We started the kitchen renovation on July 18, 2009. Today is the first day of June. Can we finish before the one year mark? It’s doable I think, not impossible, considering all the little mishaps I created.
Oops, real Silicone caulk is forever!
I’ve lived in enough rentals plus my own bathrooms to have a huge dismay against moldy caulk. I was determined to find a mold-proof solution. It’s fairly simple actually. Get 100% Silicone caulk. Not the water clean up kind of Silicone Acrylic, that stuff gets moldy for sure.
When our backsplash was installed, the edges around the countertop were covered with Silicone Acrylic caulk. Since a portion of the backsplash is behind the sink, there will be a lot of exposure of water in that area. I decided to go over all the edges with 100% Silicone caulk. I got the GE kind sold at Home Depot with a 10-year mold free guarantee. It has to be the best stuff around, right?
One important thing that wasn’t mentioned in the instructions on the tube of Silicon caulk is covering up areas you don’t want caulk to get onto. I did everything without taping any of the glass tiles. Before I applied the GE stuff, the excess Acrylic was coming off easily by rubbing the glass tiles with cheese cloth. I assume the best stuff would come off tiles just as easy. Unfortunately, no, 100% Silicone is good enough to seal a fish tank. It doesn’t come off without a lot of elbow grease. I mean A LOT of elbow grease – a few weekends worth of them.
I read a bunch of online forum posts to try to find the best solution. In the end, a sharp razor blade is the answer. But the blade alone would glide on the dried up caulk and achieve nothing. My ultimate solution was to rub mineral spirit over the excess caulk on the glass tiles and then scrap each tile with the razor blade. The mineral spirit does some sort of chemical reaction to the silicone and makes it easier to scrap off. It took me three weekends and many sore backs to clean up this mess.
One more thing on tiles
After cleaning up the Silicone mess, I was back on schedule with the backsplash. The final step was to seal the grout. Before we got the backsplash installed, the Crackle Glass tiles needed to be sealed first. Our tile guy suggested using the StoneTech product from DuPont. It took a bit of digging to find a local vendor that sells this product and it happens to be a granite company. The sealer is not cheap, $35+ for a quart of it. Since it can also be used to seal the grout, it’s probably a good investment.
Our field tiles are 1″X1″ glass tiles. With such small tiles, there are a lot of grout lines. I first started applying the sealer with a rag wrapped around one of my fingers. That was really tiring on my hands. The foam brush was much easier and faster. But applying two coats of sealer still took quite a while. This task took away another weekend.
Sink opening prep
Next up after the backsplash is the sink. Prior to ordering the sink, I knew that the IKEA sink cabinet does not have large enough opening at the top for the sink I selected. On the IKEA Fans site, most of the suggestions said leaving out both cross bars at the top of the cabinet. It doesn’t make sense to me how the cabinet would hold up together that way. I decided to build the cabinet as is and cut out sections of the cross bars to accommodate the sink. It worked out quite well and the front cross bar is mostly intact to attach the false drawer fronts.
Before we ordered the quartz countertop, I bought a drop-in Kohler stainless steel sink so the countertop installers could figure out where to cut an opening. The sink didn’t come with a template except some instructions about cutting the countertop opening 1/4″ smaller than the sink all around. The opening was cut fairly close to what’s needed. It is not exactly the countertop installer’s fault. The actual dimension of the sink is about 1/16″ smaller than the published dimension. And the installer cut a little (1/16″) too much in some places. The ledge for holding up the sink ended up at around 1/8″ in most areas. The corners were not cut round as suggested by the sink instructions and the extra countertop material at the corners should hold up the sink just fine. However, I worried that 1/8″ would be too small of a ledge for Silicone to seal up the sink. I ended up finding a perfect solution at Lowes (the place to find odd stuff, I concluded) – a piece of 1/8″ X 1″ X 8′ polystyrene trim to add onto the edges of the countertop opening. Polystyrene is waterproof so it’s perfect for the sink location. And I just used the 100% Silicone to attach the polystyrene to the quartz material. Well, silicone is hard to remove from places you don’t want it but it basically is the glue for everything.
Prior to adding the polystyrene trim, I had to cut out notches from the cabinet cross bars to accommodate the sink clips because the combination of the cross bars and the countertop is too thick for the clips. It took a lot of tools to get the job done – Dremel Multi-Max, cordless drill with a small drill bit, RotoZip, small flat head screw driver, mineral spirit, shop vac and a hammer. It’s basically “throwing the kitchen sink” to prep for the kitchen sink.
With so much work put into the sink opening, it was still far from over with the sink installation. The sink I bought has one hole cutout for the faucet. We need another hole cutout for the Instant Hot. Kohler offers the same sink with 4 holes but the accessory hole is on the right side while we want it on the left. The conclusion was to cut an additional hole in the one-hole sink. It sounded easy until I messed up again! Let’s just say after watching hundreds of hours of This Old House does not qualify anyone to renovate his/her kitchen!
I read a few tips online and from books about how to cut a hole from a stainless steel sink. It doesn’t sound easy. When I saw the sink hole cutter sold at IKEA, it looks like it would be easier to use than a power drill. However the tool requires a pre-drilled hole in 2/5″. I put blue tape on the sink following some tips I read plus pounding in a dimple but it was still hard to keep the drill bit from sliding. I then followed another tip to start the hole with a smaller bit at 3/16″ and finished it with a 3/8″ bit. The hole was slightly smaller than 2/5″ (2/5 = 16/40 > 15/40 = 3/8) so I used a file to enlarge it. After attaching the hole cutter to the sink, I could barely turn it as the directions suggested using an adjustable wrench. I pulled hubby away from work (he was catching up with work from home in the weekend) to get him on the socket wrench. It took quite a bit of force to get through the 18-gauge steel. Once it felt like the cutter had gone through the metal, it was another matter to get it off the sink.
The IKEA tool cut out a hole at 1-2/5″ in diameter (metric conversion?). It wasn’t big enough in 1-1/2″ as preferred by the Instant Hot. I thought I needed to expand the hole. I used the RotoZip with the metal cutting bit to scrape at the edge. The RotoZip often has a life on its own. It bounced away a few times. I put blue tape all over the nearby area but still couldn’t prevent the RotoZip from digging a few small gouges at the lip of the sink. Crap! What do I do now? What’s worse is that I didn’t have to enlarge the hole after all. The Instant Hot has an alternative installation method for smaller holes. Darn it! I ordered the Scratch-B-Gone Stainless Steel Scratch Repair Kit from Amazon and crossed my fingers this would work instead of buying another sink. I am still waiting for the shipment to arrive as I write this post.
Dishwasher went in without a hitch
After being MIA for a long time, hubby decided to jump in for the appliance installation. I think he really wanted the range to get out of the living room. It’s been sitting there since December! I don’t blame him. Our living room used to be a thing of envy with its pretty red walls and white curtains. Now, it’s packed with boxes of cookware and various renovation stuff.
We had to install the dishwasher first however. It went well without another mishap (thank the power that be!). We even hooked it up to the hot water and turned it on as suggested to check for leaks. I was really pleased with the filler strip we installed between the cabinet and the dishwasher. The strip of wood glued under the quartz countertop with silicone worked well, too for securing the dishwasher. It was an idea suggested by the countertop installer. He said we should find a piece of scrap that matches the color of the cabinets. We don’t have exactly that though. We do have many narrow strips of particle boards packed with the IKEA toe kicks. The bare particle boards don’t match the color of anything but the toe kicks do and they also came with strips of laminate to cover the cut edge of the toe kicks. We ironed (yes, a regular clothes iron) the laminate strips on one edge of the particle board and also on the exposed edge of the filler strip. It looked very nice.
We ended the day with installing stainless steel panels on the sides of the cabinets surrounding the range. I read something about certain cabinets may not be able to withstand the heat from the oven. It proved to be true from a comment I read on IKEA Fans (the last comment on the page) when an oven was put into self-cleaning mode. I followed a tip I found about the range to install the cabinets 31 1/4″ apart while keeping the countertop opening at 30″. The tip also suggested installing some kind of heat shields. I looked everywhere for the heat shield and got nowhere until I called Jenn-Air customer service. The part wasn’t well-known but the rep found it in the computer. When the heat shields arrived, I found out they would stick out too much from our countertop. That led me to get custom stainless steel panels. A local sheet metal shop did the job for us in half an hour on a Saturday and the panels cost a little over $165.
Got down to the floor for the range
The range wasn’t as easy to install as the dishwasher. I knew it since the beginning. Our old range is a Jenn-Air downdraft. To utilize the existing vent cap outside instead of cutting a new hole for exhaust vent, we ordered a modern version of the same range. Jenn-Air is the only US brand that sells downdrafts and the dimensions required for the installation weren’t too far off from our old range.
In the new Jenn-Air, the blower motor is separate from the main range housing. The motor is to be attached to the kitchen floor. During the initial planning stage, I worked on a bunch of dimensions many times hoping to get the new blower motor to attach directly to the old vent cap but it was simply impossible. We asked the contractor to relocate the vent cap a few inches. They came up with the idea of building a plenum box around the vent cap and we can cut a new hole on the indoor side of the plenum to fit wherever the new blower motor lands. It was a brilliant idea but I was quite scared about whether it would work.
When it’s time to cut into the wall and plenum, I found out the 6″ hole saw I bought last August was way too big. The range installation instructions specified cutting a 6″ diameter hole for the vent. However, the blower motor outlet is 5″ in diameter. We had to take a trip to Lowes to exchange for a 5″ hole saw and the returns department took back the unopened 6″ one with no question asked. The blower motor installation went well from that point. It’s then time to move the range from the living room to the kitchen. The Shoulder Dolly came to the rescue. We used the Shoulder Dolly to move the new fridge a while back. It was kind of scary to move such a heavy and tall appliance. Moving the range was much easier in comparison.
The hardest part of the range installation came after the small steps were completed – installed power supply cord, plugged in blower motor, and leveled the range (sort of). Attaching the flexible duct between the blower motor and the range housing was a huge pain in the rear. This part of the install is accessed from the floor below the oven. Both hubby and I were lying on the floor with our arms and heads sticking under the range. A few failed attempts and a stripped screw on one of the vent clamps later, the mission was accomplished.
The finish line is almost in sight
There is still a bunch of work to do: install sink, faucet, and Instant Hot; install drain pipes under the sink; hook up the fridge’s ice maker with leak detection shutoff valve and water filter; install toe kicks and moulding; clean up the old gunk left behind from the old threshold between the kitchen and dining room, and finally install new threshold.
That’s not all. The man of the house said he wants a small TV in the kitchen. Why didn’t he tell me that a year ago? I have to make plans for the power cords and the antenna!