Duo Ventures

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Kitchen Makeover: Faucet & Drywall Installation

In the last several weeks we have ordered our countertopspicked out a sink & faucet, demoed our existing backsplash & counters, and had our new Frosty Carrina quartz & sink installed.  The next step in our mini kitchen update is installing our new faucet & drywall...

We probably should have hung the new drywall first, but we were anxious to have a working sink again.  So, the day after our countertops & sink were installed, we got started on the faucet.  Right away, we realized we would need to modify our window sill as it was jutting out & hitting the faucet:

We simply pried out the sill & molding:

Nader cut the window sill down & we tested out the fit
(we are going wait & reattach it once the backsplash is done):

Next, Nader started working on the actual plumbing portion.  Originally, we had a double bowl sink - one side drain/one side garbage disposal.  Now that we had a single bowl sink, we had to reconfigure the plumbing a bit so that our garbage disposal would connect to our single drain.  After a run to HD for some new PVC pipe & supplies, Nader finished installing the plumbing & the faucet.  Success!

A few days later, we got started on the drywall.  We had just enough drywall in the garage which was leftover from a previous project.  After making some cuts, we hung the first piece.  Problem was, it wasn't laying quite right & was not flush with the existing strip of drywall.  We forgot to take a photo of this in our frustration...

After a quick call to dad, we finally figured out that the leftover drywall we were using was from a prior ceiling project.  Apparently, this drywall was 5/8" - slightly thicker than the standard 1/2" drywall that is typically used on walls.  Duh.  We were a bit disappointed that we had to purchase all new drywall, but after a quick trip to HD we were good to go. 

Our kitchen required a lot of cutouts for outlets & switches.  A tip we learned while watching HGTV was the "lipstick trick".  After we turned the breaker off, we decided to give it a go:
1. outline the outlet with lipstick
2.  press the drywall against outlet
3.  check to make sure you're left with an imprint of the outlet on the drywall
4.  trace the outlet
5.  mark where you want to make your cut
6.  cut hole & check fit  

While this little trick wasn't "professional" by any means, it totally worked!  Afterwards, most of the lipstick rubbed off with some cleaner & a paper towel.  However, there was one outlet where the lipstick got into some recessed areas:
We took an old toothbrush & cleaned it off (the breaker was still off of course).  While we didn't have a problem getting the lipstick off, you might want to test it out first if you try this.

Once all the new drywall was up, it was time to mud.  We applied mesh drywall tape to all the gaps & seams and then used joint compound to fill everything in:

We applied the first coat of joint compound, sanded once dry, reapplied a second coat in certain areas, & sanded again.  Basically, our goal was to get the wall as smooth & straight as possible.
Here's the kitchen once we were all finished:
Up next, we will be narrowing down our subway tile options & then installing our backsplash.  Stay tuned...

Mel & Nader

Monday, February 17, 2014

Kitchen Makeover: Countertop & Sink Installation

Last week we picked out a sink & faucet and demoed our existing counters & backsplash.  Now it's on to more exciting stuff...installation day!  It took about two weeks from the time we ordered our quartz to installation day.  Three guys arrived to complete the install - they were very friendly & considerate.  Since they would be going in & out of the house frequently, they asked if it was OK that they come in without announcing themselves.  Of course, we didn't care or even think about that.  But it's nice they even thought to ask, right?

They brought their tools inside & began installing the counters which came in 4 different pieces:




And last but not least, #4:

Next, they began securing & leveling the countertops:

Once all the pieces were attached & level, they began fusing the 2 seams together.  To close the seams, they added an adhesive & used a device to pull the 2 sections together through extreme pressure:
FYI: the adhesive had a super strong odor - so if you're pregnant or have little ones around you should probably steer clear for awhile.  

The seams are not completely invisible, but overall they are hard to see unless you're looking for them.  Here's a closeup of ours:

They also installed our undermount sink for us - they advised to leave it sit for at least 24 hours before we started reattaching any plumbing:

After they were all finished, they wiped down the countertops & cleaned up.  Then they asked us to inspect the countertops to make sure we were happy with the final result.
As far as we could see, everything looked really good!

We were so used to our little double bowl sink, that this sink seemed HUGE!
But we loved it & couldn't wait to actually use it:

You can see the veining a little better in these shots:

Later on that evening while Mel was cooking, she noticed some faint red marks on the quartz.  It definitely looked like writing (probably done when they were marking the slabs).  We totally didn't notice it earlier that day.  The marks were super faint, but they were visible enough that they needed to go.  We didn't even bother trying to photograph them.  They were hard enough to see in person & probably wouldn't have shown on camera.

We tried to scrub them off with different gentle cleaners, but they didn't work.  The next day, Nader called our salesperson Melissa and asked her about the marks.  She confirmed our thoughts that the marks were made during fabrication & said she would send someone out to remove them for us.  

The next day, a couple of guys arrived to take care of the marks.  They took one look & pulled out a container of industrial strength acetone (also extremely smelly) & rubbed the marks with paper towels.  Bam - they disappeared!  The nice guys even left us some acetone in case we noticed any more marks.  We wanted to include this little tidbit in case it happens to you - it's no biggie.

While quartz is stain-resistant, we realize that some temporary marks or stains are inevitable (especially since we have such a light color).  We also learned that you can use a damp Magic Eraser to get off stubborn marks.  So far we have had no issues!

We are one step closer to finishing our mini kitchen makeover - but we still have a ways to go.  We need to reconfigure our plumbing/garbage disposal, hang new drywall, & install our faucet.  Oh, and of course, we need to pick out a backsplash & install it.  Whew.  More updates coming soon!

Mel & Nader

Friday, February 14, 2014

Kitchen Makeover: Countertop Template & Demo

Last week we detailed our experience shopping for kitchen countertops & shared how we chose our sink & faucet.  Next up - the template & demo process.

First things first - we had to get the template made.  A few days after we finalized our order, Granite Direct sent someone out to measure the countertops.  There wasn't much we had to do before he arrived other than clearing off our toaster & coffee maker.  It took about an hour or so & he used some interesting equipment to measure - we think the method is called digital laser templating.  We forgot to take a picture of him in action, but the equipment looked something like this:

The following Monday, our salesperson Melissa called to let us know our slabs had arrived & that we should stop in to take a look at them.  She wanted to make sure we were happy with the product before they moved forward.  Here are our two slabs of Frosty Carrina by Caesarstone in the warehouse:
After seeing the slabs in person, we were really happy with our choice.  It's difficult to see the veining in these photos, but we thought the quartz was really beautiful!  We gave them the green light to begin cutting & confirmed installation for later on that week.

The day before installation we decided to get started on demo.  We probably should have started earlier to be on the safe side, but we wanted to have a working kitchen for as long as possible.
First, we began by removing the existing travertine backsplash:

We tried so hard to get the tiles off without damaging the drywall, but we weren't off to a good start.  It was a pain in the butt trying to remove these tiles.  Nader had to essentially hammer away at the grout lines & then pry the tiles off:

We realize there are tools made to cut through grout, but we don't think that would have helped, as the problem was more so where the adhesive stuck to the drywall.   You can see below that the builders put a blob of adhesive on the back of each individual tile & then stuck them on the wall - no troweling:

All we know is that it was a lot of work getting them off.  At this point, we decided we had to just keep going & finish removing the tiles.  Once were completely done, we would see what drywall we could save & repair.

We used an old box to minimize cleanup behind the stove (Nader had been holding on to this box foreeeever, just knowing we would need it for something):

Slowly but surely, we worked our way around the kitchen:

Almost done - just look at the excitement:

Once we were finished we assessed the damage...

The drywall might look salvageable, but most of it was so compromised that it made more sense to just replace it.  So out it came:

Once we cleaned off all of the debris & dust (we finally bought a shop vac - best idea ever!), we started taking off the countertops.  They were screwed into the base cabinets & not too difficult to take off:

 We also had to detach the plumbing & remove the sink:

Here's what the kitchen looked like the following morning on installation day:
Of course, we would have liked to replace the drywall before the new counters were installed, but we did not anticipate that it would be so damaged & we simply didn't have the time to fix it.  DIY & Learn.

So that's it for now.  Up next: countertop installation!
More on that coming soon...

Mel & Nader

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Kitchen Makeover: Choosing a Sink & Faucet

Last week we shared our experience shopping for kitchen counters.  We eventually decided on a beautiful white quartz with grey veining - Frosty Carrina by Caesarstone.  While we waited for our slabs to be made & shipped, we had to pick out a sink & faucet. 

First up, the sink.  We already knew the dimensions we were looking for & the price range we wanted to stay in.  However, we had to make a few other decisions regarding our sink. 

Here are some things we had to consider:
1.  mount type (undermount, top mount, apron front, etc)
2.  finish (cast iron, stainless steel, etc)
3.  # of bowls (one or two)

We quickly ruled out a top mount sink -  we originally had a top mount & we were not huge fans.  While we loved the look of an apron sink, we would of had to modify the cabinets in order to install it.  In the end, we felt that an apron sink would have required more effort than we were looking to expend.  That left us with the undermount sink option - which we loved for both beauty & function.

Next up, we discussed the finish options which was a fairly quick decision for us - we decided to go with stainless steel to match the rest of the appliances in our kitchen.

Lastly, we had to decide on the number of bowls we wanted.  Our previous sink was a double bowl, which (as I'm sure many of you can relate to), made washing larger pots & pans a bit difficult.  Not impossible by any means, but sort of annoying - especially since we wash our dishes by hand 99% of the time (since it's just the two of us).  After much debate about the pros & cons, we chose to go with a single bowl.

Once we had an idea of what we were looking for, we began our search online.  We checked out Home Depot & Lowe's where we found a couple of good options for around $300.  We also decided to check with Melissa @ Granite Direct Warehouse (where we purchased our quartz) to see if they had a comparable sink.  Turns out they had a special on a Schon sink - it's the Heavy Duty 16 Gauge Radius Undermount Single Bowl Stainless Steel 32"x19" sink.  So for just under $300, we got a sink that normally retails for around $500.  Bonus - it also came with a grid to protect the bottom from scratches:

Next, it was onto faucets.  Our goal was to find a good quality faucet.
Again, there were still a few more things we needed to decide on:
1.  finish (stainless, chrome, nickel, etc)
2.  # of handles (single or double)
3.  # of holes for installation (1, 2, 3, etc)
4.  spray nozzle type (pull-down or separate)
5.  soap/lotion dispenser (or did we want to use a separate countertop dispenser?)

To make it easy, we opted for a stainless steel finish to coordinate with everything else.  We also decided that the fewer handles & gadgets to clean around - the better.  So that narrowed it down to a single handle pull-down sprayer.  After we refined our search, it was left to aesthetics.  Our favorite was the KHOLER Barossa faucet.  The only thing we didn't like was the faucet plate:

Luckily, even if the photo shows a faucet plate, it doesn't mean you have to install it that way.  As long as the box says 1-hole/single hole, you can install it like this:

As you can see, the Barossa faucet also comes with a lotion/soap dispenser.  However, after some discussion we decided not to have it installed.  We felt it was just another component that we would have to clean around.

Before we ordered the faucet, we checked with Melissa to see if they had any similar options - turns out it was more cost effective for us to buy a faucet through Home Depot.  They were out of stock @ our local Home Depot, so Nader went ahead & ordered one to be shipped over from another store for free.  All we had to do was e-mail Melissa the make & model # of the faucet so they could cut the opening once the slabs arrived.

We know this is not the most exciting post content, but it's all part of the real life boring details.  The next step in our kitchen makeover process entails having the countertop template measured & demoing our existing counters & backsplash...
More  on that coming soon!

Mel & Nader

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Kitchen Makeover: Choosing Countertops

Finally!  Some changes are underway in our kitchen!

With the exception of some new track lighting, our kitchen is one area of our home
that we haven't worked on since we moved in 5 years ago...
It still had the same laminate countertop & tumbled travertine tile backsplash:
It's not terrible, it's just not our cup of tea (check out Mel's Kitchen Board to see what's more our style).

While we certainly could paint the cabinets, it doesn't seem worth it to us since they are only 6 years old & are in good condition.  Oh, and it would be a lot of work.  But we digress...

For now, we are going to work with our medium wood tone maple cabinets (at least we think they are maple) and update the countertops & backsplash only.  The trick was going to be finding something that would coordinate with the color of our cabinets.

While searching online, we found one kitchen that had similar colored cabinetry to ours, with light quartz counters, & a white subway tile backsplash - check it out here.  Even though she eventually painted her cabinets, we thought the light counters & subway tile paired well with the original wood tone.
It was the visual inspiration that we needed to move forward...

We began our search by visiting a couple of granite & stone warehouses.
Our first stop was @ Granite Direct Warehouse:

After we looked through rows & rows of granite, we quickly realized that granite was going to be too dark & busy for the look we were trying to achieve.  The slabs we did like turned out to be marble - which was not the material we wanted to use in our kitchen.

So we turned our focus to quartz - so many choices!

So what exactly are quartz counters made of & how are they different from granite?  Honestly, we didn't really know much of anything at first.  We quickly learned that quartz countertops are an engineered stone product - they are comprised of a combination of natural quartz, resin, & pigments (about 93% quartz).  The result is a super durable, stain & scratch resistant surface - that never needs to be sealed.  There are several different manufactures (or brands) of quartz countertops.  Some of the major companies are Ceasarstone, Silestone, Cambria, Zodiac, HanStone, & Viatera.

Although we were initially leaning towards quartz for more aesthetic/color reasons, it was nice to know that it was more durable & required less maintenance than granite (btw, we still think granite is a durable & beautiful natural material - it just didn't fit our needs for this project).
Here's a comparison chart we referenced from one of our brochures:

With the help of our salesperson Melissa, we pulled out a few quartz samples that caught our eye:

It's difficult to get 100% accurate representations of the colors under the indoor lighting - 
but you can get a general idea.

After a process of elimination, we narrowed it down to a couple different colors (Cirrus, Frosty Carrina, & Organic White) and got some price quotes.  Melissa gave us some small samples to take home as well.  Although we had already found some quartz samples we liked at our very first stop, we thought we should at least check out a few more granite warehouses...explore all of our options, you know?

By the end of the day, we had physically visited 3 different warehouses & continued to run into the same issue with the granite - took dark & busy.  We kept revisiting quartz & gravitating towards the same samples.

Once we were done shopping around for the day, we tried out our favorite sample at home (the warehouses did have several cabinets doors on hand to reference, but none of them were the exact color of our cabinets - we should have just brought our own from the start):

At this point, we were 99% sure we were going to go with Frosty Carrina by Caesarstone.  We felt the Organic White was a bit too stark and we preferred the veining of the Frosty Carrina over the Cirrus (by LG) sample.  Frosty Carrina felt like the perfect shade of white with subtle grey veining - it definitely had a 'marble' look to it that we really liked.

Now that we were fairly certain of what we wanted, Nader called around to about 8 other companies to get some more quotes.  All of the quotes were within about $500 of each other - with the exception of the first location we visited, which was significantly lower than all of the other quotes.  We thought it was a bit odd, so Nader called Melissa to inquire about the price difference.

That's when we learned that, based on our counter top square footage, companies would need to order 2 slabs (which some of the other companies did mention in their quote explanation).  Apparently, many companies pass the cost of the extra slab onto the customer - even though they don't use it.  Melissa explained that they didn't need to charge us for the extra remnants due to their sales volume & storage warehouse.  Essentially, they had to room to store it & the ability to sell the remnant quickly.

Also, throughout the shopping process we learned that some companies charge an additional fee to cut the hole for the sink & install it - so just a heads up on that.  Luckily, Melissa's proposal did not include an additional charge to install the sink.  

It was pretty obvious for us that we were going to move forward with the first company we visited - Granite Direct Warehouse.  We have included the link for anyone in the Atlanta area who might be countertop shopping.  (Also, we think it's important to mention that our counters were not comped nor are we getting any sort of compensation for using Granite Direct.  We simply wanted to share our real life experience & any info that might be helpful to others.)

A few days later we stopped by Granite Direct & brought one of our cabinet doors
with us so we could see it with a larger sample of the quartz.  Even though we liked how the smaller sample looked at home, we wanted to be 100% sure:
So far, so good - it worked for us!  The next step was confirming some details.

First up - edge choices.  There were several different choices - some of which were standard & some which costed extra (see the full selection here).  We decided on the standard Eased Edge because it felt simple, modern, & classic all at the same time.

Second - we had to decide how much of an overhang we wanted on the peninsula:
We debated over these potential ideas:
1.  add a full 12" overhang to create a seating area for bar stools
2.  add 6"-8" of overhang to simply create more working countertop space

Option 1 was the ideal choice for us.  Unfortunately, our dining table & chairs would have been a bit too close to the countertop edge & stools.  It might have worked, but it would have been a tight squeeze.  In the end, we decided to add an extra 6" of overhang to simply increase our overall work surface.

Lastly, we signed the paperwork & scheduled a time for them come out & measure the template.  That concludes Part 1 of our countertop shopping experience.  With our countertop choice finalized, we are on to the next step - picking out a sink & faucet so they can cut out the openings once our slabs arrive!
Updates coming soon...

Mel & Nader

This was not a sponsored post.  We simply wanted to share our experience with other homeowners.