Counter Strike

Today, Mark and I installed a butcher-block countertop. We had to cut it to the right shape, first. As expected for Bob’s house, this project was anything but straightforward.

The counter goes not in the kitchen but in the laundry room, which is also the upstairs bathroom. It provides a work surface over the washer and dryer for folding clothes and so on. We endeavored to run the counter the entire length of the room, wall to wall… and the walls are weird. One of them is actually the sloping ceiling; the other follows a funky angle. How could we measure the dimensions to cut our counter? With the sloping ceiling, measuring an inch too high or low would give us the wrong length, and with the odd wall, we couldn’t hold a tape measure straight.

My solution was to make a template. Mark got a big piece of cardboard (from the box our counter arrived in) and held it (with a level on top) where the counter would go. I marked endpoints, cut the cardboard to size with a utility knife, and checked my work by holding it up again. Once we were satisfied, we traced the shape onto our counter. Three passes with the circular saw and we carried the counter from our cut station in the barn to the laundry room in the house. It was slightly too long, so we carried it back to the barn, cut off a sliver, and carried it back to the laundry room. This time it fit like a glove.

Mark cuts the counter, very carefully. (The cardboard template leans right of our saw table.)

Mark cuts the counter, very carefully. (The cardboard template leans right of our saw table.)

While the counter is 25 inches wide (which covers a standard-depth kitchen cabinet with a 1-inch overhang), the appliances are deeper than that, so Mark envisioned a removable shelf to span the remaining 6 inches or so to the back wall. That’s a work in progress. But more pressing, we needed to secure the counter without any support from the back. Mark installed a ledger on the odd wall and built a sort of leg to support the center. On the other end, he screwed directly through the counter to the ceiling rafters. The result: a beautiful, functional maple surface with no visible nails or screws!

Screwing through the ledger.

Screwing through the ledger.

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Stuffed

Colin and family moved in! The new house isn’t quite finished (although truly, whose house is EVER finished?), but filled with their stuff it feels very livable.

Barn upstairs brings to mind the final scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Barn upstairs brings to mind the final scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Colin and Terry worked many, many late nights this winter to bring the house to move-in condition. Here’s a journey in pictures through our Field of Dreams.

Sunny kitchen with countertops, sinks, window trim, and seating.

Sunny kitchen with countertops, sinks, window trim, and seating.


Peeking into the finished office from the unfinished living-room hearth surround.

Peeking into the finished office from the unfinished living-room hearth surround.


Top of the stairs, with lights and doors but still no railing.

Top of the stairs, with lights and doors but still no railing.


Gorgeous shelving system in the master closet.

Gorgeous shelving system in the master closet.


Showstopping tile surround for the master bathroom's shower.

Showstopping tile surround for the master bathroom’s shower.

And we’re not done yet. Look forward to basement finishes, more fixtures, more window trim, the hearth and stairs, porch work, and the completion of exterior siding in the coming weeks.

Woodshop: Moving Cabinets

Previously in Woodshop we discussed how to install a cabinet, a crucial skill for new construction. Today we’ll explore the remodeling counterpart: how to remove a cabinet from the wall intact and then (maybe) re-hang it in a new location.

Start by taking everything out of the cabinet. Think of it as a good opportunity to reorganize the contents! Also remove drawers and non-fixed shelves, and unscrew the door hinges from the cabinet frame. These steps reduce the weight and keep moving elements out of the way while you handle the frame.

Assess how the cabinet is currently attached to the wall. This unit in Bob’s house had four screws spaced equally along the top edge of the frame. First, remove any fasteners along the bottom or at mid-height, since it’s the top edge that supports the cabinet’s weight. Then, grab a strong friend and have him or her support the cabinet while you remove the top fasteners. Slowly pull the cabinet from the wall – you might have to run a utility knife blade around the edge so you don’t peel paint – and set it down on a drop cloth.

We removed this cabinet from Bob's doomed kitchen wall and hung it in the dining room.

We removed this cabinet from Bob’s doomed kitchen wall and hung it in the dining room.

Next, determine the new position of your cabinet and pre-drill screw holes. At Bob’s house we had the benefit of full barnboard walls, meaning we could attach our screws anywhere and get a solid structural connection. But if the finish is drywall then you’ll be well advised to locate the studs.

Run a level along the wall, too. Bob’s target wall was shockingly out of plumb, requiring us to install a cleat behind the cabinet bottom for spacing, plus trim to fill the wedge-shaped gaps between the wall and the cabinet back. You definitely don’t want your shelves to slope.

The wedge-shaped trim detail that makes Bob's cabinet plumb.

The wedge-shaped trim detail that makes Bob’s cabinet plumb.

Finally, have your friend hold the cabinet steady in its new location until you’ve drilled in two screws for support. Thank your friend. Drill in the remaining screws, reinstall the shelves/drawers/doors, and fill ‘er up.