Thursday, December 6, 2018

Tales of Renovation

We all have a renovation horror story. Here’s mine:

The Dream

It started because I got tired of putting my hand down on grit every time I touched the kitchen counters.

This wasn’t because we’re slobs; it was the fault of the counter itself, which came in the popular grey/white/black pattern I like to call Crumb Camouflage. Anything falling on that counter was immediately invisible and, therefore, not cleaned away. The solution, most people might suppose, would involve cleaning the counters more often, but to me, the obvious course of action was new counter-tops.

Kitchen Counter in the popular "Crumb Camouflage" style.
Incredibly, I managed to convince my wife of this. We knew we wouldn’t be able to convince the landlord, so we opted to cover the cost ourselves. Then I figure, if we were replacing the old kitchen counters, we might as well replace the old sink, and the antiquated hob, at the same time. My wife agreed to this, as well, but with less enthusiasm. The landlord approved our plans—with the stipulation that it wouldn’t cost him any money—and we set out to buy new kitchen stuff.

Love at First Sight

We picked out a nice wood-effect counter, a spiffy modern hob and then went to look at sinks.

Because I do the washing up. the sink is my domain, and I was the one picking it out. I looked at the standard-issue sinks on display, and was resigned to buying one of them, until I discovered, hidden away in a drawer, a granite sink.

It was black and sleek and sexy, and much sturdier than the stainless-steel models. I fell immediately in love and managed to convince my wife that, at merely twice the price of a normal sink, it was a bargain we couldn’t pass up.

Seriously, is that a sink to die for, or what?
Arranging a Date

We had already hired a kitchen fitter. He had visited, given an estimate and told us to call him once we had the materials. But when the materials arrived, he—like any good builder—became impossible to contact for a week or two. And when he finally called back, I was at a choir performance and not exactly in a position to give him my full attention. Fearing I wouldn’t be able to make contact for another two weeks, however, I agreed to the date he offered, which was two days before we were to host a Thanksgiving Day meal for friends. The astute among you will have spotted the problem. I wasn’t worried, however, because he assured me it would be a quick job, easily finished in a single day.

You can tell I don’t have builders in very often.

Second Thoughts

The night before the work was to start, my wife lay awake thinking of colors. She had picked out the counters she wanted, and I had picked out the sink I wanted, and we had picked out the paint she wanted for the walls, and in the night, belatedly, it occurred to her that the colors didn’t match the current kitchen decor. In the morning, we stared at the kitchen, imagining the new fixtures in place, and I realized two things: she was right, and there was nothing we could do about it. 

The Reality

On the appointed day, the The Kitchen Guy and his mates arrived and the destruction began. The one stipulation we had was that the kitchen cabinets and the tiles on the kitchen wall were not to be damaged as they were not being replaced. The Kitchen Guy was very conscientious about this, but no one (except my wife, who is a die-hard realist) was prepared for what he found when he lifted out the old counters.

A quick-and-dirty installation of a boiler sometime in the recent past had pipes running along the base of the kitchen wall, and the cabinets were simply shoved up against them. This meant that the cabinets were not flush with—or even attached to—the wall, which also meant that the old counter tops didn’t touch the wall, either. They solved this problem by sticking wall tiles on with gobs of plaster to fill the inch-wide gap between them and the wall. As a consequence, the tiles were basically balanced on the back edge of the counter and, when it was removed, they fell off.

The Kitchen Guy said he could put them back up, but seeing a chance to rectify the color-scheme dilemma, I told him to take them all off and re-tile.

This pushed the work into a second day, not the re-tiling—which is yet to be scheduled—but merely the removal of the old tiles and putting right the series of bodge-jobs inflicted by builders past. Still, on the second day, they began work with unflagging optimism and assured me they would finish by noon. At 5 PM they called it a day and said they would return in the morning to clean up and do the few remaining odds and ends. So we put the kitchen back together, turned the oven on to begin baking for the Thanksgiving feast the following day, and discovered the oven wasn’t working. The Kitchen Guy said he could fix it the following morning when he returned.

And so, on day three of a one-day job, they came back, cleaned up, pulled the oven out to check the wiring, and the electricity went out.

But more on that later.

Suffice it to say, the electricity was eventually put right, along with the oven, and we have been left with a kitchen decorated in what I like to call Ghetto Chic.

Our walls are now done in Ghetto Chic.
The bonus is, when they removed the tiles, they found a mural painted on the wall just above the hob. Not a lost Rembrandt or anything, but it adds a bit of whimsy.

It actually looks better than you think; the tiling on top of it didn't do it any favors.
The end result, however, is that I’m still putting my hand down on grit every time I touch the kitchen counters.

But at least I can see it.