Monday, November 21, 2011

Tiling the Kitchen Backsplash

With the granite counter tops in place, we could turn our attention to the backsplash behind them. Originally both the counter tops and the backsplash was one continuous sheet of butcher block Formica. When the granite was put in, they broke out and remove the Formica on the counter top itself, but we still had broken pieces on the back splash.

We looked at a lot of possible tiles, but eventually decided on two. For the bulk of the backsplash an Ivory Silver Premium Travertine from Floor & Decor. This came in 18 inch by 18 inch squares. I went thru their entire inventory and picked out 25 tiles that looked the best (not cracked, broken or ugly).

For the backsplash behind the stove itself, we decided to go with a stainless steel tile. We found these at Lowe's -- a sheet (about one foot by one foot) of e inch by 4 inch tiles. They appear to be white ceramic tiles with a metal stainless steel cap on top of them, giving the appearance of a stainless steel tile. I bought 9 of these sheets to cover this section. The box says "2x4x12 Stainless Steel Mosaics".

The only thing left was to get an tile installation person. Floor & Decor has an installer that they recommended, Perfect Floors. In addition, a guy (Darrell McGuire) picking up tile at Floor & Decor overheard what I needed and said they did tile installs. As soon as he had picked up the tile they needed for another job, he came over and looked at our job.

The main problem was that the travertine tiles are 18 x 18, but the cabinets are 18.75 inches from the granite to the bottom of the cabinets. That's too much space to fill in with grout; but too little to fill in with a piece of tile. We considered several options: Cutting each piece to be 9.25 inches (so two of them, rotating the tiles 45 degrees (making the longest dimension over 25 inches), cutting pieces to different heights (so there is not a constant height joint down the middle), filling in at the top, or bottom, with a different type of accent tile, and so on.

Eventually Linda decided a 45 degree rotation would be best.

The two estimates came in at $500 or at $540 -- not a big difference. A search on the internet found one (positive) review for Darrell McGuire, and a large number of mixed reviews for Perfect Floors. So we went with Darrell McGuire.

They were to start on Friday at 9:00 AM, so the previous night and that morning I cleaned all the counters off, turned off the electricity to the outlets and switches in the area that needed tiling, and pulled the outlets and switches out of the wall.

Once this was all done, I started removing the old Formica while I waited. I stuck a putty knife up under the Formica as far as possible to loosen it, and then just pulled. I should have worn gloves, as I got a couple of "paper cuts" from the sharp edges, but got it all off before they showed up.

They used a "tile mastic" to glue the tiles onto the wall. The main thing they did was to cut all the tiles to fit in place. There were a lot of cuts. Every large Travertine tile had to be cut at least once. Plus many had to have holes cut for the switches and outlets. Even the stainless steel tiles, which are more or less one foot square mesh sheets had to have some cuts to fill in the half piece holes on the edge.

Once the tiles were installed, they had to sit overnight until the mastic had dried.

While the mastic was drying, I went and got a bottle of Sealer's Choice Gold from Home Depot. A 24 ounce bottle was $34.58. At 6:00 in the morning, I wiped it on the Travertine with a sponge to seal the stone. This was late enough to let the mastic dry, but still give the sealer 3 to 4 hours to dry before Darrell showed back up to apply the grout.

The grout was Antique White. Behind the stove, with the stainless steel tiles, he used a Delorean Gray unsanded grout.

Once things were grouted, I could put the electrical outlets and plugs back in place. The wall is now much thicker than before -- it is about 1.25 inches thick. This meant that I need longer screws to put most of the outlets and switches back in place. Once they were back, I put a foam gasket behind each switch plate and outlet plate.

A few of the electrical boxes had been added after the original work when the house was built; they were added when we changed the lighting in the kitchen. So rather than metal boxes nailed to the studs, they were blue plastic electrical boxes. These have little "flippers" that hold the box in place. But these only work for walls less than an inch thick, and so would no longer work in my walls. Home Depot has an "Old Work Switch Box Support" (I see it under different brand names -- Steel City, Raco, Caddy, ...) that is a piece of sheet metal that is slipped into the wall cavity on the left and right sides and then bent over to hold the box back.

The grout for the stainless steel tiles was harder to come by and so was done on Monday morning. At the same time, they applied a thin bead of caulk (again "Antique White" to match the grout) at the bottom of the tile to seal everything.

But by Monday mid-morning, everything was done. I paid the $500 for the work, and can now put everything back in place on the counters.

Friday, November 18, 2011

More work on Zone 2

The objective in excavating Zone 2 is to get the irrigation lines in place. This involves both the Zone 2 irrigation line and the Zone 3 irrigation line. The new Zone 3 areas will be the North and South beds. We left a 4 inch PVC pipe to get the lines thru the walkway into these beds.

Running the water line to the South bed is fairly simple. I just extended the existing one inch line down a couple of inches, across the zone 2 digging and then put in a "tee" to split off for the North bed.

Going thru the 4 inch PVC pipe thru the walkway, we can then continue straight over to the South bed.

From the tee, we want to go to the North bed, and thru the 4 inch PVC pipe that goes under the walkway and into the North bed. First we need to dig out all the dirt from the water supply line to the North bed. This is taking days. We are trying to get the dirt out of the way, excavate the rocks out of the hole, and do as little damage as possible to the root structure of the tree, keeping in mind that it's been a long dry summer for the tree. We need to balance the damage we do to the tree's root structure now against the hopefully better environment it will have once all the rocks are out of the way and better soil is used instead.

Using the jackhammer, we have all of the rock out of the way, and have the sprinkler line installed. This is all 1" (one inch) PVC, and goes straight from the tee, across Zone 2 and then up and thru the 4-inch PVC into the North bed, where it is currently just capped off.

With the sprinkler line installed, we can then fill this back in with dirt -- dirt mixed with leaves and grass and compost.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Replacing the Kitchen Vent

As part of upgrading the kitchen, we have new granite countertops, and are replacing the appliances to a stainless steel finish. The next item to work on is the vent hood over the range. The current vent hood was put in 25 years ago when the house was built.

After looking at a bunch of high-end stainless steel vents, trying to get a quiet and effective unit (low sones), we settled on the Broan B30 Series, specifically model B3036SS (B30 series, 36 inches wide, in stainless steel). We ordered this thru Lowe's for $453.57. Once that was delivered, we could take out the old unit.

Unpacking the new vent, we have to remove the filters and the lights, in order to install it. The lights were the most difficult, since the catch for it is not done very well.

But once these are out of the way, we can break out the opening in the back to vent into the wall.

Strangely, this opening does not seem to be centered itself. For a 36 inch vent hood, the opening would be centered at 18 inches, but instead it runs from 14.25 to 22.75 (so centered on 18.5) But it seems to match the opening in the wall.

The main difficulty is that the cabinets have a 1.25 inch piece of trim extending below the bottom of the cabinet over the range. Since the vent hood is supported by screwing it into the cabinet above it, we added a couple of trim pieces that filled the 1.25 inches between the cabinet and the vent hood.

This allows the vent to be lifted into place, secured to these two pieces of wood, and then wired into the previous electrical supply line.

Replacing the light and filter panels, we can turn the power back on at the circuit breaker and we have a new working vent hood.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Digging up Zone 2

The walkway across the side yard will run from the gate to the raised garden and back to the deck behind the deck. This defines a new bed area between the house (outside the kitchen) and the walkway. This will be Zone 2 on the irrigation system, so we'll just call it Zone 2.

We want to continue and finish the walkway. But we need to be able to get the irrigation water lines from one side to the other. We put in a 4 inch PVC pipe between the two walkway walls, to allow the irrigation pipes to be run thru it. This allows the Zone 3 irrigation control valve to provide water to the North Bed and South Bed, which will be Zone 3 of the irrigation system.

But an examination of the current zone 3 supply line shows that it (a) is not deep enough -- we want it to be well down, out of the way -- and (b) sitting on top of a large rock, so it can't be moved down 5 or 6 inches to go thru the 4 inch PVC pipe.

So to get the irrigation lines in the PVC pipe, we need to take out the rock that is preventing them from being moved down to the level of the PVC pipe.

After some digging we find that this rock is quite large.

Using the jackhammer, we can begin to break it up into smaller pieces so that we can get them up out of the ground.

Several more days of work gets us a large set of rocks removed from an increasingly large hole in the ground.

We will need to get rid of these rocks to continue digging.