames, and prepare the house for final smooth drywall touch-up, kitchen cabinets, and bath room tiling. Waterproofing of the shower and decks will be finished this coming week. The gutter downspouts will be done Tuesday, and the scaffolding will be picked up Wednesday. Cedar siding arrives on Thursday. We’re scheduling the concrete pours for the curb and driveway, and placement of rocks on the hillside to build the slope back up in front of the wing walls. I’m keeping my foot on the throttle.