Monthly Archives: August 2016

Making a ‘Splash

We’ve been watching a lot of the Olympics this past week, so I thought my title would be appropriate with all the water sports going on. As we were sitting in the living room painting cabinet doors and watching, we remembered the London games were on during our first summer of refinishing furniture. Hard to believe we’ve been at this DIY stuff for over 4 years!

The ‘splash I’m actually referring to is of course our backsplash, which we finally got started on this past Sunday. Saturday was semi-productive, with a much needed trip to the Durham dump thanks to our friends and their pickup truck (now we can now easily walk through our garage!), however Saturday’s productivity digressed into an early afternoon tour at the Mystery brewing company in nearby Hillsborough, NC followed by a rescheduled babysitting adventure with my friend’s toddler (very fun, but toddlers are exhausting!).

So Sunday we got started bright and early and Nik measured and cut all the quarter round for the kitchen floor trim while I made some progress with cabinet painting. Then we made a big trip to Lowes to buy tile supplies. We ended up going with the smaller subway tile (3×6″ tiles) even though we went in thinking we liked the 4×8″ tiles – the reasoning is all the bullnose edge pieces of tile matched the 3×6″ size and using these edge pieces on the larger tiles just didn’t look right. We spent about an hour sitting on the floor of the tile aisle at Lowes lining up tiles and assessing the look, and finally made our purchase of 320 tiles plus 32 bullnose edge pieces! That’s a lot of tile – but it only came to about $30 for the edge and corner pieces and about $70 for the full pieces. (The 4×8 tiles would’ve been about $110 so we saved a little going with the smaller, more-standard tiles).

Then we ended up getting pre-mixed mastic, which is basically thin-set mortar, easy to use and you only spread a thin (3/16″) layer of it with a v-shaped comb trowel. Then comes the grout…I want a very light gray grout, to show the definition of the subway tile, but not look busy since our counters have quite a bit going on with them. Unfortunately, the grout we want that has sealer built into it only came in white and a medium gray as the next darkest color. Conundrum. I stared at it for a good 15 minutes, upset that I wouldn’t be getting my nice light gray I wanted, when Nik finally had a stroke of genius and pointed out that we have dark gray grout at home in the same brand, so if we bought the bright white color we could mix in as much dark as we want to get the perfect shade of gray! Apparently my PhD training was not enough to instill this type of intelligence in me, but I’m sure glad Nik’s was.

So on to some pictures…we figured we had enough time Sunday night to get one wall started, just to see how easy the process would be with lining up the tiles, cutting them neatly on the tile saw, and using the mastic. I wanted to do this first wall without error, so I insisted on making a wall template on the floor and pre-cutting all the tiles to fit that, then just popping them onto the wall.


After lining them up staggered, we could measure what needed to be cut and piece it all together before moving to the wall. This worked perfectly, but it was quite time consuming to do it this way, so I’m not sure we’ll replicate this process for all the walls. I think we determined cutting the tile with our saw was a breeze, and the mastic has a decent amount of workable time before it hardens, so we may just cut-as-we-go for the rest of the walls.

Here’s the precut design:


And then Nik started spreading the mastic:


We used pennies to space the tile off the granite, and we didn’t have to use spacers between the tiles because the tiles have built in spacers all around each edge that give you that perfect subway tile spacing.


And here’s the first wall all done, with the edge pieces and corner in place:


I think it looks pretty darn good…and I can’t believe how easy it was! This week we’re working on making more progress with the cabinet doors, and on Saturday Nik is on his own since I’m making a quick trip to my parents to get my wedding dress fitted, so I’ve tasked him with nailing in all the floor trim that day. I’ll be back on Sunday so we’re hoping to get the remainder of the backsplash up that day. The grout will have to wait a few days for all the mastic to cure, and then we’ll be spreading that on, with a final step being to caulk all the tile edges.

I haven’t mentioned our gardens in a while, and while we’re still getting cucumbers practically by the bushel, our tomatoes are about at the end of their season. We’ve found a few hornworms on them which are huge and squishy and amazing to look at up close (this healthy one was a good 4″ long!)


I just bought a bunch of seeds to sow a fall crop, including beets, 2 types of pickling cucumbers, buttercrunch lettuce, kale, collards, and brussels sprouts. We should get these fall crops going soon as well, so this might be another task for this weekend.

We also have a pretty plum gold variety foxglove that started blooming, so I have a picture of that to leave you with.


The Floors Are Done!

That title felt good to type – we got all the flooring in this weekend, and the quarter round painted (just not installed yet), despite Nik coming down with a nasty cold on Sunday. This will be a short post, since I just have pictures of the floor to show.

Last week, I left you off with our progress about a third of the way across the room:


On Saturday, we got to work continuing across the room, with more foam, some moving of appliances, and finally past the far cabinets:




And here’s a picture of Nik putting in the last piece – I think this single piece alone took us about an hour, since there were two door frame pieces to jigsaw around, and it had to be cut thinner with the table saw to fit against the wall, and it had to be jigsawed out for the vent.


So here’s the finished product, from both sides:



It does make the kitchen look a little dark, but without the doors on the cabinets yet it’s hard to tell. Our lighting is also pretty abysmal, so getting a new light fixture at some point that has less-yellow light will help with the brightness of the floor. The quarter round trim is almost done being painted, so once that’s installed with the nail gun, it’s on to the backsplash!


I also need to give an apology/’thank you for putting up with me’ comment to my friend Sarah, who I was SUPPOSED to be babysitting for last night, and with all the progress of the floor, I totally forgot (which, if you know me and my organized scheduling, this is very uncharacteristic of me)! Apparently renovations make you crazy and forgetful…I hope these new floor pictures will get her to forgive me and reschedule!

Floors Underway

As proposed, we did start working on our floors last weekend – mainly ripping out the old floors. Over the week we did a few rows at a time, which is still where we are now. This past weekend we were up in Connecticut celebrating my cousin Emily’s engagement, and most of my mom’s side of the family was there. It was a lovely luncheon reception which was so much fun! We got a great picture of all the cousins and significant others that were there, including the beautiful bride (front center) and her husband-to-be Keith (front left). I haven’t gotten the chance to see my mom’s family much since college since I’ve been all the way down in NC, so it is always such a treat to be with them!


I never posted about the demo of the old floor, but I have some pictures of the process. Like the bathroom, it was linoleum with an underlayment (thin piece of wood), and then the plywood subfloor underneath. The underlayment was staple-nailed into the subfloor every 3-4 inches which made it super fun to remove.


After wrenching off the underlayment with the prybar, we had to go back and painstakingly pull the hundreds and hundreds of nail staples out of the subfloor. We filled at least 3 of these containers!


Next, we went around the whole room with the level and identified any high spots and sanded them down with the belt sander. I think if we’d done this step more thoroughly with the floors in the other rooms, we’d have ended up with fewer spots that seem to bounce a little when walked on, but you learn from your mistakes and I think the kitchen will turn out great. Next we started cutting the foam that we used to cushion the floor everywhere else on our first floor, and then it was time to start laying the pieces:

We started in the pantry, and will move our way across the room to the deck door. So far we’re only about a third of the way across the room, but we’ve gotten the pantry nook and the refrigerator nooks done, which were (hopefully) the trickiest nooks to do. If we do a few rows each night, we should have no problem getting this done by the end of the weekend, and maybe even get some quarter round trim installed by then.



Once the floors and quarter round trim are done, the next project will be installing the backsplash. And then finishing up painting all the cabinet doors (we’re clearly avoiding this part of the project, as most of them still only have primer on them!), sealing all the cabinets with water-based poly, and putting them all back together. We’ll be adding cabinet hardware as well as top cabinet molding…but with the number of available weekends until our wedding dwindling very fast we’ll see how many of these final “cosmetic” touches we get around to before then!