Author Archive: doug


We are slowly moving into the sunroom. The contractor is still not quite done — the lumberyard ran out of the cedar spindles he needs to finish making the safety railing — but everything else is done. We’ve told him he needs to be absolutely 100% done including inspections by Monday August 13th, since that’s when we’re bringing home new kitties.

We moved the chair and couch out there Thursday night, and today I set up the stone table & chairs.  It’s just been too darn hot — even in the evening — to enjoy sitting out there. But it’s looking good. Several neighbors have stopped me while I’m working outside to comment how nice it looks. We’re hoping the weather cools down soon and we can start enjoying it.


Project’s end

Well, nearly the end.  The sunroom still needs its safety railings, and its floor still needs a final coat of polyurethane. But the kitchen is 100% done, and there are no more surfaces that require my attention with a paintbrush.

I must apologize for the lack of updates for the last few weeks.  My free time has been devoted to finishing touches — mostly painting — and moving into the new kitchen.

At my last update, we were waiting for the finish coat of polyurethane on the kitchen floors.  That did indeed happen, and the contractors cleared out all their tools from the dining room.  As Lis was out of town that weekend, I set myself some pretty ambitious goals: scrape the popcorn off the dining room ceiling and repaint it, white-wash the ceiling in the sunroom, and move back into the kitchen.


So-called popcorn is a popular textured ceiling finish — popular, that is, with contractors who would rather not deal with prepping & painting a ceiling, especially one that’s got some surface imperfections.  It’s composed of normal drywall compound with bits of vermiculite mixed in (though beware — some popcorn finish applied earlier than the 80’s contains asbestos).  It’s sprayed on with a special gun and allowed to dry.  It looks fine for a while. Then it starts to pick up dust & stains, and looks terrible. It’s nearly impossible to cut a clean line when painting an adjacent wall.  And god help you if you try to paint the popcorn itself: half of it comes off on your roller. When we moved in, every ceiling surface in our entire house was covered with the stuff. The good news is, if it’s never been painted, you can just get it wet and scrape it off with a wide drywall trowel, trying to catch most of it in a paint tray (or whatever).  It’s easy to do, except that you’re working on a ladder and it makes a mess.  I had previously done most of the ceilings on the first floor, and the new kitchen is smooth-finished.  Anyway, I got the popcorn removal done Friday night.

Saturday morning I got to work painting the sunroom ceiling.  As we did in Southboro, we wanted a whitewash (also known as pickled) finish.  The process is to apply a thinned-down white paint with a brush, and wipe it off with a rag. This finish lightens the wood considerably, while still allowing the grain to come through. To my eye, when done right, it looks like someone has stripped the paint off an old painted surface. Our contractor thoughtfully put up the ceiling boards first, allowing me to do this process without fear of drips ruining the walls or floor. This is more ladder work, but much less messy than the popcorn. You can see my work in progress here:


Once that was done, I washed the dining room.  Did I mention that popcorn removal is a messy process? And that our contractor had used this room as a staging area & workshop for the past 3 months? It was dirty. The dark walls & white wainscoting did not help. I washed the ceiling once with a sponge and 2 buckets; the walls took 4 passes.  Once done I was able to paint the ceiling and touch up the walls. And now the entire first floor’s ceilings are free of popcorn.

On Sunday I got started moving into the kitchen. We had done a good job of labeling all our boxes, and so most of the actual work was in carrying them back up from downstairs. I unpacked boxes into rough areas of the kitchen, then started putting things away when I was pretty sure I had most everything. I’m sure we’ll be searching for things for a while, making adjustments over time.

We are very pleased with the entire kitchen. But one thing that’s working out even better than I had imagined is the corner pantry. It just holds so much stuff, and it’s all so visible & accessible.


Somewhere in there I also repainted the half bathroom. This bathroom was one of the first rooms we repainted upon moving in, and we didn’t do nearly enough prep before doing so. Also, changing out the yellow of this room for green freed us to use a different yellow in the kitchen proper.


On Monday I went back to work and was happy for the break 🙂

The following weekend was our kitchen-warming party. While the sunroom was not done (and is still not done as of this writing), we wanted it to be somewhat useable. The contractor got all the electrical work done and got things buttoned up enough that we were able to use the room, even though it did not have the finish floor nor even all the woodwork installed.

The kitchen proved to be everything we had hoped for a party, easily absorbing the 25 or so guests we had at the peak. For a most of the guests, this was the first time seeing our house at all since before construction began, so the transformation was a huge leap. Nobody is going to say that it came out poorly or we made bad decisions, of course, but people’s reactions were good. The biggest surprise for me was a comment I heard from a few people: that this is a much better use of the ex-sunroom space than what we had before — that it was more of just a corridor before — and that the whole first floor seems better connected.


On Sunday (day after the party), Lis painted the outside balusters & posts while I applied a coat of clear polyurethane or white semi-gloss (as appropriate) to every surface in the sunroom except the floor.

Finally, yesterday I caught a break with the weather and was able to get the exterior painting done. I am pleasantly surprised at how much the color scheme helps it tie in with the existing house.

I was also able to paint the shelf in the coat closet yesterday, and now that’s IT!  I am done painting, at least on this project.
And as I said above, we are nearly done with the entire project as well.  We are hoping for the final finish coat on the sunroom floor early this week, which will allow us to move furniture in there after a suitable drying time. They can take as long as they like with the safety railings as far as I am concerned … lack of those is not going to stop our enjoyment of the new space for a few days at least until vacation.  I plan to post another entry once we’ve moved into the sunroom, and I’ll probably make another post about some of the details of what makes the new kitchen work nicely for cooking.

Week 14 update

The kitchen is all but done.  The casings and baseboards are all installed, the backsplash is grouted and sealed and the stove back in place, we have chairs for our new kitchen table.  There are just a handful of things to be done before the kitchen portion is completely ready.

The backsplash looks great now that it’s grouted.  It’s sometimes the case that a tile mosaic such as this one — especially one including glass tiles — will lose some of its sparkle and depth once grouted, because light can no longer enter from the edges of the glass tiles.  I think this one is almost the opposite — that the shadowbox effect around the glass tiles has increased the perception of depth.

I sealed the tiles here yesterday (so no food splatters would stain them) in preparation for today’s rite of passage for the new kitchen: the preparation of two batches of stock: one vegetable, one chicken.

there’s the small matter than when closing up the electrical chase by
the door to the sunroom, they managed to short out the switch for the
overhead lights, breaking it.  I hope it’s just the switch and not the
fixtures too.  I’m assured that will get fixed up on Monday.

We’re scheduled for Thursday to put the final coat of polyurethane on the floors.  I’m hoping the electrician takes my hints and hangs the Tiffany lamp before then.  Once these things are done, we’re ready to move back in!  We’re asking them to clear out of our dining room too (we’ll give them a garage bay) so I can scrape the popcorn texture off the ceiling in there (and repaint it), and otherwise reclaim that room as well.

On the sunroom front, we’re fully weathered in now, with the installation of the remaining 2 sliding windows and the door. The rough electrican work is done enough for an inspection scheduled for Monday, so assuming that passes we should start to see beadboard go up on the ceiling soon.  I intend to whitewash the ceiling (with a white semi-transparent stain) , a process which our contractor has dubbed the “stain shower.”  I doubt the sunroom will be fully done by our official kitchen-warming party in 2 weeks, but I’m hoping for some semblance of usability.


Some update pictures, as promised.  First, the new kitchen table.  After trying out all sorts of funky shapes made of cardboard, we decided to go with a simple 30″ round.  The other shapes just looked weird, and the 30″ size is as small as we thought we could go and still be able to eat comfortably at it; adding a couple inches didn’t really help matters either but will make a big difference in how well chairs fit. And there’s enough maple top left over to make a shelf or candle stand for the corner to offload salt & pepper, etc.

Next, two pictures of the outside of the sunroom, in its current state.


Week 13 update

At some point early in the process, our contractor stated to us that they had “never had a kitchen project take longer than three months.” We started on April 2.  So on Monday, it will have been three months.  I suspect they’re not quite gonna make it.

Last week I wrote about three significant work items before we can declare the kitchen done, namely the pantry door, the backsplash behind the stove, and the finish coat on the floor.  This week, we saw partial progress on two of these three items: the pantry door is hung but its casing is not yet applied; and the tile backsplash has been set but not yet grouted.  The floor finish is awaiting completion of the other two and of the baseboards.  Oh, and we still have two cabinet doors that don’t have their knobs yet.  We made some progress on all these areas this week, but we had hoped they would just be done.  As I said last week, we can’t move into the kitchen for real until the floors are done (dust & smell).  What’s worse, the stove is pulled out from the wall so the tiling can get done, so we’ve actually taken a step backwards in functionality.  I don’t know what the holdup is, and it’s frustrating.  The progress we’ve seen this week (on the kitchen, and on the sunroom) is good, and the end product is going to be exactly what we wanted, but it’s agonizing to be this close to done.

On the sunroom front, the three sliding glass doors went in this week, as well as the framing for the back stoop (holding off on decking until later; it’s just got plywood right now).  And the lattice — vertical 1×3″ PVC matching the front porch — is installed on one of the three faces. I keep meaning to take a new picture of the outside; it’s too dark out now, but I’ll try to post a picture tomorrow.

The cedar shingles (siding) got patched in sufficiently this week to be worth my while to haul out the ladder and the other exterior painting supplies.  The area around 2 of the three new kitchen windows is now house-colored again; there’s shingling work to be done around the third one still, and where the sunroom meets the existing house.  I also painted what’s almost the last of the woodwork in the kitchen — there’s a short section of baseboard by the pantry door that still needs to go in, and the shelf in the coat closet; I’ll need to paint those too.  But this weekend’s major accomplishment is that I manufactured the tabletop for our kitchen table out of a maple butcher-block blank that I had ordered some time back.  I can’t recall if I’ve talked about this on the Remodel blog or not.  The tabletop is currently in the basement, with a coat of polyurethane drying; I’ll try to post a picture of it tomorrow as well.  I also installed a ball catch onto the top of the French doors betwen kitchen and dining room, onto the door that doesn’t have a doorknob.  This door already has a pin that slides into a hole to keep it shut, but the ball catch is more convenient.

This coming week we certainly hope to see the official end of the kitchen project, though with the July 4th holiday in the middle of the week I’m preparing myself for the possibility it still won’t be done.

Week 12 update

We have passed a turning point: the wraps have come off, and we’ve been given permission to start moving into the kitchen!

It’s not done yet.  There are still some details to be finished, but the cabinets & counters are all in, the appliances & plumbing are hooked up and functional, and we’ve started preparing our meals here instead of in the basement.  The kitchen is now treated as finished space, meaning there are dust barriers between it and ongoing work, and any dirty or dusty work should go on someplace else or be cleaned up immediately.

We are not moving in fully yet, primarily because one of the remaining steps is the final finish coat on the floor.  That will generate some dust (which we don’t want to have to wash off of plates etc.) and smell (which we don’t want to permeate food items), and will also mean we won’t be able to get into the kitchen for a period of 24-48 hours at some point this week. We’ve brought up some minimal items but the rest will have to wait.

The three remaining significant work items are the door for the pantry (which is cherry, and they’re staining it to match the cabinets), the tile backsplash behind the stove, and the final coat on the floor as I mentioned.  There are, of course, myriad smaller tasks as well. Here’s the pantry awaiting its door. You can also see the resolution of the “white stripe” question: they installed a trim board here for us and it looks much better.


Yesterday I spent most of the day priming & painting the trim they got done since last time, and doing another round of touch-up. This time I paid attention to why this process takes me so much longer than I think it should, and I figured out that it’s the primer. Primer is designed to stick really well to raw wood surfaces, and the wood really seems to draw it off of the brush.  As a result, it takes a lot of brushloads to cover. I’m also on the lookout for any final surface defects worth filling or sanding, and I’m taping those few areas I don’t feel confident about cutting in without tape.  So while the finish coat of semigloss on three windows and about 12 feet of baseboard took me a couple hours, the primer coat took me more like five. 

They’ve got a little more baseboard to install, and a few parts of the trim could stand some sanding and a second coat of semigloss.  So I expect I’ll be painting again next weekend as well.  We’re really pleased with how the trim is coming out.


We saw good progress on the sunroom this week too. They finished framing the roof early in the week and installed ice-dam membrane over the whole thing (since it’s so small), and the roofers came yesterday (yes, Saturday) to put up the finished roof and gutters.  And it got a good workout yesterday from a truly massive thunderstorm that rolled through.  The soffit & fascia are installed, the walls (such as they are) have sheathing and tyvek, and the footings for the new back stoop are poured.  Pretty impressive progress for a week that gave us a heat wave.  Itt already feels nice to be in what’s now actually a room — breezy, lots of light, very open — and so I am happy to think that we’ll be able to sit & relax out there in a month or so.

Week 11 update

At the beginning of this project, our contractor stated “We’ve never had [a kitchen remodel] go longer than 3 months.  Well, they’ve got 2 more weeks!

This week, all the crown moulding went up, seemingly all at once.  The cabinets just need “vacuum and adjust” as our contractor put it, and knobs, and they’re done!

The other kitchen progress this week is that all the door casings went up.  I spent a longer-than-expected day Saturday prepping and painting them. The window casings need to wait for the countertops (since 2 windows have stone sills), and the baseboards still need to go in, so I suspect I’ll be doing it all again next weekend.

Oh, and after much head-scratching, the range hood now vents to the outside.

We are told to expect countertops to show up at 10:30 tomorrow morning, which is very exciting news indeed. Once the counters are in and the plumbers have worked their magic, we’ll be able to use the kitchen as a kitchen, even if it’s not 100% done.

On the sunroom front, the walls are up and the roof is about 50% framed.

You can see the rough openings for the tall windows / doors on the side and back, and the kneewall on the front.  This kneewall is a bit higher than we had expected, but that’s fine — it will give us good privacy from the street. The pole in the middle is temporary until they get the rest of the roof framing done — the addition has a hip roof rather than a gable end.

We’re told that there’s more leadtime than expected on the sliding windows for the front wall, and that may well delay completion of the project. But we’re proceeding with plans for a kitchen-warming in mid-late July even though the sunroom portion may not be 100% done. Stay tuned for details.