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Kitchen Progress

This is part of the story of how a kitchen got redone. There are many ways to skin a cat, this is just one of those. At this point (this page will be updated as more gets done), we have some things we would change to make the installation easier but they are all pretty small changes that would have the same result.

The kitchen is a 9 foot by 11 foot three sided open room. It had blue painted metal cabinets. I was extremely excited to remove the cabinets for recycling (I may have danced a little jig).


After a lot of hard work, the results were worth it:


A nice doodle on the wall helped me prepare for the idea that everything will go.


We tore up the flooring because it needed more structure underneath.


Plus, there was no real underlayment. So if some of the subfloor was damaged or questionable, it was replaced with 3/4 plywood. Then everything had 1/2 plywood put ontop using a nail gun and adhesive. We ended up putting cheap Costco bamboo flooring on top of rosen paper. The reasoning was:

  1. The bamboo was $1.87 per square foot. Cheaper than most quality vinyl, tile, and linoleum (real linseed stuff).
  2. Bamboo is more environmentally friendly - it has some adhesives as do most plywoods, but it is mostly pickle juice smelling stuff that is not damaging to the environment or you. Bamboo also grows like weeds in China so it's not like cutting down a bunch of 10 - 100 year old trees.
  3. Bamboo can be refinished 2 to 3 times, unlike laminate.
  4. Although this particular bamboo is considered a laminate, it is only so as far as it has thick strips of bamboo glued together. This makes it very stable when putting it together. You don't have to fight it when putting it together like some oak strips. Other laminate floors use particle board that has lots of glue in it and can swell if it gets wet
  5. Bamboo has a natural beauty to it
  6. The kitchen spills into the rest of the house and changing flooring would be difficult to determine where and how
  7. Bamboo has some bacteria killing abilities
  8. You could put the bamboo down under the cabinets, thus creating an even floor and not having to deal with shorter toe space. This way, you can simply place 2x4 ontop to serve as the toe space.
  9. Did I mention it was cheap?
  10. Rosen is cheap and environmentally friendly in comparison with that tar paper stuff. Rosen is coated with tree pitch.
  11. Bamboo is wider than oak but not as wide as laminate. It's about 4" wide. So it takes less effort to install as there are less strips, but it doesn't look as dorky as 6" wide laminate. Plus remember, the narrower, the more you can hide.

Here, the toe space is carefully placed down and leveled using wood shims. It is secured into the floor with a nail gun. The cabinets can now be custom fit to the area. This allows us to build less number of cabinets and thus save a little time and money. We were able to make 3 to 7 foot long cabinets. The design was pretty simple, boxes were put together with a biscuit joiner, glued together and brad nailed. Then the birch face frame was also glued, and pocket screwed together. Then they were glued and brad nailed to the box. At the time of making, birch was the cheapest and most plentiful material we could find. Thanks to the Hardwood Centre in Albany for their great prices, helpful information, and knowledgeable staff.

Here is a picture of a cabinet sitting on top of the toe space. We dry fit to make sure everything was kosher.


We then removed the cabinets to pre-stain, stain, and apply 4 coats of polyurethane. I cheated by not applying stain or polyurethane to anything that would not be viewable like where the oven and dishwasher were placed and where only drawers would go.


Back in go the cabinets. But before we do, the holes for plumbing and electrical need to be cut. Plumber Steve is anal about hole size and alignment, except he had a bad day:


Once that is all done the cabinets can be secured into place by securing them into wall studs with screws. A stud finder and proper 16 inch stud spacing helps with that. With the cabinets in place we can now put 3/4 inch plywood on the top. This further stabilizes the cabinets and serves as the base for our granite tile.



We taped off the top of the cabinet frames and put up rosin and cheap plastic to protect the cabinets and floors from the mortar.

Then the hardibacker cement fiber board. This layer protects from water seeping in and damaging the cabinets. It is 1/4 inch hardibacker. You tape it like drywall but use fiberglass mesh tape. We used mortar to bed in the tape and cover the roofing nails used to secure the hardibacker to the plywood. The roofing nails did such a nice job of securing the dog house hardisiding (same product material) that we felt it was a good compromise for securing the backer board here. Plus we literally glued the hardibacker to the plywood with thinset mortar.


We had a little problem with leveling the edges and some areas of the top. So some extra mortar was used to build up certain areas. Plumber Steve put up a strip of plywood to use as a straight guide for the edging. He then simply filled in against the guide. We then used a 60 grit orbital sander to level out burrs and high areas.


Finally, my favorite but most time consuming part. The granite tops. First, we had to cut the tiles. These monsters are 18 x 26 inches that we ordered from in Scappose, Oregon. I highly recommend her. You could see the selection and order and pick up in Portland on the same day. Plus she was cheaper than any place else in Oregon. The granite for the kitchen is slightly thicker (it is 1/2 inch) than the 1x1 foot tiles you buy at Home Despot (Home Depot). They have polished microbevels all the way around the top and and polished front. This did cut down on our work to polish, cut, fit, and grout.

You cut off an inch and a half or so of the back edge which serves as the front lip. We bought extras to serve as the back splash. Each tile cost $31, about $8-$9 per square foot. It sounds expensive but the cost of the whole U shaped kitchen in granite was $750, and we had 4 whole tiles left over. We had some problems cutting a micro bevel into some of the tiles because the cuts were long (18 inches) and there are slight variations in the thickness of granite. We had much more luck cutting 1 foot tiles for micro bevels or larger bevels.

Our tile saw was worth every penny of $950. It is a DeWalt compound saw. The blade itself can angle and the tray the tile rests on is padded with rubber. This really helped in keeping both large and smaller tiles from moving around while they are cut. In addition, the compound part of the saw allowed us to cut out sections in the middle of the tile.

We also used a cheapo $45 Work Force hand tile saw. It came in handy for cutouts and 1/2 inch hardibacker, too.

We dry fit the tiles to make sure they fit. Oops, a little problem in some corners that needed extra shaved off. But don't worry, the back splash will hide all the inconsistencies. Next comes the mortar to adhere the tiles. We had to use a larger toothed trowel to ensure the mortar spreads uniformly under all of the large tiles. Make sure the mortar doesn't poke up between the cracks or you have to get it out. We set the tiles with a 1/16" gap, thus making a 1/8" gap with the micro bevels. With this, we use unsanded grout. We were told to use epoxy but you really need to be careful and experienced as it is a one shot deal.


Once the tiles were set, we grouted. What a pleasure to clean it all off, so easy.


The backsplash was put on last. We used tile adhesive, not mortar. Notice the dark lines in the counter but light colors in the backsplash (because it's not grouted).


Next, we caulked between the backsplash and counter because they are on 2 different planes that settle in different ways. That way it doesn't crack. Then the same grout was used on the back splash. After a day of drying, we cleaned up with water and scrubber and used Miracle 511 for granite and stone for protection. Watch out, granite is very porous so it needs to be treated yearly.

With the sealant dried, we could now place the sink and stove top. The sink is one of those composite corean like materials. I saw one at Jerry's and hated the color. The one at Home Despot was really nice. Once side is like 8 inches deep and the other 7 inches.


Some benefits of this sink are:

  • Flatter bottom so your dishes and cups don't slide down toward the drain
  • Costs about as much as a decent quality stainless - $225
  • Doesn't chip or rust
  • Bigger than most sinks
  • Matches our dark grey counters
  • Doesn't feel like it will break your cups or dishes
  • You can drill extra holes (using a masonary hole saw) for instant hot or soap dispensor. This way it doesn't come with extra holes that you have to put ugly caps on if you don't use the holes

The only problem I have noticed is that it does show white water spots so you have to towel it out after use.

We installed an $89 costco brushed nickel kitchen faucet. It has the pull out hose and a soap dispenser. The neat thing about the dispenser is that it takes one of the 3 regular holes so there is no hole drilling needed. Did I mention the faucet was cheap?

The rest was plumbing. Fortunately, Plumber Steve can do that well:


The stove top is a simple Jenn Air gas top. I like gas because it heats up super quick and is pretty easy to maintain and clean. You can also adjust the temperature and get immediate results for all those times the potatoes boil over. This model has a 15k btu spot for a simple wok. Cost was about $500.


The oven went in too. Might as well. It is an $800 Fridgidaire electric oven. I noticed that it had a covered heating element at the bottom to help keep the oven clean. I currently have a Fridgidaire range (all gas) so for me the buttons are all intuitive.


Finally the dishwasher was installed. It drains to the top of the garbage disposal so the hot water can clean it out every so often.


We purchased all the applicances from Stover, Evey, and Jackson in Corvallis, Oregon. It is a cooperative type appliance store as they have to be able to compete with the big box stores. So some of the stuff had to be shipped from Electrolux in Ontario, CA. I was surprised at the selection they had. We were able to walk in and pick out a dishwasher, stove top, oven, and vented microwave in about 20 minutes. Those people are way too nice.