Painting The Railing Spindles

Some of the spindles attached to the handrail we originally put in replacing the large wooden grid structure that came with the house, got painted green for some reason, matching none of the layout around it- which was all white. I’ve noticed this pretty much ever since the renovations finished last year- so after trying to ignore it for 800+ times, I decided to take some action 🙂

As always the Rustoleum 2X ultra touch (paint and primer in one) was the top choice, I chose a glossy white to match the other wood spindles around it. And it does a good job on metal surfaces. Also got a Spray grip that helps ease the pressure on the fingers while spraying (great product!), some painter’s tape and a tall cardboard that I fashioned to seal the area around each spindle that needed spraying.

Applied a base coat to each spindle, it’s important to not spray from very close – a 12-16 inch distance is recommended. This was followed by applying a second coat after some 5-10 minutes. The tricky part was to get the curvy design of the spindle covered with the white gloss, it took the first two spindles to get it right the third time. So a good strategy would be to first experiment on an extra unused spindle or a spindle that will not be easily noticed while climbing the stairs. Here are the pictures from as-is to what it is now.

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Granite- A journey from the store to the countertop

Today in this post we will trace the journey of how the granite lands on the kitchen countertop.

Step 1- Mother Nature makes the beautiful granite thru the process of metamorphosis or extreme change. Read more here

Step 2- The granite pieces are processed and cut in the quarries and the factories. Watch this informative video here.

Step 3- The finished granite slabs get shipped to the different wholesaler retailers via various means of transportation. The worth of the granite is largely determined by its place of origin and the kind of formation or pattern it holds.

Step 4- Go to a granite wholesale retailer. We went to a retailer in Seattle.


Step 5- Choose a granite slab among the various options available. Keep in mind the colors of your kitchen cabinet as well as the size of the kitchen, lighting etc. I wanted to go for something that will blend with all sorts of colors, so was preferring a lighter shade. And of course granite can get really expensive, so something lower on the price was also a consideration. Granite countertops not only look classy, but are also more durable and resistant. Here is selection of available options in the warehouse.

My first choice was the style that is third from the front, but then went with another piece similar looking because I could not justify the price difference to myself 🙂


Step 6- After choosing a granite piece and paying for it, the granite gets carried out to the truck using a forklift. Some day I want to drive this monster!


Step 7- The forklift carries the granite and with some assistance it is placed on the truck. Two thin wooden plats support the heavy granite slab.


Step 8- Here is the final product sitting snugly on the truck. Taking it off the truck and hauling it inside the kitchen carefully so that nothing chips or breaks is quite a task and it was only because of Sean and Lorrie’s help that this impossible feat could be achieved.


Step 9- The next step is to cut the granite to fit the sink, which is an art in itself. After marking the sink’s dimensions on the granite, the granite is cut using a wet saw. This video shows Sean using a wet saw (warning: cover your ears, a wet saw is quite loud).

Also watch this for a closeup of how the wet saw is used:

Step 10- After the cutting is done, we gently nudge the cut granite out of the bigger slab. This has to be done slowly and with patience as a small push in the wrong direction could crack the surrounding granite.

This video here will show you how this is done: 

Step 11- Finally, install/mount the sink base over the cut granite. Sinks can either be mount under or mount on top of the granite. To keep it simple, I had got a top mount sink from the HomeDepot with Lorrie. Here is how it looks when placed over the granite.


Step 12-Lastly hookup the sink with the faucet and other parts and tada.. you just got done with a significant part of your kitchen renovation!

The finished product looks great, doesn’t it? The sink came as a complete set along with the faucet, drain and everything from HomeDepot.

Total cost of project: $300 for the granite + $300 for the new sink + labor or approx $700.



Once bitten, twice shy, thrice lucky?

Two words for a great team : Sean and Lorrie, aka my new Contractor and his wife.  No words to describe the terrific job they delivered. They arrived at 8AM sharp and by the time I reached the place at 10 AM, Lorrie had already cleared out one pile of garbage and taken it to the recycling store..

So while Lorrie cleaned the house, Sean worked on correcting the pocket door setup which was off by 1.5″ on one side and the bathroom plumbing work, trying to fit the drains correctly into a p-trap formation for both the vessel sinks to work and stop the leakage.

After a hard day’s work, the house look habitable and move-in worthy. The clutter was close to gone and I could heave a sigh of relief.. All thanks to the great team work of this awesome couple!

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The afternoon the deck came back to life…

The deck is back, the pallets have been fit and placed back in their normal positions- quite the jigsaw puzzle this experience was. Its a bright beautiful sunny afternoon.

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Progress on Doors

Of course you know about my love for French doors by now. If you don’t, please read this post.

The contractor recommended pre-jambed doors. Either because of the price point or unavailability of pre-jambed doors (the kind I wanted) at the salvage store, I was not able to get any pre-jambed doors. This significantly increased the expenses for the door installation and just the labor cost $220 for each door. Luckily since the door slabs themselves were got off Craigslist, I was able to save some money there. HomeDepot did not carry pre-jambed doors in the style I was looking for and custom ordering them would have meant doling out thousands.. so hopefully at $250 per door (slab+door+installation), I still saved some $$s.

If I had my way, I would have french-ed the bathroom door too. But then wisdom struck at the right moment and so I ordered a door slab without any glass for the bathroom door (as most people using the bathroom would probably prefer!) 🙂 So my contractor having got all the material on time, was able to get the door work finished. Notice the pretty looking molding and rosettes that were added at the borders. The plan is to paint them a rich classy-glossy white and they will turn out beautiful. For those interested, the door molding is: Solid wood Madera solia- 579 (3/8″ X 2-1/4″ X 7″) @ $8.15/pc and the rosette pieces are:  Pine Rosetta blocks (7/8″ X 2-1/2″ X 2-1/2″) @ $1.58/pc. And both are available at the HomeDepot.

The two doors (one for the Prayer room and the second for the washer and dryer utility closet) will have clear glass tempered inserts, that will probably cost me around $125 for each door. I had originally planned to have stained glass inserts in these doors but reviewing the pricing of stained glass inserts (and a minor heart attack later), I decided the best second alternative would be to have a glass insert and use a glass decal similar to what Wall Monkey provides. Perhaps if done well, I can even hack a stained glass look. In fact, this may work out better as I can even have a custom decal done thru their website.. ideas started pouring into my mind as I visited that website, pretty cool stuff. This will keep it simple, cost-effective and creative.. Watch on!

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The Kitchen Cabinets Go Up

The kitchen cabinets go up! Here are the pictures. This is just the first iteration of this work. The second iteration will involve the final installation of all the cabinets followed by the hooking up of appliances, replacing the kitchen light with a track light, painting of the cabinets and the ceiling.

Here is the list of value-adds I am adding to the kitchen:

  1. Replace the old 1980 cabinets with newer, modern looking cabinets. I got a good deal on Criagslist and got all of the maple colored cabinets that you see in these pictures, for $300. The remaining cabinets and hardware that needed to be bought from Ikea (for the same style)  cost around another $450- bringing the overall cost of the materials to ~$800. All of them are high cabinets(39″) and reach almost upto the ceiling, which is a great space utilization method, makes the kitchen appear more spacious and also does the trick of adding more elegance to the cabinets. When I got a quote for getting all these cabinets new from Ikea, the cost of just the cabinets and the hardware alone was exceeding $1900; so this is a savings of at least 50%.
  2. Add glass to the kitchen. My love for glass has been elaborated in this post. So the kitchen too had to follow this theme. I got some beautiful looking translucent-ish glass cabinet doors from Ikea’s “as-is” section for 50% the price, that were perfect. They worked perfect for the kitchen-adding elegance, but will not reveal exactly what will be stored behind the doors.
  3. Over the range Microwave- As the counter space is limited as it is, I did not want a huge microwave oven to occupy a large portion of it and further reduce the counter space. From my research watching shows on HGTV (yes, that is my stressbuster!), I knew that some home buyers can be finicky about having built in microwaves- so much so that the absence or presence of one, can make or break the home purchase deal for them! Naturally, I wanted an over-the-range Microwave for both these reasons.  Over- the-range Microwave ovens differ from regular Microwaves in that they have an exhaust option built into it. The bottom of these Microwaves usually suck in the exhaust air generated from the cooling occurring on the range and then transmit it via the hood to the outside of the home. To see how it is actually done, I saw a informative youtube video that explained it all and even though it wasn’t absolutely necessary for me to research to this extent,  being the curious cat I am, I saw it so that I could understand: (a) the complexity of the work involved and hence a fair price for the labor involved (b) the part and additional hardware that may be required to install it. Again, I got a really good LG over-the-range Microwave (ranked highly on Amazon reviews) thru an ad on Craigslist. A sweet looking American-Japanese couple who had purchased a 1920 home in Seattle were letting go of this Microwave, that was installed as part of the renovation work the past owner had done a couple of years ago. Since the new owners wanted a range with a hood, they wanted to dispose off this Microwave.. so I bought it from them for $100. That’s a savings of $250 right there.
  4. Installation of a pull out trash bin. Since years I have been training myself and (trying to train!)  my husband to throw the trash in a timely and a clean manner. While technology has tried to be as helpful as possible, us lazy humans have given it more challenges to solve. So my “trash” problem was that: I/we (all residents of the home become lazy by induction :)) found it too much work to use a step-on Trash bin-one that opens up its top door when you step on a lever that connects it the door opening.  The door opens and closes slowly and makes a clanging sound which is not fun to hear again and again. So I decided to experiment with a trash bin that is attached to the inside of a  door which can be opened and closed by a horizontal pull/push of the door. It seemed to be  a great idea (in fact this idea is quite the fad these days) and naturally I wanted the ease of it. The next best idea would be a voice controlled trash-door opening mechanism where one could just yell “trash open” and the trash door would open on its own. But we are willing to patiently wait for technology to catch up and deliver us this next big thing 😉
  5. Double kitchen sink, cast iron based. Cast Iron sinks last long, look good are sturdy and very durable. And double sinks are better because then you have two separate spaces- one for dirty dishes in and the other for cleaning them. And they are expensive (new one can cost upwards of $800). But I got one second hand for $45 at awesome recycling store. It has a small scratch in the inside and that is its only problem. But I can live with it very happily, so in it came to my home 🙂
  6. Pantry cabinet: Believe it or not, having a pantry in your kitchen is considered a great luxury, as opposed to having just a bottom and a top cabinet, maybe the “real value” lies in the empty space between them.. hmmm. And with a 15″ wide pantry that I got as part of the cabinets I got off Craigslist, I got really lucky. It fits so perfectly and looks so pretty.. AND it has pull out shelves! What more could a working-woman-too-busy-to-use-her-kitchen-pantry want? 😛
  7. Painting the ceiling white to give the illusion of more space and installing track lights to give it a nice and bright, modern look.
  8. Painting the cabinets all the same color, because right now they are a mix of four different colors: white, maple, birch and dark chocolate. I have been warned that it may not be possible to paint the Ikea laminate cabinets at all. But this video gives me hope. This is really the biggest flag in this whole project.
  9. Adding backsplash- I have decided on a cool brick backsplash. Check it out here:

With all of the above changes, I believe the kitchen will look very attractive. Real Estate 101 says that kitchens sell homes. I obviously learnt my classes well and maximized the feature-richness of my small kitchen! 🙂

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De-throning older toilets

Since the previous occupants in the home had left more than a year ago, the home had been winterized. So when I first saw the toilets, they had a “Home has been winterized” sign on the toilet seat- which usually serves as a warning for anyone who is curious to have a peek at the insides of the toilet- “At your own risk”. Well, I took good measures to avoid taking the risk for a fair amount of time 🙂 But with the rest of the work progressing, it was time for the toilets to be replaced… and the truth could no longer be avoided.

And so.. on a cold, rainy Sunday-the pan was finally opened. I was expecting to see worms and whatnots and was ready for a pukefest and several “ewwws”;  however, it was not half as bad. There was just the general black algae, fungi and all the bacterial deposit and a mucous like black membrane lined the short it was ugly enough for me. So I decided to outsource the work to  someone else. I needed someone with nerves of steel (to look at the grossness and yet not be daunted) and the relevant plumbing skills 🙂 I found thru an ad on Craigslist that someone was letting go of two Kohler lowboy toilets from a past project, that were in good condition. Additionally this person was a general contractor, which meant that he could install them too. So I hired him and for $300, I had both the toilets delivered, installed, running and paid for. It seemed to be a good deal and so far I am feeling good about the transaction.

The person installing the toilets was named Atilla- like the Hungarian King. So once the King had tested out his new Thrones and the super “flush” powers that come with them, we called it “done” 🙂

[Edit 7/5/’14: Lesson learnt from actual experience: Always go for new toilets. These two toilets have served the home well for the past year, but now they need to be replaced]

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