Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Demolition and Reconstruction

 In an earlier post, I described how we took out the bar connected to our kitchen sink island. Demolition of that bar was easy, and gave us great hopes for the rest of the project.

Indeed, the next step -- one that the salesman at Lowes suggested, was to take out the edge pieces of the tile prior to the "formal" measurement by the counter top company. This was also amusingly easy.

But do you see what's under that tile? Concrete, reinforced with chicken wire.

 How does one remove it? One bashes with a hammer and wrecking bar. We had to do the sink island next, and this is what it looks like when "done."

Beneath that cement layer is raw plywood, which has been so dehydrated by its 18 years of neighborliness with the concrete that it sucks the moisture out of your hands when you touch it. As we say around this house, "DEES-gusting!!"

And then, if ripping out reinforced cement wasn't bad enough, (and it was) we embarked upon a day of frustration and aggravation. Papa Jim of the Haverim returned, and we exposed the plumbing, right down to the concrete slab, encountering shocking mistakes and sloppiness by the original installers. Jim and Bernie pounded down through the slab around the pipes and dug a small cavern, in which Jim cut and pieced a cracked pipe (what a wonderful revelation that our drain had been seeping into the ground underneath the house) and re-routed things for the new configuration of the island. (The poor sink was lying on the stones out by the back patio by this time.)

The long and sweaty, frustrating day was nearly at an end when we all figured out that our shut-off valve to the house is faulty, and that we had to turn off the water to the house at the city's street connection. Then the copper pipes' solders finally set. We sent Jim home.

As luck would have it, Monday, when we were to finish up the plumbing, Jim was sick as hell. We waited until later in the week, and then pitched into the construction on our own. We manfully ripped out the rest of the tiled counters (as the counter top people told me we'd have to do) and let me tell you that swinging a hammer all damn day is exhausting.

While Bernie worked on the lower copper lines and the box that holds the pipes, I was seized by loathing of the cement-dust flavored counters. I scrubbed them down, and when they were dry, I stained them with this cool wood stain  by Varathane, which comes in a tube and wipes on with a rag. The next day I put two coats of polyurethane finish on them.

I did the ABS (black drain pipes) and Bernie completed the copper water lines to the sink so that we could move the island cabinet back into place.  Again, it took all day both days, with solders that wouldn't stop leaking, wood that would not remain bolted into the concrete, and pieces missing necessary for the functioning of the sink.

 When Bernie at last could hook up the sink, all of us were so relieved that we couldn't wait one minute before washing the day's accumulated dishes, in a celebratory mood, all standing around admiring the running water, the scrubbing clean, the luxury of a kitchen with a semblance of order.

Here you can see my stained plywood countertops. Pitted though they may be, I can sanitize them with soap and water, which is important to me as it will be a good two weeks and more before the real deal is installed. I suppose I could have just polyurethaned over the  raw plywood, but this looks prettier, and for $7, I think it was worth it.

You can also see my long-unused wallboard repair skills where the backsplash used to be. When we ripped off the tiles back there, the wallboard came along with them!

Papa Jim was able to return to help us Monday, and hooked up the electric and made some adjustments to our work. You have no idea how big a difference moving that island out a foot made on our kitchen traffic. What was before a cramped area that allowed two people to work in it -- and only if they were on very warm and cuddly terms -- now accommodates us all so that we can work as a team, even if the dogs decide to wander through.

The refrigerator belongs in that nook at the far end, but we're not moving it back until the new counter is installed.

And oddly, we like the fridge where it sits right now. Maybe if we had known this ahead of time, we'd have taken out the window behind it, and just added more cabinet and countertop in the nook.

We're thrilled so far. 

And so, so happy to have a functional kitchen again.

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