Earth Wind and Fire: Hell Corner

Yes, I’m behind on my posting (9 long days to be exact) – mostly because I’ve been busy organizing and producing this:

Go ahead.  Take a good long look.  Enjoy.  Because it only goes downhill from here.

It looks so innocuous, doesn’t it? Look at the innocent sink sitting there in its nonthreatening cabinet.

This past weekend, after being bolstered by our previous success (routing/routering not included) Kris and I decided to tackle what I’ve affectionately dubbed HELL CORNER corner corner corner corner…..

For those of you keeping score, we sold our old dishwasher on Craig’s List and bought the model sitting in this picture wrapped in what looks like a prop from an episode of Dexter.  Why isn’t it installed, you ask?  Because I may or may not have broken several wires when uninstalling the last one, and then realized that the garbage disposal now leaks.


In which the plumber who installed our sink fell into rapturous evil laughter when he thought of the poor soul who would have to replace the cabinet.

Anyway, this weekend we decided to deal with it.  First up – disconnecting the drain and other plumbing.  Yeah, so you can’t just saw through all these little elbows and such.  You have to have a piece of pipe so you can patch it later.  (Don’t I sound competent?)

After mulling it over for a while and thinking fondly of the DIY channel’s sledge hammer heavy demo jobs, Kris and I decided the best way to handle this was to cut the cabinet away from the plumbing and have a look.

I mean once you have all the carpentry out of the way, you’re home free, right?  Right?

So after a few satisfying swings with a hammer and Kris’ obsession with Kim the Tool Fairy’s shop vac, we were left with this:

See the copper pipe?  More on that later.

I had been lucky enough to find a damaged sink base for cheap.  I fixed the cracked back panel and shored up the top with a board, some screws and wood glue.  The rest of it is awesome.  But how does one encourage such a delicate piece of furniture to mate with such a well endowed plumbing system?

Still looking competent.

One cuts several holes to accommodate the protrusions and a “secret” panel for the back.  It’s all very Victorian.

As for the copper pipes, there wasn’t enough room below the dishwasher valve to cut and patch the pipe, so I brilliantly (yeah, right) decided that I could cut the pipe in the basement and pull it up through the floor, set the cabinet down, put the pipe back and, gulp, solder it into place.

Don’t get too close to the well endowed plumbing, Kris!

Whilst I whittled away at our new cabinet.  Kris brandished the shop vac wand again and set to work on tiling the unfinished part of the floor.

I had some time to kill between destroying (I mean modifying) our new cabinet, so I made the first of 4 trips to the hardware store.

My mission?  To buy a soldering kit, some new conduit to rewire hell corner and some copper joiners for the now severed pipe.   While I was there, I bought a gasket for the garbage disposal.  I had a bad feeling about the garbage disposal. [insert ominous music here]

I returned to find Kris preparing a luncheon of turkey, bacon, field green wraps cut and secured with toothpicks, served with potato chips and a very civilized glass of limeade.  Kris’ compulsion to prepare gourmet meals grows in inverse proportion to the actual functionality of the kitchen.

After our fine dining experience, we set to work again.  We installed our new cabinet around the obscene and vaguely pornographic pipe structure, and I wired the conduit to the dishwasher and pushed it into its new home.

Look at Hell Corner. Isn’t she pretty?

Now all that was left to do was hook up the plumbing and electricity.  Right.

So we put the old counter top and sink back on the cabinet, dropped our copper pipe through my expertly cut holes, and I went to the basement to wire in the dishwasher.

Metal is not my friend.

I’ll spare you the adult language I used while cutting, re-cutting, wiring, rewiring, twisting, capping and stretching metal sheathed household wiring.  Suffice it to say it didn’t put me in a good spiritual place for plumbing.

I needed to find my center.

I needed to find my confidence.

I needed a beer.

But the day was still young, so I resolved to wait for the beer until I cracked it open in celebration at having conquered HELL CORNER corner corner corner.

The problem with soldering is that I don’t know how to do it.  Kris agreed to stand beside me and pray while I lit a torch and approached our basement pipes.  We read the directions twice and I assured her I had seen it done on Youtube.  It was only after dry fitting the joiners that Kris pointed out that the copper pipe I was about to light on fire was directly above our gas line.

So after my next trip to the hardware store, I glued the pipes using some wicked copper adhesive bonding glue stuff that will kill you if you think about it too hard.

Then we turned the water on.  It (of course) leaked, but not at my patching job – the leak was upstairs in Hell Corner.  Also, when we turned on the faucet nothing came out.

I’ll spare you even more adult language and a very tense conversation with Kris, after which we (meaning Kris) decided to sleep on it and come back to it in the morning.

So Sunday morning I arose bright and early, pulled on my big boy pants and headed downstairs.

I’ll skip forward at this point in the story because it really doesn’t matter what came when.  All you need to know is that somewhere between rewiring the dishwasher (again) and me sitting on a water soaked Christmas tree in our basement pondering my worth as a plumber – nay, my worth  as a human being!- my patching job failed.

I knew this right away because just before smacking my head on the bottom of the sink I heard a shower running.  In the basement.  Where there is no shower.

I ran downstairs, turned off the water, soaked up the pond with the dog towels and my shirt and listened while Kris coached me to get some zen about the whole thing.  I only heard intermittent phrases, such as “call a plumber” and “I can’t cook without electricity” so I can’t reproduce the conversation in its entirety.

We (Kris) decided we would call a plumber and she would stay home from work on Tuesday to deal with it.

As it stands now, we have a sink.  It works.  Our garbage disposal is apparently 568 years old and is no longer in production, so the gasket I purchased Saturday will not work. We’ll have to either permanently install a bucket under that part of the sink and never use our new dishwasher, or wait until we get paid next month and buy a new one because we are so very much at the end of our budget this month.

We did buy the paint for the walls and cabinets on Monday before the ReadMOB.  Now, if I can only get temporary custody of a paint sprayer….


With this router, I thee wed

This is the front side of the cabinet frames.

I decided to keep myself busy this weekend by cutting the panels from our cabinets so I can replace them with MDF (that’s medium density fiberboard to you and me).  Why, you ask?  Because our cabinets are so cheap [how cheap are they?]  They’re so cheap that the panels in the frames won’t even take paint well.  At least that’s what Tommy [the architect who Kris knows from back in the day] says.  I only call him “Tommy” here because it’s weird if I call him that in person.  It’s like at the Oscars when everyone talked about Martin Scorsese in their acceptance speeches.  “Oh, it was such fun working with Maaahty” and “Marty is such a genius.  He really gets actors.”  Then the camera went to him sitting in his seat nodding appreciatively, but you could tell he wanted to jump up from his seat and say, “I am Hollywood royalty you peon.  Address me by my rightful title or I’ll relinquish your acting credentials!”

In real life I call Tommy by his whole name, Tom Cohen, the way I still refer to Jennifer Matthews as Jennifer Matthews, although that’s to differentiate her from the 14 other Jennifers in my life.  Tom Cohen is Tom Cohen because there is no way my life would ever intersect with his except through Kris and the bookstore, and calling him “Mr. Cohen” suggests some sort of kinky secretary/boss relationship.  Sure, I force myself to call him “Tom” when we’re in the same room together, but that’s like when your father-in-law tells you to call him “Tom” so you do but secretly it creeps you out.  But I digress.  Often.Tommy came over to our house the other day and informed Kris (because I was picking up a dishwasher and generally trying to look competent and busy and therefore inaccessible) that the adhesive on the walls about which I complained in earlier posts in fact contains ASBESTOS!  Is there nothing that is not tainted with poison in this house?  Anyway,

Pantry/ductwork thing.

the kitchen is poison and the cabinets are too cheap to paint, but he did mention that I could use a router to “pop the panels out” of the doors and replace them with MDF, which isn’t too cheap to paint and will make all the doors match.I do love the tools I borrowed from Kim the Tool Fairy, including a router,  and even though I’ve never actually used a router, I was confident that I was up to the task.

The long and the short of it is I suck at routing.  Or is it routering?  Probably routing.  We’ll call it that.  Kris and Lori, the most Awesome Neighbor Ever, soothed my damaged ego by saying the gouges add “character” to the cabinets.  I told them that I’d made the executive decision to use the other sides of the doors so that we’ll have the arts and crafts shaker look, plus the crappy routing/routering job and panels which are sure to be crookedly cut will be hidden behind the closed doors. How quickly one forgets that one is not the executive. Kris set to work sanding the frames within an inch of their lives so that we could “pop” a panel of mdf in when we get paid next week while I destroyed something – which is what I do best.

I ripped out the rest of our built in hutch/air conditioning thing so that I could start building a new pantry there.  I even got to use the “saws all” to rip out a particularly stubborn piece of cabinet.The plan is to close off the ductwork thing and build shelves for cookbooks under which will be the wine/coffee station.  Below that will be two slide out pantry cabinets made by yours truly.

An argument against open shelving.

As it stands now, the kitchen is cabinet doorless and the ductwork is slightly exposed.  This week, I’ll convince myself that I can actually build a pantry.

Next weekend I’ll beg Cody to come over and solder our copper pipes so we can replace the kitchen sink cabinet without flooding the house.

What could possibly go wrong?

Sold – to the man with the pickup truck!

What’s the solution to reaching your budget limit for the month?  Craigslist.

Yes, when you’ve reached the end of what you can do until your next paycheck, the only logical solution is to sell off your belongings.  Today we say goodbye to our dishwasher and hello to a new one we don’t have to pay for until October (when, presumably we will have conquered the electric nightmare).

And who unhooked and took out the diswasher (including scary electrical conduit), sink and counter top then replaced the sink and counter top then hooked up the plumbing and electricity all before 7:30am this morning you ask?  Me!  I’m almost competent.  I’m so proud.

I’ve even conquered my paralyzing fear of our house’s electricity [almost].  I took my trusty screwdriver down to our basement, turned off the circuit labeled “dishwasher” and  unscrewed the plate on the box where the conduit was attached.  Then I went back to the electrical box and turned off everything that had “kitchen” next to it, then went back to the conduit box.  Then went back to the electrical box and double checked that the little switches were actually flipped the right way.  Then thought about turning off all the electricity in the house just to be safe. Then realized I would be in a completely dark basement and pulled on my big boy pants and went back to the conduit box.

A brief moment of my life – the one where I was at a slumber party at Christy McDaniels’ house and we accidentally broke the plug off her grandma’s lamp in the outlet and they all elected me to pry it out with pliers – flashed before my eyes.  That time, as in this one, the electricity gods spared me.  All is good so far.

No pictures today.  Yet.  I’m waiting until I go home this afternoon to meet guy who bought our dishwasher.  If our house isn’t flooded I’ll take a picture.  Who am I kidding?  Even if the house is flooded I’m taking a picture.

Maybe today someone will buy the cabinet doors Kris bought at our neighborhood yard sale one year.  If they do, I’m totally buying paint!

Oh, Ok Fine.

Hear that giant sucking sound?  Listen harder.  There it is.  The sound of my bank account being sucked dry.  “Oh, Jay,” you’ll say  “You should have known better than to start such a giant, impossible task in the middle of a recession.  I mean, come on, you are an independent bookseller. How much money did you think you’d have?!  Well??  Answer me!” [Side note: I always imagine my friends and family are judging me more harshly than they probably are.]

“Hey, wait!” I’ll say.  “Don’t be such a jerk.  I’m handy.  I can do most of it.  Plus, how was I supposed to know that our trees would have to be trimmed RIGHT NOW to appease our neighbors? (Not Lori, the most Awesome Neighbor Ever.  The other ones.  With the dog.  And the roaches.  And mice.)  And, ok fine, yes.  I did know that expense was coming.  But what about this?!:

Ok, fine.  Yes.  I realized gas was creeping up to $4 per gallon, but that’s not supposed to apply to me.


Anyway, since my last dispatch, we got a second (more expensive) opinion on the electricity, and conflicting advice about the plumbing.  One plumber said we’d have to build a new wall and drill through my closet floor and through our roof to vent the sink.

Hear the crickets chirping?

The other plumber was more reasonable, but it was still going to cost more than our budget, which is zero.   SO, Lori’s awesome idea to move the sink is on the chopping block.  Instead we’ll focus on not burning the house down and installing cabinets.

And it is sooo time to work on cabinets.

The good news is that I got to spend part of the weekend with my family in Effingham, and pick up a band saw, a floor sander, a bunch of wood she was going to BURN (!) and other miscellaneous items of great use from my sister Terrie (the other tool fairy), so the tank of gas was worth it.

For now, though.  We’ll be waiting for the mighty bookstore to give us our monthly bread.

More later.

This is the part where our neighbors take pity on us.

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The bad news is that we couldn’t sneak into our neighbors’ house and eat supper this weekend (they were home and would have noticed).  The good news is that Lori, The Most Awesome Neighbor In The World, offered to cook us dinner Saturday night.  Which led to even more good news and bad news:

The bad news – We could only offer her barbie sized table at which to sit and a glass of wine.

The good news – We had several glasses of wine and decided to do whatever Lori says.  She says we need to move the sink to the other side of the room so we can look out the window (which has the potential to lead to more bad news, but since this is the good news section I’ll defer that conversation until later).

Yes, this changes the scope of the project, and yes it is absolutely batshit crazy to attempt such a feat, but by now you’re familiar with our work.  Batshit crazy is how we roll.

Let’s reflect on what we accomplished this weekend, shall we?

Saturday Morning: We (and by we I mean I) woke up convinced that we had made a horrible mistake and were in over our heads.  I typically wake up with moments of clarity that are later ignored during the course of daily events, so I chose to ignore this particular moment of clarity.

It was a good thing, dear reader, that I did ignore this moment of clarity because just after shrugging it off, Kris and I drove to ReStore (people donate home repair stuff to ReStore to be sold to folks like me, then the proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity) and found the mother-lode of kitchen stuff.  And they were having a sale!

  • Lazy Susan corner cabinet – Retail cost at Lowe’s $ 182 – cost at ReStore $8.50
  • Switchplate for light switch – Retail cost at Lowe’s  $ 7.00 – cost at ReStore  .50
  • 60 square feet of backsplash tile – Retail cost at Lowe’s $600 – cost at ReStore $45

Total Retail – $789

We spent – $56


Ok, it took an hour for us to replace the broken tiles with good ones to make a decent kitchen (while obsessively checking my phone to see if the electrician sent a bid to my email), and while we were sitting on the floor sorting the other customers started circling like vultures questioning their own purchases and coveting our tiles.  And yes, we had to drive back home, check again for the electrician’s bid, get the truck and come back for the lazy susan (since strapping it to the top of the Vibe was clearly not an option), then check again for the electrician’s bid, but I’m ok with that.

Saturday Afternoon:

Baseball break.  Ben rocked.  His team won.  He was awesome as usual.  Kris says electricians aren’t “paperwork” people, and not to worry that I don’t have a bid.

Then, back to work!  I patched the sub-floor while Kris obsessively cleaned the adhesive off the old linoleum so we could lay our tile.  [I might have checked my phone again for a bid.]

I demoed the rest of our hutch while Kris continued to obsessively clean adhesive off the old linoleum.  Then Kris put down the Clorox wipes and paint scraper to eat dinner and drink wine with Lori (see above).

Sunday morning I again woke up convinced we made a horrible mistake and that we were in over our heads.   After shrugging it off,  I checked my phone for an email from the electrician again.  Then I replaced the floor and a built a wall around the air conditioning duct while Kris started snapping the chalk lines for the tile.  [Side note: While I have never actually “snapped a chalk line” I’m told this is what this activity is called.  Mostly it involved mason line and clouds of blue chalk followed by Kris marking the floor with a pencil, then marking it again, then asking me to mark it, then using the carpenter square to be sure.  But we’ll still call it “snapping a chalk line.”]

Several hours later we were laying the bits and pieces near the wall by the light of the moon (and the single remaining functioning lightbulb in our kitchen).  It’s almost there.  Not quite, but almost.

Addendum The electrician called me just now to tell me that the bid should be in today’s mail.

Addendum to the addendum – Kris has informed me that she will be handling the social portion of our project, so I’ve forwarded all pertinent electrician and plumbing contact information to her.