Fuzzy Finish Lines

countertop and stove finish line
See how close the stovetop is to the counter!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about finish lines, especially in how we view big projects and how we think they’ll advance. We look forward, we long, for the day when everything is done. It seems as if it will never happen. And then, gradually, the pieces start falling into place. It’s not one big ta-da moment like a horse crossing the finish line but a succession. There are bumps and reversals and then bursts of progress. This past Sunday, for instance, was a burst. The in-laws were off on a square-dancing trip until Sunday afternoon, and Jan’s daughter and her husband wanted to come over that evening.I offered to make dinner for everyone since we’d be home all weekend. So this dinner was going to be our first company event in our new space. And folks, let me tell you—it was a mess. Tools and trash strewed everywhere: toolboxes, plastic bags, papers, other detritus. And the patio was a mess, too, with lots of scrap lumber leaned against the walls and a table saw, huge metal shelf still in its huge cardboard box, huge car jack, and a toilet, although now at least it’s the old toilet that we’re getting rid of and not the nice new one that has finally been installed. We were planning to eat out there, for Heaven’s sake!

Well, things weren’t in perfect shape by Sunday evening, of course, but they were much advanced. We took the scrap lumber and some other items that we couldn’t use and propped it up against the front fence, posting a “free curb pickup” notice on Craigslist. Some of it disappeared, and at least it was off the patio. We swept and washed the patio and the furniture. Jim put tarps over the offending objects. (I said to him this morning as I looked out our bedroom window, which opens directly onto the patio, “I don’t want to see those mounds any more.”) At the eleventh hour Jim went on a spree and cleaned up all the tools.

The table saw belongs to a friend, so he’ll take it as soon as the final trim on the shed is done. The shelf went out behind the shed. I think the jack can go back in the garage when we finish getting our boxes out of there. And the toilet will go, along with the old sink, once we finally get the new vanity and sink ordered and in place. They match, you see, so we want to put them on Craigslist as a set. With each of these actions the finish line will draw nearer, tantalizing us.

The kitchen counter is now in as of last Monday, and the plumber came in on Tuesday and hooked up the sink, garbage disposal, and dishwasher. We managed (well, Jim managed) to get the refrigerator and stove moved out for the counter installation and then moved back in. We weren’t completely sure that the stove was going to fit; there was about 1/8” total clearance to work with. I still don’t completely understand how Jim managed to get back there, plug it in, and then get back out again, but I guess the cord is longer than I had thought. And now we have a stove that has almost no space beside it for the dreaded crumbs to fall through. (The picture shows how well this worked out.) It sure would have been a lot easier if the counter people had let us just leave it in place, but they wouldn’t. So there it was. I had said to Jim that once those counters were installed it would seem completely natural to have them, and so it has proven to be. You mean there was a time when we just had cardboard over the cabinets? When there was no water in the kitchen except what came out of the refrigerator? Huh.

By the way, I said I was going to do some posts about what products we chose and where we got them, just as some free info in case you’re looking to do some home improvements yourself. And sometimes it’s helpful to follow someone else’s decision-making process even if you’re not doing exactly the same thing. So, rather than doing one big post about each room or even about the renovation as a whole, I’m going to cover various items as they get finished. Here’s what we did for the countertops, which I have to say are just beautiful. It’s actually enjoyable to clean them up after a meal and get them back to being as gorgeous as possible.

At first my thought was that we’d just put in good-quality laminate countertops, and I had spent some time pondering the displays at various stores. I found something I liked from a company called Wilsonart and brought home a sample piece. The pattern name was “Asian Sand,” and it had the right colors and kind of a wood look. Job done! Except that it wasn’t. Jim said that it was chintzy and cheap-looking. He didn’t like the fake wood grain. (I think he was being rather unfair about it—laminate is a perfectly acceptable countertop material. But hey! I was happy to have him involved.) He wanted to get something solid. I was immutably opposed to granite (mostly because of the cost, but also because I just didn’t think it would look right in our modest little kitchen). So that left something like Corian, which is a solid acrylic resin. There are now a number of companies that make similar products, and we didn’t seem to be finding a color we liked in Corian, so I spent a lot of time online and at stores trying to find something that would work. I e-mailed at least one company. I called a couple of showrooms here in the area. But nothing seemed quite right. Everything was too yellow, or too pink, or too gray, or too green, to go with the color of the walls. We kept coming back to a Corian color called “Sonora,” but it seemed to fall into the “too green” camp. Finally, though, we had the thought that we had only looked at it in the kitchen by the light of our one single shoplight. How about looking at it again using the actual new lighting that had just been installed? And how about getting a bigger sample? Once we did that, it was clear that the color was fine. You’ll see a later picture once we get the backsplash in, using the beautiful-but-reasonably-priced tile we found at the wonderful local store called Floor and Decor. We ended up getting the countertops through Home Depot, who gave us a much better deal than a little local company, and I have to say that they did a great job. The only glitch, aside from the aforementioned awfully-tight stove clearance, was that there was a mark on one place where the guys had set down a can of some type of solvent. There was an outline of the bottom of the can, and no matter how I scrubbed it, it wouldn’t go away. I was hoping that all they needed to do was to go over the mark with the solvent, or cleaner, or whatever it was, and yesterday they came in and did just that. Now it’s perfect. (And of course I want to keep it perfect, which makes me hyper-aware of banging pans or dropping things on it. But that’s a good thing.)

So we’ve gotten over a number of hurdles. The Sunday dinner was an unexpected bonus in many ways, as we thoroughly enjoyed having our first guests over. Since Jim and I are both Obligers, we need another big shove, so I’m planning to invite people over for a cookout on Labor Day.

There will be more posts on this whole process. And of course, once we get to the finish line we’ll have to be careful not to sigh with relief and fail to keep up with maintenance and cleaning; see my earlier post “The Strangeness of the Finish Line.”Hope you enjoy reading about our travails and triumphs and are inspired to start or finish some projects of your own!

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