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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Updating Kitchen Sink Fixtures

Has this ever happened to you? You start out with a simple project — to update a faucet fixture — and invariably end up replacing the trap and a whole slew of other pipes beneath the sink. What should be a 45-minute project snowballs into a whole day thing, with multiple trips to the hardware store for parts. Here's where conventional "advice" you get from sales assistants in the plumbing aisle is just *plumb* wrong and what I'll do differently next time I touch a kitchen sink.

I had a nice long stay with my parents over the holidays this year, so of course we had a few projects lined up. When M+D visit me, they pitch in with projects like installing barn lighting on the summer cottage or using my new miter saw to DIY an easy float frame some canvas artwork. Likewise, when I visit them, I help out with whatever's on their list. (Renovating is in the genes in this family.) This visit, project numero uno for Mom to replace the old kitchen faucet that had stripped gaskets that were leaking with a gooseneck faucet that would offer better clearance for pots and pans, plus a handy sprayer in the spout.

This was pretty much the only project Mom and Dad had left on the list for the kitchen, after their recent remodel. We had a morning to spare one day, so we thought why not. But I was forgetting my last encounter replacing a kitchen sink strainer and basket — a project that much like this, snowballed into an all-day job. And that's what happened this time.

The actual fixture install was straightforward. But while we were under the sink making adjustments to parts, we found the old metal P-trap was crumbling and there was a leak. Off we went to the store for updated PVC parts. We sized them and installed them, but the leak persisted. 

Turns out that just as in my previous sink project, we were handed reducers instead of washers. Back to the store we went. Got home and made the switch... yet still the leak was there.

"You know," I said to Dad, "the same thing happened to me before, when I replaced my faucet and strainer. What finally worked was that purple primer and cement, even though the plumbing guys said I didn't need it." The hardware assistants will always tell you that you don't need primer and cement for a simple kitchen sink job using PVC pipe. They say that if you cut the pipes to the correct size and everything fits properly, it shouldn't leak. I had chalked up last time's issues to my own inexperience as a plumbing newbie, but this project was making me revise that assessment. 

"They take these classes," Dad explained, "where they're working with model kitchens, not real-life plumbing situations. I can actually see here on the other side where the install of the wall pipe to the garbage disposal has a blue primer on it," he pointed out. 

So back to the hardware store we went again. We picked up the purple primer dual pack and reinstalled the PVC pipe, this time coating the connecting pipes with primer and cement. The combination of these two solvents actually melts the PVC plastic, to form a permanent bond. The hardware store guys will tell you you don't want a permanent bond, in case you ever have to revisit your plumbing configuration. But the way I see it, PVC parts are cheap. I'd rather have a solid connection without leaks under my sink than easily reconfigurable pipes. And so would most homeowners, don't you agree?

Next time I have a kitchen plumbing job even if it's just an easy fixture swap, I'm going to do three things:

1. Pick up a PVC kit and some extra parts in case we need them. Kits come with all the gaskets, reducers and valves you'll need and they're very inexpensive.

2. Make sure I have gaskets and not reducers!

3. Include a pack of the purple primer and cement — even though the sales assistants will invariably say I don't need them.

You can always return whatever you don't use but by having everything on hand you'll avoid making multiple trips, and that's the real time suck in these jobs.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Fixer Upper Friday: Dunolly 2BR Reconfiguration

Hey, I'm back with another installment of Fixer Upper Friday. Today I'm looking at a 2 BR at 34-21 78th Street, 2J, in Jackson Heights that caught my eye. The home, which just hit the market asking $450k, is located in the Dunolly Gardens, a massive six-building co-op that actually takes up an entire city block. Other 1100 sq ft 2BRs in the building, like this one in the E line, have been selling for as high as $615k, thanks to a coveted second bath. Looking at our floor plan, a clever reconfiguration has the potential to not only open up the kitchen but also add a second bathroom, creating a valuable master suite. Let's take a look!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

IKEA Hack: Desk for Two + Järsta Wall Cabinets


It's been awhile since my IKEA home office for two hack and the room is still half-finished. The desk for two is done, but I was vacillating about the wall cabinets. I had some time last week between appointments in the IKEA area, so I popped in and as often happens I found the inspiration I was waiting for. I think you're going to *love* it!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Fixer Upper Friday: Roosevelt Terrace 2 BR

Typical terrace at Roosevelt Terrace via RedFin
Hey, I'm back with another installment of Fixer Upper Friday, scouting a 2 BR at 35-31 85th Street, 4h, in Jackson Heights. This home is located in a four-building co-op down the block from where we live, so I get to see quite a bit of it and I can tell you that the outdoor spaces are sweet. I'm going to breeze right over the photos in the ad on StreetEasy and instead show you this of a neighboring home in the same co-op that gives a better taste of how great this home could be. Can't you just see yourself sipping a latte or glass of wine here? Righty-ho, then — let's jump right into the floor plan, where the potential to open the kitchen into something spectacular is pure Renov8or gold.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Modern Chair for the Bedroom (Update)

The bedroom makeover has dragged on, while I search for the right mid-century style bedroom chairs and rug. But I'm one step closer this week. The rug I'd been stalking at West Elm was just reduced half price, so I snapped it up. The Margo Selby Zig-Zag Stripe Kilim Rug ($299) makes a big color statement and that's going to help decide the chair. Possibilities include a surprising newcomer — a lounge chair ($250) from the new Target + Dwell collaboration. What do you think? Does it beat out gorgeous red Blu Dot chair (that's 4x the cost)? I'd love to hear opinions!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Life-Changing Magic of Folding Clothes Into Origami

If anyone had foretold I'd be folding my sweaters, jeans, and, yes, even undies into origami in a quest for a more organized home, I'd not have believed it. Yet, here I am. Remember last year's breakout book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? It prompted a slew of riveting "clutter" photos all across the web and spawned the hashtag #KonMari — now a verb, as in "I KonMari'd my closets." But does it really work? I put it to the test. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Float Mount Frame Hack for Large Canvas Paintings

You know how some people have good parking karma — a spot always opens up for them just when they need it. Well, I have good artwork karma. I've been collecting art for most of my life and have had some unbelievably good large-scale canvases fall into my lap. Though I've acquired many large canvases for free, framing them can be costly, so I'm excited to share with you this easy DIY hack to create a simple float mount frame.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Barn Light for the Cottage Porch

Ashley Brooks Designs / Barn Lighting
I've been taking time off to spend with my folks at the cottage, but that doesn't mean we don't have a few projects up our sleeves. I've long been wanting to replace the rear porch light on the deck, and with Dad the electrician on premises, now seemed as good a time as any.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Mood Board for a Black and White Bathroom

One of the first things I like to do when I'm designing a bathroom is bring all of the elements into Pixlr as layers and move them around without worrying a lot about distortion and proportion. It's fun, and it's often surprising what I discover. Take the black and white bath we're working on...

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Factory Doors and Encaustic Tiles Make a Strong Statement in the Bath

The Bower Birds

I'm advising a friend on a design for a master shower in her new home, and so much has changed since I designed our own bathroom just three years ago, I can't wait to share some exciting finds.