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Archive for the ‘Before/After’ Category

For quite a while, we’ve had 3 stainless steel appliances — the fridge, dishwasher, and microwave — and 1 bisque (the range) that came with the house.

All of the first three stainless appliances were bought out of necessity, when what came with the house died.  Initially I had a hard time with the idea of prematurely replacing the bisque range.  I wanted a stainless steel dual fuel range, but the existing range had a gas cooktop and it (mostly) worked, so it was hard to pull the trigger.  Eventually, this Christmas convinced me.

On Christmas Eve we were hosting the annual 7 fish gathering, and were trying to cook on 3+ burners of the stove and in the oven at the same time.  I was trying to get pasta out of pots on the back burners while sautéing on the front burners, and needed to reach the oven controls at the same time.  With how low the microwave is, and with how much depth is eaten up by the rear dash (where the oven controls are) there just wasn’t space.

I came away with a few little oil burns and a new resolve that it was time to hit an appliance sale in the new year.

I’ve known for a while exactly which range I was pretty sure I wanted, and we spent only a little time shopping to confirm before buying.  We needed a freestanding range, since that’s what we’re replacing, but I wanted the look of a slide-in, and the controls on the front.  I also liked not having the big dash in the back, because it leaves more space for pots to not be so close together.  The GE Cafe range was the only one we found that fit all those wants, came in the right size, and was available in a dual fuel model.

In order to switch to dual fuel, we had to have a 220v line installed, because our previous range was all gas, and only needed 110v to run the clock, etc.  We had an electrician do it, partly because electrical work isn’t my bag, and partly because we also wanted a separate circuit run for the microwave so we could stop periodically overloading the circuit that previously had the microwave, range, and the basement lights on it.  Once that was done we ordered the range, and had it delivered.

DIY install was ok in the end, but didn’t go as smoothly as it could have.  We needed a dolly to move it from the garage into the kitchen, but at least it fit through the necessary doorways.  When we finally got it unpackaged, we discovered that it fit between the cabinets, but the opening in the countertops was about 1/16″ too small.

Super.

We ended up removing the small countertop from the cabinet and re-screwing it to the cabinet after fitting the range in.  No big deal, but there was certainly a little panic involved for a brief while.

This is the hole in the cabinets that the range goes into.  Please admire the awesome stock cabinetry in the corner, that never got painted.

Sealing the natural gas line threads went pretty smoothly.  We used this stuff to seal:

and when we tested for leaks

we were good to go.

When it came time to push the range in, we arrived at the first problem that we couldn’t readily solve.  We’re not 100% sure, but we think it’s the gas line that’s in the way:

but we can’t push the range the last 2 inches or so, all the way back to the wall.  It’s a problem we’ll have to figure out how to fix in the future, because we have a gap near the backsplash, and we can’t open the drawer under the drain board without opening the oven door too (the drawer hits the oven door handle).  There has to be a solution, we’ll just have to figure it out.  In the meantime, not bad:

I love how much less cramped it looks above the range.  The white tile backsplash is nothing to write home about, but it’s so nice and clean looking to be able to see it!  The bisque appliances/white tile never did much for me either.

We have not baked anything yet to report on the electric oven, but I do really like the gas cooktop so far.  Now we just need to throw a party to take it for a test run!  Marcy and Guinness insist.

The old range, which does still work, is out in the garage.  I plan to call Habitat for Humanity to donate it.  Hopefully it will be useful to someone.

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Sweet, sweet completion.  After 4 full months in various stages of being torn apart, it’s put back together again and ready for guests.  Without further ado:

Paint:  SW Interesting Aqua and SW Alabaster | Tile:  Tracce del Tempo in marrone 13x13s | Sink:  Mansfield Barrett | Toilet:  Mansfield Barrett, a discontinued version without concealed trap | Faucet, towel ring, and TP ring:  Moen Eva collection in brushed nickel | Mirror:  Lowe’s

We’ve worked on it most of the last bunch of weekends, and I confess I got so tired of the project toward the end that I wasn’t enjoying working on it, let alone taking pictures or writing about it.  So, I stopped blogging about it – this is supposed to be fun, right?  Besides, nobody wants to see pictures of “and then I did another coat of white paint!” or “and then we ran out to Lowe’s again!”

We did a lot of that – the running out to Lowe’s again.  It seemed like every step that could’ve had a hangup, required another trip to Lowe’s, needed a different part, or had 8 more steps than we thought, did.  Most parts of the project weren’t that difficult, but they were almost all things we don’t do everyday.  “One off” sort of projects always take more time and effort than you expect.

But finally.

After it was all finished, it struck me how similar it was to what was previously there – it was really just a nicer, more polished version of itself.  The layout is the same.  It’s still blue, and still has neutral colored, square-patterned flooring.  The shift from bisque to white fixtures isn’t dramatic.  The mirror and vanity light were things we’d had in there before.  But the overall impression, I think, is much nicer.  It’s the little things.  Looking at the befores:

There’s no more gapping between pieces of laminate flooring, no more vague smell of mold (the old toilet wax seal leaked), no more pinky beige, circa 1985, no more shreds of wallpaper that I couldn’t quite get out from behind the baseboard molding, no more shoddy finish carpentry, more floor space, and a cleaner, brighter look.  It’s warmer, with a forced air heat register that now opens into the room, and radiant heat in the floor.  It feels more like part of the house, not part of the garage.

We still have a few little tasks left to do:  we need to install a threshold between the tile and the family room carpet, just to finish it off.  I’m also thinking about what to hang on the walls.  A floating shelf over the toilet would provide space for extra TP rolls, etc.  I admit I will probably miss the vanity storage space a little.  With the heat vent where it is, I think we made the right decision to use a pedestal sink, but it always pains me to sacrifice storage space.

We’re also going to replace the lauan door – which looks so orange against all that white! – with a solid pine 6 panel door that will be painted white to match, with a brushed nickel knob.  I am ready to give that up for now and call it a separate project.  I need a little break where I’m “done” for a bit.  We’ll eventually be doing all the interior doors in the house, and they’ll all still be there next month.

Just for funsies:

2008:

and 2012:

I’m pretty proud of that!

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While we had the electricians in doing the wiring for the new fans, we also had a few little things done in the kitchen.

Previously, we’d had to string the power cord from the phone across the backsplash to where the coffee pot is plugged in.  Thumbs down.  So we had an outlet added on a panel with a dimmer switch, so the phone could be plugged in right near the phone jack.

The dimmer switch goes to the new lantern alongside the slider.  The deck previously had no light at all, so grilling involved a little guess work, and/or a headlamp.  The lantern has a 60w bulb, so the dimmer is probably overkill.  But if we ever want something brighter, we’ll have a way to tone it down for sitting on the deck.

The outdoor outlet below the lantern is also new.  It has no distinct purpose other than, “it seems like a good and potentially useful idea.”  We have an outlet on the back side of the family room, below the light, but it’s pretty out of the way.  (Read:  requires an extension cord for Christmas lights.)

The spotlight fixture is also new.  We just swapped that ourselves for the cheap and ineffective jelly jar light that was there before.

Not super exciting, but it’s a lot brighter.  We leave the switch (in the family room) on, and let it shut on and off with the motion sensor.  I think we need to angle it more toward the deck, but overall it’s been pretty useful at lighting up the yard.

The other electrical project was back upstairs:  we had a whole house fan installed over the stairs.

Fortunately, the house already had ridge vents and vented soffits, so we didn’t need to install more venting.  That might have been the only easy or fortuitous part about getting this done. First, just getting the fan was a hassle.  Very few stores stock them, and most places were charging upwards of $90 in shipping, and/or had multi-week delivery times.  A far cry from the giant box containing 3 ceiling fans that arrived via free super saver shipping from amazon.com!  We finally tracked one down at a more-or-less-area Lowe’s, but what a pain.  We also needed to figure out ourselves what specs we needed:  size, capacity (in CFM), belt vs. direct drive, etc.  (For anyone considering one, we went with 30″, 5700 CFM, belt driven for our 1860 sf house.)  The guys at Lowe’s looked at us like we had three heads when we asked them.

We also had some difficulty finding someone to do the installation, since whole house fans fell off the popularity charts with the rise of central air.  We ended up hiring two guys to do it; the electrician who did the other fans and fixtures wired it, and then we got a carpenter to do the installation.  In the intervening weeks we talked to a lot of people who told us it couldn’t be done because we have 24 inch on center trusses over the stairs that can’t be cut (true, but you can install around them), people who told us it was a ridiculous project because we already have central air, and people who told us they “just don’t do those anymore.”  All of which was super helpful.

In any event, it did finally go in, and there it is:

All that’s left is trying to figure out how to get at the marks on the ceiling and the walls left by the carpenter’s hand prints.  There are some on the ceiling around the fan, on the wall, and on the far wall over the stairs from the carpenter’s ladder.  I was disappointed by those.  Ah well.  In the summer we’ll be able to turn it on at night and replace all the stuffy air in the house with cool outside air in minutes.  That will be nice.

That wraps up our electrical projects.  With the exception of a little tree surgery work outside that will hopefully be done soon, it will be back to our regularly scheduled DIY around here.

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This will be a brief post, because this project is on the short list of those we opted not to take on ourselves.  Last week we hired an electrician to do the wiring for new ceiling fans in all four bedrooms, and wire the wall switches to control the lighted fans, rather than the outlets they previously controlled.

We put three identical fans in the master, spare, and office bedrooms:
We went with Hunter fans for their reputation for being quiet, and picked a low profile model since our ceilings aren’t particularly high.  I’ve never really loved white ceiling fans, but we went that way anyway because we wanted them to disappear into the ceiling as much as possible.

Since they were 52″ fans, we thought that would be a bit much for the fourth and smallest room (the guest room).  The guest room received the 36″ ceiling fan that had previously hung in the hallway over the stairs instead.

It hasn’t been warm enough to use the fans, except to verify that yes, they work, and yes, they’re quiet.  The lights have been nice, though.

Master lighting before: 

Master lighting after:

Guest Room before:

Guest room after:

I’m sure you get the picture.  From dimly lit to bright!

The office and spare rooms got the same treatment:
  
Obviously these two rooms have a little further to come toward anything that looks finished, but at least now they’re well enough lit that we can see what we’re doing, and what we have to work with.

On the floor in the green room, you can see a whole house fan that is soon to be installed – it will go over the landing/stairs, and we think it’ll be a much more cost effective way to cool the house in the summer when it’s not quite hot enough to need the central air.  The whole house fan was the reason we took the ceiling fan out of the hall to move it into the guest room.  In its place, we put this schoolhouse light:

We were looking for something semi-flush mount, that wouldn’t draw too much attention, was reasonably priced, and had a closed globe so it didn’t collect dust, etc. inside.  Sold.  And it actually looks great!  So win for amazon.com on that one.  Hopefully the whole house fan will go up this week.  Then bring on the warm weather!

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Ah, before and after’s.  My favorite posts to write.  Without further ado:

 

 
Taking photobombing lessons from Bo Obama

I’m really pleased with the finished product.  I think it looks more polished, will be more practical to take care of, and like I mentioned in a previous post, I think it helps our very own green monster staircase stand out a little less.

So there you have it!

Eventually we’ll paint the door frame trim white, along with the baseboards and the sides of the stairs, but probably not until we’re ready to replace the flooring.  I’m not holding my breath for that one, though, so we’re calling the project done for now.  This is one I’m very glad we did.

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The kitchen ceiling fan:

Photo circa August 2010

has been on The List for some time now.  My biggest grievance is that it was mounted as if it was a standard light fixture, i.e., with completely insufficient support for a ~60 inch dia. ceiling fan.  We couldn’t turn the fan on even if we wanted to, because it wobbled precariously.   Not to mention, we don’t really want to fling dust around the cooking area.

Push came to shove, as many things do around here, when something broke.  This time, it was a light bulb (for the second time) — the glass broke off of the metal bulb socket, leaving the metal screwed into the light fixture.  This happened before, but this time we couldn’t get it out (even with turning off the circuit and using needle nose pliers).  Since there wasn’t any love lost on the light fixture, we started shopping, and it came down.

Gross.

Cute!

We gave consideration to canister lights, but decided against them because we plan, someday, to redo the kitchen, layout included.  Canisters are a lot of work if you’re not sure you know where you’ll want them long term.

We also looked at some of the beautiful fixtures at Hubbardton Forge.  But those are pricey, and again, a lot about our kitchen is done with the “this’ll be nice for the next 5-10 years” mindset.  So off we went to Lowe’s to see what they had.

After some wandering, and some debating, we brought home this Allen + Roth fixture.  It was significantly less expensive than other options we were considering, and with 3 CFL bulbs, we figured it would make a nice, bright work space.

Not bad!

The CFL bulbs do take a minute to warm up when you turn it on, so at night it takes a minute to get up to its full brightness.  Admittedly, not my favorite feature.  But it coordinates pretty well with the existing hardware and fixtures, including the light over the table, and definitely does the job.  We still need to do just a little patching in the ceiling, since the cutout is a smidge too big, but that’s just minor cosmetic work.

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Ever do an improvement, step back, and think to yourself… “hmm.  Does this actually look better?”

We had one of those moments this weekend, but it was somewhat unavoidable.  Our microwave died last week — no sparks, nothing spectacular — just dropped dead in the middle of warming up a cup of coffee.  The lights went out, and no one was home.  It’s 10 years old, and has been tripping the kitchen electrical circuit (we think) for a while, so it was time for it to go.

We’ve been at 50/50 on appliance finishes for about 2 years now:  a stainless steel fridge and dishwasher, and the bisque range and microwave that came with the house.

We have only been buying appliances on an as-needed basis, since it seems silly to buy new ones just because I’d prefer stainless steel.  Two and two was really not bad anyway.  I always sort of imagined that the range would eventually go (we’ve been running at 3 burners’ capacity for a while), and when we bought a replacement, we’d just do a matching (smaller-ticket item) microwave to round out the stainless steel.  The power of positive thinking failed me, though, and the microwave died first.  So here we are.  Shopping for a microwave.

Microwaves are really hard to get excited about.  Even the things you make in them aren’t all that exciting.  They warm up your leftovers and your coffee, pop the occasional bag of kettle corn, and that’s really a day in the life.  So we weren’t looking for bells & whistles.  We wound up with this fairly basic GE Profile model.  It works pretty much just like the old one, except the buttons are huge – it’s like the geriatric large print edition.  Not the worst thing for a device sometimes used to warm up coffee in the morning…

Anyway, we lugged it home and then the fun started.  It’s a lot easier to get one of these down if you’ve seen what’s back there once before!  So since I’m a sharer, this is what the bracket behind one of these bad boys looks like:

Four little up-turned brackets on the bottom that the back of the microwave rests on, and two bolts that go up into the cabinet above.  To the extent that you can see the screws on the bottom horizontal piece, that’s where the studs are.

We were almost lucky enough to use the old bracket, but it was rectangular rather than U-shaped, and got in the way of the exhaust vent.  We had to enlarge the cutout in the wall to accommodate it as well.

After a little wrangling, here we are:

 

This is the point where I question whether it’s an “improvement.”

It works, so of course it is, but this is not an awesome angle.

Even after I killed our bottle of Windex on the range, the microwave just looks so shiny next to it.

I keep telling myself to back up:  the new microwave does go well with the other appliances (which are not GE, but Kitchen Aid — the handles match so nicely though!)

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually we’ll buy a range to match, and the whole kitchen will coordinate.  Now that will be an exciting appliance purchase.  For now, though, we’ll just go back to enjoying our microwave kettle corn!

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