Kitchen Remodel – Week Two: Brickwork, Fireplace, Electrical, Plumbing, Central Vacuum

The demolition crew finished up last Saturday (the 25th).  Week two consisted of electrical work, plumbing, building the fireplace wall and installing the fireplace, installing the vent in the kitchen (above the stovetop/range), relocating the central vacuum vent/pipe and moving the kitchen window.

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New vent (for range) installed and new window placement built out.

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Sawing bricks lengthwise to reuse for window.

IMG_8793 (600x800)IMG_8798 (600x800)The kitchen window was moved eight inches in order to be centered on the inside wall, and to allow for a corner cabinet. A few old vents were removed and a new one was installed. The masons were no-nonsense workers and they got the job done quickly. According to our project manager, the brick used for our house was no longer in production, so they had to mix some newer (longer by an inch, I believe) brick with some of the old brick they were able to reuse.

IMG_8754 (600x800)Sheetrock was delivered at the beginning of the week, but not yet installed.

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Fireplace vent.

IMG_8767 (600x800)And the fireplace and flue were installed. Couldn’t get a photo or peek at the fireplace because of the sheetrock.

IMG_8768 (600x800)Recessed can lights were installed in the family room and kitchen. Four in the family room and seven for the kitchen.

IMG_8762 (600x800)The waterlines in the wall we knocked down were relocated (blue and red) and the central vacuum vent (that gray pipe sticking up) was moved (below pic) to the far wall that adjoins the family room and kitchen.

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New vac vent outlet on kitchen wall (old location was sticking out of the floor near red toolbox).

Speaking of central vacuums, (and after having typed vacuum so many times, I think I may actually remember how to spell it from here on out), have I told you how much I love ours? It’s super powerful, doesn’t spew dust around (there’s a vent running to the backyard where any excess dust goes) and clean-up is easy (I’ve only emptied it twice since we moved in six weeks ago).

The only thing is that the hose is really long, which means it’s kind of a pain to take in and out of the closet (and takes up half the closet). The vacuum guy told me which attachments to use on which surfaces (I’ve been using the wrong one for the hardwood floors – oopsie. I’ll blame the scratches on the dog) and like any good vacuum salesman, talked up the newest central vac system.

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The Turbocat.

There’s “nothing wrong with” our current vacuum, but it’s over 15 years old. And of course their best unit is on sale right now. For just $1200, we can upgrade to a system that is lighter, more powerful and has a head that you don’t have to switch out for different surfaces (I want!). I asked how much it costs to install a central vac system, and I was surprised by the answer: on the low end, roughly $800-$1000 for a house our size. That doesn’t include the actual vacuum or accessories, but still. A lot less expensive than I thought.

I wondered which “regular” vacuum he considered the best, since people seem to love Miele or Dyson (or sometimes another brand).  He said a few things about both (and I get the impression he’s anti-bagless, which would put him in the Miele camp) and said something to the effect of, “I mean, how often do we talk to people about vacuums.” Ummm…obviously he’s unaware of the Facebook post on my page that went on for miles and miles.

We won’t be upgrading our system in the near future (hello, kitchen remodel!). We’re good with our “perfectly fine” (per vacuum guy) Turbocat, thank you.

Kitchen Demo – Day Two

IMG_8666 (600x800)IMG_8643 (600x800)Here’s what it looked like at the end of Day Two. Bottom photo is Day One, top photo taken of the same space, Day Two.

IMG_8670 (600x800) Another view looking into the kitchen from the family room. And a “surprise” – a waterline in the middle of the wall we’re taking down. It needs to be moved, obviously, which they say shouldn’t be too difficult.

IMG_8669 (600x800)PreLooking into the family room from the kitchen. Top shot Day Three, bottom shot pre-demolition.

IMG_8673 (600x800)Look guys, original wallpaper! Which, okay, our house was built in 1960, but it was still a cool find. It looks very cheery. And very Grosse Pointe. IMG_8676 (600x800)IMG_8622 (600x800)The garage closet is down. We saved a row of kitchen cabinets to install in its place. Although I think we’re doing the install, not the builders. And by we, of course I mean my husband.

My husband’s office is in the basement. On Day Two, a bunch of plaster came falling down through the laundry chute. Lots of dust flying around and both of our throats were chalky and sore. The dog, not having his usual leather chair to sleep in, slept on our new floral couch (which now has dirt stains and hair all over). I bought paper plates and bowls. And did the Neti-Pot before bed. It’s going to be a long 6 – 8 weeks.

Kitchen Demo – Day One

IMG_8664 (450x800)At 7:30 in the morning on Day One of the kitchen demo, there’s a knock on the door. It’s the hauling service with our dumpster. “Where do you want it?” What, seriously? I’m in my bathrobe. Do I look like the Project Manager? Anyway, we figured it out and the dumpster gets dragged on our driveway. At this point I’m thinking to myself, wow, that’s one big dumpster. I guess they don’t mess around.

In the light of day (it was still dark when they came), there is a huge (I mean huge! Look at it!) scrape up our driveway. Turns out, it was in fact the wrong dumpster. We were supposed to get a smaller one with rubber tires (shown  ). The demolition hasn’t even started and we already have collateral damage.

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IMG_8641 (600x800)There was just one guy here (I met him, but am blanking on his name), taping off the doors (two doors, one leading from the family room to the entryway and the other between the kitchen and dining room), putting down cardboard and pulling the cabinets off the walls. This is what it looked like around lunch time (above).

IMG_8643 (600x800)And at the end of the day.

IMG_8646 (600x800)A patch of linoleum under the cabinet that was closest to the dining room.

IMG_8661 (675x800)Our Habitat for Humanity donation stacked neatly in the garage.

A few days before the demo, I posted on Facebook, asking for crock pot recipes. Maybe I didn’t have a kitchen, but I still had electricity, right? After just one day of demolition, I put the crock pot in the basement. It is not seeing the light of day until that kitchen is done.


Meet John, the Painter

IMG_8134 (600x800) I’ve been delaying this post, because I’d hoped to show you some of the rooms. Before and after photos and all that. But all the rooms are still works in progress, and now I’m sitting in the dining room (my temporary office and kitchen), listening to ridiculously loud noises coming from what used to be our kitchen and family room. The demolition has started. But it is nevertheless time to introduce you to John, the painter.

John’s father Nick immigrated to Detroit from Greece in the late 1950s. Nick started the company in 1965 and fifteen years later, John and his brother took over the business. He says it’s the only job he’s ever had (working for the company in various capacities). And what do you like most about it?, I asked. He loves everything about it; he doesn’t feel the need or the want to do anything else. And he’s gotten to work for a lot of influential people.

IMG_8135 (600x800)You can tell John feels a lot of pride for his company. I asked what sets Nick Karoustos apart from other paining companies and John emphasized that it’s a family-owned and operated business, and that they do not sub-contract their workers (which is one of the reasons we hired). They provide healthcare and benefits to their employees, “which provides longevity and stability,” he added.

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The window coverings came down and stayed down (though we did keep one set for the guestroom).

And trends? People are going more neutral (see, we’re on trend. I knew it). He doesn’t see too many faux finishes anymore. And wallpaper is coming back (HA. You knew that one was coming, right?).

John declined a photo. (But if he comes back to paint the new kitchen, I’ll try again!).

The house looks great with the new paint. The color in the dining room is the perfect shade of green. And you’ve already seen the white living room (which again, is by no means finished. We need to decide which painting to put above the fireplace, for example. And you know all about that rug.)

I do like that they have plants. We need indoor plants.


From the photos, it doesn’t look like a huge color difference, but the lighter walls really brighten up the room (literally and figuratively).

The girls’ light grey rooms are great. Here’s one of the bedrooms.

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After. (And see, wouldn’t the zebra rug look great in here?)

But the entryway is very……blah. It’s my one paint regret. With some new decor (eventually a console table and a lamp instead of a bench), I think it will be a lot more exciting. Win some, lose some.


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BO-ring. Until we spruce it up.

The designer friend I hired did ask if I like wallpaper (DO I!) and suggested putting wallpaper in the entryway only (near the front door, where I’m standing to take the photo), which would make a statement and add some interest. I thought it was a great idea and as soon as we can make it happen (after Christmas?), you’ll be hearing about it.



In Pursuit of Paint

IMG_7871 (600x800)If you’ve been following the blog, you know that I’ve been obsessed with finding the perfect paint colors for the house. Now that the wallpaper was off and the hardwood floors uncovered and cleaned, it was time to paint. I’d already met with Tim over at Shelby Paint, but now I had to put our selections to the test.

I bought a bunch of samples and let the girls help me paint poster boards (as you can see, the above pic was taken a while ago – Lucy is still in diapers and we’re still at the Apartment), which they were thrilled about. Then I took the boards to the new house to check them out.

IMG_7882 (537x800)Color is a very tricky thing, as I have learned over the last couple months. I knew it already, but wow. Colors change from one room to the next, from one foot to the next even, sometimes. And of course they change drastically depending on how light or dark the room is.

Initially I’d picked Athena for the entryway (the largest of the samples above), but now it appeared too blue. We (meaning me, as my husband was rolling his eyes at this point) decided to go with Manchester Tan instead, the darkest color shown above.

IMG_7873 (601x800)Our dining room pick, Nantucket Grey, was perfect.

IMG_7875 (600x800)And for the living room, we were originally going to go with Athena as well, but again, it looked too bluish. I really wanted a light, airy feel to the living room, so I went with the controversial Navajo White (poster board is Athena). Before selecting a white, I went online and read various reviews from both experts and DIY folks. Many experts poo-pooed Navajo White, saying that it felt too “rental apartment” or boring. But that Linen White was a beautiful white.

Anyway, I looked up Linen White, and it is seriously almost exactly the same formula as Navajo White. So there. And I went with the old design rule (whose rule? I don’t know, but I’m sure it’s a rule), if you like it, then who cares what anyone else thinks?

COMING UP: In my next post, I’ll introduce you to John, our painter, and reveal my one color regret. Can you guess?



Meet Tim, Wallpaper Remover Extraordinaire

IMG_7843 (600x800) It’s hard not to talk about our new house without bringing up the wallpaper. It was the first thing you saw when you came in. If it didn’t take your breath away, it certainly surprised you. And it was everywhere. Throughout the entryway, up the staircase, down the upstairs hallway. There was no question we were going to get rid of it. And there was no question who we were going to use: Tim Heidt, wallpaper removal extraordinaire. (There are people out there whose only job is to remove wallpaper? If you have to ask, you’ve never been to Grosse Pointe).

homes.wallpaperI begin my conversation with Tim by asking how he got started. He looks at me curiously, wondering what I mean. I say I’m sure as a little kid he didn’t dream about someday owning a wallpaper removal company. He smiles (as he does many times during our short interview) and says, “well…and I don’t tell everyone this…”(I hold my breath, waiting for the juicy details) “…I used to be a special ed teacher.” Oh. The old, I didn’t make enough as a teacher story. We’ve all heard it before and too many times.

So Tim the special ed teacher with two masters degrees needed to make some extra money. He started working for a painting contractor, removing wallpaper (of course). There was so much work to be done in the world of wallpaper removal that eventually he quit his teaching job and branched off on his own.

IMG_7845 (600x800)Twenty-eight years later, the business is still going strong. I tell him everyone I talk to knows who he is. Realtors, painters, builders, friends. Whenever the subject of wallpaper comes up, people say, “You using Tim?” or “You have to use Tim Heidt. He’s the best.”

He smiles, nodding in agreement. He tells me why he has such a good reputation. “Three things,” he says. Timeliness. Cleanliness. Fairness. He could probably raise his prices (he could. I’ve done online comparisons), but he’s always tried to be fair and it’s clear he’s proud of that. Also, even though he could expand the business, he wants it to stay small. Being an absentee owner is not on the agenda.

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Matt, working on the first floor bathroom.

We continue talking as he and his assistant Matt prep the walls with glue-eating enzymes (or something). The solution breaks up the wallpaper paste and turns it into what it was before – “icky gooey stuff,” in Tim’s words. Am I going to interview Matt, too?, Tim asks, chuckling. He’s getting a kick out of this interview thing. Um, sure. This is Matt’s third year working for Tim’s Wallpaper Removal. What he enjoys most about the job is traveling around the Detroit area and getting to see a new environment every day.

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My final question for both of them: What’s “in” for walls? Matt says he’s seeing a lot of florals and earth tones. Tim says wallpaper is out. But he’s quick to add that wallpaper is much like miniskirts and bell-bottom trousers – it’ll come back. People choose wallpaper because it’s a medium that creates an effect you just can’t duplicate with paint. As I take a last look at the big, bold flowers covering the entryway, I have to agree. Part of me is sad to see it go (but not to worry, I’ve kept the remnants in the basement. Just in case).