Demolition Diaries: KaZoo Kitchen Reno

Newsflash: We are back in demo mode! The KaZoo Kitchen is no more. Well, the old one anyway. When we bought the ‘Zoo in December 2013, our kitchen looked like this:

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It was a typical builder kitchen with basic white appliances, stock thermofoil cabinets, beige laminate countertops, beige vinyl tile, and a micro pantry. All the essentials, and all functional (mostly). Once we brought our old (but newer than theirs) fridge and a new gas range, things were looking up:

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After installing our hood vent in summer 2014, which necessitated the removal of some of our wall cabinets, the kitchen took a turn for the worse functionally and aesthetically. We added some hardware to facilitate drawer and door opening, but the loss of so many upper cabinets was rough. We painted to help the kitchen feel happier until we could do a real renovation.

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In the interim, we began discussing ideas for our future kitchen. Almost immediately, we began dreaming of relocating the refrigerator: Its position in the southeast corner meant we could never open the refrigerator door fully. Stuffing pizza boxes, jugs of milk, watermelons, holiday turkeys, etc. in the refrigerator was next to impossible, but even regular things like heads of lettuce, bagged carrots, and leftovers saved in Pyrex containers proved difficult. While buying a French door fridge might help matters somewhat, we were also frustrated with the inefficient pantry on the opposite end of the kitchen (deep but not wide = digging out 10 things to get 1 item at the back). While having a pantry is nice, we decided we’d rather have more cabinets and counterspace…and was it remotely possible that the fridge would fit in the pantry’s spot if we tore down the pantry?! We couldn’t shake the idea, and after measuring, there was joyous celebration in the KaZoo Kitchen for the kitchen-to-come.

Of course, we were concerned the pantry might be structural, but other homes with our same floorplan in the neighborhood didn’t have a floor-to-ceiling wall at the pantry (the boxy area above our pantry was completely open to the living room in the other homes), which gave us hope. We took everything out of the pantry (feel free to play “Where’s Hermes?”)

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and tore into the drywall above the pantry to check things out.

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Our basic understanding of structures was telling us we were looking good, and after getting a licensed professional to confirm our suspicions, Mission Fridge Move was a go! That’s when the fun of Demo Day began. Kicking down drywall is so…satisfying!

Once the pantry was torn out, it was amazing how open the kitchen felt! While we had attic access above the old pantry/new fridge location, my dad and I installed a new electrical circuit and outlet so that the refrigerator would have its own independent circuit. My dad is a professionally licensed electrical engineer, and while I could do the wiring myself now after years of helping him, I’d rather have a professional on the site.

There’s a lot of shoddy DIY structural, electrical, and plumbing work out there that might get missed in a regular home inspection that can be the ultimate nightmare, so be skeptical of any home that’s obviously been renovated (especially if you see signs of bad workmanship, like the worst painted-over, patched drywall you’ve ever seen). Chances are, those homeowners may not have gotten the licensed professionals, permits, or inspections necessary to ensure a quality job. Installing or moving electrical, structural, and plumbing is a huge deal. Just because a friend or family member ‘taught’ you how to do something back in the day doesn’t mean it’s up to current code or would meet the code for the state in which you now live (Florida and California have specialized requirements, for example). Calling a professional is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of intelligence. 

We then took out the island, scraped and cleaned the remaining vinyl tiles up, lay the underlayment, and tiled the first part of the kitchen. We also patched, taped, mudded, and sanded the drywall in the new-fridge area.

 

After allowing those tiles to set, we took out the rest of the cabinets, only to discover damaged drywall behind the sink, where the previous residents clearly had experienced a leak at some point. We expected some damage because of the water damage we had seen in the cabinets, but it was more extensive than we had hoped.

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We had a mold inspection when we purchased the house that came back good to go (otherwise we would not have purchased the home), but we definitely wanted to get rid of the water damaged drywall (and the insulation behind it) ASAP, now that it was exposed and accessible.  At this point, our fridge got to move to its new, happier home. Behold the wonder and glory of being able to open the doors completely!

Can’t you hear angels singing? Hallelujah! We can. Every time I open the fridge now I can’t help but smile. You’ll note that we left the wall to the left of the fridge (a) because it had the kitchen switches on it) and (b) because we wanted the wall to hide the fridge from the view in the rest of the main living and dining area, which it does rather well.

Anyway, out went the damaged drywall, followed by the insulation, as carefully as possible to minimize possible mold spore diaspora. We took out everything in all areas evidencing any water damage plus a bit beyond the damage, both vertically and horizontally, just in case. The studs were fine, though. Whew. We installed new insulation and mold resistant purple-board (the new green-board), which was made easier with a compass-like drywall cutter than enabled us to cut clean circles for the pipe fittings and wiring.

We taped and mudded the new drywall, then lay more underlayment. The floors would already have been finished, but we wanted to keep our range connected to the gas, which has meant flooring in phases.

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Hermes is ready for things to be finished. So are we. Next time we’ll be sharing the finished flooring, painting, and all about the cabinets. I can’t wait to put ALL THE THINGS in the cabinets. And now back to work. 😉

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One Days, Todays, and Labor Days

Remember when we were I was all sorts of ambitious and thought we could complete a whole house flooring project in forty days? Smirk.  

In my defense, it has been an unusual summer. My grandfather passed away at the end of June, one of our dear family friends passed away in August, and Chris started a new job (vacation days now reset to zero). Life happens, or so ‘they’ say. Death happens, too.

Trouble is, I’m starting to realize that this is the new normal.

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As a child, I was a dreamer, always envisioning how things would be one day. In eighth grade, we were given a prompt to write about which age we thought would be the best age and why. Most of my classmates immediately thought of ages like 16, 18, 21, etc. I secretly thought retirement age would be best but was embarrassed about why I would want to be an ‘old person’ puttering around a garden or sitting in a rocking chair on a farmhouse porch instead of a hip teenager with a cool car and independence. {Sidenote: Why do we spend so much time wishing to be older only to become old and wish we were young instead?} 

As a young adult, I developed into a planner and hard worker, carefully setting goals, making schedules, checking off to do lists, all in the interests of achieving and earning the right to enjoy the ‘one day’ that I had envisioned retirement being.  My family has a work now, play later mentality. We handle delayed gratification well. Except not so much anymore.

I’ve watched my parents work very hard for many years, but to what end? Caring for people with dementia/Alzheimer’s disease is definitely not the peaceful retirement life I imagined. Having dementia/Alzheimer’s isn’t either.

At 31, I’ve finally realized that there is no ‘one day’–at least, not in this life. If we live for ‘one day’, we will miss today.  And tomorrow makes no promises.

One day our floors will be done.  It won’t be today, tomorrow, or anytime soon. As tired of living in chaos as I am, I am slowly accepting that chaos is normal for people who bought a fixer upper and are fixing it up as time and money allow while living in it. Also insanity.IMG_5109-2

Plus, as a DIYer, the day ‘one day’ arrives is a death sentence. This means you have ‘finished’ your space, and there is nothing left to do to improve upon it. But one day will never come, because there will always be something new that catches your eye and inspires you to tackle another project. In this sense, one day simply isn’t coming because there is a part of us that refuses to let it.

My creative desire to prolong one day clashes with my perfectionist need for one day to have come yesterday. For the floors to be done and for everything to be back in its place so that we can host dinner parties. For me to have the time to host dinner parties. For me to have the time (and space) to make dinner. For me to have the time to eat dinner. Kidding, I ALWAYS make time for eating dinner.

Dreaming and planning, like most things, are good in moderation and can bring joy. But for a recovering perfectionist like me, I have come to the conclusion that dreams and plans are also killjoys, stealing my ‘todays’ while I’m caught up in the ‘one days’ they promise to deliver. Like the plans I made to accomplish ALL THE FLOORS! in forty, no fifty, days. My plans whispered, Follow me, and you’ll have everything back to normal in no time at all! Fool that I am, I believed their lies.  IMG_5063-1

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone,  when Harry is held captive (figuratively) by the Mirror of Erised, Dumbledore cautions, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Despite how many times I have read this book/watched the movie and thought this was sage advice, only now do I feel the depth of the knowledge and experience bound up in Dumbledore’s words.  It is one thing to know something in your head and entirely another to know it in your heart.

Our neighbors have stopped asking us if our floors are finished yet. Smart people. The eardrum shattering whine of the wet saw tells them we are making progress slowly and steadily. They know we’ll invite them over to see the finished product. One day.

We’ll be spending this Labor Day weekend grouting, cleaning, and moving furniture back into place so we can switch to working on the rest of the house (and stop paying rent on our storage unit-ugh). We will also be knocking out some of the fencing this weekend, too, if time allows. Fun times.

IMG_5040Oh, and this happened a couple of weeks ago when we were doing dishes. Our cabinets are literally falling apart. The up close picture shows you how worn they are. We think the kitchen is trying to tell us something….We hear you, kitchen. We do. You’re next. One day. 😉

Pros and Cons of DIY Flooring

Recently, I’ve noticed some DIYers in the blogosphere handing over jobs they could do themselves (or even have done before) to the ‘pros’.  Perhaps these are the people whose jobs, blogs, and/or side gigs are highly profitable…or people who have had back surgery…or people who have a solid dose of common sense and enough experience to know when doing it yourself just isn’t for the best for whatever reason.  Now that we are waist deep in tile, we are revisiting the pros and cons of DIY tile flooring installation that we weighed prior to starting our project but for which we have a greater appreciation now:

Pros:

  • You save BIG BUCKS not paying for labor.
  • You can work at your own pace and/or work slowly enough to ensure it is not a rush job. No worries about that rush job here. None at all. 
  • Concrete mixing and lifting 50 lb sacks of mortar make you strong.  Chris is definitely in better shape than he has been in years.
  • You learn new skills {including delayed gratification and ways to de-smellify your hands from hours of wearing chemical resistant gloves}.
  • You have the satisfaction of accomplishment when finished, whenever that will be. Probably sometime next year.
  • You can control the quality of the job if you know what you are doing.

Cons:

  • You take on additional supply costs, such as the purchase or rental of things like expensive wet saws, grinders, floor scrapers, etc. to which pro installers already have access, but you, the burgeoning DIYer, may not. Womp, womp.
  • Working at your own pace can be VERRRRRRRRRY SLOOOOOOOOOW, especially if you don’t take time off work. When tiling an entire house, taking one, even two weeks off work isn’t always sufficient…and who wants to spend all of their vacation days laying tile? Not these kids.
  • At the same time, if you rely on a ‘pro’ to do the job, you may not be able to ensure timely completion of the job anyway. Some of our neighbors hired someone to install their wood plank tile who didn’t show up for work for days on end while they were living in a hotel.  When they called his cell phone from their home to find out where he was, they heard his phone ringing on their kitchen counter. Whoopsy.
  • Two words: concrete lung (discussed here).
  • Person with bad knees + hours on knee pads on concrete slab = Sore Limpsalot
  • If you don’t know what you are doing, you are likely going to have to call in the pros sooner or later anyway, negating all previously discussed pros of DIY.
  • If you rely on a ‘pro’ to the the job, you are making assumptions that this person knows more about tiling than you do and cares about doing a quality job. When remodeling their guest bath, my father discovered that the pro who installed the tile in the house my parents purchased had tiled up to the baseboards, rather than removing them.  Seriously!? Who does that?!

RIght now, we still have zero tile set in mortar.  We’ve still been making frequent trips to my grandparents’ house and had friends from the city visit Friday/Saturday, so no real progress made.  Our overnight guests have had to stay at my parents’ house because our house looks  like a warzone (and our furniture is in storage), and now we are going to be stuck renting the storage unit for a third month because we are so far behind on our project.  A mantra worth reciting: People are more important than projects.

We’ve also had three major setbacks specific to the floor work, two of which we’ve shared and the third we’re discussing today:

IMG_4785The Flytrap

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The Dustbowl

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The Flat Fiasco

Flattening the floor has been a nightmare.  We don’t have access to pro products that are ideal for flashing the floor, and and we couldn’t grind down or raise our entire slab up enough to flatten the floors either. Given the risks of a two man crew with rapid set self-leveler, we went the patch and level route.  Patch and level is fine for filling in small holes, but we have MAJOR valleys for which it is insufficient.  When some of our neighbors asked about our progress and we mentioned the slab situation, they told us that they watched the last few houses in the neighborhood get built (our house was one of them) and that the inspectors had stopped coming regularly to check on the quality of the jobs. That explains A LOT.  It is clear that the crew doing our house knew (a) that no one would see how bad the slab was and (b) that forgiving flooring like carpet and vinyl tile were going to hide the atrocities committed. There’s a reputable homebuilder/remodeler in our area that we probably should have used to address this issue rather than continuing on our own, but we’re working on troubleshooting the situation in a more timely fashion than waiting in a builder’s queue (and paying $$$). Right now, the outlook’s pretty grim, but we hope to see sunlight peeking through the dust clouds soon. In the meanwhile, here’s a sneak peek of what’s motivating us to press forward: IMG_4999-1

The cats are going to LOVE it, and so are we. We love the warm brown color even better than the samples we got from a different dye lot, which had more red-orange in them.  This isn’t dry-fitted, it’s just some pieces we were using to play with pattern.  We have earned four paws of approval from Hermes but await Cleo’s verdict.

Prepare to be Floored

Last Thursday we made our most expensive home improvement purchase yet {gulp}….We finally ordered flooring for our whole house!  We talked about the porcelain wood plank tile we chose, Spice in the American Heritage Series by Marazzi (#3 in the pic), here.

IMG_4472We have a couple of weeks between now and the delivery date, so we will be spending that time prepping the rest of our house for flooring. This involves the following exciting (and overwhelming) activities, some of which we started last year, here,  

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and the rest that we will be tackling this week:

  • renting storage unit to store garage things and furniture so that we have room for 1850 square feet of 6 x 36 wood look porcelain tile coming on 4 pallets (and can move furniture out in sections to prep floors and lay tile) (did this Tues)
  • moving garage things and furniture to said storage unit (Wed-Thurs)
  • removing baseboards and shoe moulding (carefully) (Fri)
  • ripping up carpet, carpet pads, tack strips and hauling to curb for pick up (Thurs-Fri)
  • renting PRO scraper from Big Orange and scraping up vinyl tiles, glue, and paint and hauling to curb for pick up (Sat)
  • patching holes and cracks in concrete, sanding, cleaning, and flattening where needed
  • purchasing and installing DITRA (maybe/maybe not) Update: We are definitely going with DITRA!
  • purchasing DITRAset and other supplies as needed (trowels, etc.)
  • snapping chalk lines to form grid and dry-fitting tile
  • purchasing a commercial wet saw (none for rent in our area are large enough to rip 36″ tile) [if needed, based on our dry-fit]
  • pre-cutting tile

Fun times, right? Or crazy times.  Getting ALLLLLL this done in two weeks while working should be interesting. Oh, and we have a fence to finish, too. If you want to track our progress in more real time, check us out on Instagram: @kazoopartyoftwo

Here goes nothing!

And the {Floor} Winner Is….

Recently we shared about our plans to lay wood look tile throughout our home (here), and we had these contestants in the Final Four for the Floor: IMG_4472Can you guess which one we chose?

If you guessed #3, you nailed it! #3 is called American Heritage (color Spice) by Marazzi.  We were really torn between it and the Storka Barnwood in Pecan (#1), but we ultimately decided that the Spice had the warmth we really wanted most, while the Barnwood was a little too rustic for this particular house if we ever need to resell.  Also, after ‘touching up’ the chips with Sharpies and being disappointed at first, they are now virtually unnoticeable. American Heritage for the win!

We are now looking at grout options and are leaning towards the bottom color, which is called French Gray by Bostik:

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We can’t wait to see those floors seamlessly flowing from room to room, but next up is some seriously whole-house floor demo as well as ripping out a linen closet and pantry.  Grab your crowbars, folks, and let the countdown to #demolition2015 begin!

Final Four for the Floor

Wood look tile seems to be the top flooring trend of late, but we’ve been thinking about it ever since we bought the ‘Zoo and felt eww on our feet.  The peeling vinyl tiles, complete with faux grout lines filled with 20 years of gunk, the ‘newer’ but threadbare shag carpet with cheap pad, and the exposed metal teeth on the thresholds that shred our soles, the smell emanating from the guest rooms, plus my allergies, had us shopping for flooring from day one.  Last spring, we excitedly began tearing out flooring, but the need for less disgusting flooring was soon superseded by the practical desire to protect our home investments and improvements by doing a re-roof for our big project of 2014. Now, 2015 is the year of the floor.

A couple of months ago, we started seriously looking at flooring options in our area and options from online tile suppliers that ship to our area.  We got some {free!} samples from various places and started narrowing our preferences to particular colors, lengths, and styles.  We love wood tones of all kinds, and while they have really improved how imitation wood products look, we have noticed that tiles with red/pink or yellow undertones seems to look less realistic, as do tiles that don’t have enough pattern and color variation.  Consequently, we were both drawn to the darker samples in the first round of sampling {as was Hermes, apparently}.  Our first round pick was this guy from South Cypress, an online tile shop with regional roots:

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Note the stain on the far right side.  This carpet is seriously gross people.  

This is a color body tile called Barnwood in color Pecan by Storka.  We definitely wanted a color body tile where the color goes through the body of the tile so that chips and scratches are less noticeable if they happen.  The second tile beside it was our second favorite, another Storka product called Saison in color Angers.  It was also nice but was more uniformly dark.   The third tile, the gray, was something some neighbors of ours got from Home Depot and had installed in their home over the winter.  It looks great in their house, but we just didn’t want to go so gray and so weathered for our floors. We thought Barnwood combined the more traditional deep brown with just enough weathered gray visually and, on a practical note, would provide better camouflage for dirt/sand/pet-ness and be less slippery for wet feet.

We decided to do another round of sampling, focusing on tiles with similar looks and features to our first choice.  We conveniently happened to be in the Birmingham, AL area on Friday, so we stopped by the South Cypress showroom, where Courtney from Sales helped us find additional tiles in which we might be interested.  After examining a number of options, we came home with three more samples, resulting in these four final contenders:

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#1 is Storka’s Barnwood in Pecan (our original favorite).  #2 is Storka’s Saison in Angers (our original second favorite).  #3 is Marazzi’s American Heritage in Spice (a new interest).  #4 is a new Storka product called Lodge in color Forest.  All of these products are color-body porcelain tile, though we observed that the Marazzi tile appeared to have a grayer body than its reddish-brown top.  Courtney pointed this out to us but also reminded us of the hardness of porcelain with respect to potential for chips and scratches. We like that #2, 3, and 4 all come in longer lengths, making them more like wood floors.

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We placed them in different areas of our home with more and less natural and artificial lighting to see how they looked and watched them throughout the day as the position of the sun changed. We also walked on them to get a feel for the texture.  When we laid out all the samples, #3, American Heritage Spice, became our new frontrunner.  It had all the rich, warm tones and hand scraped look we love about wood but didn’t necessarily expect to be able to achieve with wood look tile.  It was the most realistic looking of all the tiles that made the Final Four and also felt the most like wood to our feet.   Compared to #3, the others looked decidedly more muted.  Though less apparent in the picture, #2 had a rougher, oddly synthetic-feeling texture to the feet, and once we felt the difference in texture, we could also see that difference.  #4 was the least wood-like of all of them and the most gray but still had an appealing feel and pattern.

IMG_4464We also noticed a lot of color variation in our original favorite, #1, as you can see in the picture above.  In person, the piece on the right side looks very red, the left looks very brown, and the middle piece looks very gray.  We like some variation and understand that real barnwood would also have considerable variation but are somewhat undecided about whether the variation will draw attention to the shorter ‘board’ length, making it more apparent that these are tiles and not wood planks.

We also experimented with durability and ease of cleanup.  I might have squirted mustard on the samples. And etched them with a screwdriver.  And dropped things on them on purpose.  All of the samples fared relatively well at the cleanup and destructibility tests, though #3 suffered a couple of chips (not from our tests but possibly from transit?) that revealed that the Marazzi definition of color body was indeed suspect.  The  top has a reddish brown, but the color underneath is decidedly gray, which was very obvious when chipped.  Not exactly our definition of color body.  This was sad news for #3, as we were leaning towards this until the chipping gave us cause for pause.

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Right now, we are undecided.  What do you think? We’ve tried to tell Hermes we have to choose just one.  He doesn’t seem to agree.

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Update on the Tile Trial: We’ve been keeping an eye on our tile samples throughout the week.  Spice, which was starting to become our favorite, has started to show signs of damage that furniture markers/Sharpies cannot hide…and the brown/black markers actually don’t match, so it now looks like we’ve drawn on the floor.  Womp, womp. Stay tuned for the final decision!