Doin’ the DIY shuffle: one step forward, two steps back

One step forward

Casey, our electrician paid us another visit this week. By now you know that a Casey visit is always illuminating, and this time was no exception. We now have—OMG—a light over the  kitchen sink! I know, you’ve had a light over the sink all your life, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is, I’ve been living without one for almost thirty years. And now, before old age overtakes me, I can finally see to do dishes (not that I will spend much time doing dishes when we get our new dishwasher). It’s rather strange to stand at the sink in the evening with the light shining right over my head. I feel so … exposed!

ceiling lights

We also have a new wall outlet for our microwave and toaster, which eliminates an extension cord. Pretty fancy, eh? Although I’m concerned that the absence of that extension cord might somehow interfere with the coalescence of cat-hair dust bunnies, which could ultimately affect the formation of hurricanes in the north Atlantic.

When Casey removed the old fixture and cut through the drywall ceiling, and then through the lath and plaster above it, dark, fluffy, ancient insulation floated down over everything. And there, from the ceiling, hung two wires. No junction box, just two wires. (I was not surprised. I have seen this in other rooms.) Boxes? We don’t need no stinkin’ boxes! Needless to say, now we have boxes. Our house is getting safer in small increments.

no box

Two steps back

Months ago, back when we were naively beginning this project, Eric demoed the old white plastic tile that lined our walls and replaced it with beadboard. The beadboard’s all installed and primed, waiting for us to quit banging around and creating dust so that I can apply the finish coat of paint. But, when Casey installed the microwave outlet and wired the new overhead lights to their wall switch, sections of beadboard had to be ripped out to permit access to the wiring. Not a big deal, but we were a little discouraged to undo something that was so close to done. I guess we just weren’t thinking of wiring when that paneling went up. Sigh.

new outlet

Eric and I have been eagerly awaiting the day when the upper cabinet frame would be painted and cured long enough to hang our three beautiful glass doors. Finally, that day had arrived! To give the structure more strength, Eric had replaced the two central vertical pieces that the doors attach to,  but the vertical members at each end of the shelf unit were still in decent shape and firmly attached. However … neither of us had thought about the fact that new wood is not the same dimension as old wood. (We are usually smart enough to catch things like that—really, we are!)  The new frame pieces and doors were nearly 1/8 inch thicker than the original pieces, which made the doors and hinges protrude 1/8 inch beyond the original frame. Dammit! The remaining old frame pieces would have to be replaced, too, to make everything line up flush. Off they came, splintering in protest and popping chunks of my new paint job (and the 100 years of paint it covers) off the woodwork. @#$%^!!!


Eric painstakingly cut and fitted new pieces, difficult because the arched wall on the left side of the cabinet is anything but smooth and square. Now we’re back to fixing plaster damage and repainting, just when I had mopped the inside of the cabinet and was ready to roll out the shelf paper like a welcome mat. Sigh.

During this process we discovered one reason why the paint doesn’t stick to this house. The original cabinet wood is coated in spar varnish—typical of the time period. Of course. Sigh.

However, despite the fallbacks, we are close to making some major progress. Not actually making progress yet, but close to it. Downstairs, where the real magic happens, Eric is assembling drawers: cutting, gluing, dovetailing, and routing up a storm. Any day now, a small army of drawers will come marching up the stairs and install themselves in our base cabinets. That day will mark the halfway point of our DIY cabinetry adventure. When I see drawers (and I will see them long before they’re installed because I’ll  have to sand and finish them), I will know we’ve turned for home.



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