Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Kitchen Reno IX, Visible Progress

We have finally reached the point where our progress in the kitchen is visible and satisfying.

All of the cabinets are installed, shimmed and leveled.  It took a lot of shims because the floors in this old house are pretty wacky.  All of the beadboard is painted and installed, too.  There's quite a bit of trim work that still has to be done, but at least we're seeing a kitchen instead of a big empty space.

After the plumbing is done (hopefully by tomorrow), we can start on the island concrete countertop.  While that is curing, we can finish up all the trim stuff that needs to be done.

It's exciting to see it all coming together!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Kitchen Reno VIII, Countertop Update

We've taken the forms off of our second test slab and it's much better.  To see the detail, you'll have to double click on images.

The edges with the melamine are very smooth.  I wish we could get our top that smooth without sanding it.  There are air bubbles which make pock marks.  I don't have a problem with that because I like the irregularity of concrete.  But, if we decide it will look even better without the pock marks, we can use a slurry method to fill them.

The "white" concrete mix is not what I expected.  It's not possible to achieve a true white because of the sand necessary to make the concrete mix, so I wasn't expecting white.  I was actually expecting just a lighter shade of the normal concrete gray color.  Instead, it is more of a creamy color and a lot of the sand in the mix shows with just a light hand sanding.  I'm sure it will still look great, but it throws the vision I had in my mind off just a little.

The veining is still there, but it is very light.  The feather made grooves in the cement that we don't want.  I'll try another method of painting on the marbling after we've properly sanded the concrete.  Unfortunately, it has been very difficult to find the sanding/polishing pads that we need.  We'll probably have to order them off the internet and maybe even buy a new sander.  We did not "tent" our slab with plastic to cure as was recommended by all tutorials.  I don't know if that has hurt our finished product, but we will be tenting the kitchen concrete as directed.

This is the set of cabinets in the barn that we've been working with.  There's another set just like them to the left of this one.  We'll eventually put a countertop on those, but right now we have to concentrate on getting the cabinets in the kitchen so that we can create the countertop in there.

We're getting close.  Nephew has been installing cabinets today.
Yay!  I'm so excited!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kitchen Reno VII, More Test Countertops

Since our first test concrete countertop was such a disaster, we poured another test pad today.  Nephew and I took deep cleansing breaths and told each other, "Today, we are not going to panic.  We're going to take our time and follow the plan."  With confidence, we set up our equipment and started mixing the concrete...water first.  It went much more smoothly and we made our Quikrete mix a little wetter for easier pouring and in hopes that we wouldn't have the rough edge this time around.

I manually pressed down all of the concrete before and after the rebar was installed.  Nephew carefully screed the surface to make it level, then troweled it to make it smooth.

One of the things that we forgot to do in our rush the day before was to vibrate the forms after the concrete was poured.  Vibrating the forms makes the air bubbles rise to the top.  In the tutorials that I read and watched, they all suggested running an orbital sander along the sides of the form.  Because we were so calm, cool, and collected, we remembered this step.

I wasn't convinced that just running it along the edge would be enough, so I also vibrated the bottom of the form.  It does work.  We could see the bubbles rising to the surface and popping.

This is our first test slab, dried.  Eek!

And this is our second test slab, still wet.

I sprinkled my three colors of extra fine glitter on the surface.  Then did another marbling test.

I think it turned out pretty good.

I diluted the charcoal concrete tint with water and while the concrete was still quite wet, I painted it on with a chicken feather.

I don't know how far the tint will soak into the surface.  I expect it won't sink in far enough and when we sand it, the marbling will be sanded off.  But, I have a back-up plan that I will try after the sanding.  I also have a feeling that the glitter will sand off, but when we pour our kitchen slab, I will add the glitter to the cement as we're pouring it.  That way, it will be mixed in and will be deeper than just the surface.

Kitchen Reno VI, First Test Pour

After we put the cement mixer together, we were ready to mix the concrete.

The first thing we learned was (1) put the water into the mixer FIRST.  Then add the concrete in batches, letting each one mix thoroughly before adding the next batch.  We're using Quikrete Countertop Mix in white.  All we have to do is add water (no sand or rocks or additives), which is great, but still, Nephew wouldn't have to be aiding the mixer with a shovel if we had done it right.  Also, you can avoid panic and urgent cries of, "Add water! Add water!"

It's just all around better to do it that way.

Cement dust is bad for you.  Don't breathe it.  It puffs up out of the mixer while you add it.

Here's the first pour.  We thought it was a pretty good consistency.  The instructions say to add one gallon of water per 80 pound bag of concrete mix.  It actually took more than that to get it pourable.

After the first pour, we were too panicked and horrified to take pictures.  Even if I had thought about it, I had wet cement coated gloves on and couldn't pick up my camera.  So, you'll just have to imagine what it might have looked like.  

We poured a thin layer, then laid rebar on that, then poured more over it.  I patted it down and pushed it into the corners and the little channel across the front and sides that will form the lip of the countertop. 

OK, so I thought I might be able to make the concrete look like carrera marble.  My thought was that I could sprinkle extra fine glitter onto the surface and then kind of trowel it in.  Then I could use the liquid concrete tint sort of as a paint.  I bought charcoal because when I paint with grey or black, I can get all kinds of shades of grey.  My reasoning was that I was painting on a white background and that the tint would just kind of ooze into the surface and when it was troweled, it would streak and look like marble veining.

I was so, so wrong.

The tint was so strong and I used waaay too much of it.  I wish I had pictures of our horrified faces as Nephew troweled over it and it turned into big ugly black streaks.  I ran for a rag to press on the surface to soak up as much of the tint as I could, but it was too late.


OK, so we know what not to do.

As part of our test process, we had to test which material would be best for the form edges.  The prevailing wisdom is to use melamine for the best results.  It's supposed to produce a smoother surface and release easier when it's time to take the forms off.  For this side, we used plywood.

As you can see, it's not so good.  It's all bumpy.  Not good for a kitchen island.  We determined that on our next test we will (1) use a little more water to make the mix flow a little better, (2) manually and with a trowel press each layer of concrete down really good.  In the picture, you can see that there is a nice smooth edge at the bottom of the slab.  That's the layer that we poured, troweled, then laid the rebar on.  We didn't really press down that much on the top layer, I guess. And, (3) vibrate the countertop to shake the air bubbles out.  We had planned to do that on this one, but were so freaked out that we completely forgot until it was all over with.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kitchen Reno V - Concrete Countertops

Nephew and I decided on concrete countertops for the kitchen, but neither of us has ever done it before.  He came up with the great idea to practice on the cabinets he built in the barn.  He needed countertops and was going to make them out of plywood, but concrete is even better, and...we do need to practice.  So, concrete countertops in the barn, here we come!

Here are the forms that Nephew built.  He divided this one slab into four sections.  We planned it all out and were going to try a different technique on each section.  We didn't actually follow through on said plan, though, because when we started mixing the concrete, panic ensued and most of our meticulous (or slap dash, as the case may be) planning flew out the barn door.

As an aside, I really am, at heart, a slacker.  I didn't want to practice.  I just wanted to jump right in and pour beautiful concrete right in the middle of the kitchen.  But, I was persuaded by Nephew's logic.  And, I gotta tell ya', it's a good thing.

I've watched the tutorials and have seen that we must caulk the edges with silicone.  So, I diligently caulked.  I love the straight lines.  Don't you?

OK, so I'm pretty sure this was NOT MY JOB.

My job is designer of fun stuff, not builder of equipment.

Tom had bought a little cement mixer to do another project later this year, which he graciously allowed us to use for our own project.  It came in a box and needed assembly.  Well, I thought assembly meant taking it out of the box, putting the drum on the stand and filling it with concrete.

Uh, no.

It was all in pieces.  The above picture shows it half assembled.  And, for some reason, we were doing this in the blazing hot sun.  And no breeze.

The instructions were ridiculous.  It took both of us, with our brains, to decipher these pages.  Yes, it was in English, but not for normal people.

We finally got it together with minimal taking it back apart and reassembling.

Let the concrete pouring begin!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kitchen Reno IV, Finished Floors

The floors are finished!

So lovely.

I laid down construction paper to protect the floors from our tromping in and out.  I left the bare places in the areas where the cabinets will go since we don't want to install cabinets on top of the paper.  I hated to cover them up, but it will be worth it to keep them unmarred during the construction.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kitchen Reno III - Making Things Beautiful

Nephew sanded the floor.
(I should have just painted the rest of that brown living room.)

We had a friend recommend using a product called JimSeal on the wood floor.  On Sunday, I halfway listened to Nephew and Tom talk about it and didn't really give it much thought, assuming Nephew had the same vision for the wood floor as I did.  I awoke on Monday morning to the thought, "JimSeal...GymSeal...GYMseal!?  Oh no, that's a product to seal gymnasium floors!  The floor is going to look like a gymnasium!?"  What a horrible thought.  I could hardly wait for Nephew to wake up so I could text him, "NO GYMSEAL! NO GLOSSY FLOORS!"

Thankfully, he had not sealed the floor yet.  That's the first time I was grateful that something HADN'T been done yet.  Turns out he wasn't using that product anyway, but just to be safe, he returned the semi-gloss product and got a satin.  Phew!

Now, I can relax.
For a moment.
Deadline is looming.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Late Season Produce

I thought my garden was done, but the eggplant got a second wind.  I hadn't even looked at my green bean vines in weeks.  Today, while picking the peppers (which always produce until they freeze), I looked at my beans and they were loaded.

 I picked until my sack was full and this is what I got.  There's probably this much more left on the vine.  I thought they might be old and tough because some of them are pretty big and fat, but I cooked some for dinner tonight and they were tender and tasty.

I guess I'll be preserving some beans.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Kitchen Reno II

We've almost attained clean slate status on the kitchen.  Nephew plans to refinish the wood floor this week.  After that, the actual install can begin.  We're on a deadline now.  Well, we don't actually have a date, but we need to have it ready before Thanksgiving.  There's a lot to do.

Here's where we are...

There was a narrow wall to the left of the door, which we removed so that we could extend the cabinets all the way to the side light next to the door.  The light switch and power outlet were in the wall, so they had to be moved to the outer wall.  A couple of outlets had to be repositioned on the other kitchen wall, as well as new wiring for new lighting.  My electrical engineer husband helped with the wiring for lights and power.  

Since the sink is in the island, that's where the water line runs.  The refrigerator will go to the left of the window, so Nephew put a box and water line hookup for the ice maker there.  The water line for that runs under the floor to the island.

After I scraped the ceiling, Nephew smoothed it out and lightly retextured it, then I painted it.  It's so nice to see a clean fresh coat of paint.  The old kitchen had only one light fixture in the middle of the room.  Now it has three can lights.  There will be two pendant lights above the island.  The light boxes and wiring are ready for those. 

The new supports are freshly sheet rocked and primed.  As it usually goes with renovations, one thing leads to another.  I had no intention of extending my efforts beyond the kitchen and dining area, but when the beams were torn out, the corner of that far wall (the white one) had to be torn up.  There was a built in book case there that had to be taken out and there was a hole in the sheetrock behind that.  Nephew had to patch it all and I couldn't just leave big unpainted patches, so while priming the dining room wall, I just continued on into the living area since I had enough primer.

The green and blue patches scattered about are the colors I'm testing out.  They actually look darker in the pictures than they do in real life.

Look here for before pictures .