Diary of a Remodel
Week Minus One: Total chaos, major stress, and total
exhaustion as I try to fit everything that was in the kitchen and the
utility room Somewhere Else before construction starts. I also feel faint
when I get the bid. I recover from sticker shock when a friend reminds me
that labor is not exactly cheap here and I remember that I am getting more
than a kitchen with this job. I am pencilled in with the cabinet maker.
Day One and Two: Kitchen is down to floorboards and wall
studs by about 10 am the second day. We sign the contract as the plaster
goes down (oh, my aching head). The cat barely lifts an eyebrow.
First Weekend: I have about 10 people over, including
visitors from Boston and Edinburgh, for coffee and pastry (brought in). I have trouble finding the appropriate
number of power connections, and have to almost physically restrain the electical
engineer in the household from making it "just right" (instead of going to the
bakery instead). The espresso machine spews liquid and grounds all over the wall.
Fortunately, I spend most of Sunday afternoon in a relaxing Japanese bath.
The visitors think I am being a Good Sport.
Rest of Week One: I run around getting tile samples
during my lunch, which is difficult, since it is a very busy and stressful
week at work. We decide to knock down the dropped ceiling in the utility room,
which opens it up considerably. I look at the site of the built-in bookcase
on the outside wall and think that it would be a perfect place for a cat door,
so I go around looking for one of those special ones that won't let non-authorized
critters in. The floor guy brings a big sample of Marmoleum and I change my
mind about what I want to do with the floor. (I had been thinking "checkerboard",
but liked the solid color much better when I saw a big piece of it.) I
make no attempt to cook in my makeshift kitchen because I am completely exhausted from
work and errands and too stressed to shop. Take-out is my freend. Tears and/or primal
screaming are a daily occurrence.
Week Two: Recover from week one, and decide to completely
take out the wallboard in the utility room (increasing the cost but allowing
us to insulate). I kick tires on appliances and look at various tile
samples so that I can decide on a backsplash design.I ask my artist friend
Elaine for her input but end up disagreeing with her on the final design.
(She didn't like the celadon tiles, and I did.)
Week Three: The subfloor goes down, and the now-dark
kitchen starts looking transformed. The cat and I do walkabouts on the
new surface. Electrical work in the rest of the house (new grounded
outlets in each room, hoorah) commences. My beloved (who is a sound engineer)
starts seeing speaker real estate in the space above the sideboard and the
designer and I (mindful of Granny's teacups) talk him out of it, although we
do buy a roll of coax cable for future use. I go shopping for doorbells and
light fixtures on the weekend. (I seem to be spending a lot of time in stores
that sell lights, not surprising since I am adding and replacing a number of
fixtures.) The designer and I talk turkey about floor details, and my
eyes go buggy looking at twenty shades of yellow-based off-whites in a paint
sample book to figure out what color the wall and the cabinets will be.
Week Four: I figure the contractor is worth every dime I'm
paying him because the project is ticking along like clockwork for the most
part, with minimal additional disruption of my life. I am telling everyone I
know that my *job* is a lot more stressful than having half my house torn
up. The rooms look like rooms again when wallboard goes up and gets taped.
Electrical outlets are completed in the rest of the house, making a big
improvement in the quality of life (look, Ma, no extension cords). I make
final decisions on all the colors. We decide to rebuild the top of the
sideboard instead of stripping off all the paint (it has about seventy-five
years worth of layers). About the only thing I think I still need to do
is make a final decision on cabinet hardware. The cabinets themselves are
running a bit late, so there aren't as many people working at the house.
Week Five: Walls get taped and primed and painted (one
coat, in prep for the cabinets), windows get rebuilt, and I get to put my
money where my mouth is as I go into complete sticker shock again when
the third billing appears and we are targetted for 20 percent over the
original budget. I gibber for a while and figure out where I can get the
money. The cabinets are still late.
Week Six:The cabinets finally arrive, and some of them
are wrong. Some were backed with a bad batch of plywood, the shims are
not right on some of the uppers, and the pull-out unit was built as a
simple "door" unit. The contractor tells the cabinet-maker that had we
wanted to go to Home Depot, we would have done so. The defective ones
are sent back. In other work, the trim starts going back round the windows
and the downdraft gets installed for the stove.
Week Seven: Getting down to the wire. The Corian
countertops get installed and the place looks fabulous, darling.
Week Eight-Twelve Tempers are getting short, since the
job was supposed to be over. I stopped keeping track of it week by week
at this point, perhaps due to another round of sticker shock. But at the
end it is Fabulous, Darling. I have a few people over and my pal Holly
tells me it looks like it's out of Sunset Magazine. I preen.
Two Years LaterI have to touch up a little paint on the
cabinets and walls, but it still looks fabulous, darling. I love the big
light room. And most of the time I don't wince over the overruns (which
were, um, more than 10 percent - if I had realized, I might have bought a
totally new house). I love the kitchen. I've taken up quilting and I sew
in this room because it is well-lit and cheerful. The rehabbed utility
room is the home for all the fabric.
Sympathy notes, unmarked $20 bills, and microwaveable
casseroles may be sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Commercial
advertisers will be hammered, sawed, mudded, and hauled to the
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