Sunday, September 18, 2011

Granite counter-tops in the kitchen

We have finally upgraded the kitchen counter-tops from Formica to granite.

Linda looked around and found some granite that might work at Austin Stone Works. It turned out those slabs were already taken, so we had to look further. There are 4 or 5 major yards that have granite in Austin, and we went to all of them. Repeatedly.

Eventually we found some granite called Copper Canyon Exotica.

We reserved it at the yard and told Austin Stone Works about it. They quoted us a price and started work to cut and shape the stone in their shop. They called and told us that installation would be on the 15th.

On the 14th, I then started clearing off the counter tops. All the drawers and kitchen ware under the counters was removed. The gas stove top was disconnected and removed. The sink and faucet were disconnected.

I also removed the disposal. The City had been indicating that they didn't want us to use our disposal -- they suggested putting food scraps in the trash to lessen the difficulty in processing waste water. So I figured we would just not put a disposal back in. I put an electrical box in under the sink and put the electrical wiring into it.

On the morning of the 15th, two workers showed up. First they removed the old Formica counter-tops.

And then they installed the new granite counter-tops. All the space had been carefully measured, so that the granite pieces were just put in place and fit.

As part of the counter-tops, we also got a new sink. It's a 16-gauge stainless steel sink from Soci.

The contract with Austin Stone Works was for $7245.83. That covered removing the old Formica, the granite (getting the granite, cutting it to size and installing it), and the sink.

I got a new faucet from Lowe's for $246.81, a Delta Ashton Stainless Steel Model: 19922-SSSD-DST. It comes with a soap dispenser, but we didn't use it, so we only needed one hole drilled in the granite for the faucet.

Finally, I called Sully's Plumbing to connect the new sink to the drain pipes. That was $220. I figured that with the new sink and the now missing disposal, it required more skill than I have to design and implement a new way of connecting the sink and dishwasher drains to the old drain line. Now that it is done, I can see what is involved -- maintenance is easier than creating the initial system.

The next day was spent with putting in the faucet and getting the plumber and with putting everything back in place -- all the drawers and kitchenware, reattaching the gas stovetop and cleaning everything up.

The main missing piece now is a new backsplash.

Switch land-line phone service

AT&T was providing our land-line telephone service. It was about $20 a month after the base service plus taxes and fees. But then they raised the base cost by $2 a month in January, and then another $3 a month in August, which put the total monthly cost to more than $30.

Time Warner Cable provides our cable TV service and our internet service. We can throw the telephone service to them too, and get their "triple bundle". The triple bundle would provide both land-line phone service and long-distance. Normally we pay little for long-distance, about $5 to $10 a month, but with the higher cost of the AT&T service, it becomes cost effective to switch to Time Warner.

And now that AT&T has dug up the back yard and repaired our land-line connection, we at least know that it is possible to switch back and have working service.

So we made the move. In theory, our phone number is "portable", and we can continue using it. According to Time Warner, all we needed to do was switch out our previous internet cable modem with a new cable modem that also provided phone service and then wait for the magic to happen that would switch our service.

Originally our service was to switch over on 13 September, but that came and went with no apparent change -- picking up our phones still gave us a dial tone from AT&T. When I called, they said there were "technical" difficulties and the switch would happen on 15 September or no later than noon on the 16th.

Nothing seemed to happen on the 15th, but on the morning of the 16th, our phones were all dead -- no dial tone. To check, I plugged a phone into the Time Warner cable modem, but got no dial tone there either.

Waiting until after noon, I then called Time Warner. It took all afternoon to get the phones working. First they thought it was a problem with the modem, so I
took the old "new" modem back to the service center and swapped it for a new "new" modem. No change. Then there were issues with their data base, and several fields and "codes" that had to be changed. Around 5:00 pm, they got the phones working. It took over an hour of cell-phone minutes to make this happen.

Once the modem provided phone service, it was fairly easy to plug that into a nearby phone outlet, which takes the signal upstairs to our phone switch board. I could then run it to the distribution bars and then back down to the active phones downstairs.

Two problems developed. First, the phone line cords that connect phone equipment -- the kind with two RJ-14 clips on the end -- reverse the red/green wires. That reverses the polarity of the signal and causes problems with some telephone equipment.

The other problem was that one of the connectors was shorting out internally. By taking it apart and adjusting the position of the internal wiring, I was able to get it working correctly.