Monday, September 28, 2009

Cajoling a Cabinet

The last cabinet on the eastern wall of the kitchen was indeed a bit too large to fit (mostly because the walls are crooked), So it took us pretty much all of yesterday to cajole it to go in. This involved sanding, planing, removing pieces of wood from the wall, sanding the wall, etc., etc. Today we finally got it in!

Twelve more to go!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Hardships of Installing Wall Cabinets

So far we installed four wall cabinets. Boy - was that much harder than we expected! The corner took us a while to get leveled, but wasn't too bad, especially considering it was the first one. Attaching the two small 12" cabinets next to it - that was pretty much horrible! First of all, they're so narrow, you can't fit the drill in to screw it to the face frame of the corner cabinet. This means we had to HAND-DRILL the holes 3 times each: once with the small drill bit that goes all the way, then with 2 subsequently larger drill bits that only go through the first cabinet's face frame. Hand-drilling is not easy! Second, the corner cabinet's diagonal face frame made it very difficult to align the cabinets to each other, and also made it impossible to use the cabinet claws (see picture below), so we had to use regular C-clamps. Because of the hardships of alignment and leveling, the toggle bolts were hard to align as well (with toggle bolts, the anchor needs to go inside the wall before the cabinet is up, and the screw then should go through the cabinet and into the anchor). And yes, the 12" cabinet to the right had to be attached to the wall with toggle bolts, because it completely misses the studs.
By comparison, the last cabinet we attached so far, the one over the sink, was very easy. Although we had to use toggle bolts for it too, because there's only one stud behind it, it aligned perfectly almost without adjustments. It was also finally possible to use the cabinet claws, and to drill with a machine. Much better!

We work at night - hence the glare...

Even though we could use the cabinet claws as clamps and guides to drilling, we nonetheless could not use them for screwing through, because our screws' heads are too big. Figures! Still, it wasn't too bad. Now we'll need to see if the 36" cabinet can fit in the remaining space!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

First Cabinet In!!

This is such an exciting event, it deserves its own entry!

(...And a rather fuzzy picture...)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Operation Duststorm

The title may sound like the kind of war a George Bush would start, but ours was actually quite constructive. If you remember, we had to remove parts of the walls in the kitchen to accommodate the electrical wiring.

So now we had to close these openings.

Which we did with sheets of gypsum, in which we punched holes to hold the plaster. The electrical outlets didn't make it any easier...

Again, the outlets didn't make it any easier to apply the plaster - they were always in the way! The result was too much plaster, that needed to be sanded. At first we did it with a hand-sander, but we soon realized we might need the help of a professional - in the form of a power sander. It sure helped! But soon enough the whole house was covered with a thick layer of plaster dust! Lesson learned: covering the dining table with plastic is not enough! Next time - use the plastic to create a barrier between the place to be sanded and the rest of the house!

Took us ages to clean up!

But then the fun part started:

We used FreshAire paint, which is supposed to not release toxic volatiles, but it still had some paint-scent to it. The color is earthenware, if you're interested. I think it'll go well with our cabinets, countertop, tile floor, and exposed-beam ceiling. But we'll see!

Up next: Installing the cabinets!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Brush 'n Bulky

Tucson collects brush and bulky twice a year, and it happens this week. We had to get our trees trimmed and our kitchen leftovers sorted out, which was a nice change from inhaling dust in the kitchen (more about that in the next post).
Trimming the trees was a lot of fun! We got a pair of loppers* that were SO good, it felt like cutting butter, even if the branches were thicker than 2 inches! Incredible! While I'm here, I might as well mention how pleased I am with the lawn mower we got. I used to mow the lawn at my parents house all through my teen years, and although the activity gave me time to come up with solutions for some troubling issues (e.g. my English teacher), and shaped my triceps for years to come, I never really liked it. First, it was a HUGE lawn. Second, the lawnmowers we had - and we had a few of every kind! - were never as much fun as the one we have now. We had fuel-powered push mowers, electric mowers, and rider mowers, and each had its problem. But our reel push mower is excellent! I always thought it would be hard to push a non-motorized mower, but it turned out to be even easier than the heavy gasoline push mowers. Not to mention the fact that it's not half as noisy. Anyway, I highly recommend it!
So our pine tree got a hair cut,

It's not the best view of the tree before the trim, but you can see how low the branches hang

Now it looks more like a tree!

...and we also had to thin the mesquite, so it won't fall off (we will have to do it twice a year, as per previous owner's recommendation). We also had to cut down a really nice agave plant that was in the way of the ditch we will have to dig to connect the main water pipe to the water supply. As I mentioned some time before, Lloyd the plumber found that it's too corroded and needs to be replaced. Removing the agave was really sad, but its 3 kids were spared at least, and I think they're doing well.

Finally, here's the pile of brush and bulky, which I'm pretty sure is the largest in the neighborhood:

Left to right: scrap in bin (shouldn't have done that - they took the bin!), poor agave in cardboard boxes, pine branches, old kitchen, mesquite branches.

*Our loppers are bigger!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Considering the State of Our Kitchen...

You might wonder, like Dani, where we eat these days. Actually it's a matter of what we eat. We still eat mostly at home - we don't have time to eat anywhere else. But we do spend a lot of time buying a lot of frozen food! Our freezer is full of frozen pizzas, fake meat chicken nuggets, buffalo wings, chicken patties, veggie burgers, etc. That's what we usually end up eating for dinner. Sometimes we carry out pizzas. But every now and then we feel like having something that resembles a real meal, you know, the kind with vegetables, so we experiment with dishes that don't take too many dishes to prepare, like roasted green beans (wash the beans, spray them with olive oil, salt, and parmesan, and bake for 1o-15 minutes), shakshooka (tomato and eggs mixed together - one of the few real Israeli foods), salsa fresca (tomatoes, corn, and beans), black rice salad (black rice cooked in the microwave, edamame, and sesame, tossed with some sesame oil and a bit of rice vinegar), or just plain salad.

This has been the case for exactly 2 months now. And now that we don't have a sink, we're even more limited - by the size of dishes that fit in the bathroom sink. For example, In the days we still had a sink, I discovered a fabulous recipe: melon tapioca soup (courtesy of the Vegetarian Times): you soak 1/4 cup of small tapioca pearls in 1 cup of water for about 45 minutes. Then you cook it with a can of coconut milk and 3 T of sugar for 5-10 minutes (until thick and pearls are translucent). Then you turn the heat off and add 1/2 cup of milk, stir well and let cool. Next, you blend a melon, and when the tapioca pudding is cooled enough, you add the liquefied melon and chill. It is SO refreshing and delicious! You have to try! Now, where can I wash my blender?? :(

So we are really motivated to finish up with the kitchen. Here's what we need to do next:
  1. close up the kitchen walls and plaster them (we can finally do that, now that the electrical wiring got inspected)
  2. paint the walls (either before or after installing the cabinets, or both)
  3. connect a new AC duct and a vent duct over the range (the latter will be connected to the microwave)
  4. remove floor tiles from areas where cabinets are to be installed
  5. install cabinets (I suspect this will take us a while!)
  6. call the countertop people to come and measure, so they can prepare out fabulous Corian countertops with integrated sink. It will take them about 10 days to prepare the countertop, and then we will FINALLY have a sink, and we could FINALLY unpack all of our kitchen equipment and all the raw materials, and FINALLY we could eat some real food.
  7. in the meantime, we will need to install new floor tile in places where there used to be cabinets but there will not be in the future.
At least there are still a few things that don't require much dishes and are awesome nonetheless, like a scoop of ice cream in a glass, topped with a bit of Irish Cream and some soy milk. Pure indulgence!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A+ in Electrical Wiring

If you need some electrical work done, I've got the person for you: Mark the Electrician! Yes, Mark did all the work (I tried to assist, but sometimes I felt I was more in the way) and the inspector thought it was PERFECT!
But I should start at the beginning. We needed to add 5 new circuits: 4 to the kitchen and 1 to the office. This is because we got new appliances, and each requires pretty much its own circuit. A kitchen, according to The Code, also needs to have at least two circuits for the countertop outlets. We thought we'd get an electrician to do most of the work, but somehow ended up having to do it all by ourselves (electricians are very busy these days, apparently).
In order to get all the wiring done we had to break holes in the walls, remove some old outlets, put knew ones, run wires through the studs, etc. Better I explain it with pictures!
So here's what our kitchen looks like now:

Hopefully you can read the text in the callouts. It explains what each electrical element is for. You can definitely see the absence of a sink - we kept it as long as we could, but finally had to get rid of it on Sunday before the plumber's arrival.

Here are some details of the big picture:

On the right you can see a hole where an old outlet was removed. Next is the refrigerator's outlet, with its own circuit. Then our first ground fault protected outlet that we connected to an existing circuit, and that feeds the rest of the outlet on this wall and the next (total of 4 outlets).

Here you can see the old oven outlet, which was connected to the same circuit as all the other countertop outlets. This outlet will be removed and the box will be covered and hidden behind the oven. Above it is the microwave outlet that will reside inside a cabinet. We got an over-the-range microwave, and it will be connected to wall and to the cabinet above it. I bet it'll be neat! Below is the new oven outlet, connected to the microwave circuit. We have a gas oven, so it doesn't take much electricity. You can also see a part of the new gas pipe that the plumber installed - nice and yellow.

This is where the sink used to be. Lloyd the plumber removed old pipes and put shiny new ones. Don't they look good?
on both sides of the corner are two more outlets connected to the same GFCI, and on the lower left is the dishwasher outlet, that will be share a circuit with an outlet to a disposal, that we are not going to install. This outlet will be inside the sink cabinet.

Two light switches that will connect to under-the-cabinet lights and final outlet inside a junction box where all the indoor Romex wires (yellow) connect to the outdoor ones (grey). The wires go up and to through the wall to the garage, where they are running along the ceiling. From there they go outside and run along the wall under the eaves all the way to a conduit that is connected to the main service panel.

First we had to remove the LB that connects the AC conduit to the panel. It used to be where the little hole is now at the bottom, blocking all access to knock-outs. Only then could attach our new conduits in.

Attaching the new circuit breakers was my most worrisome part. One has to be careful not to touch the exposed live wires that are connected to the main circuit breaker. Fortunately, there was a very small part of them that was exposed, so it wasn't too bad. Just in case, though, Mark stood on a wood board while working on the panel, and I had a wood stick on hand to hit him with in case of an accident. I was relieved when this part of the electrical work was done!

The work also involved digging into the brick walls, because we're adding cabinets to the north wall, and they require outlets and a new circuit.

We drilled two holes in the wall, and widened them with a chisel. It took a long time...
And this is what it looks like from the outside:

I should say something about getting an inspection. We got a lot of raised eyebrows from different people when we told them we're getting an inspector. Apparently not many people get inspections for small projects. We were worried at first, because getting an inspection means you have to know all the rules specified in The Code, and there are so many things that no one could tell us if they are acceptable or not, because they vary with inspectors. We had to do a lot of research. We were also worried about the required procedure of acquiring a permit, and about the expense. It turned out not to be too bad. I had to draw plans of the kitchen and where each electrical element is to go (outlets, switches, lights, etc.) and mark them with the right circuit number. Turns out the guy at the Residential Review was pretty impressed with my plan. The pricing for the permit is hard to figure out. There's a 40-page pdf file on their website that tells you how much you have to pay for each outlet and switch, and for a visit, but it's really hard to figure out the final number. We thought it would be around $200, but it came up to $76.
So getting the permit was not a big deal, and I'm glad we got the work inspected, because otherwise, if something happens and there's a fire, the new work would have invalidated the insurance on the house.

Anyway, did I mention the inspector was very impressed with the work? Of course I knew he would be - after all, Mark is a perfectionist, and now he's also an electrician :)