What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kitchen Renovation Update - Tiling Edge Problem

I mentioned the tiling edge problem in my last update. Unfortunately the big box store didn't tell us there was an edging for the tile. The general consensus from the home improvement store was to use the trim that meant we would be lifting all the edging tiles, applying the edging, thin-set then re-grouting. I was seriously sickened at this thought. My husband picked up the trim, left it in the car for the day to find it had more curves than a slinky! We decided to do a small test stretch on the breaksfast island.

The problem was there were no matching bull nose trim for this tile. We had decided this was the tile we wanted so planned on doing a wood edging. However, the fridge put a kibosh to that plan. We simply did not have the play for an additional ½ inch on the fridge size if we wanted to get into the freezer compartment. If anything we wanted to gain a little space on that side of the breakfast island. The fridge is about 18 months old so the prospect of replacing it was not over appealing. So we went onto plan B that did not come about without presenting its problems resulting in raising the height of the finished counter top by ⅞ inch so the tile edge would fit over the dishwasher and the unfinished edge of the tiles showing. My husband thought the grout would cover the tile edges and it did for some but still most of the edges were dark, interfering with the visual continuity and simply just didn't look right. I immediately thought of painting them.

My husband checked at the hardware store and the lumber store. Both said the tile edges could not be painted because paint would not stick to the tile. By now we were both frustrated and irritated. He bought a heavy duty ripper and set about making a groove under the top edging tiles on the breakfast bar along the short end consisting of 6 tiles. He cut the edging so only about ⅛ inch of the bottom would go into the groove then ran a bead of silicone along the cut portion of the plastic edging and pressed it into the groove. This was plan A suggested by the lumber store. The next morning the silicone was still not set up! At the same time my husband hated the look. The trim interfered with the continuity and according to him looked cheap. He was also concerned that the edging would not standup to the wear and tear of daily use.

By the time he got home that night the silicone still had not set up so clearly that idea was not going to work. We resigned ourselves to the fact the tiles would have to be removed in order to use the trim but we still were not satisfied with the look of the trim. After dinner he set about starting to remove the edging tiles on the breakfast bar. He had the short end removed along with almost 3 feet of one long end raised when our neighbour stopped by to see our progress. He immediately said why not just paint them? We explained the problem but he said it could be done. My husband stopped raising the tiles and after a nice visit with our neighbour I went online to search. I found several references that said ceramic tile can be painted using a special primer and enamel. I printed off one so my husband could take it to the paint store the next day.

This is a long established business with about as much paint knowledge as you can get! This was duh moment number one as in why didn't we think of this first? He took a piece of the tile with him to explain the problem along with the printed recommendations. Without even reading the recommendations they immediately said, you need melamine paint. This was duh moment number two! I've worked with melamine paint before so why didn't I think of it? The nice thing is this is a very durable, scrubable enamel paint that results in a gorgeous finish. It is oil based so is not water clean-up. They tinted it to match the tile which is slightly off white.

I used this paint for the cabinets and countertops in our third house. We were visiting friends just after they had decorated their kitchen. Their countertop was a gorgeous shade of deep teal, a perfect match for their wall colour and border. I commented on it to find that they had painted the countertop! I got all the details then painted the countertop in our third home to reflect the country blue tones in the newly installed ceramic tile floor. [I'll be posting an entry on painting laminate countertops when we get to the laundry room as that is what I'm planning to do.]

The solution was not for the faint of heart. We had to re-attach the tiles then grout before proceeding. Using a small (¼ inch) sable, angle artist brush the edge of each exposed tile was tediously painted. I was careful to not get paint on the grout. Then the paint was allowed to dry for 24 hours. The results were amazing after the first coat of paint so that was quite encouraging! The process was repeated then allowed to dry for another 24 hours before putting a third and final coat of the paint on the edges. The whole process was time consuming and tedious but not overly difficult.

If you recall from the previous update, we had decided to paint the trim around the window. Even though it was the middle colour in the paint chip used for family room that shares a common wall in the kitchen, the pale sea green trim just didn't look right against tile around the window. I used the same melamine paint for this trim as well. It took three coats but I'm quite pleased with the results. This simple change makes the window trim flow into the tiles keeping the visual continuity but it also has slightly better reflective properties.

The kitchen is starting to look more like a kitchen and less like a work zone. The edging looked quite nice after one coat of paint. A small bowl of pure vanilla kept the paint odour in check. I lost the drawer under the sink and the panel where the old sink was is not quite usable because it would hit the stove. We still have to put a handle on that to keep the look of the kitchen. We had to cut the drawer (bottom right) to fit the pipes but surprisingly did not lose a lot in terms of storage. The corner cabinet is going to be maximized for storage so I will write about that when completed.

An end is in sight as far as the tiling goes. However, there is still a lot of finishing touches. I'm really a detail person so tend to be very nit picky about the finishing touches. At the same time I'm the one who tends to do these extras. My husband will say something to the effect of "How should we finish this?" I come up with the how to and unless it involves lifting or heavy work, I make it happen myself. So there are still things like caulking, painting, grout sealing and cabinet trim, all in progress at various stages. Once all that is completed, I will do a final cleaning of all surfaces, put the cartridges back into the stove, put things away and the kitchen will be finally finished.

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Kitchen Continued

We have finally made a lot of progress in the kitchen but it has not been without a lot of headaches and frustration. It was 2 weeks without a fully functional kitchen. Even though I had a temporary kitchen set up and alternate means of cooking it was still stressful. The kitchen technically will not be fully functional until the final clean-up is completed after the grout lines have been sealed. Until then it is still a work in progress.

Stove Re-installed

The stove (1) is a JennAir® downdraft system. To protect the cartridges, we removed them for the renovation. The centre slot is the downdraft vent that with the help of a powerful fan located under the stove and hidden by the front panel vents the stove when cooking or indoor grilling. The front panel also provides access to the grease cup. A smaller fan keeps the stove vented when baking or cleaning the oven. The stove cannot be simply slid into place. The large fan unit sits up about 10 inches meaning the stove has to be lifted up and over this unit for installation. Let me tell you, re-installing the stove was not quite as easy as you would think. It proved to be very frustrating. We had to make height adjustments because we had raised the counter by a total of ⅞ inch. The stove had to sit just perfectly in the opening and there was no room for adjustments.

Any DIY project should look like it was done by a professional. Although watching HGTV some professionals don't always do a professional job. There was no bull nose tile or finishing tile for the tile we wanted so we decided to do simple edging. The problem was the edge of the tiles were not finished and that showed (2). We planned to carefully paint the edges only to find out that paint would not adhere well and there is a special edging for this type of tile. This is why you should get your advice and supplies from a knowledgeable home improvement store instead of the big box stores. We saved a lot of money on the tile but they neglected to tell us about the edging that is ideally installed along with the tile. Anyway we have two solutions both that set us back. The first recommendation is to remove the grout along the seams, clean out the seams then cut the edging to fit and affix with silicone. We have done a test strip on the breakfast island. It looks great but we want to make sure the silicone holds. The second alternative is to remove all the edging pieces, tack the edging strips into place then glue the pieces in place and re-grout. By now I'm about to pull my hair out! Oh and my husband found an awesome deal on ceramic tiles for the entrance when he was picking up the edging strips. That will be our next project so do check for posts on that. Hopefully it goes smoother than the kitchen!


We bought a Moen® single bowl sink (3), the largest that would fit the space. It is deeper than my old one and a half bowl sink. The first thing we had to do to install the sink was tidy up the edges of the opening. This wasn't difficult and it is better to have pare down a little than find you are shy of support underneath. The sink was set in place to ensure a good fit then removed while the necessary plumbing was done.

What is surprising is that sinks are really not supported by a lot of material in terms of width given how much a filled sink can hold. The width of the sink rim resting on the countertop is only about ⅜ inch all around. That means you need strong countertop that is protected from water damage.

Drain & Water Lines

If you recall our house is older and somethings were not done quite right. We were forced into working within the space we had for this renovation because we cannot add on in any direction and removing the cabinets would have affected the adjoining family room wood ceiling that flows through to the kitchen. We decided to leave the existing drain in the adjoining cabinet then attach to it (4,5). There was two reasons why we did this. First moving the drain by less than 2 feet would mean removing the cabinet floors and going though cement as we are below ground level. It would also mean moving the water lines for sink, dishwasher and refrigerator. Second it would eliminate all three drawers in that cabinet rather than eliminating one. Instead we drilled through the cabinet wall to make the connections. We included a nice slope as well as the mandatory P trap to ensure no future plumbing problems.

We gained space in the original cabinet with the plumbing as well. Removal of the drain lines for the two sinks as well as cleaning up the lines moving them towards the back of the cabinet left plenty of room to install removable shelves for access to plumbing if need be. I will make a separate post on this solution later as well as a post on all the problems we ran into during this renovation.


A little water is capable of doing a horrendous amount of damage. It can cause the press board used in laminate countertops to swell. It can cause molding and rot as well. Any time there is the potential of water damage during the normal use of a room and that basically means all rooms because even condensation can cause water damage, all possible measures to prevent water damage should be taken.

It is critical to seal the area around the sink and the space between the sink and countertop. We used a heavy bead of latex caulk (20 yr durability, weather shield) to fill the underside of the sink lip (6). This is my caulk of choice when possible. The sink was then put in the opening and pushed down tight to form a good seal. The sink was then secured with the included anchors and connected to the drain.


The faucet (7) was connected using flex hose. This is a little more expensive but it is ready to go so all you have to do is twist to connect. There's no soldering or cutting pipes so it really is worth the extra expense. The sink was ready to test.We used 1.5" ABS piping for the drain. This included using ABS solvent cement that take 1 minute to set up. It is rather smelly but it does work nicely. Application is by dry fitting the ABS joints then applying a generous amount of the cement to one piece of ABS then use a twisting action to fit the piece into the joint and allow to set up.

Once the cement has set up the drain can be tested. We let it set up for a good hour before running water through. Clean-up for the caulk was left to the following day simply to allow the caulk to set up firmly. This caulk come off of ceramic tile and stainless steal nicely using a bit of light abrasion. A heavy textured tea towel works nicely for this purpose.

At Day's End

Sunday was a very, very long and frustrating day. We didn't get as much accomplished as we wanted and we discovered a couple of fundamental flaws aka let's do a bit of backtracking. The new drain system (9) worked well so we are pleased. We have to camouflage the wood to raise the stove (10) likely with dark brown paint. There is a lot of I'm being picky for the grout seams, the tile edging and caulking around the window to do. Wherever two different surfaces meet we will be caulking because that is what Mike Holmes says to do. We are also painting the final small remainder of the window frame white. We are looking at another good week of the kitchen not being fully functional.

Ok, we are so close yet so far. An average DIYer would likely leave the project as is out of sheer frustration but we aren't going to do that. That edging has to go on even if it means removing the edging row of tiles and re-installing. So that is where we are as of today. We've tried a couple of solutions but so far things are leaning towards removing and re-installing the edging tiles.

Will this kitchen renovation ever end? I'm so looking forward to our next project, the entrance hall but first I would like the kitchen completed!

Garden Gnome

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Onto Grouting

Unless you are a DIYer you can't possibly relate to home renovations where life gets in the way. In fairness if I have to choose between family or getting a project finished, family will win hands down every time! On the flip side that means living with chaos for some renovations. It also means some frazzled nerves!


We bought the tiling supplies the first week of March. They have been sitting in that same spot harbouring spiders and the occasional centipede since then. This is the common wall that goes from family room into the kitchen opposite of the breakfast bar. Now I really didn't mind the supplies sitting there because that's where they were going to be used within a week or two. Alrighty then life got in the way so we didn't get to the tiling until August. It seriously wasn't a problem with the exception of stubbing toes on the boxes if you went around the breakfast bar at the wrong angle. The stack became a conversation piece (very upscale so I'm told) and then a dreaded hot zone. Things got stacked on top of the stack! It really wasn't a good situation!


I was very excited to see the tile going onto the walls and countertop. It was a lot and I do mean a lot of work. Just out of range to the left of this picture my husband made a tiling error using length of part tiles where they should have been full tiles. The problem was and still is we do not work well together on DIY projects. It's because I have the ideas and do the research while he does the manual things I can't. That means he doesn't listen to me and I get frustrated because he isn't listening meaning I don't listen to him. The funny thing is despite the bickering and frustration we do good work together although neither of us see it until the project is nearing completion. Anyway, this little error meant me doing a ribbit (knitting term for ripping out) the next morning from under one cabinet to behind the fridge and the counter between the fridge and stove. I was not a happy camper! We did have a not so quite family discussion regarding this issue. Unfortunately my mood worsened when it took 2 days to get the thin set off the tiles but being frugal I persisted. Anyway, this is what the tile looked like Wednesday night. Despite the setback thinks still looked pretty good. Oh, the window trim (1) is a bit debatable right now.


Thursday was grout day and you would think it would go smoothly. We figured it would take an hour to grout then let it sit the 2 hours before wiping down. Wrong! We mixed half the grout and that was a chore itself because that stuff doesn't mix nicely and I wasn't about to use my stick blender. So after much stirring it was ready to use. The premise is you put the grout on at a 90º angle then remove at a 45º angle while pushing the grout into the seams. Fine and dandy except no one told the grout this is what was supposed to happen! It was just a bit more work than anticipated and took longer than the hour. We definitely are going to be painting the window trim (4) white to match the tiles. Despite careful clean-up of the grout after 2 hours there were still spots (3) to deal with the following day including spots on the wood cabinets (2). The grout really changed the look!


This is a picture of the tiling behind the slide-in stove. This is a JennAir® down draft stove so we are doing a bit of modifications to make life easier in the future. Any DIY project should do this. Anyway, the back of the kitchen goes into the stairwell off the walk-in pantry. The pantry is about 8 foot by 10 foot and so far is not over spilling into the stairwell. We want to seal the stove lip to prevent anything from spilling down the sides of the stove but we still need access to the back for the downdraft and electrical. What we did was bump a large test hole out of that wall. We liked what we saw so what we are going to do is install a door almost the width and height of the stove (more on this later). That will allow us to get to the back of the stove without disturbing the downdraft system or pulling the stove out.

Ok, tomorrow I will be blogging about the kitchen sink install mixed with a healthy dose of humour aka we haven't killed each other yet!

Garden Gnome

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tiling Started

We have moved closer to the final phase of our kitchen renovation. Here's an update of what has been going on - the good, the bad and the ugly! I should mention that neither of us has tiling experience of this magnitude. I did the tiling for under our wood stove in our second house and my husband observed with helping a little when our brother-in-law installed the ceramic tile floor in the kitchen. So we are flying by the seat of our pants. This means the tiling process is going slow.

The fun part of any DIY project is seeing it come together. The not so fun part is the multitudes of delays (aka life) of which we have had many during our kitchen remodel. We purposely kept the tiling to the end because we knew it would be the most disruptive of all. Unlike refinishing the cabinets, the tiling means no sink until it is installed but that has to wait until the grout has cured. It means no stove because ours is a slide-in down draft stove meaning it cannot be put back into place until the grout has cured. The cure time for the grout is three days. Essentially this means no sink or stove until the tiling is complete which rather knocks out a lot of kitchen function. The dishwasher and refrigerator are still operational. I have lots of counter space and a large sink in my laundry room so have set up a make-shift kitchen. Cooking is continuing pretty much as normal with the help of gas grill/side burner, rice maker, slow cooker, countertop roaster and I have the option of cooking over an open fire.

The first step for this phase was to lift the stove out. This is no easy feat because the stove had to be disconnected from the down draft system then lifted up and over the down draft system (1) without damaging it. The second step was to remove the old sink (2) that never should have been placed that close to an electric stove. If you have followed this blog you will know we removed a built-in range top and removed the cabinet so our stove would fit. Next after careful measuring we cut a piece of exterior grade plywood (3) to go over the existing laminate countertop. Originally we were going to tile over the laminate since Home Depot said we could but after seeing the amount of repairs we decided to lay new plywood. This effectively raises the countertop ⅞ inch (5)once the tile is on. The increased height will result in less back strain when working at the counter so that will be a real plus. However, raising the height was a practical modification for the counter edge where the dishwasher is. Even with the additional height when the edging tile is in place the dishwasher door just barely clears the tile. The drains to the old sink (4) will be removed when the new sink is plumbed. The inside of the corner cabinet will see a new shelf added to give additional storage.

We used the new sink as a template for the hole (6). We decided to go with the deepest single sink we could find that would fit the spot. The old sink had the same size large sink and a smaller half sink that we wanted to put a garbage disposal in however, we cannot have one of those here so we compromised. It's been several years since I've had a single sink in the kitchen, since the turn of the century house we extensively remodeled. We ended up burning out the circular saw cutting the hole for the sink. The saw was the same one we used for all the renovations in every house we've owned. It was sad to see it go! A new shiny red Skilsaw (8) replaced it less than an hour and half later as well as a new jig saw to replace the one borrowed by one of our kids. It delayed our progress but we puttered on. The sink is going to look nice in the new location (7).

We plan on doing a fair amount of tiling in this house in addition to the kitchen so decided we really needed a wet saw. The nice thing about DIY is you can postpone things while waiting for a sale. Accumulating your materials over time by shopping the sales is one of the best ways of saving money on DIY projects. We had been checking the sales waiting for a good price when this Mastercraft wet saw (9) went on sale for $49.99. My husband picked it up the following day.

We are using SimpleSet pre-mixed thin-set mortar (10). The mixture is not as thin as it sounds so it took a little used to how to apply. A thin layer is spread using the flat part of the trowel then another layer is spread using the notched edge of the trowel. It looked too thick and sure enough the thin-set came up through the seams in several areas but we cleaned the seams out enough for the grout. We started at the window well leaving the top portion to last. Then we put down a couple of heavy towels on the bottom of the window well and put the tiles up on the top. We were going to wait to brace these tiles but an online search said they would be fine. The towels were in case they fell which they didn't!

We have five visible plugs (split receptacles) that will be tiled around. In order to work around the plugs the breaker to that plug needs to be turned off and left off until the thin-set dries. It can then be turned on until you are ready to apply the grout at which time it should be turned off again. The grout takes three days to cure and misting of the grout is required for proper curing so the power should be turned off while misting and left off until the mist dries. Use a circuit tester to be sure the power on each plug is off before doing any work around electric receptacles or switches.

It didn't take long for my husband to be cutting tile like a pro! I think he did a wonderful job of cutting the opening for the first receptacle (13). We kept the power off while working around the receptacle and for 24 hours while the thin-set was drying.

We are using 2" x 2" matte finished ceramic tiles that come in a 1 - foot sheet. We are using ⅛ - inch spacers (14) to keep the lines straight. The spacers are really easy to use even though I thought they would be a bit tedious. Spacers are "X" shaped pieces of plastic made to help you keep the grout lines straight. After placing the first tile, stand spaces up along the edge then butt the next tile to it. Keep the spacers in place for about 30 minutes or until the thin-set starts setting up.

The counter edge (15) is also going to be tiled using the same tiles as they don't have a rounded edge tile to match our tiles. Originally we were going to put wood trim but both the refrigerator and dishwasher presented problems. I had thought that edging in copper would look really nice as well but then thought that might not lend itself well to the cottage feel the house has. Finally we decided on tiling it making modifications for the dishwasher. Oh and originally I thought I wanted navy blue grout to tie into the family room. After much deliberation I decided on white grout instead because at some point we will want to change the colours and/or furniture in the family room to which the only thing dividing the family room from the kitchen is the breakfast bar. Using white grout will keep the kitchen neutral enough that any colours can be used.

Pictured is how the kitchen looked Monday night after a long and sometimes frustrating day of working on it. We did not get as much done as we had hoped but what we did get done was encouraging. We are hoping to have the tiling done at the latest by Saturday. Yes that is slow but we are taking our time so it looks nice and we are working around life. If we get finished by then we will be able to get the grouting done on Sunday. Three days later we will be able apply two coats of grout sealer. The next day we will be able to mount the sink and put the stove (right foreground) into position. So I have a little over a week of a mostly non-functional kitchen.

Over top of the downdraft you can see where we broke through the wall. Behind is under the stairs, an unused space off the walk-in pantry. We are going to make a removable access panel in case we need to get to the back of the stove. We can get to the down draft through the access panel in the front of the stove where regular stoves have a drawer as well.

So that's where we are at on the kitchen renovations so far. I hope to be writing about finished results sometime next week depending on how life treats us.

Garden Gnome