This morning standing in what will be my spouses bathroom pointing up toward the roof we had a serious conversation about putting the furnace unit over the bathroom. It made about as much sense as closing the doors and windows to the house with it was 19 degrees inside. As I struggled to make comprehend this upside down HVAC plan, I remembered the caretaker at our summer camp. Jack had an old, beat up truck from the 1940s that had no back window. He would ride sort of side saddle in the seat with one hand on the steering wheel and his elbow hanging out the back window. The joke was that Jack’s truck was air conditioned October to May for your comfort.
I thought of Jack and his truck today and wished it was one of those hot, middle Georgia summer days I knew so well from going to Camp Martha Johnston for 5 summers in a row. I learned a lot at “CMJ.” I learned about running panties up the flag pole. I learned what “All right GIRLS” meant. I learned that if you say iced tea in the South it means it has sugar in it. It learned how to wash, whip and put away dishes.
Mostly, I learned about living on the outside of the walls of a house. When we were younger, we stayed in cabins that were wood for the bottom two thirds and screen for the upper two thirds. The door was screen and of course, had the obligatory slam when someone left the room even if they were not huffy as they left. Older girls were accommodated in wood-floored platform tents. The screen cabins were wonderful but the tents I still yearn for. I don’t know why I have dis-remembered all of the bugs and roasting in the tent when it was pouring rain since you had to put the flaps down. Thinking of Jack made me think of how my house was a flip-flop of those long, hot hours in the tent with the flaps down.
Although there is no heat for us yet, things are heating up at the house. There is a dramatic hive of workers from all sorts of different subcontractors. Our contractor and his crew are around as are the plumbers, the electricians, the insulation people, the drywall people and the delivery people and, of course, the ever present small herd of what we have come to fondly call them, “the construction dogs” Friday a cheerful black lab went sauntering past and I noticed he had an a florescent orange collar. I jovially said, with a pat on his side, “Hi, Rolly, I see you got a new collar.” Just moments later Rolly went roaring by and the sauntering dog was only a few feet past me. There were two black labs..
All of this adds up to a happy place. It is energetic and focused. People want to build our house and they are like laser beams on their appointed tasks. If someone appears to be standing around it is because they waiting to dash off and get things for the other workers.
Amidst this entire circus of joy, I carry a knot in the middle of my stomach. As I have written before, I am in charge of doing things for the house. When I first started thinking DIY to keep costs contained, I naively imagined things being left for me to do when the house was done. I thought I would have an almost finished house and I would finish things on my schedule. What I did not understand was how critical timing was between different steps of the process of framing to finishing. I have to do things quickly so that the next workers can come do their work. I have a great fear of not being quick. One of the hallmarks of DIY is that what seems like a small task is not.
Because kitchens are such a big ticket item, I took a completely finished one right off the list. My goal is, and remains, to have the best appliances and fixtures I can and roll with whatever I end up with for cabinets and counter tops. We could go without cabinets for that matter. I planned to use some entertainment center console bases with counter tops for now. Those can be changed. The sink was a problem. It is a French farmhouse style sink that slides into a cabinet with what amounts to a horseshoe shaped counter top. The edges of the horseshoe are exposed to water. I complicated the matters 10 fold by getting excited and buying a refurbished microwave drawer for the same price as a middling microwave. We wanted one for safety reasons since you are not reaching over hot stuff or up with heavy dishes which our arms don’t hold up as well as they used to. My mind skipped over the part of a drawer needing somewhere to be a drawer. I also picked a slide-in—between cabinets—range. You can put side panels on them but the side panel costs about the same as a cabinet.
Once outside the kitchens, the bathroom vanities were their own source of anguish. Quite by accident we ended up with 4 ½ bathrooms in the house. When we steamed ahead with the Cruise Ship basement apartment we ended up with an extra kitchen and bath. The Cruise Ship and the half bath are under control. The Jack and Jill bath on the main floor is narrow and long. I was going to build a 19 inch deep, 40 inch long floating counter. I have the stuff and I have the skill. What I don’t have is the time.
Upstairs in our luxurious two bathroom master suite we are quite out of vanities. None are to be found in either of our warehouses or even in the bushes of the yard. I have wondered if being vanity-less was a curse for being greedy and each of us having our own bathrooms even though we have small bedroom by comparison to most houses. I don’t think it is but I cannot see my way clear to pay over $1000 for something to hold up my sink. I have searched in vain without success to find an old chest of drawers or table that could be re-purposed. Every time I find something.
Something had to give.
Last night I decided to go talk to the man who helps us at Costless Carpet. Today after nearly freezing to death talking about air conditioning hanging from my bathroom ceiling in my house, a cup of soup and a short power nap/hypothermia reduction program, I found myself at the door of what I hoped would be my salvation. Surely in the back of their huge warehouse of stone there would be a piece of solid surface counter top that I could (a) cut with sewing sheers and (b) would cost, like Linus’ lemonade, 5 cents.
It was not quite that good but nearly. Our tile guy sent me off to one side of the warehouse to look at the pre-formed counter tops while he went to the other side way in the back to dig into something. I could not make out what he said. When he came back he said, “No, I don’t think it will work. I hoped so. We have a lot of it.” I asked what “it” was and still could not figure it out. I said, “Can you show me?” Off we marched across what feels like an acre of stone stacks surrounded by huge carpet rolls. When we got to the far back I saw what he was talking about. There were crates full of little slabs of counter top with their back splashes glued right on. There was a stack of smaller accessory tiles. I stood and contemplated the You Tube videos I had watched on solid surface counters. I had felt bold enough to think about cutting fake stone and here I was looking at the DIY mother lode and feeling helpless because it was not fake. It slowly dawned on me that two of the small counters with a sink in the middle and a backs splash tile turned sideways across the back made a horseshoe. Not a perfect fit a “because silicone fixes everything it will be all right” fit.
As I left the store with a granite backsplash jammed into my purse, I had a bounce in my step. Then I stumbled onto a sale at Lowes. Twenty percent off of in-stock unfinished cabinets. I could do that. I can paint. I have an impact driver. I know how to put a cleat on the wall. I can put little granite counter tops lines in a row like big tiles. This I can do. My kitchen will actually be pretty cool.
After freeing my television console base cabinets from their Kitchen duty, I marched them right upstairs (well, up the ladder, we don’t have stairs yet) and sent to the bathrooms to hang out with the new furnace that will be installed suspended over the top of the bathroom next week. Air conditioned October to May for your comfort. Jack’s windowless truck makes a whole lot more sense to me than it did.
The new vanities, with the HVAC hovering above, will be wonderful. The will each have one 18 inch, three drawer cabinet from Lowes; a television console with two doors; four little ogee feet and a counter made from a table blank. They are all different wood but can be made into one family. With a good finish, along with a snappy sale-bin sink, no one will ever notice the HVAC above or look below under the counter for a television.