Kitchen: The March Towards Templating


As I mentioned last week, the current goal is to get the counter templated and 3 things have to happen first. Sink cabinet. 36″ base cabinet (by mantel). Island.

Last week I got the sink cab doors on and the stiles fabricated. This week, I was able to add some blocking behind the joist hangers.

Before | After

This is honestly probably overkill but why not? Adding the blocking allowed me to get the last 2 screws in the joist hangers and it didn’t take all that much effort.


I also got the inside completely painted. (Although I think I am still going to put some clear sealer on the 2×4′s, like there is on the laminated plywood.)



And the stiles installed for good. Once the tip out trays arrive, I can install them and be done with building this cabinet.

Speaking of which – last week there was a question about tip out trays. Tip out trays utilize that wasted space in front of your sink, behind the dummy panels. The ones I got look like this -

tip out tray

They’re Rev-A-Shelf’s Slim Stainless Steel Tip-Out Tray, although I found them for a lot less on Amazon (not Prime though, so no 2-day shipping. boo). They come in stainless steel & plastic in regular & slim depth. I went slim & stainless but your situation my be better suited to something else. They haven’t arrived yet, so hopefully they’ll work as promised. Growing up, my parents have always had these at their sink, so it seemed like a no brainer to install them here.

In this tiny kitchen, every square inch matters. I loathe unused voids. Ditching the soffit. Tip out trays. Toe kick drawers. Maximize, maximize, maximize.

Unsurprisingly, I decided to add toe kick drawers to the 36″ base cab by the mantel.


Last week I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to put forth the time and effort. Slapping on a toe kick and calling it DONE seemed so easy. And then I realized I’d always glare at that wasted 900(ish) cubic inches. Exactly zero people are surprised by my decision to take the time and do this.


I did these a little differently than the other 2 base cab toe kick drawers, so I’ll write about that separately. But I built them. And they are spectacular.


I also have the beginnings of an island.


This piece needs the most work but there’s some metal fabrication that needs to happen next. I’m in a bit of a holding pattern until I can get that bought, cut, fabricated & installed. Soon though. Maybe this week.

In the meantime, cutting the side panels for the 36″ base cab is my next item on the list. It’s not going to be an easy cut but, if I can be patient, hopefully they’ll come out OK. Or at least OK enough not to have to redo them.

Once those are cut, primed, painted & installed, the 36″ will be ready to template and the only thing left will be the island.

And some drywall work in the blind.

Does it ever end??



Sarah is totally going to kick my ass. She’s so much farther along than me. Let’s see what she’s up to this week.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Kitchen: More Cabinets!

Welcome back to another episode of DUELING DIY! (DUN duh DUNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!)


As I mentioned last week, I waffle between going chronologically with these posts and just jumping in with where things are TO.DAY.

I’m feeling the real-time update TO.DAY.

Mostly because I actually did stuff to the kitchen last week. (Look at me go.)

So. Where were we?



Ah yes. The kitchen was mostly looking like that.

For such a massive project, I find it’s helpful to break it down into smaller chunks. Focus on those. Then move on.

Right now the goal is to get all the base cabinets in so that the counters can be templated.

Because once the counters can get templated, the counters can be installed. And then I can have Mike The Plumber back to install a little something I like to call – running water.

While I enjoy the giant size of the “sink” I’ve been using, having it so low to the ground is rough on my back.


Anyway. Counters. Needs them.

Before I left for India, I had 3 main sections of base cabinets left to do – the sink cabinet, the base cabinet going to the left of the mantel, and the island.

Sink Cab
This “cabinet” was mostly built. I just needed to put the doors on and build some stiles for the tilt out trays. Ahhh fun words like ‘mostly’ and ‘just’. They seem so simple. Straightforward. Easy. Quick.

I use “cabinet” because we didn’t build this sink cab like normal people would build a sink cabinet. Or any other cabinet for that matter.

We’ll come back to how this sucker got built another day but here’s some pics from this past week.

Because the “cabinet” isn’t stock, there aren’t those handy pre-drilled, “put the hinges here and it will all line up perfectly” holes. This is how I manage.
Untitled Untitled Untitled

Luckily, IKEA hinges can be adjusted in all 3 dimensions. It’s my saving grace when things aren’t dead-on accurate. (Which is most of the time.)


Once the doors were fitted, I needed to make stiles for the upper fronts.


A bit of poplar later -


And a couple days of priming & painting the pieces.


Yes, that’s a Christmas tree out. Don’t judge.

Since templating is on my mind, I needed to get cracking on the last 2 sections of base cabs. Only problem is – I hadn’t actually bought them. Which is how I found myself braving the swarms at IKEA mid-afternoon on a Saturday.

I was in & out in 2 hours. Considering the Elizabeth IKEA is basically hell on earth on Saturdays but especially in the afternoons, I’m feeling pretty good about my IKEA skills. The thing I always forget though a little is how much STUFF 4 cabinets equals. 4 cabinets (3 base & 1 upper) came out to 45 pieces and 433lbs.



To load into the truck. Out of the truck. Up the stairs. And into the house. By myself.


If the snow wasn’t there, I would have just driven up on the sidewalk. But this cut it down a little.

Sunday was a whole mess of base cabinet back & forth.

The original plan to have drawers in this 36″ base meant it was going to look like this -


I had measured. I knew it would come out past the window. I didn’t realize how much of a bad idea that was until things were assembled.

After a good sized pity party and more space planning, I decided to ditch the drawers and do shelves in this cabinet instead. Which meant cutting it down even more wouldn’t be a problem.


MUCH better, right??

So now to the island. And actually installing the sink cab bits. And actually installing that 36″ base. But maybe I want to put a toe kick drawer in that one too? So.MUCH.TO.DO.

But things are moving! And that’s all that matters, right? RIGHT?!

Sarah’s been sick with the flu and she’s still kicking my butt. Tell her to send those kitchen elves over here. Mama needs some running water already.

Posted in kitchen | 5 Comments

Kitchen: Speaking Up About Laying Pipe


Fire be damned! The kitchen must move forward!! CHARGE!!!!!!!!!

The tricky part about this kitchen renovation is juggling between the past and present. The project started in 2012 but here we are in 2014 and it’s still ongoing. I’m left torn between wanting to jump right in and show you where things are now. Which I kind of did a couple weeks ago. And wanting to show you what it has taken to get to this point.

Today, we are going to rewind to July 2012. Back when 6″ of cast iron pipe was completely ruling my world.

So annoying.

Before beginning demo, I knew the drain stack for the upstairs bathrooms went down this corner but that little 6″ elbow jutting out to the left was not part of my schematic. As I lamented a couple years ago, this messed with pretty much every part of the kitchen plan because it pushed the entire wall of kitchen to the left 6″. When you’re only dealing with 120″ of kitchen, that’s kind of a big deal.

After whining about it for a post, I decided to put on my big girl panties and call the plumber to move it. At the time, $500 felt like a huge investment to make in 6″. Looking back, this was one of those – duh, why is this even a question? – things.

The plumber came out and used one of these pipe crackers to crack the cast iron pipe. Not a DIY project. (Well, I guess it could be but these suckers are expensive.)

That was pretty cool.

I was hoping that he could ditch the useless T & maybe even get the whole stack back a little closer to the back wall.


(The underside of the bathroom floor. You can see the joist we had to sister together.)

He mocked up the PVC pipe and installed it with rubber connectors at the top & bottom to the old pipe.



The pipe clamps tightened and, wham bam thank you ma’am, it was in.

Just like that.

They left and I sat there staring at it.

It just didn’t look right. The pipe looked a lot farther to the left than I expected it to and it didn’t look like I had gained all that much room.

So I measured. And I was right.

I only gained a couple inches.

Well crap. I just spent all that money. It wasn’t what I wanted. It didn’t turn out like I thought it would. Even worse – I told my plumber it was great. I told him I was happy with it. Now that he had left and I measured, I wasn’t.

I felt foolish. Why wasn’t I more clear with what I wanted and expected? Why did I say everything was perfect?

I sat on the floor, staring at this brand new $500 PVC pipe, and had my own private pity party.
And then I called my father. Mostly to whine.
And he listened. Like most fathers would.
And then he said what most normal, rational people would have just done from the beginning.
“If you’re not happy with it, call Mike (my plumber) and tell him. I’m sure he would much rather fix it so you’re satisfied.”

We hung up and I let my embarrassment linger for only a moment longer before kicking it to the curb and picking up the phone.

Now, before we go any further, I must say that I love my plumber but bedside manner is not his strongest of suits. He comes off as gruff and old school. His hands are calloused and seemingly permanently stained from decades of fixing things. He points out mistakes but offers solutions. He isn’t shy about telling you what should be done, how it should be done, and why. Even when he’s super busy, he always makes time for urgent calls (like when my boiler wasn’t working). He knows his clients and he’s fair. I like him (and wouldn’t call anyone else) but he can be a bit brusque.

“Mike? It’s Carrie. I know you JUST left but I’ve been sitting here staring at this pipe and it’s not right. I needed it to be further to the right.”
“I thought you said it was great.”
“I did… But it’s not.”

After far less grumbling than I expected, he turned around and came back.

At this point, I have NO idea how he’s going to fix it. I am not wrapping my brain around the twists and angles needed to get from point A to point B and still get the pipe to hug the back wall of the house.

The drain from the bathroom upstairs is a fixed point. The cast iron pip that continues down into the basement is a fixed point. And I want the whole thing to move to the right about 3″. I’d want to kill me too.

Mike came in. He stared and pondered for less than 3 minutes. Grumbled only a little.

“Because the top & bottom pipes don’t directly line up, you have to have this bend in it. Do you care if it’s at the top? I could flip it upside down. That puts the long run of pipe as far back as possible but then you’ll have the bends up at the top to connect upstairs.”

Nope! That worked just fine. The long run was taller than my fridge, so I could figure that part out later.

A few twists to loosen the pipe clamps around the rubber connectors. The entire PVC portion of pipe lifted out. Flipped upside down. And got clamped back in place.

And just like that it was perfect. For real.

Now go see what Sarah’s up to!

Posted in kitchen | 10 Comments

Grateful for Brick Walls

Today you are supposed to open your readers to dizzying parts progress and smack-talk related to the ongoing saga that is my kitchen renovation. Unfortunately, I have none of that for you today.

The past 2 weeks, I have been on India on a business trip. It was awesome. I fully expected to come home brimming with energy and enthusiasm and ready to dive, head-first, back into my kitchen and whip up some progress to show you today.

Monday morning, I landed in JFK to cold and snow. A rude awakening from the warmth and mild breezes of Bangalore & Delhi. Determined to hit the ground running and get back on Eastern Standard Time, I got home, showered, and went into the office.

It was a normal weekday and I was going to treat it as such. By mid-afternoon, the jet-lag was catching up and I succumbed to leaving early in favor of a nap.

That evening, instead of staying home and being productive (as originally intended), I went out. A relatively uneventful evening passed into night. At 12:35am, I get a text from my tenant – “Do you smell smoke?”

15 minutes later, I get a frantic call from my neighbor. CARRIE! 14 IS ON FIRE!!

Not comprehending what she actually meant I asked, “What do you mean 14 is on fire?” “It’s ON FIRE!” came the reply.

Scrambling out the door, into the car, and flying across New Jersey towards a rowhome fire elicits a sinking level of dread which, until that moment, I had been lucky enough to never feel.

See – I live at 16. My immediate neighbor – the home connected to the left side of my house – was on fire. For me, fire is the scariest of disasters for rowhome living. I’ve dealt with noise because of connected living. I’ve dealt with rats. But fire… fire makes all that look like small potatoes.

Fire wiped out large swaths of city homes at the beginning of last century.

Fire, even more than water, is the one thing that can cause incredible amounts of damage in the blink of an eye.

As the trees whip by out the side window of the car, I am steeling myself for the worst.
This is it.
This is going to be bad and there’s nothing I could have done to prevent or stop it.

The boys (dogs) are still at my parents.
My tenant is awake and out of the house.
Everything else?
Well…everything else is just stuff.

With that resolution came a calm that I’m still riding.

Whatever I pulled up to find, it would be ok.

I pulled up to find this:


Big trucks and flashing lights clogging my entire street. Hoses shooting thousands of gallons of water onto the smoldering shell of my neighbor’s house. The water coating everything in a thick layer of black, sooty ice.





The neighborhood convened at the local bar. Checking in. Talking about what happened. Sharing a pint (or 2).

The fire started up on the third floor next door. The house was rented out to a bunch of guys (mostly college aged). Fortunately, all the humans made it out alive. The kid living up on the 3rd floor is lucky to be alive. Sadly, he lost one of his dogs to the smoke & fire.

Hearing that made me even more grateful both my boys are still tucked safely away at my parents.

Because I wasn’t home, the fire fighters smashed in my front door to check the house.


Seeing the door I just spent so much time, money & effort restoring hacked & smashed sucks. I’m fortunate that it wasn’t worse and hopeful it’ll be salvageable.




To make sure the fire didn’t spread across to my home, the fire fighters tore holes in the ceiling of the 3rd floor hall & bathroom.





It’s a mess. There’s plaster, grit, insulation, lath, and dust everywhere. The entire house smells like a campfire.

There is damage to my roof.



And the skylight is destroyed.


But looking next door, it’s easy to remember that it could have been so much worse.


I still have a home to clean up. I still have clothes to bag up and send to the dry cleaner. I still have ceilings that can be repaired and a roof that can be replaced.

The fire fighters and the double layer of brick walls that separate our homes saved me. If this was modern wood stud construction, I would have nothing right now.

I have always loved my brick walls because they’re beautiful. This week, I’m grateful to have them because they saved me from this -

The next few days will be spent managing the initial clean up and getting the insurance ball rolling. Maybe they’ll be some kitchen progress next week.

In the meantime, go check out Sarah and her awesome window casings! I’m going to go kiss my brick walls.

Posted in general, kitchen | 62 Comments

Kitchen: To Do


That’s not fear it my eyes, Sarah. It’s the realization that you are the hare and I am the tortoise. And we both know how that competition ends. Enjoy your head start.

In the ongoing saga that is my kitchen renovation, it may be helpful to bring you up to speed about what’s already been done and what is still left to do. Lets make a list.

The past (almost) 2 years sometimes feel like I’ve come so far and yet aren’t even close to the finish. Writing this list mad me realize that’s probably a pretty accurate feeling but mostly because what’s left is finish work that takes exponentially longer per task (compared to say – demo or sealing the brick).

Already Done:
Buy new appliances
Clean & seal the brick
Plan new electric
Install new electric
Install can lights
Run water to the back yard for outdoor spigot
Have waste pipe moved over
Install new flooring
Refinish floors to match existing floor
Box in plumbing chase
Mortar in new bricks
Build fridge box
Fix walls & ceiling
Prime room
Paint room
Install nook cabinetry
Install main wall base cab
Create dishwasher cab

Left To Do:
Build sink cabinet
Finish buying IKEA cabinets
Install 36″ base cab
Install 36″ upper cab
Pick soapstone
Have counters templated
Fix & reinstall top part of fridge wall
Install shelf in ladder nook
Build out cab above fridge
Install ply on ceiling of main wall
Prime & paint cabinets
Finish 24″ nook upper install
Build soffit cabs
Prime & paint soffit cabs
Install soffit cabs
Install cover panel to soffit cabs
Install 15″ upper
Drywall blind
Mud, sand, prime & paint blind
Install 24″ upper cab in blind
Counters installed
Install faucet & appliances
Install range hood
Install rail rack shelf

Other Stuff To Do in Room
Stain & finish windows
Build out pantry
Design & build island
Buy parts & build chandelier

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’m currently in India on a business trip. That’s made kitchen progress pretty slow this past week. Lucky for you, you still think the kitchen looks like this –


That photo was taken back in May of 2012. Through the magic of the Internet and working on it for the past year & a bunch, I’m excited to tell you that the kitchen now looks like this –








BOOM!!! Overnight success!

I may not have running water yet but I got some cabinets & paint.

Take that, Ug-Duck!!!!

Posted in kitchen | 3 Comments

Kick in the Pants

2014 has brought a renewed desire to blog. The past few years that desired waned and things were pretty quiet around here. Life happens.

I at least try to keep up with my favorite bloggers. It’s fun to stay current with what y’all are doing. As time marched on, I really missed having the progress on this place documented. This is purely selfish & self-serving, of course. It’s really handy to have something on the Internet to quickly reference when you can’t remember what color the living room was painted.

The stagnation here on the blog is not reflective of the progress on the house. The stoop is done! Like for realizes!! That’s hugely exciting.

The kitchen is slowly rolling forward. I’ve only been without a kitchen since June 2012. Yes – as in a year and 7 months. I mean…WOAH; right!?

Who lives without running water on their first floor for a year and 7 months?!?

This girl, apparently. But I’ve been working really hard to change that.

To give me that extra little fire to crack down and get ‘er done, I immediately thought of my friend Sarah’s kitchen renovation. Sarah at Ugly Duckling House has been chipping away at her kitchen for a while too. (Not year-&-7mo ‘while’, normal people ‘while’.) Like me, she had a few unexpected projects (like a laundry room) pop up that diverted her attention away from the kitchen.

When Sarah put out the call for people to do another round of Dueling DIY with, I was all, “Duuuuuuuuuuuude! Our kitchens would be perfect for this!!”

And she was all, “Um. Do you even blog anymore, slacker?” (She didn’t actually say that.)

And I was all, “I would if it meant finally finishing this freaking kitchen and kicking your butt in the process!!” (OHHHHHHHHH, SNAP!)

And then I spent an entire evening taking ridiculous selfies with my iPhone and Paslode so she would have something to use in the creation of this masterpiece -


Oh it’s on like donkey kong, my friend. Donkey.Kong.



So what exactly is this “Dueling DIY” thing?

Every Wednesday, Sarah & I will update on our kitchen progress (if there’s been any) (which there will be).

Nothing like a little friendly competition to keep us focused on the task at hand. For me, that’s finally having running water on the first floor and finishing this kitchen already.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Kitchen: The Plan

I realize I’ve never actually showed you guys the plan for my kitchen. I never really wrote it down. It’s just floated around in my head

I suppose this is a good thing because, as the renovation has progressed, there’s been about 3 significant design changes switching cabinets around. I’m pretty excited with where the design ended up.

Here’s the kitchen back before demo.


In May of 2012. That’s right folks. This kitchen projects started June of 2012. TWENTY-TWELVE, folks.

I’m just gonna let that sink in for a few moments.

Yeah… Lets hope we don’t actually hit the 2 year mark when it comes to finishing the project.

So the plan. The one long wall will remain the main wall of the kitchen.

Kitchen plan

Sink > Dishwasher > Stove > 15″ base cab > Fridge

I originally had planned to have a bunch of upper cabinets on that wall. That included a 24″ cabinet over the dishwasher and another 30 or 36″ upper above the sink. But, during demo, I uncovered the original brick and loved it. (Duh. What’s not to love?)

Keeping the brick changed the design a little bit but something have remained the same. The kitchen will be a mix of custom, IKEA, and customized IKEA. In such a compact kitchen, I cannot afford to waste a single inch of space. It’s very much like designing for a ship or RV. I am until utilizing every nook & cranny and, in a lot of case, custom building stuff to fit the space.

It’s slow going as neither my dad (my reno angel & partner) or I are cabinet makers. We are set builders. Well, we’re not really set builders either but it is in our background. I went to school for theatre and built my fair share of sets during undergrad. Dad spent several years building the sets for my old high school’s productions. This space will look like a kitchen. It will function as a kitchen. But it is probably not going to be built like most people would build a kitchen. Especially not people who actually build kitchens for a living. Doing things our own special way has allowed us to squeeze out inches most people, would have given up. It’s also taking a long time. I guess you can tell where my priorities are.

Back to the main wall layout. Fridge & storage above & to the right of it are at the far end of the kitchen. The fridge is over as far right as it will possibly go, as there is plumbing in the back right corner. The storage above & to the right are completely custom.

The wall to the left side of the fridge goes floor to ceiling and boxes in the fridge. It also provides a great starting point for the rest of the main wall. The bottom is pretty much the same setup as the original kitchen (sink > dishwasher > stove) but my adjusting the plumbing and going from a 30″ fridge to a 24″ on meant I could squeeze in a 15″ base cabinet. Going from 0 base cabinets to 1 is HUGE for me. I cannot wait to have a place to store all my cooking utensils that’s actually near where I’ll be using them.

Along the very top of this main wall will be a set of 15″h x 36″w x 24″ deep upper cabinets. The doors on all 3 sets will be from IKEA but I’ll only use the cabinet boxes for 2 of them. The third (and farthest left) cabinet box will be custom made so that it is actually wider than 36″. By making it wider, I can utilize the space in the blind, so that isn’t lost.

These rather short (15″h) but super deep (24″d) cabinets will look almost like a soffit. Obviously they’re way too high to be practical for everyday use but its perfect for things like my party beverage tubs and other special occasion items.

Under the soffit cabs, above the 15″ base will be a 15″w x 39″h upper (thinking spices, oils, etc. but we shall see). Above the stove will be a chimney style range hood. Above the dishwasher will be an open shelf.

This shelf, to be specific -


It’s a rack from an old New South Railways train car. I know it’s hugely popular right now but I’m not a huge fan of lots of open shelving. I think it’s generally impractical and annoying to keep clean and uncluttered. (Commence blogger stoning/shunning)

This rack was too cool to pass up (thanks, eBay) and I think I can manage keeping 1 open shelf presentable. I think. No promises.

Then there’s the sink. Nothing on the wall in front of the sink. Just gorgeous old brick.

Finally, a little blind immediately to the left of the sink. You can see it here, on the left -


It’s about 15″ deep. I was a little befuddled about what to with that blind in my original design. To keep the maximum amount of brick showing, the 24″ cabinet that was originally going above the dishwasher will rotate 90 degrees and hang on the side of the blind. A single door on the cabinet will open onto the brick wall. The blind is deep enough that you won’t see this upper at all when you look straight on at the main kitchen wall.

The other upper cabinet will get made up on the opposite side of the room. The mantel side of the room is what I consider “the dining room”. Sure. The whole thing is just one big (relatively speaking) room but I like have a kitchen & a dining room, so I differentiate between the two. Semantics, I suppose.

Anyway. On the mantel wall -


To the right side of the mantel is a closet that will be used as a pantry. It’s been completely gutted, so add that to the list. The left side of the mantel is about 48″ wide, wall-to-wall. The width of the baseboards and the radiator in front of the window makes it impossible to actually put a 48″ wide bank of cabinets but I can get 36″ centered on the wall and build it in with nooks on either side. I’ll hang a 36″w x 39″h upper cabinet on the wall above it.

This built-in set of upper & base cabinets will get topped with the same counter as the rest of the kitchen and provide additional buffet/serving space.

The third zone of the kitchen is the nook, between the arch to the front hallway and the pocket doors to the living room. While about 26″ wide, it’s not 24″ deep. Luckily, I can it a base cabinet down to make it shallow enough to fit. A 24″ upper hangs on the wall above it with the microwave hanging off the bottom.

The fourth zone of the kitchen will be a rolling island but I don’t quite have that figured out yet. The plan is to get these 3 areas in, finished, and the pantry built out. Then I’ll reassess my storage & counter needs. I anticipate need more counter space to prep on and who couldn’t use more storage? 24″ is a bit deep for an island, given everything else going on in here (dining room table, the fact that the house is only 18′ wide to begin with, etc). 18″ might be perfect but we’ll just have to see when everything else gets finished. I’m staying open to possibilities and options for the island.

So that’s the plan! Hopefully there won’t be any more design changes but you never know.

Posted in kitchen | 6 Comments