Riddle me this ... if it took me 6+ weeks to prep and paint my kitchen cabinets, why did this week seem interminable?
I suppose it's because I've spend most of the week watching, giving unsolicited advice, and keeping my butt out of the way, so the professionals can get their work done. And the truth is, I'm not very good at just sitting around while the construction dust piles up, even if they DO clean it up every afternoon. As is often the case, we're multi-tasking and juggling mutliple contractors, to minimize the amount of time we're without a sink and stove.
Since I needed a task for my idle hands, I took lots of photos of my countertop prep and installation, and I thought I'd share them for those of you who are curious about the process of removing ceramic tile and installing granite or marble tile. Choosing stone tile instead of stone slabs can dramatically cut the cost of new countertops, leaving some money in the budget for additional upgrades.
MONDAY, DAY 1: Here's the before photo of the east side of the kitchen, ready for demo:
An hour later, all of the ceramic tile had been removed, along with the sink, garbage disposal, and triple wide JennAir cooktop. The demo guys offered to take the cooktop to the dump for free, but I'm too much of a 70's kid to even consider tossing that much metal in the landfill. The electric BBQ grill works fine, the two double burner units are only a year or two old, and the down vent fan needs repair or replacement. I'll probably put this on FreeCycle.com so that someone else can use it as-is or repair the exhaust van. We're installing a new cooktop with a smaller footprint, to gain about 14" of use-able counter space.
The tile guys hung plastic to keep the dust in during the demo, making my kitchen look like the set of E.T.
The ceramic tile -- 23 years old, and original to the house -- was installed over concrete, so it pulled down some good-sized chunks of the wall when it was removed. I didn't expect the holes to be quite this large, but it really doesn't matter ... we needed to get inside the walls to install additional outlets on both sides of the sink, to add a new switch box, and to pull wires to add track lighting over the cooktop and bar. You can see there was some water damage to the wood and the particle board next to the sink, but it was very minor and didn't require repair or replacement.
This is the west wall, which had a small ceramic counter and backsplash. The tile was easier to remove from the drywall here, so there's much less damage: we'll cut a small opening to install a second electrical outlet, and then patch the drywall. The ceramic tile backsplash ran up the side of the cabinet, which is why the wood looks so beat up. A light sanding, plus primer/sealer and paint is all that's needed.
TUESDAY, Day 2: My neighbor Bob is a retired engineer who now does construction and handyman work, so he's doing the carpentry, electrical, and drywall repair for us, and is installing the new sink, disposal, cooktop, dishwasher, and overhead lighting. He started work as soon as the tile demo was finished Monday morning, and it took him two days to complete the prep work so we'd be ready to have the marble countertops installed.
Remember the part about raising the breakfast bar part of the counter? Bob carefully cut the "old" breakfast bar away from the cabinet and countertop framing, and then he lifted and reattached it with pine support brackets at the new height. How's that for being green and recycling/repurposing? The only new wood needed for the raised bar was the 4 brackets, a 6" strip of plywood to create a backsplash behind the stove, and one short piece of 1" x 2" added to the inside of the cabinet for a little extra vertical support. This photo also shows where wood slats were added to the righthand end of the countertop, creating extra counterspace and the right size opening for the drop-in cooktop.
The bar will be topped and faced with black granite, as will the new backsplash behind the stove, which will make for much tidier cooking than when the flat counter extended 14" behind the cooktop. In the picture above, you can see where Bob added a shim to level the wooden bracket on the right.
The bare wood visible on both sides of the lefthand bracket is the ends of the "old" breakfast bar support beams that extended about an inch into the cabinet. We were surprised to discover those structural supports were not actually attached in any way ... no nails, screws, or glue. They simply sat on notches cut in the thin sheet of plywood beadboard that makes up the back of the cabinet, and they were held in place by the weight of the old countertop.
WEDNESDAY, Day 3: The tile guys came back, wrapped my cabinets in heavy paper, covered the floor, and built a level frame (from inexpensive pre-primed molding strips) around the outside top of the cabinets. Then they covered the countertop slats with a couple layers of paper, and topped that with metal lath ... similar to chicken wire, but sturdier.
Wet concrete was poured onto the paper, and leveled using the molding as a guideline. The nails holding the molding in place were inserted in the unpainted portion of the cabinets, which will be covered by marble trim.
Checking the slant of the base material in the bay window ... it's raised about 3/8" from front to back, to discourage puddling from any oversplash from the sink. We also keep an old-fashioned dish drainer behind the sink, for air-drying pots and pans, and other hand-washed items.
Marble tiles have been set on top, and the marble trim is held in place with nails, to prevent it from shifting while the mastic sets.
Close up of the bullnosed edges on a 12 x 12 tile.
Fitting the tile around the diagonal cabinet fronts and the pre-framed opening for the sink took lots of measuring.
Thursday, Day 4: One of the tile guys came back this morning to grout the countertop, using an unsanded grout (non-abrasive, so it doesn't scratch the marble). I was like a kid on Christmas while waiting for him to finish grouting and remove the paper, so I could see how the counters looked on the black cabinets.
Lookin' good ... though the cabinets need the construction dust removed, and I need to remember where I put the breadboard.
We wanted as little grout as possible, but both Ray and I were pleasantly surprised to discover we like the grout and the definition it adds.
The marble is whiter than Carrera, meaning it's not nearly as gray as it looks in the photos. It has lots of large white crystals, and warm amber brown accents in addition to the usual gray veins. Like all polished stone, it will change color throughout the day, depending on the type and amount of light.
T.G.I. Friday, Day 5: No new photos today, since it's still early. Bob spent Thursday working on electrical, including installing two new light fixtures, and so far today he's put new plywood bases in the sink cabinet and over the subfloor under the dishwasher, added another outlet, and started the drywall repair. If all goes well, he should have the cooktop and sink installed this afternoon, so we'll have a functional kitchen again.
The granite guy came out right after lunch, to make templates for the raised bar and the counter next to the ovens. Those will be installed early next week, as will the dishwasher I ordered today. I got one heck of a deal on my dishwasher, which will be the subject of a different post.