Monday, March 14, 2011

A novice guide to kitchen remodeling

So, it's been a while since I've put anything up here, but it's not without a good reason.   I've spent the better part of the last 6 or 7 weeks doing a moderate kitchen remodeling.   It has always been a pet peeve of ours, when we moved into our current home around 2 and a half years ago, that the pantry cabinet, whose dimensions measured 2 feet wide x 2 feet deep x 8 feet tall, was horribly impractical.   It was way too deep to store food, we were constantly discovering things we had bought in the past but could not find when we needed it, and it was overcrowded due to it's small footprint.   The company that produced the cabinet, along with the rest of the cabinets in our kitchen, has been long since extinct, so our options were limited on solutions.  We opted for the most challenging one, ripping out the pantry cabinet, and building a closet from scratch.

Planning out this approach was far more fun that it was to execute.  That being said, I've finally reached the end (or close enough to it) so I feel I can at least talk intelligently about it now.   I would also like to thank the support of my good friend Matt, who guided me through the major phases of the project.

Part I - Ripping out the old cabinet

This part sounds easier than it was, and I wish I had been a little more careful during this step.   Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures, so I'll describe as best I can, what I discovered.   I had assumed, improperly that all of the horizontal attachment points were from the pantry into the other upper and lower cabinets.   Not so.   I removed all of the screws going from right to left, but failed to remove the screws going the other way.  What resulted was my almost ripping off the cabinet facing of the upper cabinets.  Fortunately, my wife was there to catch my mistake before I did real damage.   Once I got all of the screws out, I had to carefully pull the cabinet away from the wall, with only the caulk was then holding it in place.  My wife and I moved the old pantry into the garage, and I cleared the base that the cabinet was sitting on.

Part II - Clearing the floor space

This was definitely the one easy step.   The tiling contractors for our house did a REALLY lousy job putting the tile down in the kitchen.   The thinset stuck to the tile but not to the concrete pad.   This made my life easy.   The tiles all came up in large sections with little or no effort.   I actually had to put my weight on the tiles I did not want to remove yet so that they would remain.   I only needed to remove 6 tiles to start this project.   The new pantry was going to 4 1/2 feet wide, and 2 feet deep.   I scraped the floor to remove any residual thinset, of which there really wasn't any, and then it was time to draw the footprint on the floor

Part III - Laying the footprint

I used a snap line with blue chalk to lay out where the aluminum track was going to go.   This was designed to give us an idea of how much space we were gaining, and how much of the eating area was being breached, without actually constructing any materials.   In fact, we discovered that wanted to add 6 inches to the original design to get more space without really impacting the eating area.   The additional 6 inches also afforded us more side shelf space inside, and made more sense since we had settled on a 24 inch bi-fold door.   This gave us around 10 inch walls inside the closet on each side of the door to work with.   Again, poor planning, no picture.

Part IV - Framing

Using 4 inch aluminum studs and tracks, I constructed a frame for the closet, nearly (but not all the way) up against the existing cabinets.   I needed to leave enough room to slide the left hand side piece of drywall in later.   Here's my first image of the finished framing:

This step was a lot like constructing an erector set.   Something I wish I had known before doing this, and was somewhat led astray by this employee at Lowe's, was that there are self-tapping aluminum stud screws that make the job 10 times easier.   Until my friend Matt advised me otherwise,  I found it necessary to pre-drill each hole and screw in sheet metal screws one by one.   The proper screws to use are these little black screws, they come in box of around 200 and are very sharp.  I recommend going to Home Depot for the studs and screws.   Lowe's had neither the knowledge, nor the proper materials to do this step.   Also visible is the wiring.   The plan for the pantry was to have a light inside on a switch, and a hot outlet on top for various decorations, at my wife's discretion.   Also necessary was the relocation of a wall switch controlling a light hanging over the kitchen table (to the right).   Prior to framing, I fished romex through a 6 inch section of the existing wall from the old switch box, to a hole that I cut behind the track attached to the wall (see the small plastic yellow collar on the back wall).   I sort of got lucky here, there were no furring strips between the switch box and the new hole.  

Here's my first major lesson here which I wish to share with everyone.   I did NOT have a framing square when building the frame.   I wish I had spent the extra $10-$12.   A human being can't accurately judge 90 degree angles with the naked eye.   This oversight caused problems on practically every step along the way to completion.   Next time, I will definitely purchase and use one.

My second lesson relates to the space I left for the door.   We bought a 24" bi-fold door.  The instructions say that the width should be 24", give or take a 1/4" on each side.   I tried very hard to figure in the finished width of the drywall and the joint compound.   I came way too close to having a real problem when I was done, that the door wouldn't fit.  It barely did.   Next time, I would make sure I leave at least another 1/4" on each side.   The space between the door and the wall gets hidden by door casing anyway!!   Better to be too big than too small.   This error could have been catastrophic.

More to come tomorrow...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wii First Impressions

Another first for our family, the kids got a Wii, most generously, from Emily's brothers and sisters-in-law, collectively.   Let me first say, WOW.   Very impressive.   It was a little touchy at first, trying the get the hang of the controller movement, but it's not too hard to get the hang of it.  Then I started to play Table Tennis on Resort Sports, which came with the unit.   I've played a lot of ping pong in my day, actually getting quite good (again, back in the day), so I know how to spin the ball and slam it and such.   This game actually responded to all of the different kinds of returns, sensing my wrist movements and position.   Very cool stuff.

Hookup was easy enough, although I was out of regular analog video inputs on the TV, so I purchased component cables from Best Buy.   I got the Rocketfish component cables, they were $10 less than Nintendo brand ones, but they seem to work just fine.  Good video quality for non-HD.   I also hooked it up to the internet wirelessly, though the only tangible benefit I've seen so far is that I can get the current weather report.   That was a slight challenge, but it was more due to my firewall configuration since the Wii doesn't seem to support WPA2 Personal / TKIP encryption, so I had to change my encryption to handle both TKIP and AES (using Tomato firmware, it was just a setting to change).

As I said earlier, it was a little touchy, but you get used to it.   I'm going to have to spend more time with it to really get a good handle on it, so I'm not the best person to review it yet.   I hope to get more games soon, like Tiger Woods '11 and Madden '11, and then I'll post again about my findings.   I guess there are worse ways to have to spend time.   We'll see if the kids let me get enough time in.   So far, it's a hit with the 9 year old, and even my 3 year old seems to like the Cars Race O Rama game.

More to come...

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Original Moto Droid

I've had my Motorola Droid for a year and change now, and with the announcement that the iPhone is coming to Verizon, I'm sure there will be defectors, but I will not be one of them.   I'm keeping my Droid as long as it keeps turning on, until something much better comes out that uses Android.   I could never bring myself to give up the turn by turn navigation that Google Navigation provides.   Who the heck needs a GPS device when you've got an Android phone?

I've had my phone rooted (hacked for my non-technical readers) for months now, which gives me the ability to do all sorts of fun things on it, like use a non-standard system (of which I use CyanogenMod), wifi-tethering, which allows me to use the internet wherever I want on my laptop, through my phone, and overclocking the processor, which lets the phone run faster than Verizon wants it to run.   Gotta love modern technology, open source software, and lots of motivated developers.

My First Blog Post

It only took me years to do this.   I'm probably the last software engineer on the planet to actually start writing a blog.   I'm going to try to do this at least once a day, or every other day, as time allows.   I'll cover everything that is important to me, which is actually a pretty wide range of topics, including my family, politics, sports, space, home improvement, et. al.   Should be interesting to see how many people I can actually tick off when writing about my political leanings, so I'll try to minimize my ramblings on that particular topic.   Hope you all enjoy, if anyone actually ends up here.    We'll see.