Once I had the cabinets assembled and installed on the side of the kitchen opposite the sink, I was ready to tackle the sink side. This meant we would be without a sink for awhile, which meant we couldn’t cook very much. Per Clare’s suggestion, I tried to cook up a bunch of leftovers beforehand, but since the project took almost twice as long as I had planned, we ended up eating out quite a bit anyways.
The first step was to remove the old kitchen cabinets. I started by disconnecting all the plumbing and shutting off the water to the sink. Then I removed the sink. This involved cutting the silicone with a utility knife, and gradually prying the sink out with a pry bar and a chisel. Then I moved out the dishwasher. Then I began removing the counter top. The counter top was attached with screws from underneath, so I took out all those screws with my handy cordless drill. Once all the screws were out, I used the reciprocating saw to cut the counter top into several pieces. I had to yank the counter top off a bit, since it was also stuck to the wall a bit with some caulk.
Once I had the counter top off, I began removing the cabinets, which were screwed into the studs. They came out rather easily. As I removed each cabinet, I found the floor underneath to be extremely dirty, and littered with mouse poop. We knew that there had been some mouse issues since the house was vacant for a year since we bought it. We haven’t seen any since we moved in though. At this point I also noticed the extent of the leaking from the sink. There was some sort of makeshift plywood being used for the bottom of the sink cabinet. When I took it out, the plies were completely separated since they had gotten so wet!
Once I had all the cabinets out and had swept up all the mouse poop and dirt, then I began to ponder all the extra drain pipes. There was this large black drain pipe underneath the sink, and it wasn’t clear what it was for. Ellen thought it was for the dishwasher, which was possible, though it didn’t quite make sense, since when we hooked up the new dishwasher we attached the drain to the garbage disposal. Clare thought it might be a vent, which would also be odd, since the vent should go to the outside.
At this point I decided to wait on the drain mystery for awhile, and work some more on assembling the cabinets. The corner cabinet with the lazy susan was quite difficult to assemble. Most of the cabinets came with instructions that had both text and pictures, but the corner cabinet instructions had only pictures. It came with quite a few different kinds of screws, and there was no indication on the directions which screws went where, or when I should screw things in. In particular, the shelves were screwed in, which was different from all the other cabinets, where the bottom was attached with cams, and the shelves simply rest on small pegs.
The other difference with the corner cabinet was that it had gotten a bit damaged in shipping. I decided not to worry about it though, since I did not want to wait for a replacement to be shipped. I suppose I could have assembled all the cabinets to begin with, and then I would have discovered it early enough to get something shipped, but I didn’t.
Perhaps the trickiest part of the corner cabinet was assembling the face frame. All the other face frames were totally assembled, but since the corner cabinet face frame makes an L, it came in two pieces so it could be shipped in a flat box. I used my clamp to hold the two pieces together while I attached them with screws. I ended up having to start over at least once because I didn’t get them flush. Then I had the mystery of attaching the doors. These doors have some very special hinges, and not very good instructions. I ended up taking out the old corner cabinet to look at it, which helped quite a bit.
We decided to buy the lazy susan for the corner cabinet, which I am fairly happy with, even though it does result in some wasted space. The lazy susan was different than I had expected. I had expected two shelves attached by a pole, which seems to be common. Instead, there were two separate lazy susans which get screwed directly into the shelves. I think this design is actually much sturdier, and allows the two lazy susans to turn separately. There was a hole pre-drilled in the top of the lazy susan. To install it, you turn the lazy susan until this hole lines up with one of the four holes in the base. Then you drop a screw in the hole and screw it in. Then you turn it 1/4 turn, and repeat. They are very secure, and they turn very nicely.
When Clare got home from work on Thursday, I asked her to help me do some troubleshooting. I went downstairs, and had Clare pour some water down the mystery pipe. I could hear it going down the drain pipe, so it seemed to be a drain. Then I also had her shake it a bit, and through this I discovered some additional drain pipe down stairs which had been cut off. It seems that there used to be some sort of make-shift bathroom down there. Finally we discovered that the mystery black pipe was connected to the drain pipe for the sink. Then the question was whether or not the two curved white pipes coming out of the floor were connected. The next day I looked up on the roof, and there was only one vent coming out. I also removed some drywall, and found that the drain for the sink (on the left) connected to the drain for downstairs (on the right), and that both were then vented through the same pipe. Mystery solved.
Now that I had torn out some of the drywall, I had to patch it. We had brought a few small pieces of drywall from Spencer for some other miscellaneous wall patching that we needed to do, but it wasn’t big enough. Once again, Dave and Ellen had the perfect solution — go to Lowe’s, buy a sheet of drywall, then cut it in the parking lot so it would fit into my car. Friday turned out to be a very nice day — about 50 degrees and sunny. I brought my tape measure, chalk line, and utility knife and went off to Lowe’s. While I was there I also picked up a few other things, including some great stuff. When I got home I began patching the drywall, which for me always requires lots of cutting of 1/4″ to 1/2″ pieces of drywall until it fits nicely. So that took a couple hours. After mudding and taping, I squirted some great stuff around the pipes to better seal them off. I also put some great stuff around the vent pipes for the furnace in the basement, which had some pretty big gaps. That stuff really is great.
Saturday my plan was to install all the cabinets on the sink side, cut the plywood and cement board, and secure the cement board. Then I could tile on Sunday. Well, it ended up taking about half the day to get the sink cabinet in. I wanted to make it look as nice as possible, so I cut out the hole in the back for the pipes pretty tight, but the heating vent being under the sink meant that we had to tilt the sink cabinet to get it in, which meant that I ended up having to cut the hole larger and larger. I had initially cut the hole in the back in the garage, but as I cut out a little more and more I simply did this in the kitchen. For part of this I used the jigsaw, and for part I used the reciprocating saw.
The trickiest part about the heating vent under the sink was with the toekick. I cut out part of the toekick for the vent to go in, but I cut it out so that the edge of the vent would overlap a little, and look nice. Unfortunately though, there was simply no way to get the cabinet in with the toekick attached, and there was no way to get it on afterwards either. I went through about 5 different “ingenious” ideas, none of which worked. In the end I ended up taking the vent cover off to get the cabinet in, and then put the vent cover back in afterwards. I had thought that I could then put the screws back into the vent cover by drilling some holes in the bottom of the cabinet, but then later realized that the holes were covered up by the toekick. So the vent cover is now simply sitting there, but it doesn’t seem to be falling off. That was a frustrating day.
While I was cutting the hole in the back of the sink cabinet bigger bit by bit, I ran into another issue. The outlet under the sink seemed broken! The top half worked, but not the bottom half. I thought that I might have nicked the wire to the outlet under the sink when doing the drywall repair, or maybe it was just a coincidence. At any rate, I called Dave, the electrical expert, and he suggested simply to put in a new one. So I went to Ace and got a new outlet, and figured out how to put it in. There was one hitch. There were 6 wires, and only 5 places to put them. The old outlet had slots in the back for the wires as well as screws on the side. All of the slots were filled, plus the ground, plus one black wire on the side.
The new outlet only had screws on the side. So I first started by attaching 5 wires. The white wires went on the left side, and one black and one red on the right side, and the ground on the bottom. I turned the breaker back on, and the outlet worked, but as I suspected, the outlet next to it did not, because I had one black wire left over. So then I called Dave again, and he suggested keeping the breaker on, and trying to touch the extra wire to each screw, making sure to not touch any exposed wire. I tried the screw with the black wire first, and that did the trick. So I turned the breaker back off, doubled up the black wires, and we were good to go.
By the time I got the sink installed it was after 8 p.m. I wanted to cut the plywood, but Clare convinced me to knock off. That was a good idea, since it ended up taking 4 or 5 hours on Sunday to cut the plywood and the cement board. Much of the time was spent on cutting the hole for the sink in the cement board. This involves scoring each side quite deeply, then tapping a hammer around the edges of the hole until it comes out. At some point I started cheating, and was using the reciprocating saw, which worked for awhile, until a part broke off. So then I remembered my past advice to myself about not cutting corners and simply used the hammer tapping method, which is tedious, but it does work.
After cutting the plywood, and then again after cutting the cement board, I tested putting the sink in the hole to make sure it fit, which it did.
Once I had all the cement board cut, then I attached the plywood to the cabinets with wood screws. Then I secured the cement board to the plywood on both sides of the kitchen with thin-set mortar, followed by special hardi-backer screws and roofing nails. I used the screws around the edges, and the nails in the middle. I also taped the joints of the cement board, and put a very thin layer of thin-set on them. My previous attempts at this had always resulted in a bump between the sections of cement board, but this time I finally got it right. After I finished attaching the cement board, Clare and I had lunch at the Yak and Yeti, and then relaxed for a bit. Tiling had now been moved to Monday, which will be documented in part three.