Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Kitchen Tweaks

After I got the shelves up, there were a few last things to get the kitchen fully functional. You've actually seen the finished product of the four projects in this post when I showed you pictures of our accessorized kitchen, but you may or may not have been able to spot them :) 

The tile was laid with the plan that the shelves would sit directly on top. however due to imperfections in the tile and in the wood, there were some spots they didn't touch. See that tiny sliver of yellow at the top? That's what I wanted to fill in.

I decided to use grout caulk, the most amazing invention ever (pretty self explanatory: grout + caulk), to fill in the gaps. It comes in all of the same colors caulk comes in, so I used linen, which is what is between the tiles. I was hoping that by filling the gaps in, the shelves would look more finished, and they'd also get that extra support from having something to rest on in the back.

The grout caulk has the consistency you'd expect from the name. Wet/sandy like grout, but sticky like caulk. It's a little easier to wipe off than regular latex caulk, but it dries WAY faster. I found that out the hard way and had a little scraping to do to get it off the bottom of the shelf.

See how the yellow sliver is no more?

And here too, where it was a bigger gap.

No gap!

People really won't be looking at the shelves from this height since you kind of have to squat down to see this low, but it makes me feel better to know that it was finished properly.

Onto the next project. I unfortunately don't have a good picture to illustrate what was happening, but when the overhead kitchen lights are turned on, the shelves cast a pretty harsh shadow onto the backsplash beneath them. The previous owner had under-cabinet lights installed to help with this, and we decided to keep them and hook them up to a switch on the wall rather than using the switch on the cord that was nailed to the bottom of the cabinet like she had. You can see the wires we had hanging out of the wall waiting for the lights to go in here.

This task was the last thing on Jerry the handyman extraordinaire's to do list. Here are the lights from under the old cabinets, and the blue things are male and female connectors to connect the wires from the lights to the wires from the wall.

First, Jerry screwed the light to the shelf.

Then he stripped the end of each wire and crimped on the connectors, then connected the male to the female. We decided that all of the extra wire would be put back into the wall rather than letting any of it  sit under the shelf, so Jerry made sure to stagger the connectors so the bulge would be as small as possible. See how if all of the connectors were next to each other they would require a larger hole to get back into the wall? Big hole in brand new backsplash = sad Claire, so Jerry kindly avoided it.

This picture illustrates the shadow pretty well. See how gloomy the right side is?

The third project makes a very small statement, but I'm glad I did it. The old caulk around the sink was kind of gross. There were spots where it had mildewed, there was a lot of excess caulk that had gotten all gummed up, and it was just generally dirty and cloudy looking. On top of that, a lot of the dust from installing the tile floors, backsplash, and the shelves had gotten stuck in it and I couldn't get it out.

Time to scrape it out. I used my handy caulk remover tool which looks like the silliest, dinkiest tool, but it works like a charm. It has a pointed scraper in the middle for the corner, and flat angled scrapers on the sides for the flat surfaces. You just dig it in and work it back and forth.

Now, the only thing that made me nervous about this project was that I needed to use silicone caulk rather than latex caulk, which is what I'm used to using. Every time I had gone to Home Depot and asked about which one I should use, the employees would explain that it's usually just a matter of preference. Some people prefer the consistency of latex, some prefer silicone. But every single time, the person I'd speak to would tell me they prefer latex, and that it's easier to work with and to clean up. So, that's what I had always used.

For this project however, I needed silicone, because it stays more pliable and doesn't harden up as easily and separate from the surface it's supposed to be attached to. I put this project off for a good while because I was pretty weary of using this impossible product, but the time came that I needed to just do it.

I Googled tips for handling it, which included dipping your finger in alcohol to keep it from sticking to you (whereas you use water for latex caulk) and taping off the area you'll be applying it to to keep it from going everywhere. Unfortunately I didn't have any alcohol on hand and I was too impatient to go get some (will I ever learn patience? I think not), but I did have tape. I taped off the counter as well as the sink, and left just enough room to get a good bead of caulk in the seam. Luckily the caulk is clear, so if I messed up or it bled through you wouldn't really be able to see.

Here's the clear silicone caulk I used. You may notice that it's a pretty small tube (or maybe you can't tell the scale from this picture--but it's shorter than a tube of toothpaste). The reason I got a small one is twofold. First, I don't think I'll need this stuff anywhere else in the house, so there's no point in getting a normal sized one. Second, the normal sized tubes often don't come with a cap, so you have to make sure and seal them up somehow to avoid them drying out. 

A little word of warning: wrapping the end of your caulk tube with some sort of plastic wrap and then securing it with a rubber band is not sufficient. I tried that and it totally dried out. My handy man suggested that I use a small screw to plug up the hole. That's what's currently sealing up a large tube of caulk that I have, so I'll let you know if it dries out when I use it next :)

On to the application. I just put a bead about 5 inches wide (I wanted to start with a smaller space than I usually tackle to make sure nothing terrible would happen) and wiped off the excess. Guess what? It was way easier to use than latex! I guess I just learned about my latex vs. silicone preference, and silicone is the clear winner. Just imagine this wiping toothpaste somewhere and then trying to clean it up, or wiping vasoline? Latex is much like toothpaste, and silicone is much like vasoline, and I think the silicone is far easier to wipe up and also to get off your finger.

After I went around the perimeter, I pulled the tape up. Ta da! Much cleaner.



You don't even know it's there :)

And last but not least, a more decorative project. After I put all of the plates and cups up on the dishwasher side of the kitchen, I felt like it was really lacking in color since the plates are all white and the cups are all clear glass. The shelf on that side is supposed to act as our main shelf functionality wise, so I didn't want to stick decorative things on it to add color and risk losing some usable space. The only color I had up there were some mugs, but they were sitting on the far left (which I envision as being the least used part) because we aren't big mug users.

Not big mug users?! I know, I know. John doesn't drink coffee and I gave it up about a year ago. As far as my self control goes, I'm very all or nothing. I'm terrible at moderation. If I drink coffee, I drink it 4 or 5 times a day, and sadly I don't like it black. All of that sugar is not good for fitting into my wedding dress. This is also exactly why I had to give up soda which happened eight years ago. That's right, eight. I still to this day have cravings for Dr. Pepper, but I just couldn't control myself and was drinking way way too much. I have nightmares that I drink it and ruin my streak.

Ok, back to the task at hand. We needed color. As I thought about what I could do, I realized that the backsplash below the shelf was looking pretty expansive since I didn't have anything too tall to break it up. I figured that I could kill two birds with one stone if I installed some under-shelf hooks to hang those colorful mugs from. I went to Home Depot and found exactly what I had been envisioning: hooks covered in white plastic. This way, they'd look like an extension of the shelf (whereas they wouldn't have if they were brass or nickel), and they'd also have a nice surface that wouldn't scrape the mug handles.

The lights Jerry installed were centered between the corbels, so I measured the half way point between the light and corbel to know where to hang my hook. I also put each of the mugs on the hook and held it up underneath the cabinet to see how far from the backsplash I'd need to put it to keep the mug from hitting the tile. 2 1/2" was the winning number--far enough away to not rest on the backsplash, but not so far it looked like it was strangely far forward.

Next I found the right drill bit (you want one that's the diameter of the body of what you'll be screwing in, but not as big as the threads) and then I used some tape to mark off how long the hook's body was on my bit. You don't want to drill the whole length, that way the hook some some good, undrilled wood to grab onto at the end of the hole. So, notice that my tape ends sooner than the length of the body of the screw.

Next, I drilled my holes, making sure to stop at the edge of the tape, and screwed in the hooks, making sure to face them forward.

Repeat three more times, and voila! 

See how the lights really break up those shadows? And how the mugs break up the backsplash and add some subtle but much needed color? Please excuse the top shelf and the random gap on the bottom shelf... I'm still trying to think if there's anything functional I can put there to add a little more color on that very bland spot.

So, what do you think? Are small projects like these worth it? Do you like the mugs? Can you think of anything to put on the lower shelf to add some color that won't take away the valuable square footage? The tricky thing is that that spot is right next to a corbel, so I don't want to put anything too tall that will hide the corbel since I think it has such pretty lines. I have a tall, opaque teal vase that I thought could be nice but it blocks that corbel completely. Any ideas out there?


  1. Great idea with the plastic coated hooks - where did you buy them?

    1. I found them at Target. They sell them at Home Depot as well but they're actually more expensive!