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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