Saturday, October 22, 2011

Concrete Countertops: Phase II

This has been quite the project, but it was well worth the time and energy we put into it. After we gave the cement a good amount of drying time...almost a month...it was time to finish it. I told Nick my only requirement was that it was smooth enough to clean easily, that's not too much to ask of a kitchen counter right?

Saturday we got to work. First we had to grind the edge of the counter where the stove would sit, it was just a smidge to wide. Nick did the grinding and I followed behind with the shop vac so as to avoid making too big of a mess. Then Nick got to sanding the tops of the counters...now that was a dusty and dirty job. He sprayed the concrete with water as he sanded to keep the dust to a minimum, but it still got everywhere.


After the dust had settled it was time for step 2, grout. Before we could begin however we had to cover the floor with paper and the cabinets with plastic. A bag of black grout was purchased from Lowe's and then worked into the gap around the sink with a putty knife. We also rubbed a thin layer over the entire countertop to fill in any small holes or rough spots. Nick applied it with a trowel and then rubbed it off with a large sponge. I was the designated water girl, making frequent trips out to the hose to get clean water.



We let the grout dry over night and then pulled out the stain the following morning. Nick bought a can of semi transparent concrete stain at Lowe's and then had them tint it black in the paint department. Of course all they had was a large can so we have plenty of extra in case we need to re-stain it at any point in time.
Nick started applying it with a paint brush, but soon gave it up for a rag which was much easier to wipe on. I then followed behind with a clean rag to wipe off any excess stain until we had a nice even coat. As you can see from the photo below it was quite a messy process.


We gave the stain about 4-5 hours to dry before sealing it. We used a high gloss "wet look" sealer and used a large paint brush to apply it. After letting it sit for a few minutes I used a clean rag to wipe up any excess. It went on looking somewhat milky, but dried to a nice glossy finish. Don't mind the messy walls, we plan on putting tile there.


I have now been able to use the counters for 5 days and I love them. They clean up so easily and look so so good. Project complete.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Moving In

This whole "fixing up an older home thing" is kind of a lot of work. Once the plumbing and electrical work was complete we decided to just move in. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but once we were in I started to freak out a bit. You see we still needed to finish the kitchen counters, the stove was yet to be hooked up, we didn't have pegs for the shelves in the kitchen cupboards and the closets were hanging bar and shelf less. This made it a bit difficult to unpack. at all. For the first week...we have been here a total of 11 days so far....I would wander around the house trying to find something to put away, yet there was nowhere to put it. It was a bit difficult for an OCD person like myself to function.


Slowly I was able to organize the boxes in the spare bedroom enough to move the boxes out of the living room, which allowed me to set up the couch. This made it start to feel like a livable space. This room still has a ways to go...maybe you noticed the large pile of trim, the shop vac, the air compressor, the exposed wire above the fireplace, or the patched together "rug"....yeah it's a never ending process. But, I did manage to put up a pumpkin and a picture of my cute kids in their Halloween costumes from last year. Festive, I know.


The kitchen, ah the kitchen. We were finally able to make some major progress in there over the weekend, which made my life so much easier.  For starters we finally finished the countertops, which if you recall we made ourselves out of concrete...(post to come on that tomorrow). We also got pegs for the shelves in the cabinets, so I was able to get rid of a few boxes by unpacking some kitchen items.


Once the countertops were complete we were able to hook-up the new gas stove we bought. Hallelujah for cooked food again. I was also able to move the table into it's proper place once the stove was moved out of it's resting place of the middle of the kitchen.

We still have so much to do in the kitchen, so please ignore the cluttered counters and the exposed drywall.

Here is a list of things we still want to do in this space:
- tile the back splash
- build and hang open shelves instead of wall cabinets
- doors on the lower cabinets
- build an island
- trim
- new exterior door
- door on washer/dryer cabinet
- replace windows
- either tile the entire wall behind the stove and the sink
    or
- install beadboard behind the open shelves and tile below
something like the photos below.


So, as you can see we still have our work cut out for us.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Plumbing Fixtures

The plumber was here putting new fixtures in the bathroom and kitchen. We now have a working toilet in the house, which is so nice considering we had to drive to the park every time Hayden or myself needed to use the bathroom. We went with a standard white toilet that apparently is water efficient and once I fill out the form the nice man at Lowe's gave us, we will get a credit on our water bill through the city. Gotta love that.


For our shower and sink fixtures in the bathroom we went with brushed nickle to match the black $7 vanity we scored at Lowe's. The sink faucet is from Lowe's and the shower fixture is from Standard Plumbing Supply. We wanted something basic and low key.


For the kitchen faucet we also went with brushed nickle to match the stainless steel appliances and the black countertops. Again we wanted something simple and basic and we found a great faucet at Lowe's.


We also had a new water heater installed in the closet next to the bathroom. It is so nice to have hot water. We plan on building shelves for linens and extra bathroom items next to the water heater. We are also planning on installing a bypass door to hide the contents of this closet.


Things are starting to wrap up and the smaller things are getting attention these days. We still have a few large projects in the works, but it's the small things that make all the difference.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Concrete Countertops and a Furred Out Wall

Nick decided that he wanted to try and do concrete countertops in the kitchen. I have to admit I was a bit hesitant, but he was determined so I let him have at it. He researched the best way to go about it, bought the supplies and went for it.

Okay, first I have to back track a bit.

When we found out we needed to redo the plumbing and the electrical in the house we decided it would be easiest to keep it out of the walls, which were concrete and plaster, and then fur the wall out around any new plumbing or electrical wires.  To fur the wall out means placing 2x4's flat on the existing wall creating a new one. Nick put notches in the wood to accommodate the new plumbing.


Before we could start the countertops Nick had to add drywall to the furred out wall. The new electrical outlet boxes had been put in at this point so Nick made sure to cut the drywall around them.


Then it was time to start prep work on the countertops. The wood floors had already been installed so we made sure to protect them with lots of paper and tape. Of course we always have free child labor.


The next step of the process...which was a long one...was to build a form for the concrete. Nick also made sure to put paper in the living room, which became our makeshift cutting area due to rainy weather.  Caulk was then put on all the gaps between the drywall and the plywood. After many many measurements and cuts the form was in place. Soon we were one step closer to pouring concrete, but not quite there yet.


Next we had to cut the hole for the sink and build forms up around it. Lay metal lath, which will give the concrete something to adhere to, on the plywood. And cover the cabinets with lots and lots of plastic.


I think it's time to pour. Wait, one more quick trip to Lowe's for three more bags of Quikrete concrete and colorant and we are ready to pour.

Okay, I just have to say how comical it was to watch the two of us doing this project. We ran into problem after problem, but we persevered and came out victorious.

We brought the wheelbarrow right into the kitchen and put it on a piece of cardboard to protect the wood floors even more. Nick started pouring bags of concrete into the wheelbarrow while I filled the bucket with water. Next we added the colorant...charcoal, which was the darkest color they had....into the bucket of water. It was at this point we realized there was a hole in the bucket, so we had to keep it outside. While I rushed to take the bucket outside, Nick started stirring the concrete with a shovel. When he almost dumped everything on the floor we discovered the wheelbarrow had seen better days and was starting to break. My job from then on was to hold the wheelbarrow steady plus rush to get the leaky bucket when we needed to add more water, while Nick quickly stirred the concrete together before it set up.
After it was thoroughly mixed together Nick started placing shovel fulls of concrete into the form on the counter. I spread the concrete around until the form was completely filled and then Nick took a trowel and created a nice smooth and even surface.


After giving the concrete about an hour to set up came the moment of truth: removal of the forms. However, the hits just kept on coming. Huge chunks of concrete fell off around the edges in four different spots...crap. Luckily, when we poured the small counter we put way too much concrete so there was plenty of extra, still wet concrete on the floor that Nick scooped up and repaired the damaged spots with.


Finally, after giving the repaired spots sufficient drying time the countertops where complete.


We still need to seal them and possibly stain them black, but this is a project we are both very happy with.