After the holidays, we settled back into our schedule of home improvements. We had paid for our granite countertops back in November and right after the holiday, we were notified that they were ready to install. This was the trigger for the rest of the kitchen projects. The countertops were duly installed and looked as good as we expected.

Then we could finalize our choice for backsplash tile and get that going. This had worried me quite a bit because I’ve never done tile work before. I’ve watched a lot of video on the subject though and my friend Mike came over who has done a lot of tile installation before. Between those two things, it went perfectly and the kitchen looks really nice.

Anyone who has ever redone a kitchen knows that it’s difficult. The project is always pretty large, subject to scope-creep, and is very disruptive because that’s the most commonly used room in the house. Cost containment is very tricky. But we slowly and systematically began at the ceiling and have been working our way down and now we’re done with everything but the floor although Melissa has lately added a desire for crown molding. We’ve also ordered a new table and chairs to make everything look all matchy-matchy. Definitely coming down the home stretch.

Now that I’ve tiled the backsplash without difficulty, I think we’ll tile the floor too. I would prefer hardwood but that just seems like a bad idea in a kitchen no matter how waterproof the floor finish claims to be.

In between these events fell Valentine’s Day which I really dislike but Melissa made it easy – she bought us tickets to see “Dearly Departed” at the local Community College theater which was a small black-box-theater presentation. At the last minute Erin decided to come home for the weekend – perhaps because it was Valentine’s Day weekend and all her friends were all out on some grand date-night. We got another ticket and she went with us and by a pleasant coincidence discovered that one of her old drama buddies from high-school was in the cast. He was excited to see her in the audience and afterwards at the lobby meet-and-greet.

It has snowed several times which is always an inconvenience for me but not an insurmountable one. Luckily, those have usually occurred on the weekend which gave me a chance to shovel off the driveway at my own pace. The last time was, to me, a typical Oklahoma irony: I went to the hardware store to buy both ice-melt and pre-emergent herbicide for the lawn.

We got to see Erin again not long after when the alternator went out on her car. I drove over to take care of it one morning. For a Honda, that car has been a disappointment. It has required much more maintenance than any other car we’ve owned. Evan’s Honda is several years older and is still going strong with only routine maintenance. We’ve given lots of thought to trading it for another car before she graduates.

In the meantime, our niece and nephew have both bought houses that require some fix-up. As a result, we have had a couple of family painting parties to get more free labor on the project to get it done before they move in. My job is of course painter. I specialize in cutting in near trim and other places where masking tape is normally needed although I never use masking tape. Those years in high school art class are actually coming in handy. And when we’re not doing that, we can usually go help the in-laws babysit the infant children of the aforementioned niece and nephew so there’s a bonus.

I’m itching to start another woodworking project but we’ve got a couple more things to do to the kitchen first. Also, this weekend is the big spring Home Show at the Expo Center and I intend to go and seek out someone who can take care of the popcorn on my cathedral ceiling in the living room. After that, we can repaint that area and call the house mostly done.

But that is by no means the end of the ideas that we have. There’s the exterior for example…

For some reason, I remember hanging crown molding as no big deal. It was only this weekend that I remembered how frustrating it can be.

First I made the rounds of all the local family members borrowing tools. I have a compressor but it has lived at a brother-in-law’s place for several years and he thinks it’s his. When I got it, I found a leak in the hose. It’s just old and cracked – I’m not blaming anybody. The miter saw blade was so dull that it made more smoke than sawdust. The nailer I borrowed was described to me as fitting for crown molding but only shot little brads at 1 ¼” which is way too small. When I tried it, the brads didn’t even get all the way through the drywall much less into a stud behind. So the project started out with three strikes. I used the saw anyway.

All my crown projects have been hanging it in normal rooms so all the miters were inside corners. This saw I borrowed (same as the one I used to have) is apparently not intended for anything other than flat material because its fence is tiny. There’s no way I could put the molding on it in its natural configuration so I had to look up the angles you use when cutting it while it’s laying flat. Of course, I messed up the first end by having the saw tilted in the wrong direction.

Then I followed the usual advice to use a coping saw to cut the ends to make them fit. I’ll just cut to the chase and summarize by saying that today I sent Melissa to the hardware store for a tube of caulk.

Today, I remembered that one of our IT guys is a former trim carpenter. He told me that he got tired of always working in the cold, wet, and/or heat so he learned system administration. I consulted with him on the crown molding issue. His reaction was predictable; very sympathetic. I guess it’s tricky even for the pros.

He advised several things. Always cut it about 1/8” over. Then bow it in the middle as you position the ends and it will force the ends into place. It may crush the fibers at the edges of your coped ends but that will close up gaps. Also, as you use the coping saw, you have to undercut it a lot – more than you think. That makes it hard to follow your line since small changes in the angle of your saw make big changes in where the teeth come out at the surface of your cut and it’s easy to get off your line. He used a pencil to darken the line to make things easier to see. This also makes the cut edge a bit fragile but it won’t fit otherwise. Then occasionally you have to roll the molding one way or the other to make the coped end fit the profile of the mating piece.

It’s very fiddly work and the least little mistake in measuring, marking, or cutting makes a big difference in the outcome. I haven’t tried just cutting a simple miter and avoiding the coping saw thing but it must be even harder to get that right or the pros wouldn’t use the coping saw.

I haven’t updated anything since the Fourth of July holiday.  This is getting to be typical behavior now that Facebook is so easy to use from my phone.  And twitter.  But I must keep this up – it’s at least readable later.

After the fourth, things got hot.  There was a period in there where the temperatures soared above 100 (up to 114 at times) for many days.  We stayed inside for the most part where I could mess about in the garage now that it is air conditioned.

I also decided to finally tackle a nagging home improvement project: the popcorn on the ceilings.  People hate that stuff nowadays which is unfortunate since it is so common.  But since we’re trying to complete the kitchen, it made sense to do the ceiling first and work my way down to the flooring.  I took down the old fluorescent fixture and scraped the popcorn off the ceiling.  That was a huge effort and a huge mess but not complicated.  Only then did I order an asbestos test kit and have the stuff analyzed.  Luckily, my house is not one of those that used the asbestos popcorn so I’m good.

I tried valiantly to redo the surface of the ceiling to make it smooth but that sort of thing is a skill that is acquired only after much practice and I never really got it perfect although it looked pretty good.  To complete things (and hide the minor imperfections) I bought some spray-on stuff that you knock down with a trowel.  It gave the surface enough of a random texture to avoid calling attention to the imperfections but not the dust-catching monstrosity of popcorn.  It looks pretty good.

We also decided to replace all the lighting and so bought a bunch of recessed cans which I mounted in the ceiling.  They went in easily but wiring them up was a huge job which was a bad idea to schedule in the hottest part of the summer since it involved getting up into the attic.  Paul came over to help and he ended up doing most of the work since he works outside every day and was more used to the heat.  We wired up the kitchen half of the room and left the dining room half for later in the fall.  So the kitchen now has a new ceiling surface and new lighting.  I also ordered some LED-based lights for under the cabinets.

Next: new counter tops followed by new flooring.

But that will have to wait for awhile to keep the costs spread out.

In the meantime, I also scraped the ceiling of the laundry room which is tiny; barely a closet really.  I managed to refloat that surface with joint compound very well and it looks actually like a real plasterer did it.  It would pass for smooth although I will lightly texture it like the kitchen just to keep things consistent.
I guess I’ll just keep going with this until the whole house is done.  Gonna take a long time.