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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Renovation Diary: Why Skim Coating Is Worth the Cost

—Original old world plaster walls—
When we got the bids on this job, one area where they varied was in the treatment of the walls, and the difference came down to skim coat. You may be asking yourself is skim coat even necessary or worth the added cost? It is if you're blending old and new — and the old walls are 1946 plaster. Here's why.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Renovation Diary: IKEA's Delivery Service XPO Logistics Sucks

IKEA outsources their delivery needs to a company called XPO Logistics, and that's a terrible business mistake for a company that prides itself on high quality products and customer experience. We are now on our fourth delivery attempt, scheduled for Monday.

Delivery attempt one: The guys waited around all day and at the end of the day there was no delivery. I called XPO and was put on hold indefinitely. I called IKEA and was put on hold 20 minutes before speaking with a human who couldn't tell me what the problem was, only that she could "see" my order in the system at XPO's warehouse and did I want to reschedule. I rescheduled.

Delivery attempt two: A repeat of delivery attempt one. This time when I called IKEA, I got a more knowlegable person on the phone who said the problem is that the order that's on the truck is not complete, it's missing items, and XPO's policy is to not deliver if the order is incomplete. If the customer, me, gives permission, they can override this policy and delivery what they've got. (It would have been nice to have learned this last time.) It turns out 50 pieces are missing. Are they cabinets? Hardware? Panels? She couldn't tell me. Just that when I inventoried and reported IKEA would do their best to get them to me ASAP.

Delivery attempt three: The night before I get an automated voicemail that our window is 1-5. At 1:45 pm I get an automated email that a delivery attempt was made. What? I text Aleks. The guys are there and no one attempted to deliver. I call IKEA who tells me XPO will attempt to call the homeowner and if he/she isn't home, they won't deliver. Did I want to reschedule. I text Aleks who says Monday and this time we leave his contact info in the system. He tells me this happens all the time with IKEA orders.

Every time I call IKEA, I am put on hold with the automated message "We are experience high call volumes in your area, please hold and a representative will be with you shortly." I'm not surprised they're receiving high call volumes. If every person has four missed deliveries, that's a lot of irate people on the phone trying to get through. How about this? Get a new delivery service.

IKEA must be aware of the ineptitude of XPO Logistics. There is afterall an entire Facebook group devoted to this, called XPO Logistics Sucks.

IKEA should take a look at Wayfair. I've ordered a sink, two faucets, and some other finishes from Wayfair and they have an awesome web-based tracking system that lets you see how many stops are head of you. You can track the progress of the truck all day until it arrives. Amazing.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Renovation Diary: Obsessed With "Hidden" Outlets

I woke up early with the nagging worry that we probably forgot to put outlets back on the living room side of the wall that we’d torn down then put back up again. Sure, I made myself try to sleep (or at least rest) until 5am, then I gave up, got up, and started brewing the morning coffee. I took mine through the zip wall to take a look at the work that had been done yesterday in the light of day. I was so relieved. Not only had Aleks remembered to put back the outlet, he’d given me an extra one exactly where my reading lamp will go. Bless him. A good contractor who is forward-thinking is worth his fee.

In the kitchen though, I noticed an outlet where I definitely do not want one — on the sink run, right in the middle of where the marble backsplash will go on. I took a second cup of coffee into the bedroom, sat down at my temporary desk, and wrote Aleks a quick email about the electrical outlet, the IKEA delivery due today, and a few other items that I’d noticed before leaving for work.

I realize that I may seem a bit obsessed about the outlets, but it's because I chose to make the marble backsplash the focal point of this kitchen design and I don't want anything to detract from it. The rest of the kitchen is very plain — white shaker cabinets, white quartz countertops, white finger pulls that disappear, all appliances hidden behind panels. The backsplash simply has to shine. The solution: Plug mold.

These strips of outlets and USB ports attaches to the underside of the cabinetry.

It's probably not a solution you want if you have small appliances that you keep out on the counters — who wants to look at dangling wires — but if, like me, you like your countertops clutter-free, it's genius!

In other news, something that I didn't mention to anyone just yet, but it's on my radar: I’m a bit worried that the sink is going to be oddly positioned vis a vis the beginning portion of wall that went back up. I’ll have to confer with Aleks about possibly placing the faucet deliberately off-center to the right. As the drain is off-center to the right, this may not look all that bad.

All was quiet today. No texts or emails. I imagine the guys are busy with plaster and skim-coating, and that I may be hit with the strong smell of primer when I get home. I ran into my neighbor in the elevator and warned her about how strong primer can smell. She said no worries, and she thanked me for the Starbucks gift card that I had sent around to my neighbors. It pays to be thoughtful. ;-)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Renovation Diary: Restoring the Floors

Aleks texted from a flooring store where he’s picking up red oak slats for the section of floor that used to be the galley kitchen but is now down to it’s subfloors. I had hoped originally to find that underneath the porcelain tile we’d find the same hardwood floors that are in the rest of the rooms, but nope, just subfloor. It’s too bad to lose the old slats from the dining area, but they were all one length, not feathered. To make the two sides, old galley kitchen and old dining area, match, Aleks’s floor guy will have to re-do both rooms in the same material, feather the slats of various sizes, and stain them the same natural stain as the rest of the house.

I'm really sad that we can't retain some of this flooring, but I understand how hard it would be to remove the nails from these slender, brittle floor boards. Well, I won't dwell on it; the floor is going to look fabulous when it’s finished and will be worth the added expense.

When I got home from work tonight, I took a peek at the other side of the zip wall and I was so excited to see that all the rough-ins are done and most of the walls and ceiling are back up, ready for plaster, skim coat, and paint.

In other news, IKEA’s delivery service XPO Logistics missed a second delivery date today. I called to find out what the heck is going on. They said the order is not complete and that I need to call IKEA. I was on hold a good 20 minutes until finally getting to speak with someone who knew something. She saw that I had a case number from our previous missed delivery date and apologized for the two missed deliveries. The problem with the order is, about 50 products are missing. XPO won’t deliver a partial order unless IKEA okays it. IKEA won’t okay it unless the customer okays it. I okayed it.

But I asked, why didn’t the IKEA rep I spoke with last week tell me this and deliver it all today? The lady didn’t know, but she apologized profusely and offered me a $100 gift card for my trouble. I readily accepted, but seriously, it's not enough to make up for the wasted time.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Renovation Diary: Design Elements


I woke up this morning before the alarm went off with a dreadful feeling that I’m making a mistake with the lighting over the sideboard — specifically the plan to use the extra pendant there. I’d purchased four to go over the island, when it was an island, but now I’m only using three since the wall became partially closed again. They’re custom, and can’t be returned, hence the idea to use the extra one over the sideboard. I thought perhaps it would  tie in the design of the two rooms. But I woke up realizing that it will hang too low and will obscure the artwork that I plan to hang there. Also, it’s a downlight that won't illuminate the sculpture that I’m going to put on the sideboard either. What I really need there is a "wall wash."

I know very little about lighting. What I do know was gleaned from this very helpful article on Remodelista. — 5 Things to Know About Recessed Lighting — and perusing discussions about lighting on Houzz, many of them several years old. Mind you, I don't really wish to know more. I just want to know enough to make a decision.

In the photo above your eye is drawn to three rather lackluster houseplants and a middling framed photo of water or sand or somesuch. The artwork isn't even stellar, but your eye is drawn to it. That's the effect of a wall wash. And that is what I want over my sideboard.

I got out my measuring tape and took a look at the hole the electrician had punched above the sideboard and I could see that it isn’t quite right for the pendant anyway. The sideboard is made of 15” deep cabinets, so centered would be 7-1/2” from the wall. It looks like he’s got it about 24” or more out. I texted Aleks.

Later in the day I got an email back from him with status on the job and he mentioned that there’s not enough cable for the pendant to go closer. I texted back with a link to a gimbal (wall wash) that I like and he gave it a thumbs up. I’ll buy it tomorrow when I’m working in Manhattan.

Even after cleaning up, everything we touch is coated in a film of dust, and there’s the alkaline taste of lime dust in my morning coffee. I heat up some homemade soup (thank you, Instant Pot) and retreat to the bedroom after work.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Renovation Diary: The Mid-Point

Today begins Week 3. In my experience, the rough-ins period is the toughest for the homeowner in any kitchen renovation. With parts of walls and ceilings down everywhere we turn, the rough-ins for plumbing, gas, and electrical have been underway since last week, and we’ve been living with holes and plaster dust everywhere. This is the phase when the excitement of finally getting your project underway has worn off, and you just can’t escape the fact that you’re living in a construction zone.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Renovation Diary: Mixing Metal Finishes in My Kitchen

The pure white field and deep navy vein of the paonazzo marble we saw yesterday is sparking all kinds of design and decor choices in my mind. I drafted a new mood board. So much has changed since I drafted my original mood board that I thought it would be painful to compare them, but it isn't, because I love the new design even more.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Renovation Diary: Marble Shopping

—Paonazzo marble, Elizabeth Roberts Architecture—
Our home is a construction zone on the other side of the zip wall and there's a distinctly alkaline note of lime dust in my coffee this morning, so it was a real relief to spend the day marble shopping with Ross at Bas Stone in Long Island City. This stone yard — owned and operated by two sisters — is like no other stone yard I've ever seen. We saw so many beautiful marble slabs, and one that I think may be The One.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Renovation Diary: The Case for Choosing Appliances First

This morning I'm trading Craigslist emails with people who want to buy my Thermador oven stack — that's right, the same oven stack I was so excited to find at a good price myself just a few months back on CL. The one I went to great lengths to arrange delivery for. The wall oven that completed my "dream kitchen." Though it would not have helped my particular situation, based on this experience I advise anyone planning a kitchen to choose your appliances first.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Renovation Diary: How to Create a Lighting Plan

I met with Alex this morning to go over my lighting plan. If you've never done one, it's a map showing where you want your lights to go and indicating, with dotted lines, where those lights should have switches located. You also indicate where outlets should go. When I was a renovation newbee on my first kitchen, I neglected to do this and I ended up with a gorgeous kitchen that was not well-lit. I also ended up with cutouts for outlets interrupting the flow of my expensive slate backsplash. This time I was prepared.