09 December 2014
The Kitchen Remodel
I've told you about my father in past posts. He was a wonderful musician and played the violin. When Babajan would come home from work, he would get comfortable, and if dinner wasn't quite ready yet, he would grab his violin, stand in the center of the kitchen, and play...sometimes Vivaldi, sometimes Bach, sometimes just some amazing gypsy violin, but it would be in the kitchen. Inevitably, my mom would tell him he was underfoot. "Varouj," she'd say, "go play in the dining room. You're right in the middle of everything! Vodkee dag es!" To which he would say that the kitchen is the soul of the house. It's the center. "This is where it all happens, Anne!"
If you own a home, or even if you don't own a home but are lucky enough to have a roof over your head, the chances are great that you have a kitchen, right? What makes this room of the house so important? It's where the food is prepared to nourish the family. If you happen to have a table or counter or counter to eat on, it's often where the family gathers for meals, sharing what happened in their day. And that's also the table where the children gather to do their homework too. Growing up, the kitchen in our old California craftsman home was always the warmest room of the house. Something was always cooking in the oven in the evenings. In the morning, my father would make chai in a pan (even before Starbucks made it popular), steeping a tea bag in water with cloves, cardamom, cinnamon sticks and orange peel.
Growing up as an Armenian daughter....and granddaughter, the kitchen was always where I would have to work helping my mom or my grandmother. There was always work to do there. Whether I was washing dishes, or folding the clean laundry on the table, or rolling choreg or sarmas there. It's no wonder that the kitchen is so important to me. When we bought the house that we're living in now, my kitchen was hardly a showpiece, but coming from living in a 700 sq. foot rock cottage as a single mom to our present home, the kitchen felt HUGE comparitively. The counters are ceramic tile, and that had it's appeal as well. My parents' and my grandparents' homes all had tile kitchens. There was nostalgia there, and for a long time it was fine. But the man we purchased this house from back in 2007 had flipped it. Bought it, made some repairs and turned a profit on it. What he didn't do was seal the grout in the kitchen, and over the past 7 years, the grout has been eroding to the point where ...well...let's just say the situation is not pretty.
To regrout or not to regrout...that has been the question. I'm a pretty good do-it-yourself'er, and I started looking into tools to scrape old grout. The problem is though, that it's not just the counters, There were some bad areas on the wall behind the sink where I could tell there was water damage. That was something I wouldn't be able to handle. I talked to my husband about it. "You do realize this is huge project, right?" Yes. I knew that. But it was also like opening a can of worms, and that's what my trepidation was about. Okay, so we do the counter. That doesn't change the fact that the sink (that is so old and scratched it won't come clean any longer) needs to be replaced. If we were going to change the sink, then we would definitely need new fixtures since the soap pump dispenser built into the sink is yet another thing that's falling apart. And then there's the garbage disposal which no longer grinds anything but just spins stuff around...that would need to get replaced too. So you see what I'm saying? You start, and then it's just ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching. A money pit.
But the thing is that when you own a home, you have to maintain it, otherwise it will fall apart around you. We can't continue with the grout situation as is. At least I know that I can't. And so a couple weeks ago, we started researching countertops, visiting granite yards and trying to find the best deals out there. We narrowed it down...or I should say I narrowed it down - the granite with the matching tile for the backsplash - because my husband was not too excited about this at all. But to give him credit, he did come with me as we looked at slabs and tile backsplash. We got a price, the fabricator came over to take the measurements, we got the cost estimate, I convinced my husband it would all be okay....and then.....
"What are you planning on doing with the walls?" That's what the contractor asked. I asked what he meant. I mean we just put down a deposit for them to start work in a couple of days. "The walls...tile, paint? What are you planning?" All this time we were assuming the price he gave us was for the works...we were hit with the fact that no, it covered demolition of the existing tile on the counter, removal of the sink, and the installation of the new counters and new sink. But not the cost of the tile for the backsplash nor it's installation. This wave of panic hit me. Hit us. So we ask what it's going to cost to do the job the way we had imagined it. He gives us the new price. He must have seen the look of horror on our faces. So he gives us options. My husband says, "just leave the existing tile as the backsplash." Okay, not an option for me! The new granite counters won't match the backsplash. It's going to look terrible, even though the existing tile is off white..still, if you know me, you know how my eye is drawn to every single detail. "No!" I say. We can't leave the current tile. It's going to look terrible. The contracter is trying to come up with options. "We can add a 6" granite backspash and then you'll just have a couple of rows your existing tile." Right, but what about the large areas of wall that are tiled behind the stove and washer/dryer.
My heart sank. I mean, finally after all these years of living with it, I was this close to getting it done. And now this set back. No pressure from the contractor. He suggested some options. Do the counters now....then when you can, do the backsplash. The immediate need is the counter and sink area....do that. But to me, the queen of impatience, it didn't make sense. We're going to do the project half way. Once the momentum has gone, I know it's not going to be a priority to finish the project as something else will take its place. It always does. He told us to think about it, and let him know what we decide and we could start work today...Monday.
So the deliberations began. Being spontaneous, impulsive and impractical that I am, I was trying to convince my husband and myself that we need to do it all right now while we can. It will never be the right time, and given that I do so much cooking and entertaining, it's a really important room for us to upgrade and maintain....not to mention that the lack of grout is not very sanitary, right and can lead to water damage, etc. My husband, being Mr. Practical, was more concerned about the financial aspect of it. Rightly so, I mean, I get it, right? But regardless, it does need to get resolved. He kept trying to convince me to leave the existing tile in place. No, I told him. "You know how I am! My eye will go directly to that and it will bug me." The next day I received his text while he was at work, obviously still thinking about where we're supposed to be getting the money for all this...."King James Bible...And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire." To which I texted back, The book according to Noonee (which is what he calls me)..."And if thy counters offend thee, demolish them and cast it from thee; it is better for thee to enter into the kitchen with clean, smooth, hygenic counters rather than having groutless, bacteria-laden surfaces to bring the hell fire into thy stomach." No response.
As it turned out, we found a way to make it work. I negotiated with the contractor, he agreed, and this morning, the two guys doing the demolition showed up. The tile was removed from the walls and the counters, and then we found more water damage. Heart sank again. The worker said that we should replace the cabinet as there was water damage not only behind the sink but on the walls of the cabinet. He showed me. It's there. And this is where we are right now. I have the granite guys showing up tomorrow morning, and I'm not certain if they're going to be able to even put it on the existing cabinets because of this area of damage. The can of worms has been opened once again. I texted the contractor to let him know about what they found. Can it be shored up? Will it be okay? I have no idea. All I know is that tomorrow, when I'm at work, the granite guys will come and we'll see what happens. All I can do is trust.
Okay, so other than telling you this, you're probably wondering where I'm going? Other than giving you a peak inside my home I started thinking about the similarities of the kitchen...being the center of the home....to our own centers....our souls. As Father Vazken says, "Think about it for a moment." As Christians, the cabinet that holds us up is our faith. Our faith in Christ is our foundation. If we don't properly seal that foundation...in other words, if we don't practice our faith through action, through compassion, through love and tolerance, and finally through worship, eventually decay will enter and cause erosion of that faith. Our foundation has to be strong. That being said, if we do have a solid foundation, we still need to maintain what we do have. We need to nurture our faith, take stock. When we see that it's started to wear away, we need to stop and maintain it. How? By checking back in with Christ's teachings. If the problem is not too far gone, sometimes a patch job will do...just a quick fix. But if the damage is extensive, then we have to do what we need to repair it, pinpointing the problem, closing up the gaps, and getting ourselves back into working order, right? Oh, and it's important that we ask for help too! Sometimes the job is just too big to handle on our own. That's when we've got to call in the "trained professionals" to help do the job. If we're talking kitchens, it's the contractor. If we're talking souls...it your favorite Der Hayr, your favorite clergy.
So, we'll find out sooner than later if our cabinets will be strong enough to hold up the new granite counters. If not, we'll need to figure out something, but I'm hopeful that we can just repair the damage, and things will be okay moving forward. In fact, I have faith that it will all work out! And I'm sure it will. It always does...one way or the other. And I'll definitely keep you posted as to how it all turns out, next week!