The Kitchen Timer, Day 5 — Counter Offers

IMG_1330 IMG_1335IMG_1331The day began with a bit of a shock when we received the kitchen store’s estimate for the countertops.

We had picked out a Cesarstone quartz material that is readily available through dozens of vendors in the area. A typical (installed) price for quartz tops here runs from about $75-$100 per square foot, although some custom orders can be more expensive.

Thus, the $12,300 sticker we were served for our 65 square foot surface seemed mildly offensive, especially since it in no way explained or broke down how the number had been generated. We were dismayed. After all, we had trusted the design place with our cabinet order.

It also created a bit of a nuisance. While the demolition continued at home, I was forced to spend half the day in my office calling stone vendors, sending measurements and specs around and discussing options on the phone.

We got two more quotes (for the exact same brand and shade, with the same edge, the same cutouts, the same installation requirements). Both had detailed explanations — the size of the sections, number of needed slabs, cost of material versus labor. One even gave several alternatives for other suppliers or similar materials such as Silestone.

They were for $6,459.08 and $5,923. Both right on target.

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The Kitchen Timer, Day 4: Schedules and Screens

IMG_1327Last night, Contractor Kelly sent the schedule for the renovation. This was very helpful, because now we understand the order of things a bit better. It also opened up new questions, though: Will it really only take 6 days for the countertops from measurement to delivery? Will the floor of the adjacent family room be sanded when the hardwood is put down in the kitchen? When will the backsplash be going in–perhaps when the drywall gets repaired?

This morning, we’re told that the final phase of demolition–floor, ceiling and all the rest–will be a lot more messy. Therefore, the openings to the family and dining rooms on either end of the kitchen get screened off with large zipper doors. You get through them like you get into a tent. It seems to take a lot of time and effort to install the heavy plastic screens.

I’m secretly worried that they will rouse the cat’s curiosity. She’s got really sharp little claws, you know.

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The Kitchen Timer, Day 3 — Recycling & Repurposing

Day 3-5 Day 3-6IMG_1325After yesterday’s little snow hiatus, action is finally underway. The appliances and the old cabinets are getting ripped out, and the electrician shows up for a first site visit. It’s a good thing I happen upon him, because we realize that the plans are not specific about the exact location of lights and outlets. What else had we not considered?

And how about the remains of the old kitchen? We hadn’t figured out in advance what to do with them. Sell the range and microwave on Craigslist? Or donate them? Or just have them hauled? Recycled? Can you donate (functioning) dishwashers as well? And sinks? Apparently, there are a few charities or organizations that would accept them (ReStore, Habitat for Humanity and Second Chance were named), but under what conditions? Will they pick them up? Can we deduct this from our taxes without an extensive paper trail? Homework for the rest of the week.

The most exciting event of the day was not  the recycling but rather repurposing of the old cabinets. As mentioned on Day 1 of The Project, we wanted to move several of them into the laundry room. That happened today, and they’re so much better than the wire shelves that previously adorned the walls there. Lesson learned: What’s junk in the kitchen might still have a useful life elsewhere.

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The Kitchen Timer, Day 2: Standstill

IMG_1303The second day of  Project Kitchen starts with a snow “storm.” There are about two inches of snow on the grass. Since we are in DC, this translates into: NOTHING is going to happen today.  The roads look clear, even in our little side street. But the workers, we’re told, live far away where there’s a lot more hazard, so they will have to stay home today.

We still have functioning appliances and water. That’s a blessing in disguise, actually, since the utensils and most dishes have been stowed away and we have deliberately cleared the fridge from all things that need cooking.

Current backlog: 1 day.

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The Kitchen Timer — Day 1

IMG_1290 IMG_1288The contractor’s proposal estimated 20 work days (read: 1 month) for the kitchen renovation. Everybody who has ever lived through anything like this told me to multiply the number by 2. Or 3, if I wanted to brace myself.

That said, houses are my business, and even though I haven’t done one myself, kitchen renovations are a big topic here. This kitchen is sleek, that one is horrific, the other one dark or tiny. And if they’re impractical, dated or ugly, we want to know what it takes to make them better.

So, I decided to chronicle our kitchen project as an example. We’re talking about a 250 sq ft kitchen in a nice neighborhood right on the District line. What we’ve chosen will be middle-of-the road, neither super high end/luxury nor cheap.

The before pictures here are from last night, our “Day 0.” When I took them, I was hit by a moment of sorrow and guilt. Both environmentally and economically, this project makes no sense, I thought. We’re dismantling a perfectly fine kitchen that wasn’t even that dysfunctional.

But then I remembered that most of the doors have been propped up by Velcro and magnets, most of the particle board drawers have been rebuilt and stapled, the slippery tile floor had different heights, the dishwasher doesn’t actually clean dishes, and that family dinners where five people sit down in a row aren’t very communicative. I immediately felt better.

I felt even better when the crew arrived this morning and the carpenter suggested “recycling” a bunch of the old cabinets into the garage and laundry room. Can’t believe I hadn’t thought of that!

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Spanish For House Fans

This winter, I finally got around to sorting through (and weeding out) my vastly growing iPhoto library of thousands of house pictures. Well, let’s say I got started.

What struck me was not that most of them were — by American standards — old houses, but that there were so many that could be classified into distinct groups of architectural fashion: Tudor, Georgian, Arts & Crafts-type bungalows, Italianate, Greek Revival…

This will make for a great little educational series for our websites. My first part is about the “Spanish-“style:

Enjoy, and just leave a comment if there’s any particular style you’d like to see next!

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Your Home Could Be Your Castle

Castle for sale in Chevy ChaseWe frequently complain about how boring the majority of residential DC real estate is. There are a few standard layers from the center out, and they get increasingly vanilla: first the row houses, then the brick colonials, then the 1950 sprawl neighborhoods with their ramblers and split levels, and finally the far-out fake-brick mansion developments in the most remote suburbs.
Don’t get me wrong here – all of the above can offer some wonderful choices, pretty homes and great neighborhoods. After all, there are many reasons why certain styles are popular here. But for those of us who see a lot of these homes (and sometimes feel like we’ve seen them ALL by now), it’s always an exciting break to come across something more unusual.
In this case, the surprise house actually has a beyond-traditional look. It comes to you straight out of a fairy tale — a little white castle perched against a hill, complete with a spring-fed (!) “moat,” stair tower, and battlements around the roof terraces. Charming doesn’t begin to describe the unusual 3-4 bedroom, 3.5 bath home. And did I mention it’s less than 8 miles from the White House and in one of the country’s best high school clusters?
Your home could be your castle for $1,500,000 (which is not at all a bad price for a 3,900 square foot historic house in Chevy Chase). Listed by Bill Panici of Weichert Realtors. There are no public open houses — check out the full virtual tour here and you will instantly understand why — but we’ll be happy to get you in if you’re interested. Enjoy!

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