The Darkest Hour
There comes a time in every Do-it-Yourself project when the self doubts. DIY projects are by nature fraught with uncertainty because most of us are doing things we don’t do on a daily basis and have therefore have no formal training in the task. What DIYers have, though, is a special combination of fearlessness, determination, and a willingness to learn new things, even from mistakes. We also have to be flexible because when you don’t really know what you are doing, it is hard to make a plan and when you don’t have a plan, then things don’t go according to plan!
All this also means that every new DIY project feels like inventing the wheel all over again. The other problem with DIY is that it is a side job, not a main job, which means projects have to be done after our “real” jobs. This is only problematic if there are deadlines involved. Since my last post events conspired to bring us to our lowest and darkest point on our kitchen renovation path. As they say, things only get worse before they get better.
Let’s see, where did I leave off? Oh yes, we got our building permit, which meant the electrician could come in and do his work. He was here for two days. The first day, he concentrated on putting in all these little boxes around the kitchen according to the present code.
This means I get four new electrical outlets in the kitchen, yay! Before I was working with just two outlets in a 10 foot by 11 foot kitchen. One of our outlets had to have a box on it to make it into a 6 outlet box. Yes, I have a lot of small kitchen appliances and yes, I use them all, though not usually all at once. Some of them, such as the stand mixers and food processor need to live on the counter because they are just too heavy to haul in and out of a cupboard and my general rule is that if I use it at least once a week, it can stay on the counter. The only exception is the rice cooker, which is very light, so it is easy to move back and forth. So, I am really excited for all the new outlets because now the small electrics do not have to be all crowded in one space.
On the second day, the electrician finished up the kitchen wiring and installed our new dining room light. In the process of doing this, he discovered that the wiring for that light fixture was all wrong and, as a result, was very unstable. It could have fallen on someone’s head at any time! He also told me of a couple of other fixtures that were not wired correctly and were hazardous, including our overhead kitchen light.
It all helps to make us a little more glad that we opted to spend the money to get all the wiring done right. Now, I will have some peace of mind for at least this one room in the house. (we won’t talk about the screwy wiring in the rest of the house. we’ll just hope that it doesn’t go bad anytime soon.) The only problem with all this is that we now have to figure out what kind of lighting to put in the kitchen. Recessed lighting is out because of the *&&$&^ drywall covered plaster ceilings. Anyway, I will come back to lighting later.
Once the electrical rough in was finished, we had to take over and do some work of our own. First, we had one exterior wall that had part of the insides exposed. The building inspector told us we need to put some insulation in there.
For some strange and unknown reason, much of that wall has cinderblock in it. Everyone who has come in to look at it has made mention of it. This makes it hard to hang anything on it, so we first had to build in some strapping. Then, we had to cut the insulation to fit into the openings. And, of course, we had less that 24 hours to do all that before the building inspector was coming to check it. Thankfully, we were able to get it done with a half hour to spare and we passed!
At that point, we were ready to do something a bit more fun, so the husband and I went countertop shopping at a marble and granite warehouse.
Whoa. Let me tell you, there are a lot of options out there, from the fairly plain and sedate.
To wild and crazy, and frankly, quite amazing.
It was fun, but really overwhelming and I am concerned about the cost of our first choices. I’ll save that discussion for a later post.
Our next big task was to build a soffit to cover that offending pipe that we found when we took down the old cabinets and soffit. The old soffit was poorly built and not really hanging properly, so it all had to come down.
This is where things start to get dark. I am really not much good at this kind of thing because I don’t know much about construction (though I know more now than I used to!) and also I am pretty weak. It sounds simple to build a soffit. After all, it’s just a box. How hard can it be to build a box? However, when you consider that the box has to be attached to the wall and ceiling so that it does not fall off and add to that the fact that the joists on the room are unevenly spaced and the walls are double thick in some parts, things get much more complicated.
We spent several hours alone drilling holes blindly in the ceiling trying to find the joists. We did find a few, but we also found a drain pipe and a couple of water pipes and some other things that we could not figure out. I can’t describe how exhausting and unpleasant it is to drill through the ceiling with plaster raining down on our heads only to find nothing. And when we were done with that, we had to do the same thing with the walls. Needless to say, by the end of almost an entire Saturday taken up with this, we had no soffit to show for the amount of time we worked. I say we, but it was really the husband because I discovered that I am pretty much a weakling. At the end of Saturday, the day we had hoped to have the soffit built, all we had was more uncertainty, discouragement and exhaustion.
It was time to take a break and so we did. We took Sunday off and tried very hard not to think about the kitchen at all. It was a great, almost normal day, and we needed it.
I am glad we took that day to rest because on yesterday, Monday, the plasterer called and said he was coming a day early, which meant we had exactly one night to build the soffit. You know how sometimes big projects come to this? When it starts, you think you have all the time in the world and you plan and puzzle things out and think about how to best do things to get what you want done. And then the deadline is suddenly in front of you and all that kind of goes out the window and you just have to get. it. done. That’s what happened.
We started right after dinner. There was a bit of planning and setup that needed to be done.
At around 9, we were attaching some things to the wall and ceiling. Our older son was really helpful with this as we were trying to hold up an 11 foot piece of wood and keep it in a straight line while the husband drilled.
Then, we built part of it on the floor and I did my best impression of Atlas holding up the world while the husband attached it. Sorry, there are no pictures of this part. The boys were in bed and my hand were in the air!
There were horizontal supports to wedge in and screw into place to make sure it was a uniform depth.
And by 1 am, the soffit was finished and getting a little use as an American Ninja Warrior obstacle to prove its sturdiness.
Now, if you have any building experience, I am sure you can see that we did things the hard way. That’s one of the pitfalls of DIY, you often end up doing things the hard way, at least the first time.
We still had some more odds and ends to do with the walls to get ready for the plasterer, so we still did not get to bed until 4am. By that time, the elation of finishing the soffit had worn off and we were just plain exhausted. In some ways, though, having that deadline really helped us and now we can say we are done with that, which is so very satisfying. And while I know we still have some challenging tasks left to us, I hope that none of them will take us as low as this one did.