June 24, 2017

Kitchen Remodel : Shelves and Chalk Paint? CHALK PAINT!

I found the most delicious stain color a few years ago .
It was a mistint on the clearance table at Lowe's.
A few bucks for a no-name color in quart size and my entire house color scheme changed.

This picture is of the old island in our kitchen.
Once I stained the wood, I was in love.

Contractor Steve created 4 floating shelves and a custom cabinet piece for our new kitchen.
From the beginning I knew I wanted those 5 pieces to be the same color as our old island.
Little did I know how maddening that would be.

The custom pieces are made of maple.
Maple is an extremely hard wood.
Stain does not soak into maple as it does the cedar I used around my old island.

After several trips to the paint store and 3 quarts of wrong-colored-stain later, I had given up.
I did not want anything painted in my kitchen, and I knew now, I was going to have to paint.
Deciding chalk paint was the only way to go, I headed down to the local store which sells Annie Sloan Chalk Paint.

I had used chalk paint on a high-use coffee table last year.  
There is not one scratch, not one chip, not one peel.  NOT ONE.
I knew this would be the perfect medium.
My only hesitancy came with the color.
They all seemed too light.
What I thought would be the easiest part of the remodel, had become the most difficult.
I was sad.

Diving in head first, I started the project.
When I put the first swipe of wax on, I was in love.
My heart soared as I knew this was going to be beautiful.
And perfect.
Oh, so perfect.

Here is what I did.
Equal parts Annie Sloan French Linen and Coco.
I mixed these together and painted 2 coats onto each shelf.
After the paint dries, I used the Annie Sloan wax brush and covered the piece with the black wax. 

Once the black wax dried for 24 hours, I followed with a coat of the dark wax.  This color is a strong brown color and gave the perfect touch in making the shelves more greige than grey.

Once I was finished, I was so excited, I may have gotten teary-eyed.
Ok, I did.
I was just so happy.

OH MY GOODNESS you guys - just look at how closely the two colors match!
The piece I am holding in the middle is a stained piece from my old island.
The background piece is the shelf.

The wax truly was the magic touch.
It added the perfect color tones and brought out so much of the character of the shelves.

Here is a look at the before, during and after.

 Be still my heart.

Next : the shelves reveal!

May 9, 2017

Hallway Doors

Slowly and surely the honey-colored oak is disappearing from our home.


Our bedroom and hallway doors were in excellent shape despite being targets 
for nerf gun competitions and being in the line of fire for a mean game of sock war.
I couldn't see replacing them even though they are plain and boring.

First step was ripping down all the oak trim and replace it with the white molding
we did throughout the rest of the house and doorways.

With the molding complete and the weather getting nicer, I took the doors down and worked outside.

Oh how I love the sunshine!  <--- side note

Using a hand sander, I sanded down the doors with a medium grit paper.

After wiping all the dust away they were ready to paint.

Also in fantastic shape are the hinges.  I cleaned each set thoroughly.

I pushed the screws into a cardboard box and laid the hinges flat onto a
paper bag I had ripped open.

Using a spray paint for metals in an oil-rubbed bronze finish, I sprayed the hardware.

No more shiney brass!

<Insert jig of joy here>

But what color should I paint the doors?  

I adore the look of white molding and white doors; which I get to stare at every day in my front hallway.

(That project I discuss here and here.)

It looks so clean and crisp and open and light.


Here is the dilemma I created for myself : I also love the color of my 
breakfast bar against my white cabinets and the dark wood floors.

So after much thought, I decided to break out of the box of conformity once again.

I went with what you do not normally see.

And I love it.

May 3, 2017

Kitchen Remodel : Week 2, 3 and Probably 4

Progress is forward.  
But slow.

Behind the scenes, things are moving.
However, that does not always show visually.

My floors are still covered in cardboard.
The cabinets are now all firmly in place.
Design has been finalized on my custom piece and the new shelving.
The counter top people have received my quartz and mapped out my kitchen.
The next step is to cut the quartz.
Until the machine broke and pushed everything out another week.

Expect the bumps.

Expect the bumps.

(This is mantra)

Expect the bumps.

I remind myself of this as I'm washing dishes in the bathtub.  Again.

Our contractor is amazing which has been a huge blessing through this process.

While I wish there was much more to report, there just isn't. 

So lets just take a few minutes and drool over the picture of my new counter tops shall we?


Be still my heart.


April 18, 2017

Toast & Heat Marks

The kitchen remodel has made our dining room table Grand Central.

We do everything here.
Prepping, cleaning, storing and cooking.
It's just part of the process.
Even if it is a little maddening at times.

The remodel has made us masters at creative dinners that produce very little dirty dishes.
Paper plates are my best friends!

Not really, but it sure is nice not having to wash plates.

One clever night, I made breakfast for dinner.
We love breakfast for dinner.

I took out the tabletop skillet, plugged it in to the wall and created magnificent french toast.
Soon a mile-high stack was on a paper plate on my dining room table.

Everyone had their fill.

It was amazing!

It was great!

It was easy!

Then I moved the paper plate that held the uneaten pieces of french toast.
I gasped and felt sick to my stomach.

There it was.
The biggest, uggliest heat stain.
In the shape of french toast.

Heart stopping isn't it?

After searching online for some hints, with shaking hands I tried the following.

Ready for this easy, peasy 3-step process?

1.  I took a white towel from my bathroom and laid it over the spot on the table.
 Maybe any color works, I don't know.
I just knew white wouldn't bleed through when I did step 3.

2.  I placed my clothes iron on the hottest steam setting it had.

3.  With the iron hovering closely over (not on) the towel, I hit the "burst" function on my iron.
I did this a couple times.

It doesn't make any sense does it?
Here is a picture of the exact same spot.

Hopefully you will never leave hot french toast on a paper plate on your dining room table.
Yet, if you do this trick will help erase the evidence and make it a distant memory.


April 16, 2017

Kitchen Remodel : Week 1

We're a week in to the kitchen remodel.  
The vision in my head is slowly transferring into reality.
And it's exciting!

After a very brutally cold winter, we packed up the family and headed to Palm Springs for a week of sunshine and pool time.  A week away went too fast.  Pulling into the drive, we could see pieces of our kitchen neatly tucked into a space in the driveway.  

The remodel had begun just as promised!

I immediately went into the house and the kitchen we had known was completely gone.  
In it's place we found boxes of cabinets.  
And water.  Lots of water.

Within 5.7 nano seconds our contractor was in our house fixing the problem.  
As I knew he would.  
Why?  I had done my homework. 
(Please read about this crucial step here.)

He took care of us and the problem was solved.

Expect the bumps.

Know what else you can expect? 

Lord have mercy.  There is dust.

We have dark wood floors throughout most of our home.
There ain't no hiding that dust.
Many times I remind myself it's temporary.

Again and again and again.

I've also had to get use to things not being where they normally belong.

Doesn't everyone have an armoire in front of their slider door?

And this, my friends, is Grand Central.
My dining room table is everything but a dining room table.
It's our prep space,
cupboard space,
counter space.

Even as I type, I've secured a tiny little spot of the table while staring at the pancake syrup.

Despite the chaos of not having a kitchen, we are loving the transformation.

Next week, the countertop process begins!

February 28, 2017

5 Steps to Hiring A Contractor

Sometimes projects are bigger than we anticipate.
Even the best DIYer knows there are some things best left to professionals.

Where does one even begin to find a contractor?
How do you protect yourself and your home?

These are big and scary questions!

For the past 12 years I have worked full time in an industry tied to construction.
I have seen many things through the years and below I will outline the best way to protect yourself when it comes time to hiring a contractor.

1.  Ask Around

Find out from friends and family a contractor they have used in the past. 
Don't stop there.  Keep asking around until you get a few names.
Be sure to ask them questions about the contractor's quality of work.
Did they stick close to the budget?  Or run excessively over?
Did they finish close to the estimated time?
Did they find the contractor easily approachable?

These are just some questions to ask when looking for feedback.
If you don't know of anyone who has used a contractor, don't be afraid to call your local building supply store.  
Contractors work closely with the local lumber yards and chances are they can recommend a few contractors for you to call.

2. Do Your Research

Now that you have a list of potential contractors, do some research online before contacting them.
Every state has an agency that oversees construction contractors licensing.
If you do not know the department for your state a simple online search of 

"Verify Contractor license for state of xyz" will bring you to the correct agency.
On the website you will be able to search by the name of the company.
Some states allow to search by the contractor's first and last name as well.

Although each state varies on what is reported, most will tell you how long they've had their license, license numbers, previous licenses, who is part of the entity's governing body (may only be the contractor), if they have had any violations or open lawsuits, and much more. 

Do you see several previous licenses listed?
Generally, there are 2 reasons for that.
1.  A developer will often get a license for each plot they will be developing and is a common business practice.
2.  A contractor will change their business name (get a new license) because their previous business went under.
Be cautious of any contractor associated with many previous licenses.
If I came across this situation, I would not hire them.

If you do not see a license listed for a suggested contractor DO NOT USE THEM. 
I can not stress this enough.
Do not hire an unlicensed contractor.

3.  Contacting Potential Contractors

Once you are armed with some knowledge on different contractors, call each contractor and ask to meet to discuss your project. 
Be ready with a budget amount and a good idea of what you want completed.
This will help the contractor put together the best proposal for you.

Don't be afraid to ask questions!
How long will the project take?
When can you get started?
Do you have any references for me to contact?
When can I expect a proposal?

 A reputable contractor will be able to answer these questions and have no problem giving you previous clients to contact.
The proposal should be presented to you with a breakdown of costs. 
Having more than one proposal allows you to do a side by side comparison.
A dollar discrepancy in bids may be due to a contractor leaving an item off the proposal - accidentally or intentionally.  A good contractor will have all items listed and broken down with a cost.  I've also seen situations where a contractor will leave items off from their bid to come in with a lower price only to have "unexpected" costs arise during the construction phase.

No one wants surprises and studying the bid ensures all needed work is accounted for and expected.

4.  Lien Rights

This is a biggie friends.
A real biggie.
If you get nothing else from this post, please, please, understand this one.

Anytime you hire someone to do work in your home and/or property they are acting on your behalf.  When product is ordered and delivered for your project the company supplying the product immediately has lien rights on your property.

What does that mean?

In short, if the product does not get paid for by the contractor the company has a legal right to place a lien on your property and can begin the steps to foreclose on your home - even if you already paid your contractor for the product.

You read that right.
Liens are only removed from the property once the product has been paid.  To avoid foreclosure, this leaves the homeowner with no other option but to pay the bill to the supplier even after they have paid the contractor for the very same product.

 This is one of the reasons why I wrote this post.  I have seen many contractors work themselves into a project, take the clients money and disappear only to show up with a different business name and different string of clients.

Some suppliers are required to send out an Intent To Lien.
This is not a lien and will say so on the paperwork.
An Intent to Lien is a supplying company's way of letting you know they hold lien rights on your property until payment is received on their product. 
It looks scary, but it is also a standard business practice and protects you - the homeowner - by keeping you informed.

5.  Protecting Yourself and Your Property

A reputable contractor will have no problem showing you the bill from a supplier.  
Some contractors will let you pay the supplier directly.
If the contractor prefers to pay the bill (after all, it is their business account) and asks you for a progress payment you have a legal right to write the check to the contractor and the supplying company.  
This is called dual paychecks and ensures the product is paid in full.

Anytime you do not pay the bill yourself you may require lien releases from the supplying company showing the contractor has paid the bill on your behalf.  This is a standard practice in the construction industry and you should have no problem securing one from any company through your contractor or from the company itself.

Do not issue any more checks until you receive a lien release for the previously paid product.   

Final Nuggets of Wisdom

Good contractors are busy.  Exceptional contractors are very busy.
When hiring a contractor do not use the one who states they can begin immediately on your project.
There is a reason they can start right away - and in my experience it isn't a good one.

All projects have hiccups and bumps and obstacles.  
Expect this.  There is no smooth sailing and that's ok.  

There you have it.  All my ways to help you find the best contractor around.

Keep your eyes on the finished project and enjoy this adventure!

Good luck!