Kitchen Renovation Part 2

So, here's our nearly finished/newly renovated kitchen!
Still a few projects left, but for the most part it's DONE!
Here's a few reminders of the before.
The wall that was on the right, separating the living room and kitchen, is gone!
We took all the uppers from the left side down and replaced them with brick pavers and open shelving.
From the column over to the right is where the wall was. We added pendant lighting and a granite topped island there instead. We pretty much only eat at the bar now, so we've decided our kitchen table is fairly useless unless we have company over. I think we're going to turn that area into a coffee lounge! Actually, I think we're going to build a bench seat and put in a farm table there, but that's a project for another day!
The bricks were a bit ambitious for us. And if I'm being honest, I won't do it again.
Like, ever.
It was a lot more work than we anticipated. And fairly costly.
I love the way it turned out! I just didn't enjoy the process.
It was hard!

We thought we would save money buying the bricks in whole form (since we couldn't find pavers ANYWHERE!) We chose old bricks. These actually are 100 year old bricks that came off a warehouse in Chicago. You can still see the paint and mortar still on the bricks. These were hand scraped and salvaged and were absolutely gorgeous and shabby and just the look we wanted for our wall. But had to be cut in half...twice. So we were able to get two pavers from each brick.
This meant standing in front of a wet saw for 8 hours a day times 3-4 days. In the rain. In the cold. Getting covered in brick soot. Ears ringing.
I was nearly in tears after the first day and finally gave up saying I was way too old to work this hard!
So, my man took over.
And he cut and cut and cut and cut. Until finally, some 500 bricks later...

We were able to start putting them on the wall.
I started off slow but then got the hang of it and within a few days I managed to get one full section done. After that I decided to pace myself and did about 30-40 bricks per day. Letting each section dry before starting a new section to make sure our rows were level.

Since we wanted to remove the vent hood, we had to cut out some drywall over the stove and re-wire for a new light, and then brick around it.
I then sealed each brick...twice. With a 'before grouting' sealer, and an 'after grouting' sealer. These sealers were $30 each. But they did a fabulous job of making the bricks waterproof (especially for around the sink) and smooth (nothing flakes off when you run your hands over them). Love love this product.
But, like I said, this was a big expensive project. Don't google DIY brick walls and be fooled by those folks out there saying it's easy and inexpensive. They're lying. The results are gorgeous. But it's not cheap and it's not easy. And grouting those 3/4 inch grout lines was messy as hell. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to quit and just go buy the plain white subway tiles and be done with it! I mean seriously...we did this entire wall all the way to the ceiling! On both sides of the kitchen!
But, it's unique and gave our boring old kitchen some much needed character!
And I love having the open shelves. In a small galley kitchen like this it makes it feel much more open and roomy. We don't have much 'stuff' in our kitchen so storage wasn't really much of a concern. In fact, the open shelves hold more than the previous cabinets did and with the addition of the island, we now have several empty cabinets and drawers. We're pretty good at only having what we need, and having less storage space forces us to keep the clutter to a minimum. It works for us.

We continued the brick onto the opposite wall over to the fridge. We, ahem, haven't grouted any of that side yet. We sorta came down with renovation burn-out. It'll get done in a few weeks (wink wink)
The column that we left when we removed the wall got a fresh coat of chalkboard paint. We left it as plain drywall (rather than putting texture on it) so we would have a smooth surface...

So we could use it as a chalkboard and leave notes to each other. The kids get a kick out of it.

Found this idea on Pinterest. Found the magazine racks on Amazon. Works great for produce and saves us the counter space.

The apron sink is my favorite part of the reno. We're still working on the framing that goes around it. I'll post pics when it's completed.


The island was built out of the upper and lower cabinets that were removed when the wall came out. The uppers were a different height, so we took the doors off, painted the inside, and built a box under them to raise them up.
Once it was all painted and the kick panels and trim work was added, you can't tell it was even two pieces, much less recycled cabinets!
Overall, while it was a lot of work, we are happy with the results and even happier that it's OVER!
Now on to the next projects! :)

Kitchen Renovation Part 1

So, we decided to renovate the kitchen. This, unlike the bathroom renovation, was planned. However, what we didn't plan or anticipate was just how much harder, longer, and more expensive it would be.
It all started with this wall. 
Around the corner on the right is the living room.
Waaaaaaaaaaahhhhh we can't see the living room from the kitchen!
I know, first world problems.

But seriously, see the wall? It's dividing EVERYTHING!

Taking down the wall of course, also meant redoing the floors...
So, we paused here for about 7 days while my handy husband slaved over jackhammers, tiles, saws, glue, wood, and really sore knees.  Meanwhile, I continued to remove drywall, cabinets and um, the countertops?
Sure! Why not!

But why stop there?!
 Well, I'll tell you why.
Because we ran into more rotted wood (remember the bathroom nightmare?)

Well, it seems all the wet areas in this older home are full of lovely leaks. This one was apparently from the dishwasher and had pretty much annihilated the sink cabinet. It turned to sawdust when we tried to move it. So, my handy husband had to stop what he was doing and run to Home Depot and pick up another sink cabinet.

Once he got that installed, he had to build a frame to hold the cast iron sink.
Well, we've never installed under mount farm sinks before. Or built under cabinet mounts for them.
So, we paused here for a few more days to figure it all out.

Once we got the sink supports completed we made an attempt to attach the new sink cabinet to the old cabinet next to it.
And discovered it was rotted as well.
So, the man went BACK to Home Depot and picked up more cabinets.
Multiply this experience a few more times and we were finally ready to do the sink and countertops.

Butcher block counter tops went in fast. This was about the only project at this point that seemed to go as planned or expected. Oh, and note the new sink and faucet my handyman installed! We did a little research and ended up buying both of these online. These projects were a nice diversion from some of the other more, um, tedious, tasks involved in this reno.
Oh, who am I kidding...this was tedious as well, just in a less annoying way.
But hey, at least the floors look nice!
Wait, is that an electrical cord hanging where the wall used to be?

Why yes, it is.
Remember that wall that started it all?
Well, after we removed the drywall and some of the support beams we realized it was a load bearing wall.
So, we built a temporary support wall and paused here for about a week getting estimates and trying to figure out what our next move was.
Boy was THAT fun!

A round of estimates to the tune of around $5000 to put in a support header helped us plan our next move.

And call for help.
My brother just happened to be in town that weekend so late one night we offered him free beer and a roaring good time installing a support beam.

And by golly, those boys got that sucker UP!
Beer is a powerful motivator.
It was a proud moment.
And saved us a ton of money!
My handy man then spent several more nights trying to figure out all the electrical.

But LOOK! We can see into the living room from the kitchen now!

And only 9 hours of drywall later...
 This part of the reno was DONE!
Stay tuned for Part 2!

Shower Renovation

So, we recently remodeled our upstairs shower. We didn't plan to remodel the shower. We didn't even really want to remodel the shower. But when my 10yo daughter had tiles literally falling off the wall while she was showering one day, running out in tears saying she broke the shower...we figured maybe we should look into it.
Actually, it was only about 4 tiles that came off with the soap dish/tray thingy. We figured we would just match them and redo that one section. Unfortunately I don't have a before picture. But the tiles that were currently falling off were original to the house (30 yrs?) and were builder grade square 4x4 off-white blah blah blahs. Well, when we went to clean off the section of backer board, more tiles starting coming off. And more. And more. And then the tub came out. And before we knew it...
this happened...
Dry rot. Mold. Dry-rotted mold. Who knows how long this had been going on. Pretty much explains the mystery stain on the ceiling underneath. Why the inspector didn't catch this is a mystery as well. Where's Holmes when you need him?! This also explains the musty smell we noticed when we bought the house.
Dear Inspectors,
Ceiling stains + musty smell = leaky rotting moldy boards. Let's put those together next time, OK?
And this wasn't just a little bit of rotted wood. This was the entire subfloor. That blue-ish looking floor in the above pic is the plywood subfloor...completely rotted thru and covered in mold. The ledge was rotted and the boards leading all the way up to the window were rotted. You could poke your finger thru the wood. Almost all the way to the exterior siding on the house.
This was a serious leak. And we knew it would be very expensive to fix. Thankfully the floor joists weren't ruined. So, we googled and did our best to learn (quickly) how to rebuild the subfloor and window ledge.

We re-insulated the walls...sealed the window really well! And put up new backer board.
I think my man did a pretty darn good job figuring it all out! And saved us a ton of money. He said the original tile was laid straight onto drywall. I guess they didn't have backer board 30 years ago? Hmmmm...
either way, this shower was never really sealed properly and should have been updated years ago.
Now, we've tiled a shower before, but never to this extent (rebuilding walls, ledges, and subfloors). And we've never really had to put up this much backer board. And pretty much everything that could go wrong with this lack of knowledge, did. Or, better said: Everything we could potentially mess up, we did mess up. We didn't get the right thickness of backer board, we didn't buy enough tile (and had to go to several different stores to find more!), we didn't do the tile all at once. We didn't wipe off the grout in time which meant spending, literally, 3 evenings after our day jobs just chiseling away at the grout left on the tiles. THIS because we didn't realize we had picked un-sealed tiles.
Ya know, we just thought they were pretty.
So, naturally, we didn't think we needed to seal them before grouting.
And who knew those little glass tiles with stones added as accents would be so evil? Each of the stones just soaked up the grout. Chisel chisel chisel - there was no getting that off. Just a little note on the back of the tile pkg to seal the stones before grouting would have been so incredibly helpful. Also, cutting those little 1 inch glass tiles in half? OMG. We had to go out and get a tile saw...but those little devils required a separate $40 diamond blade.
Don't be fooled by those pretty glass tile mosaic sheets!
In fact, RUN!
Don't even consider it. Just get the 12x12's and be done with it. Had we done that all over instead of adding an 'accent wall and trim' we would have finished about 5 weeks sooner. Seriously. Those mesh sheets don't lay straight or completely flat. They allow thin set to squeeze thru, they require a lot of tricky half inch cuts with a special cutter or blade. They are expensive and well, should be left to the pros to install.
Never. Again.  
But hey, the job is done! It looks 100% better than it did. And we never have to do it again. Hopefully. 
Though truth be told, we're pretty sure our master bath will be next.

What We're Reading Now

It's been a while since I posted an update on what we're reading. We started our library days back up again a few months ago, then the holidays hit and we ended up moving (again! - but for good this time!) and are just now starting to see a new routine take shape in terms of school and library days.

Sorta. More on that later.

Anyway, my 12yo and I both got a stack of books for Christmas because, well, we both get a little jittery when we're about to finish a book and don't have another one ready to go. In fact, I don't feel completely secure unless I have a stack of about 6 or so ready to read.

So, here are some of our recent stacks:

I finished all of Sharon Kay Penman's books recently, and I have to say these are absolute treasures! I love love love these books. So much so that it's inspired me to look into a whole new career path (ya know, that awesome one I'm going to have just as soon as my most awesome wonderful kids move out, get jobs, support themselves, etc!)
I've always had an interest in medieval studies. In fact, my masters thesis in grad school was about Beowful, but at the time my focus was more on 18th century lit. After reading Penman's books, as well as a few others, I can see that focus shifting more to the 12th and 13th centuries. I have a few ideas of where to take this...we'll see how it goes! For now, I'm taking an online college course thru the University of Leicester in England on the Reign of Richard III. It's a free course, but I'm hoping it will lead to something more um, accredited?
Moving on...
Since I exhausted all of Penman's books (sob) I've had to move on to another series. I chose Elizabeth Chadwick. Her books are mostly only sold in the UK so I wasn't able to find any of her earlier books at the library or at Half Price Books, so I've resorted to buying them on Amazon. I've finished up most of the Chadwick books now and while some are definitely shelf worthy, some are not. I'm curious how the Bernard Cromwell books are. Haven't hit those yet. I'll keep ya posted.
I also have The Dovekeepers in the stack, as well as Behind the Beautiful Forevers, which was a Bill Gates recommendation. I'll be honest, I read the first chapter and set it aside for a time when I'm really really desperate for something to read. I just couldn't get into it. I think I'm just in 'medieval mode' and not ready for modern day works.
So, my 12yo is rather picky about what books I can buy her (this is her stack). She really likes Wendy Mass books so she has two of those in her stack and I think that pretty much exhausts what she can read from that author (she's read all her other books).
So, I got on Amazon and started looking for books that Wendy Mass fans were reading, hoping to find something similar in another author. Most of the reviews pointed to Avi, and she's read some Avi books and enjoyed them, so I picked out a few more: Midnight Magic, and Something Upstairs. She's been reading another Avi book called City of Orphans, which had really good reviews, but alas, about half way thru she told me she can't finish it. It's boooorrring.
I picked up the second book in the Bob the cat series: The World According to Bob. She loved the first one (I got the teen version, not the adult version). If you haven't seen the videos about Bob, google it. Great story.  
A few others in the stack: Pennies From Heaven, Nature Girl, Bright Shadow, Sparrow Road, and Stranded. All had good reviews and seemed to be about things pre-teens find interesting. I'll let cha know which ones she ends up keeping.
So, what are you or your kiddos reading?
Happy Reading!