Every place I've ever lived has been designed for that "average American family," with lots of bedrooms, living room, dining room, family room, etc. The problem was that I was a single person, not an average family. I needed space, but for hobbies, not people. And because I'm over 6'2", bending over to use sinks designed for children was a constant frustration. Over the years, I collected a list of things I would change if I could have my dream house. As I approached retirement, I realized time was running out for that house; it was now or never.

Dreams are not always perfect, however. I could never afford my dream house, a spacious Southern California home overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But I could afford a modest ranch house, with a 20-mile drive to the beach. It was a very long way from perfect, but it had potential.

This blog documents the process of turning that small average house into something that matches my lifestyle. It will be as close to my dream house as I can make it. I'm doing all the work myself to stretch my resources. By not hiring contractors, I can afford high quality materials, and I'll know the job is always done right. The remodeling will be my primary avocation for a few years, even as I try to fit in my writing and other hobbies.

It promises to be an interesting journey, and a challenging one!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

New Kitchen — Part 10

So last time the carcasses of the cabinets on the west side of the kitchen were installed; this post chronicles their dressing-up.  To wit, putting on the maple trim on the front edge of the bare plywood, as well as finishing off the water supply shut-off valves under the sink.  We'll start with this latter detail. 

I ran the PEX tubing some time ago, down through the wall from the attic, and left the ends a little long sticking out through a built-up hole in the wall, looking like this:

Before installing the sink cabinet, I cut a hole in the plywood back to clear the protruding wooden frame through which the PEX exits.  On the floor of the cabinet, you can also see the plastic shutoff valves and the escutcheons for dressing them up.  The valves are ceramic disc units, made of plastic by Uponor, which company makes the Pro-PEX fittings and the expandable PEX-a tubing I use, so they all play nice together.  The plastic/ceramic valves are immune to the corrosion and pitting that often plague metal valves, and they also have a better flow rate.  To open and close them, you twist a ring around the body (there's no handle per se).  Moving along . . .

To support the three PEX tubes, I cut a piece of plywood to fit the frame, cut it in half, then clamped it together and drilled three 5/8" holes (the outside diameter of the tubing) where I wanted the tubes to end up.  You can see the lower piece of this plywood sitting under the tubes (and both top and bottom, painted, in the photo below).  In the photo above, I have cut the tubes to length, then slid on the escutcheons and the reinforcing rings used to attach the PEX fittings.  At this point I used my tubing expansion tool to open up the ends of the tube, then quickly inserted the valves.  (You may recall my little video from a past post which shows how this is done.) 

Then I screwed the lower section of plywood in place, and fit the tubing in their cutouts.  The two valves on the right are hot and cold for the sink, and the one on the left is hot water for the dishwasher.

Then the top piece of plywood goes on, firmly clamping the flexible tubing.  This next photo shows everything painted and caulked.  The yellow wire is for the dishwasher; it will later be terminated in a junction box.  The vertical black ABS pipe is of course the drain for the sink, with a clean-out installed (a "Y" with a screw-on cap to make it easier to insert a snake to clear out any future clogs). 

Back to the cabinets.  Some of the maple trim is 1.5" wide, so in some places I had to glue on a 3/4" plywood doubler (see one clamped below).  At the right end of the cabinet, there was a big gap that also needed some underlying structure (pieces of 2x4) to support the countertop (on top), and a wider piece of maple trim on the front.

The maple trim is glued on using biscuits to reinforce and position the joint (in most cases), and held in position with finish nails while the glue dries.  I used a pneumatic finish nail gun which instantly shoots a nail in while the piece of wood is held in position; the old-fashioned way of pounding with a hammer typically knocks the wood out of alignment, and requires separate countersinking of the nail head.  Here's my finish nailer:

The ends of the nails are coated with glue.  The force of shooting them into the wood creates heat, which melts the glue, which ensures the nail will not easily pull out.  The gun drives the nail below the surface, which can then be filled with plastic wood (wood putty). 

This is the filled hole after sanding and two coats of polyurethane.  The color is not an exact match, but the hole is so small, that you never notice it (really :-).

And finally, this is the cabinet ready for the countertop (and, as always, ready for a bunch of drawers).

I also need to finish installing the remaining baseboards, but I'll get to that before the countertop arrives (which I haven't ordered yet—that will likely happen the day after tomorrow).  The countertop will be the subject of the next post.  I've also been working on the baseboard in the pottery studio, and scraping eves/fascia outside the workshop, getting ready for paint, and the stucco paint, etc. 

So much to do, but getting there.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

New Kitchen — Part 9

Last time I worked on the new kitchen, it was to put down the new tile floor.  Before I could do that, I had to install the bases for the cabinets on the west side of the kitchen, that is, the side opposite the mostly finished side (with oven, stainless steel counter, and refrigerator).  The cabinets on the west side will house the undermount stainless steel sink, the dishwasher, and the electric cooktop.  They are all lower cabinets; there are no uppers.  This post will cover the fabrication and installation (mostly) of the cabinet carcasses.

So, cabinets:  First was the sink cabinet.  I designed this with a recess for the trash can and pet food containers (on the floor under the sink); we'll see how that works.  I gave it a solid top, cut out for the sink, with a recess routed in around the rim to support the sink so that the top of the sink rim is flush with the underside of the countertop.  Typically, undermount sinks are supported with small screw inserts glued into the underside of the countertop—the screws attach small metal brackets.  I suppose strong enough, but I'd rather have the sink supported by a 3/4" plywood top.  Here is the sink cabinet being assembled on top of my tablesaw (the only really flat surface in the house; the garage floor is not close to flat).

The bases had been installed for some time, and even though they were straight and all cut to 7.25" width, by now they had dried out and had changed dimensions.  They weren't kiln-dried, and some pieces were heavier (wetter) than the others, so they shrunk more than the drier pieces of 2x8.  So I had to spend some time getting the bases acceptably flat and level before installing cabinets (trimming and shimming).  

My stainless steel countertop is a standard 25" deep, which means the supporting plywood cabinets were less than 24" deep, which meant that a single $50 4' x 8' sheet of cabinet-grade plywood could be cut to provide the top and bottom and two ends.  All my other cabinets are 30" deep, which meant for them I could only cut one length per piece of plywood; the other half was about 21" wide.  So I had a lot of 21" wide pieces of expensive plywood leftover.  For these new kitchen cabinets, I decided to use these too-narrow pieces by gluing two narrow pieces together to get one wide enough.  I used biscuits to strengthen this joint (I use them for other applications as well).  The biscuits (small flat football-shaped pieces of wood—see photo) strengthen and align the joint.

The photo shows a biscuit and the slot cut with a "biscuit jointer," which you use to cut opposing slots on both pieces of wood.  (Hold the pieces together dry and mark a pencil line across the joint first to assure proper alignment, then cut the slots using the pencil mark as a guide.)  Put glue on the joint and in the slots and clamp the two pieces of wood together.  Here's a photo of the biscuit in the slot:

The other type of joint I use at the corners of the box is the tongue-and-dado joint.  This joint aligns the edges (top-to-side, etc.) and makes the joint a lot stronger than a butt joint.  Both the tongue and the dado are cut on the table saw, using a dado blade set, which contains inner and outer cutter blades and a number of stackable chipper blades that go between to give you the desired thickness.  But a photo explains what the joint looks like (usually they are tighter than this, with good glue contact on all surfaces):

I assembled the sink cabinet in the garage because it was small and light enough to carry (with a dolly) into the house.  The other cabinet would be almost eight feet long and had to be assembled in the kitchen, just barely big enough to do that work.  I glued and screwed the pre-cut pieces and sub-assemblies one at a time, clamping the remaining pieces (no glue) to ensure (as much as possible) that the cabinet would end up straight and square and not twisted. After the glue dried, I would disassemble the dry-fit pieces and glue another piece.

At some point, gluing one piece at a time was not possible; I had to get all the remaining pieces together, with the 1/2" plywood back in place to hopefully hold it all square.

After cutting holes in the backs for wiring and plumbing, I slowly maneuvered the heavy cabinets into place, making sure the tops were all flat and in the same plane, as the one-piece Corian top will need to be uniformly supported by the tops of these sectional cabinets.  I also had to fabricate and install a top over the dishwasher bay (it does not get a separate cabinet).  I put the sink in position for the photo. 

The next post will cover the installation of additional drawer partitions, attachment of maple edge trim on the front of the cabinets, installation of the sink and dishwasher shut-off valves, and some finish work on the inside of the sink cabinet.  The post after that will see the Corian countertop (and backsplash) and sink installed by the Home Depot people, and the addition of the cooktop.

As always, the all-important drawer building and install will come sometime in the future.