Week 5: cabinets and trim

Week 4 was pretty quiet, what with Xmas and all, but things are rolling along again.

Our kitchen cabinets arrived on the 27th, a day ahead of schedule. Karl called and told me “We’re having a little trouble fitting things in the way we planned.” Uh oh. “I’ll be right over” I tell him (even though I need to be at a practice for First Night in less than an hour). Fortunately, we’ve had very few moments like that.

One of our design constraints has been preserving this nifty old Vent-Rite hood that came with the place. It’s 40“ wide (to suit the original stove). We wanted our new 30” stove centered underneath it, or nearly so, but this resulted in an extremely narrow base cabinet (5“–6”) between the stove and the wall. We had approved plans that showed an open-fronted 6“ base cabinet there.

When the cabinets arrived, we discovered that the cabinet-maker had borrowed 3” from the left of the stove and put it on the right, to make that narrow cabinet 9“ wide. This meant that, without some modification, the left side of the stove would be almost flush with the left side of the hood—something we had explicitly been trying to avoid. Either we could live with this, have one of the wall-hung cabinets remade to be narrower (allowing the hood to slide over), or have all the base cabinets remade to the original specs (there is one monolithic base cabinet left of the stove, and the narrow one right of it). Had we insisted on that, the cabinet-maker would have taken a bath on this job, and it would have pushed our schedule way off. I called Gwen to advise her of the situation and say that I was willing to live with the cabinets as-is. She decided to come over and look for herself. She was annoyed at the situation, but decided she could live with it too after seeing it.

I’m not sure why the cabinet-maker made this change. He may have decided a 6” base cabinet was a dumb idea, and wasn’t aware of our reasoning behind it. More detailed communication might have helped. All that said, the craftsmanship on these cabinets is excellent. Better than we were likely to get from any of the big cabinetry suppliers, and tailored to our kitchen’s small dimensions.

Karl’s crew has made the massive boxes for the bedroom’s wall of storage. I think Karl is going to let the cabinet-maker handle the face-frames and doors, but he might be taking care of that himself.

The butcher-block surface for the kitchen island arrived yesterday, and we’re still getting an estimate on the quartz surface for the main counter. Most of the baseboard trim is in place. Karl has been measuring out the built-in bookcases—these are in the part of the house where the foundation and framing are most askew, so those will need a little fudging to look right.

Week 3: nitty-gritty

Week 2 was relatively slow, according to Karl, but seemed to go by pretty quickly for us.

Week 3 is where we start encountering money problems. We’re not even done with the week yet, but we have to confront the fact that now, we’re spending a lot more of it than we planned on.

Floors: When Gwen and I put together our preliminary budget, the floors were a big question mark. We knew we’d be refinishing them. What we didn’t know was whether we’d need to patch in underneath where walls had been. The answer to that turned out to be “yes.” The cheapest estimate so far is $1000 more than we allowed for the floors. Figuring out when the floor work would be fit into Karl’s schedule is another question, since Karl has his schedule, and the floor guys have their schedules, and each would prefer to work into the other’s at a certain stage in the project that may not be perfectly aligned.

Cabinets: We may have backed ourselves into a corner here. Karl has a local company he likes to work with for cabinetry, although in theory he’s capable of doing the carpentry himself. He told me his cabinet company would be competitive with the estimates we got from Lowe’s for kitchen cabinets. They’re not–they’re a lot more. I’m fully prepared to believe the local guys do better work than Kitchen Craft or whoever, but I’m not sure how much better we need for it to be. One benefit of the local guys is that they’re a lot faster, and at this point, we may need to pay for that speed: we’re at or beyond the drop-dead date for have Lowe’s take the job and still finish the whole project on-schedule. This has been the subject of considerable gnashing of teeth for Gwen and me. It’s hard to say how big the discrepancy is here (the local guy’s bid includes some stuff Karl would have been doing himself otherwise, and which had not been on the Lowe’s bid), but I’d estimate it at about $1000.

Our plan for the bedroom built-ins is also probably going to balloon beyond Karl’s original estimate. I think this may be a case of Karl not quite knowing what he was getting into when making the original estimate, and getting an education after-the-fact from his cabinet-making compadres. He’s been looking for alternatives to keep us on budget, but so far there’s nothing that we like that will also fit within the original budget. He wouldn’t say how much over his original estimate we were going to go, but it looks to me like a lot. This is one area where Gwen and I are going to have to suck it up, because we just want something nice for the bedroom. Our current plan is to use something that resembles Shaker-style doors, with 2′ x 2′ sections topping 2′ x 5’6“ sections; we’re considering filling the center panel not with wood, but with a frosted plexiglass. The original plan was to just do massive floor-to-ceiling slab doors but we’ve learned that apparently won’t work.

bedroom closet appearance

Our plans for the office built-ins have mutated into conventional closets, so we’ll probably save a few bucks there.

AC: Karl told us that we’d need to involve an AC guy in the project, but wasn’t sure how much that would run us. He guessed $1000-$4000, but didn’t put a number in his original estimate. We didn’t add anything in. The actual figure is going to come in a little under $1000 (phew), but it’s still money we had left off our spreadsheet (oops).

Kitchen Door: It was obvious at the beginning of the project that the kitchen door should go. It became obvious once we got into it that the kitchen door must go. $600.

Foundation: I noticed yesterday that (at least) one spot of the house has some pretty obvious sagging—half an inch over three feet. We’re having a foundation guy give us an estimate before the crew starts taping and floating.

Although Karl says we’re a little behind where he’d like to be (by a day or two), things have been moving along swiftly–swiftly enough that we really don’t have time to make mistakes in planning without forcing work to be reversed or delaying the project. Almost the entire interior should have sheetrock hung by the end of today.

As much as we have planned and obsessed and tinkered and mapped things out in our heads and obsessed some more, we’ve still been caught short by some major aspects of the projects. And we’re at least $3600 over-budget already.