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Posts Tagged ‘Appliances’

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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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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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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Our totally rad circa 1985 dryer

The next project was (yet another) unplanned appliance purchase – this time, the clothes dryer died on us.  Now on our fourth appliance in 10 months of homeownership, we’re getting to be old hands at this.  In fact, we’re getting to know the guys at Marcella’s Appliances on a first name basis, particularly the ones who work in the scratch & dent section.  [Marcella’s has had way better deals than the big box stores in our (growing) experience.]

We tried the borrow-a-truck-and-retrieve-it-ourselves method with the chest freezer, but it’s much easier and more cost effective to get appliances delivered when there’s an old appliance carcass to be removed and appropriately disposed of at the same time.  Plus, when it has to be lugged to the basement, there’s added incentive to hire some muscle.

We considered briefly whether to see about fixing the old dryer instead, but we estimate the old Kenmore could be original to the house (24 years old).   It had a good life.

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So meet its successor.  We went with a pretty basic GE Profile gas dryer, model DPSE810GGWT for anyone in the market.  It has all the utilitarian features we were looking for (super 7.0 cubic ft. capacity, stainless steel drum, a moisture sensor drying cycle), but none of the fancy “extras” (like steam cycles) currently available in dryers twice as expensive.  I just couldn’t get on board with a luxury dryer, of all things.

We’re completely happy with it, but a word to the wise:  this model is LOUD.  Consumer Reports had indicated that the model was reliable but noisy, but I didn’t expect it to be even louder than the dinosaur it replaced.  You can separately hear what sounds like the blower, and the laundry thumping.  It doesn’t bother me at all, because you can’t really hear it upstairs, but I wouldn’t buy this model to go into a hallway or closet laundry room located near areas in the house where people spend time.

It’s taking up residence in the unfinished half of the basement, with the furnace, sump pump, aging-but-chugging washer, and the affectionately dubbed “plastic snowbank” (the chest freezer).  You can see why scratch & dent was a good deal for us here — who cares what it looks like in the basement? — and it saved us $300 off MSRP.  Nice.

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It’s here!

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It’s sleek and it’s pretty and it’s quiet and it WORKS!  (It also, as predicted, doesn’t look so hot in combination with the flowered backsplash – but there’s plenty of time for that.)

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Guinness tested, Guinness approved.

This model came with a 3rd culinary tool rack that has come in handy for all kinds of odd items:  grill tongs, the microplane, coffee mug lids, etc., that don’t get clean enough in the flatware holder, and take up too much horizontal space in the glass rack.  Speaking of the glass rack, it’s adjustable, which helps fit odd sized items.  I’m also a fan of the wine glass stem supports, but that’s just me…

What I appreciate most about this dishwasher, though, is that it’s quiet.  Really quiet.  Hard to tell it’s on, kind of quiet.  (The specs tell me it’s 41 DB.)  It also does a great job getting everything clean.  It has a stainless steel tub, rather than plastic, and a great ProScrub feature.

It also matches the fridge beautifully.  I’m not sure if the fridge has ever made it onto the blog – it was the very first thing we bought for the house, but we never really did a proper before/after for the kitchen.  So here’s the fridge:  it’s straight across from the dishwasher (read:  nearly impossible to get in the same picture), but they do look nice together.

DSCN2463We chose a Kitchen Aid counter-depth fridge and have loved it.  As far as pro’s, it doesn’t stick out, which means it doesn’t impede traffic walking past.  That was really important to us.  With the half-width french doors instead of a single door, it also blocks traffic less when it’s open.

It does have a couple of cons, inasmuch as we lost a little in volume (it’s only 27.5″ deep instead of a more normal 30-some inches deep, so it’s only 17 cubic feet and change), which was really only noticeable in the freezer drawer.  We recently bought a 15 cubic foot chest freezer for the basement, though, which alleviates that almost entirely.  It also has a narrower water line for the built in water dispenser than a standard depth fridge (no, I don’t know why either), and the flow rate is so slow that we never use it.  We have a Brita filter on the sink, though, so no biggie.  We struggled to find a french door fridge that was short enough to fit under the cabinets – it had to be less than 69 or so inches tall – so we were really excited to find this one to fit.

So now that I’m not busy handwashing dishes anymore, what to cook in the kitchen…?

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We hadn’t planned on doing a whole lot with the inside of the house this summer – we spent a lot of time painting over the winter, and have plans for the coming winter – but the warm months only last so long, and we’d rather spend them outside.

Our dishwasher, however, called our attention back into the kitchen.

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It looks so innocent...

As dishwasher debacles go, ours was pleasantly undramatic.  I turned the dishwasher on to run Friday morning before I left for work, and noticed it was making some odd noises.  It wasn’t leaking (in the kitchen or the basement), though, so I didn’t worry about it.  When I got home, though, there was about 2″ of water in the bottom of the dishwasher, and the dishes were still dirty.  We tried it a few more times, checked all the spaces, intakes, jets, etc. that we could reach, and made sure there was no food or hard water deposits visibly blocking anything.  We tried vinegar in case there were hard water deposits that we couldn’t see.  We finally came to the conclusion that the dishwasher was still capable of drawing water in, and of draining (good!) on the drain cycle, but the pump was failing to draw the water up into the jets in the bottom or top of the dishwasher to clean the dishes.  It was still trying, and shaking the floor in the process, but it was the little pump that couldn’t.

Since the people who sold us our house were nothing if not terrifically organized, we had the receipt for the dishwasher (purchased April 2001) and the user’s manual with model number.  We called Kitchen Aid for their advice — they ran us through their diagnostics, and came up with the super helpful “we have no idea what it could be – but we can arrange a service call…” for about $75 a pop.

We decided that $75 (just for the visit; not counting parts) would not be well spent on an 8 year old, relatively inexpensive dishwasher that Kitchen Aid couldn’t even fathom a guess at what might be wrong.  Aside from that, we decided when we bought the fridge (the only appliance that didn’t come with the house) that we wanted to go with stainless steel, even though the rest of the appliances were white.  We decided that as the others needed replacing, we’d complete the switch to stainless.  All of that added up to us spending Kentucky Derby Day at the appliance store.

The new baby is coming home on Thursday.  We decided on the new Kitchen Aid Superba series dishwasher.  We also looked into Bosch, but there were a few advantages to the Kitchen Aid.  It was ever so slightly quieter, the racks move a little more smoothly, it offers the 3rd cutlery rack on top, and it’s slightly wider.  Standard dishwasher cutouts are 24″ wide, and American dishwashers are made to that standard.  European dishwashers are just slightly narrower, which drops your capacity just a smidge (by one dinner plate?), and requires spacers in the cutout in installation.  Plus, the KA was on sale, and it will match our Kitchen Aid fridge exactly.  The appliance-by-appliance transition to stainless steel is underway.

Most importantly, though, it will put an end to this hand-washing-everything nonsense.  Naturally, when the dishwasher died, it was as full as was humanly possible to achieve.  It was a long morning at the sink on Saturday…

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