Category Archives: countertops

Jacquela objects

We discover Saturday that the backsplash glass is repaired — and grouted.

But … to date, there are two issues on this remodel where Jacquela has chosen to object — the tile floor in the master shower, where the grout lines do not align with the walls; and the aluminum drip pans under the tankless water heaters.

Today, she lodges complaint #3.

She messages Mark Rehberg and Odell at Ranserve, in part:

First,  I would have thought that the person doing the tile work would have covered the cooktop before working on the tile.  I am really upset.  My cooktop is a mess.  I don't know if there is damage,  or if all of the residue can be removed without further damage.
I don't understand why the cooktop was not protected.
Now,  the grout at the back/sides of the cooktop is messy and needs to me corrected.

Let’s step through this …

Here's the glass top of the induction cooktop and the red glass backsplash. The cooktop glass, clearly, was not protected when the backsplash was grouted. It is caked -- albeit lightly -- with what appears to be white grout powder that was mixed with water and left to air dry. There should have been a plastic sheet over the cooktop to prevent this.
Here’s the glass top of the induction cooktop and the red glass backsplash. The cooktop glass, clearly, was not protected when the backsplash was grouted. It is caked — albeit lightly — with what appears to be white grout powder that was mixed with water and left to air dry. There should have been a plastic sheet over the cooktop to prevent this.
Same shot as above, this time with white lines imposed to identify the second issue -- how the backsplash was grouted with red grout, where.
Same shot as above, this time with white lines imposed to identify the second issue — how the backsplash was grouted with red grout, where.
Jacquela took this photo of the left corner of grout job. The grout is not crisp, it spills like an alluvial plain onto the countertop and up the quartz backsplash.
Jacquela took this photo of the left corner of grout job. The grout is not crisp, it spills like an alluvial plain onto the countertop and up the quartz backsplash.
This is the right corner -- same alluvial plain of red grout spilling out from the corner --and the red grout "bleeds" up the wall formed by the gray quartz backsplash. It also bleeds across the junction of the glass tile and countertop.
This is the right corner — same alluvial plain of red grout spilling out from the corner –and the red grout “bleeds” up the wall formed by the gray quartz backsplash. It also bleeds across the junction of the glass tile and countertop.
A close up of the "bleed" between the glass-tile backsplash and the gray quartz countertop. This line should have been caulked with gray silicon, not the red grout.
A close up of the “bleed” between the glass-tile backsplash and the gray quartz countertop. This line should have been caulked with gray silicon, not the red grout.
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All Cris all the time

There is nothing that Cris from Ranserve can’t do. Framing. Drywall. Concrete. Electrical. Plumbing. Hang fans. Think ahead, plan how to do it.

Today, above, he’s up on the roof, trimming limbs back to clear the route that the City of Austin will use to connect the house to electrical service at telephone pole behind the house.

15 minutes later, back on the ground, armed with multi-tool, Cris has already trimmed drywall away from behind the vanity counter in bath 2. He will inset the backsplash into the slot in the wall. This allows the faucet handles to turn free, without banging against the backsplace if the quartz were mounted against the drywall, instead of inset into the drywall -- an idea that Ron thought of.
15 minutes later, back on the ground, armed with multi-tool, Cris has already trimmed drywall away from behind the vanity counter in bath 2. He will inset the backsplash into the slot in the wall. This allows the faucet handles to turn free, without banging against the backsplace if the quartz were mounted against the drywall, instead of inset into the drywall — an idea that Ron thought of.
Upstairs in bath 3, Cris deploys the multi-tool to cut around the backsplash. He will remove the drywall from this location, as he did in bath 2, then inset the backsplash quartz into the wall, allowing the faucet handles to swing through a complete arc without obstruction.
Upstairs in bath 3, Cris deploys the multi-tool to cut around the backsplash. He will remove the drywall from this location, as he did in bath 2, then inset the backsplash quartz into the wall, allowing the faucet handles to swing through a complete arc without obstruction.
Before Steven arrived, Cris removed one of the two metal straps bracing the horizontal and vertical framing of the new garage door, turned it vertical, nailed it into position -- per instructions from the structural engineer. The City of Austin requires this to prevent uplift when the wind blows strong -- kind of like today, with 30mph wind gusts.
Before Steven arrived, Cris removed one of the two metal straps bracing the horizontal and vertical framing of the new garage door, turned it vertical, nailed it into position — per instructions from the structural engineer. The City of Austin requires this to prevent uplift when the wind blows strong — kind of like today, with 30mph wind gusts.
Heres' the same strapping change at the left side of the garage door.
Heres’ the same strapping change at the left side of the garage door.
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Notes, 20 Jan. 2015

Robert the roofer set to work yesterday nailing shingles to the new roof over the new garage. He returned early today to continue. Steven stepped out the side window of the master bedroom, onto the roof, to see and ask questions.

Above, standing atop the new roof over the new garage, looking back to the house, this is the first time Steven has seen the old and refurbished roof from this altitude — all of about 20+ feet above ground. The new cricket is clearly visible at the back of the chimney. The roofers added this to push water away from the brick. There was no cricket when Steven and Jacquela purchased Emerald Hill. When we opened up the walls in bedroom 4, we discovered water damage and some mold traveling between the roof and chimney, down the brick, behind the sheathing.

When Ranserve constructed the new garage bay, we added an oversized cricket atop the existing garage to push water away from the new structure. At a low pitch of 3/12 and 4/12, the roofers opted to put down the heavy adhesive membrane that normally protects flat roofs -- instead of conventional tar paper or felt.
Early in the morning … When Ranserve constructed the new garage bay, we added an oversized cricket atop the existing garage to push water away from the new structure. At a low pitch of 3/12 and 4/12, the roofers opted to put down the heavy adhesive membrane that normally protects flat roofs — instead of conventional tar paper or felt.
Robert outlined with yellow chalk where he will mount ridge vents.
Robert outlined with yellow chalk where he will mount ridge vents.
Later in the day ... with the ridge vents installed, Robert is cleaning up, nearly done. He still has to install drip edge along the high end of the new roof.
Later in the day … with the ridge vents installed, Robert is cleaning up, nearly done. He still has to install drip edge along the high end of the new roof.
Steven went for a stroll, carefully, on the new roof above the new garage.
Steven went for a stroll, carefully, on the new roof above the new garage.
In the kitchen, the quartz countertop is reinstalled to the island. That's Ron Dahlke, supervising his kingdom.
In the kitchen, the quartz countertop is reinstalled to the island. That’s Ron Dahlke, supervising his kingdom.
The structural engineer required Ron to add waterproofing to the lumber at the garage door framing for the new and old garages.
The structural engineer required Ron to add waterproofing to the lumber at the garage door framing for the new and old garages.

Steven received from Cowart the quote for the new garage door for the new garage bay — and approved it.

The glass door kit for the fireplace arrived today.
The glass door kit for the fireplace arrived today.

Ron and Matt started to clean up the garage; it’s almost time to scrape up the old linoleum tiles, acid wash the glue away, and turn the garage over to Steven and Jacquela.

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Ground Control to Major Tom

David Bowie, 1947-2016. “Check ignition and may God’s love be with you.”

Commencing countdown, engines on …

Welcome to the Monday launch window at Emerald Hill. Ron and Steven set aside time this day to walk the house together for the first time since Steven returned from ShowStoppers @ CES in Vegas. That was the plan. We did work through a long list of open items — garage lights, framing, electrical, plumbing, pending inspections, drywall seams opening up, why the drywall is cut open in several locations.

10 …

Then the install crew for the countertops arrived.

9 …

At first, Miguel, Saul and Luis buzzed through the to-do list.

They mounted the undermount sinks in the master bath to the countertop with silicon and screws, trimmed the 4-inch deep gray quartz shelf to length and glued it into position behind the vanity ...
8 … They mounted the undermount sinks in the master bath to the countertop with silicon and screws, trimmed the 4-inch deep gray quartz shelf to length and glued it into position behind the vanity …
They mounted the sinks in bathroom 3 upstairs ...
7 … They mounted the sinks in bathroom 3 upstairs …

6. Ron left Emerald Hill for a meeting …

They came back to the master bath to install the gray quartz backsplash ...
5 … They came back to the master bath to install the gray quartz backsplash …

4. Matt from Ranserve removed the protective foam from the island countertop …

3. They slid the 5x10-foot slab of quartz off the base cabinets while Matt, at right, watched ...
3. They slid the 5×10-foot slab of quartz off the base cabinets while Matt, at right, watched …

2. They carried into the kitchen the custom-made L-shaped steel support brackets that the countertop maker requires we use to support the quartz as it bridges the two ends of the island …

1.  Miguel and Steven talked in great detail through how to mount the brackets, where to mount the brackets …

Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare …

Saul routes into the cabinet a wider channel to seat the bracket into while Miguel preps ... the wide
Saul routes into the cabinet a wider channel to seat the bracket into while Miguel preps the undermount bracket at the east side of the island. Plans call for 4 brackets spaced across the width of the island, to disperse and support the quartz, protecting it from collapse and breaking. 

And the stars look very different today …

Steven stepped out of the kitchen to talk with the structural engineer inspecting the garage framing, came back into the kitchen, and stopped the work.

Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong …

This is the cut to the cabinet where Steven stopped the adventure.
The install team sliced into the shelf cabinet at the end of the island — and through the cabinet. This is the cut to the cabinet where Steven stopped the adventure.
This is the slice from underneath.
This is the slice from underneath.

Can you hear me, Major Tom?

Steven called Ron. Twice. Texted a photo of the damaged cabinet. 30 minutes went by. Ron called in from his truck, 20 minutes out from Emerald Hill. We waited. MIguel called Austin Stone, supplier of the countertop. Ron arrived. He put the bracket install on hold pending inspection of the cabinets by Aaron, the cabinetmaker, aiming at tomorrow/Tuesday.

In the interim, the install team removed the brackets, placed the countertop back atop the base cabinets.

Here am I floating ’round my tin can …

Next, working with Ron and Steve the electrician, Steven and Miguel measured precisely where to locate the Haefele electrical outlet that will pop up through a hole in the countertop slab. Steve the electrician doublechecked the outlet and electrical supply. We measured one position five or six times. Steven walked around it, thinking, testing the length of the reach from the end of the island. Too far. We shifted it closer to the end. Steven approved. We triplechecked the position. Again. Steven approved it. Again.

Miguel drills the countertop for the electrical outlet while Luis suctions away quartz dust.
Miguel drills the countertop for the electrical outlet while Luis suctions away quartz dust.

Which is when Steven left, making sure that Ron would continue to supervise.

And there’s nothing I can do …

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Hardware arrives

Steven took delivery today of more Schlage locksets purchased from Amazon at nearly 40 percent savings over the “big box” stores. Everything should now be on site in preparation for installation.

Ron Dahlke from Ranserve opened up doors and drawers at Emerald Hill to surprise Steven with several other deliveries.

Above, this device from Hafele features two power outlets and two USB charging ports. It will be installed into the countertop of the island, to power appliances and charge devices. It pops up when needed, disappears below the island countertop when idle. Cool. Suggested by Aaron at Central Texas Custom Cabinets.

These are the big pulls for the front door -- one for exterior, one for interior -- from Sugatsone, delivered by Jonathan at Push Pull Open Close.
These are the big pulls for the front door — one for exterior, one for interior — from Sugatsone, delivered by Jonathan at Push Pull Open Close. They look small in the photo, but they are beefy, substantial, heavy.

Jonathan at Push Pull Open Close also delivered a small carton packed with brown paper bags, each one labeled. Inside each bag is one set of hardware to open, close and latch each pocket door.

Jonathan at Push Pull Open Close also delivered a small carton packed with brown paper bags, each one labeled. Inside each bag is one set of hardware to open, close and latch each pocket door.

Steven opened one of the brown paper bags. Inside is, yes, the pocket door hardware that Jacquela and Steven specced.
Steven opened one of the brown paper bags. Inside is, yes, the pocket door hardware that Jacquela and Steven specced.
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Consider the stone

Saturday. Jacquela and Steven visit Emerald Hill to consider the quartz island by daylight.

Above, a close-up without flash of the fine gray veins inside the fairy white quartz of the island countertop. It’s going to take brilliant lighting to properly photograph the subtle threads that emerge from inside the stone — coming as soon as we power up the electric grid and kitchen LEDs.

DSC_6603

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Consequential countertops

Here are lines from Little Gidding by TS Eliot that Steven asked to be read when Jacquela and Steven married 20 years ago:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

We come today to where this remodel began. The kitchen. We know it for the first time.

It takes minutes to install a countertop on This Old House and other home improvement shows. Today’s adventure at Emerald Hill debunks those happy breaks between commercials where installers go from demo to granite in before and after shots. In contrast, we began at 9 am and ended about 3 pm — but these six hours are some of the most consequential since ripping down the drywall. We have kitchen counters.

The material is quartz — shadow gray at the kitchen sink and cooktop, fairy white at the island. These are selections that Jacquela and Steven approved 16 July 2015 — four months ago. One of the first decisions we made.

With the cabinets mostly installed, with the countertops installed today, the idea around which the kitchen is organized, the idea that Steven first proposed in September 2014, 14 months ago, drawing sketch after sketch of how to get the kitchen we wanted into this house, that idea is finally made physical. We knew when we bought the house that it needed a new kitchen. We wanted to take out the wall between the existing kitchen and the existing family room. Putting in the new kitchen required that we put in new copper wiring. Several architects and builders advised that the City would require us to rip out all the original aluminum wiring. So … what was supposed to be a new kitchen remodel became gutting the house down to the studs. Which gave Steven the ability to turn the kitchen 90 degrees — from the original east-west axis to, instead, north-south, taking out the wall, uniting the kitchen with the family room — and also creating a walk-in pantry.

Before -- the existing kitchen as it was inspected, just before Jacquela and Steven bought it. The wall to the left of the photo divides the kitchen from the family room. Behind the red wall is a small vertical closet used as a pantry, a water closet with toilet, and the utility room. To the right is the four-burner electric cooktop, with a downdraft exhaust fan that is duct-taped to a vent through the exterior brick. Saltillo tile on the floor. A four-tube fluorescent fixture that was installed as part of a remodel -- we guess sometime during the 70s or 80s.
Before — the existing kitchen as it was inspected, just before Jacquela and Steven bought it. The wall to the left of the photo divides the kitchen from the family room. Behind the red wall is a small vertical closet used as a pantry, a water closet with toilet, and the utility room. To the right is the four-burner electric cooktop, with a downdraft exhaust fan that is duct-taped to a vent through the exterior brick. Saltillo tile on the floor. A four-tube fluorescent fixture that was installed as part of a remodel — we guess sometime during the 70s or 80s.

Everyone who has worked on this house has worked to make this day possible. Thank you.

Let’s begin the photo tour.

Delivery

Sink slab

First problem

The counter on this wall runs more than 12 feet long. It requires two slabs of quartz. Where the two slabs meet, they are both flush against the wall when placed into position, but the front edges do not align. Efrem proposes to Steven and Ron that he slice open the drywall in order to be able to slide the longer right-side slab into the drywall, insetting it, until the front edges of both slabs meet evenly. Steven and Ron approve.
The counter on this wall runs more than 12 feet long. It requires two slabs of quartz. Where the two slabs meet, they are both flush against the wall when placed into position, but the front edges do not align. Efrem proposes to Steven and Ron that he slice open the drywall in order to be able to slide the longer right-side slab into the drywall, insetting it, until the front edges of both slabs meet evenly. Steven and Ron approve.

First solution

This is how Marcello makes shims -- slicing out wedges from a 2x4, by hand, by knife.
This is how Marcello makes shims — slicing out wedges from a 2×4, by hand, by knife.

Mind the gap

Efrem and team use Acetone to wipe clean the quartz countertops, each step of the install process.
Efrem and team use Acetone to wipe clean the quartz countertops, each step of the install process.
It's clean enough that Efrem sets down his apple for lunch. He's earned the first meal to be served from the new counters.
It’s clean enough that Efrem sets down his apple for lunch. He’s earned the first meal to be served from the new counters.

Seamless

Silicon 1

Sink cutouts

Cooktop cutout

Backsplash

The island

It took more than five hours to install the cooktop/sink countertop — meticulous and careful work. By contrast, the 5-foot-by-10-foot slab of quartz for the island goes in in less than 30 minutes — no cuts required. This beast weighs more than 400 pounds. Efrem, Marcello and Hazil moved deliberately, rehearsing each step.

Efrem wipes down the island slab with acetone.
Efrem wipes down the island slab with acetone.
To finish for the day, Efram installed and cleaned the first slab of quartz carried into the house -- positioning it inside the cabinet to go under the toaster oven.
To finish for the day, Efrem installed and cleaned the first slab of quartz carried into the house — positioning it inside the cabinet to go under the toaster oven.
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Templating, part 2

With the kitchen island cabinets now in place, “Dimensional R” from Austin Stone Works — he asks to not be named, and to not have his face photographed — is back to build the template for the kitchen island.

Today, R uses thin strips of wood instead of the white plastic. He has to span the storage cabinets at the right side of photo, above, across the open seating area where we plan to put four stools, to the shelf cabinet at the far left end of the island. The plastic will sag; the wood strips hold their dimensions.

Everything must be clearly marked for the fabricators -- which template abuts the next -- in order for the quartz to be cut correctly.
Everything must be clearly marked for the fabricators — which template abuts the next — in order for the quartz to be cut correctly.
R opened a package of the cabinet pulls, using one as a reference to determine how far past the pull the countertop should extend -- 3/4 of an inch.
R opened a package of the cabinet pulls, using one as a reference to determine how far past the pull the countertop should extend — 3/4 of an inch out from the front of the cabinet box, where the tape measure starts, to just past the front of the pull.
Now that he knows the pull dimensions and clearance, R builds an entirely new template for the counter that runs from the dishwasher past the sink and cooktop to the dog station at the end closest to the camera.
Now that he knows the pull dimensions and clearance, R builds an entirely new template for the counter that runs from the dishwasher past the sink and cooktop to the dog station at the end closest to the camera.
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Countertop templating

It’s a dual-milestone day at Emerald Hill. The first is the arrival of the carpenters. The second is … “Dimensional R” is in the house to measure for kitchen countertops.

R asks Steven to not use his name — and to not “capture his soul” by photographing his face. He stays off the Net.

Steven complies by posting the photo above, the back of R’s head as he templates for the quartz countertop at the run of cabinets for the dishwasher, sink and cooktop.

R uses strips of white plastic — not easily visible against the white cabinets — to template the counter. The first step is to determine what the overhang will be — 1/2 inch past the face of the cabinets, or 1/4-inch. Steven chooses the larger overhang to help keep dripping liquids further away from the front of the cabinet drawers and doors.

Next, R lays out the strips — and discovers that the cabinets are not perfectly square. Instead, they bow inward toward the wall all of 1/16th of an inch. He computes the math and compensates with a series of strips that are first tacked into place with a staple-gun and then glued together. Ron offers to ask Aaron to reinstall the cabinets — but R says that variance is nothing compared to what he has had to work around on other jobs.

Step by step, strip by strip, R lays out what will become the guide that Austin Stone will use to cut the quartz to size, deliver, and install.

One big step closer to finishing this remodel. Milestone!

R documents on the strip every measure of the counter that the fabricators will need when cutting the quartz.
R documents on the strip every measure of the counter that the fabricators will need when cutting the quartz.
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Notes, 15-16 July 2015

  • Draw 1 update. After weeks of delay, it looks like the wire transfer payment to Ranserve will take place 17 July, paid by the Leons from funds on deposit for this purpose at South Star Bank SSB — but only after a wire transfer of additional funds by the Leons into the account at South Star, as demanded requested by South Star. For months, Steven has made clear that the Leons are responsible for and will pay the difference between the contract price of the remodel, the funds on deposit at the bank, and the loan amount approved by the bank. South Star finally caught up with the math. Now that the payment gears are turning, we move on with getting the house remodeled, finished, and the Leons moved into it.
  • Draw 2. The irony is, Kathleen at Ranserve reports that the second draw paperwork is forthcoming, probably 17 July.
  • Medicine cabinets. The medicine cabinets with integrated LED lighting arrived via FedEx ground from Lighted Image. The LED-7 model — two for bath 2, Jadin’s bath, and one for the mudroom bath. The LED-12 model — two for the master bath.
  • Countertops. Steven and Jacquela approved the addition to the countertop quote from Austin Stone Works of a quartz backsplash at the kitchen sink to match the quartz countertop, and quartz shelving for use in the master bath in the shower and behind the vanity. Kathleen at Ranserve warns us that we have now busted the countertop budget by $8.68, plus some amount in “overhead & profit” to Ranserve for processing this change. Every dollar counts …
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