Part 14 Of Our Real Life Remodeling Journey
The following story is part of a series of articles about my family's experience with our home's remodel. Links to the other stories are found at the bottom of the page.
Our cabinet and countertop installation was easily one of the highlights of the remodel, aside from closing in the addition. It gave us back our kitchen which in some ways is like gaining your domestic freedom again. Was it all smooth sailing from there? Well, not really. But it was another big step forward.
The day finally arrived for our cabinet delivery. Our cabinets were custom built for the space and were delivered in sections. By the way, "custom cabinets" doesn't necessarily imply "high end". It simply means the cabinets were built to a particular customer-designated specification and are designed and sized for their location.
The Cabinets Go Into Place
We chose maple cabinets because we didn't want the prominent graining associated with traditional oak. However one of the quirks of maple is that it's somewhat touchy when it comes to stain, particularly darker stains.
I should also preface the rest of this story by saying that we had already gone through several iterations on stain color with the cabinet maker. The first few samples (using a door as the sample) weren't to our liking and in some cases, the stain was blotchy. After several tries we thought we were all in sync with the right color and intensity.
As the cabinet boxes were being carried into the house it just so happened that the first one was on the lighter side of the color spectrum. Whether it was the accumulated stress of the entire remodeling process taking its toll or I was just having a bad day, I can't tell you. But when I saw the first piece I felt a tantrum coming on.
I didn't respond this way mind you, keeping my screaming inner child in check and letting maturity prevail. But the temptation to spew my frustration at someone was tempting. All I could think about was "...great...they got the wrong stain color."
The Kitchen Island Cabinets
After sternly but diplomatically venting my frustration at the poor cabinet maker I was prepared for the worst. I thought we were going to end up with bunch of cabinets that simply weren't the color we wanted. It's not like you can just say "take them back." Not when it's a whole kitchen's worth of custom cabinets.
As it turned out however, all my fears were for naught; as the remaining pieces of cabinetry were hauled in it became apparent that the stain color was indeed correct. A portion of the face frame on that one particular piece of wall cabinet just happened to take the stain a little lighter than the rest. And given that our design has full overlay doors with very little reveal the lighter wood wouldn't be noticed.
My venting over, apologies made, I looked at the remainder of boxes that would become our cabinets as they sat on the floor, in the nice rich color that we wanted. Oh, and as if I needed any further convincing that my premature judgment was in error, the color and graining on the large end pieces, the parts of the cabinet that really show off well, was beautiful.
Chalk it up to the nuances of staining maple (and maybe the need to chill out a bit).
The cabinet delivery crew gave way to the cabinet installation crew comprising a couple of experienced carpenters. Over the course of several days the cabinets were put in place, hung on the walls and affixed to their permanent stations. They also tackled the two columns holding up the 2nd story of our house, installing panels that matched the cabinets.
Heaving The Island Slab Into Place
Next came the countertop installation. Earlier in this whole process my wife and I had chosen the granite slabs that would become these countertops. The large slab was just big enough to cover the kitchen island, negating the need for two pieces and eliminating any seams. It also meant that it was real heavy.
A Few Nudges Is All It Takes (Just Glad I Didn't Have To Do It)
The installation process went without a hitch despite needing what seemed like half of the stone contractor's employees to lift the slabs into place. It was interesting to watch them as they deftly laid the pieces down over the base cabinets, using heavy plastic sheeting to protect the cabinets and walls as they rotated the granite into place.
Our Geological Specimen
Before the kitchen island top was installed our cast iron sink was put in place. The island top was then muscled to the top of the base cabinets and nudged into its final resting place.
In every remodel it seems, a little rework must occur and so it was true for our cabinets. In our case it happened to be a flaw on the stiles of some of the cabinet doors.
Not A Groove We'd Prefer
What we ended up with was a raised groove that looked to be the result of a flaw in the cabinet maker's tooling. Regardless of the specific cause, the offending doors were taken off and carted back to the cabinet shop to be reworked.
In addition to the doors there were a few other nicks and dings that occurred as part of the installation process. To take care of those the cabinet finisher came out to do local fixes and touch-ups.
For a while we lived with cabinetry that had every other door missing, at times requiring us to respond to questions about whether we were starting some new kitchen cabinet trend. We weren't, but it made locating the stuff in the cabinets a bit easier.
Ultimately, we ended up with our doors back, sans groove. The exercise proved to be a great advertisement for the quick-release European style door hinges. All it took to remove and reinstall them was a simple flick of a lever on the back of the hinge.
For a bit of time we still had to rely on our toaster oven, the microwave and our local pizza delivery guy for food. At least at this point we had some place other than the living room to put these appliances. Another benefit was that we could now eat around the island and one of our first furniture purchases was enough stools to accommodate our family.
The Kitchen -- Before
Appliances eventually did come, rounding out the kitchen. At least it looked like a kitchen now even if everything except the refrigerator wasn't hooked up yet. Alas, that would be another wait, until the final visit of the electrical and HVAC techs.
The Kitchen -- After (With Faucet Too)
We were getting close now, the light at the end of the tunnel was getting brighter.