First major mess-up of the remodel! (day 5)

It wouldn’t be a kitchen remodel without some major screw-up, right? Well today one finally happened.


So because of the weird-ass venting and layout situation in my kitchen, a major component of this remodel was how to actually install the recirculating range hood. I was bouncing some ideas off of the contractor, and he had a few notions and was going to come up with something.

One of my very firm stipulations was that it not involve screwing anything directly into my ceiling, as those are the floorboards for my upstairs, and there’s only a small amount of distance between my kitchen ceiling and my living room floor. (Plus, damaging the floorboards would make for a very difficult repair.)

He ended up sharing his ideas with his crew, but apparently didn’t share how dire it was to not screw into my ceiling. Because when the initial idea didn’t work out, they decided to improvise. And I made it clear that they should only mount things to the beams, and not to the ceiling, because the ceiling is the floorboards for my upstairs.

Well, they seemed to only be worried about whether it would hold, and not how thick the floor was, because they ended up putting long, sharp screws into my ceiling, and now there are long, sharp screws poking out of my floor upstairs.1

Their rationale for doing it this way was that they couldn’t find the right parts for going into the beam, because for whatever reason they decided the galvanized steel pipes they went with could only be a certain length (there’s plenty of room for the hood to go down further) and they also wanted to go with narrower pipe than what they used on the prototype (which absolutely did have the right parts available, as they used them in building the prototype).

And of course one of the floorboards now has a crack in it where they screwed into it, which is another thing I was concerned about.

Ugh. At least there’s nothing that can’t be mostly corrected or patched over, but still, this is why I wish people would listen to me. I might not know a lot about construction but I do have reasons for my concerns for things.

They also didn’t read the manual about how it’s supposed to be set up for ductless operation, and correcting that issue wouldn’t be nearly so straightforward. But I think the way it’s set up is fine, although I’ll want to get some sort of grate/cover for the hole in back so there isn’t a big gap that people can reach into and touch a spinning exhaust fan. There is a (very ugly) ballast that can be installed there for ducting purposes, and it seems to also be the same size as a vent register cover so I have a few options there too.

Meanwhile, the ductless range hood does a surprisingly good job of cleaning the air, although it’s also quite loud.

Anyway. The two builders, N and S, each have very different dispositions to things, and S is very detail-oriented – except for where he isn’t. Like, there was an apparent weird misalignment to the cabinets that made them stick out a few inches from the wall next to them, but that’s because he didn’t move them back as far as they needed to go. He was concerned about the lower cabinets not lining up with the upper cabinets, but they didn’t line up anyway, and on one set of cabinets he actually completely ignored the build plans and didn’t put the fillers where they were supposed to go, so those don’t line up at all. It’s nothing I’d actually notice or care about, were it not for the context of why he was pushing back against, like, lining things up reasonably. His proposed fix was to actually extend the wall by a few inches instead of just, like, not putting the cabinets where they were supposed to be! Unreal.

N is fun to chat with, but he also gets distracted easily and has poor spatial awareness. I mean, it turns out he has ADHD too, which explains all of that. I feel way more understanding of him as a result, but there’s definitely been some odd procedural stuff. Like, he almost caused another major screw-up, where one of the things I’m getting is a pocket cabinet installed in a wall (for more storage), but he didn’t read that part of the plans and was actually installing it in front of the wall. Not a huge deal, but still, I wouldn’t have been happy with that result.

And then another fun thing is that the drawings specify that the bottom cabinets should get pulls and the top cabinets shouldn’t, and I’d forgotten what I had discussed with the designer regarding how the upper cabinets are supposed to open. S went ahead and installed the handles in the upper cabinets, and it seemed like we were two short – but it turns out that we actually had quite a few extra, and that extra wasn’t enough to cover the addition of the upper cabinets, which were supposed to be opened with a different mechanism. I actually much prefer the handles anyway, and it’s not like it’ll be hard to get two more handles to cover the shortfall anyway. But it was another oops in retrospect, and one which couldn’t be easily fixed because, well, there’s already holes drilled in all of my cabinet doors, which aren’t easy to repair.

Both of them keep on thinking that there’s only one more day to go, but then these little things keep on pushing it back incrementally.

This still isn’t nearly as bad as my San Francisco kitchen went, thankfully2, but it seems like there’s a common pattern where builders/contractors see it as “just” a kitchen and a very straightforward thing and then they get… well, casual with the work. At least this time I know what to look out for and am also in a better mental spot to go with the flow3 and be understanding about things. Nothing seems dire and uncorrectable.

Anyway, then I’m finding that there’s a few minor variances in the design that I could/should have noticed in the drawings but I trusted the designer to know what he’s doing when it comes to maximizing space. The end result is that this remodel, intended to give me more functional storage space, ends up actually decreasing it somewhat. The space I have is way more accessible, though, and easier access to the things I care about is more important than having the ability to stash every last little thing that I’ve only used once and might use again4. Still, the European-style cabinets are way shallower than the American-style ones, but the layout was built around American-style footprints so there’s a lot of wasted space behind them in the drawings - but in the installation they were mostly given the Euro footprint and so that expanded out space that got filled in with filler pieces instead.

I think that overall there’s less wasted space than before, but things are broken up in such a way that it’s a lot harder to actually use all the space available.

The whole reason I went with custom cabinets was so that I could actually get them to fit the space. Right now I’m really wishing I’d just gone with the cheaper Oregon-based cabinet manufacturer, but that would have meant waiting way longer for an actual installation because I couldn’t find a builder willing to work with me on that for some reason. Ugh.

Anyway. Soon this will be over with and I can stop hyper-fixating on what went wrong and just get on with my life and enjoy my new, functional kitchen. Right?56

EDIT: Aw, heck, looks like one of the other installation irregularities actually has a pretty major repercussion on my sink, oddly enough. Hopefully the contractor is actually coming tomorrow and I can walk him through my concerns. Fortunately it’s still nothing unfixable, but fucking hell I want this project to be over with already and this seems like it’ll add at least another day of work… (But on the “plus” side fixing this means they’ll also have to reinstall the vent hood – and maybe they can do it right this time.)

  1. I mean, who doesn’t want to have sharp tetanus-bearing wood screws sticking up from their floor? It’s a quirky architectural feature, of course. 

  2. I should write a full blog entry about this at some point but let’s just say the general contractor was extremely lackadaisical and not even remotely detail-oriented, the end result being a lot of very expensive tile being wasted, my floor being about an inch too high causing my slide-in range to be about an inch higher than the countertops, the countertops not even being cut right for the stove, and my dishwasher being unable to open until I removed the handle from my stove’s warming drawer. And when the tiler had noticed that the tile wasn’t lining up right with part of the counter, he asked the contractor what to do – and the contractor said to just cut the tile to go around it, completely ignoring that this would have meant one side of my stove would have been higher than the other! … Okay I need to stop thinking about this before I get a residual panic attack. 

  3. At the time, I was still recovering from some pretty major shit and every little problem caused panic attacks mixed with a crushing sense of self-doubt. One particular manifestation of this: I had only fairly recently adopted Werner, and was questioning whether that was the right choice7. Since my kitchen was gutted, I had piles of stuff in my living room, and my microwave was on the floor. Werner was curious about the microwave, and my mind raced with the completely ludicrous possibilities that he somehow open it up, get inside, and have the door close on him and the microwave turn on. It was completely unrealistic but that caused what has so far been the single largest panic attack in my life, to the extent that I called in sick to work the next day. 

  4. For example, I have a pressure cooker and a springform cake pan, both of which I bought 15 years ago, and each has only been used a total of once. Do I really need to keep those around? And maybe I should realize that I have literally never used the giant sheet pans that I can’t figure out a place for. 

  5. Also my cats are going fucking nuts because of the construction noise, the scary people, and the giant mess that keeps them from actually being able to do anything. I want this to be over with even if just for Werner and Fiona’s sakes. 

  6. Oh also I’m rather behind on my laundry and haven’t had a clear path to the washing machine for the past week. I’m not out of clean clothes yet but it’s getting to be quite concerning. 

  7. It totally was! 


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