Kitchen Floor Patterns

We are planning to use Marmoleum Click linoleum tiles in our half bathroom, laundry room, kitchen and master bathroom. We have settled on patterns for the half bath and laundry room. We aren’t really making a plan for the master bath ahead of time; it’s going to get the extra tiles from the other rooms and we will do our best using those. We are trying to decide on a pattern for the kitchen though. We have come up with 32 different designs (some are just variations of others), and have more or less narrowed it down to three options.

Our colors are Volcanic Ash (dark grey), Raven (black), Eternity (light grey), and Bleeckerstreet (red). Only one of the patterns utilizes the Eternity color.

Volcanic Ash

Volcanic Ash






Bleeckerstreet (the real thing is a little bit darker)

The outer two rows will be covered by white cabinets in a lot of the kitchen. I think we would be fine with any of the options, but they are very different from each other. Help us decide how best to arrange these colors.

Kitchen Option A

Option A: “The Rug”

Kitchen Option B

Option B: “The Basketweave”

Kitchen Option C

Option C: “The Spiral”

Take our poll to let us know which option you think we should choose, and we would appreciate any additional thoughts you have about these patterns. Thanks!

Built-In Bookshelf

We have been working feverishly for the past few weeks since we passed our rough-in inspection, so we have gotten a little behind on writing about what we have done. For now, here is something that someone else did for us.

When the back of our house was torn off last year, it left three places that were no longer functioning as they were originally built: a small attic door in our current bedroom, a window in our current bedroom, and a doorway at the end of our hallway on the main level of the house. We thought about making all of them into built-in bookshelves, but in the end, we decided to do that with only one, the window in our current bedroom.


Before the window was taken out in March.

This bedroom is relatively small compared to the other two bedrooms in the house, and now it only has one window, so it seems fair that it should get something as cool as a bookshelf built into an old window frame.


Opening from the bedroom side.


Opening from the hallway side.

Peter and I are not skilled carpenters (at all). So we enlisted the help of the Small Jobs Team from our church. Larry was kind enough to take on the task and came several times to take measurements and plan for the job. Two weeks ago, he and Robby came to build the bookshelf. Before they came to our house, they swung by Lowe’s and picked up some plywood we needed, which saved us from having to borrow someone’s pickup truck to get it ourselves (a huge help!).


Helping Peter get the plywood into the attic (Peter is up there, pulling).

They worked hard for a couple of hours hauling plywood inside and building the bookshelf. They definitely earned their Spudnuts. The bookshelf looks great. There is no way Peter and I could have done it and had it turn out like this. It looks very professional and they took great care in making it right.


Yay bookshelf!



I still need to paint it (which won’t happen until sometime in 2016) and we need to put the window trim back across the top. But for now, we have a functioning bookshelf instead of a hole in the wall, which is a pretty amazing transformation.


The back of the bookshelf, on the hallway side.

The shelves are only 4 inches deep because that’s how deep the window was, but it will hold plenty of knickknacks, small books, and pictures. Micah was super excited to put things on it, so he spent a while the next day bringing me books and other items that would fit.


It’s perfect for small board books.

I love the bookshelf and I really appreciate Larry and Robby spending their time working on it. Thanks!

A Busy 12 Hours and 9 Minutes

Today was busy. With house stuff. The list of accomplishments includes: plumber fixed a leak in the new waste lines, we pressure-tested our supply lines, the washer and dryer were delivered, we passed our rough-in inspection, and our denim insulation was delivered. For the much more detailed timeline version, see below. Future posts will have more details on some of these items.


900 pounds of insulation.

6:21 Alarm goes off
7:15 Check Micah’s temperature: 99.9
7:45 Micah and I walk Jonah to school
7:50 Peter starts working from home
8:10 Micah and I go to a plumbing supply store to buy some parts to pressure test our supply lines
8:42 Micah and I return home from the plumbing store
8:43 HVAC company calls about our bill from their work last week – it’s about $200 higher than expected (will deal with this tomorrow)
8:45 Replace one crimp fitting with a push-in (“sharkbite”) fitting so the water heater’s temperature and pressure relief valve will pass inspection
8:55 Attempt to fit together the plumbing pieces in a way that we can put pressure in both our hot and cold supply lines for inspection
9:15 Check Micah’s temperature: 103.0; we will be missing playgroup today
9:20 Wear Micah in baby carrier and attempt to pressurize our supply lines with a bike pump
9:30 Micah lays pathetically on couch and watches Curious George
9:31 Attempt to get the pressure test contraption to stop leaking so that we will know if our water lines are leaking (Peter interrupts work periodically to help)
9:50 Plumber shows up to replace leaky toilet drain that failed yesterday’s waste line pressure test (but apparently was not told what to do by yesterday’s plumber from the same company)
9:55 Plumber leaves to get the parts/tools he needs. Remark to Peter that the plumber’s hair was so long it was tucked into the back pocket of his jeans.
9:55 Continue trying to stop leak in the contraption and pressurize the supply line system
10:05 Plumber returns, cuts out old toilet drain, installs new one
11:00 Plumber uses the right tools (which we don’t have) to help tighten our contraption, but it’s still leaking
11:15 Lowe’s delivery truck arrives to deliver washer, dryer, and ladder
11:25 Plumber says his glue needs to dry before they can pressurize the waste lines again, then leaves
11:30 Lowe’s leaves
11:40 My arms are tired, so I declare the supply lines pressurized enough (90 psi instead of the recommended 100) and we find something for lunch
12:25 Put Micah down for a nap
12:30 Call plumbing company to make sure they will be sending someone to pressurize system soon; she’ll check on it
1:03 Inspector shows up for rough-in inspection (turns out he used to work for our contractor, so he actually worked on the demolition of our kitchen a little bit last fall)
1:04 Peter calls Jeffrey, our framing contractor’s production manager, who wanted to be at the inspection
1:05 Micah wakes up screaming from his nap; get him back to sleep
1:11 Call plumbing company to let them know that inspector is already here; they have no one available to come pressurize system at the moment and suggest that we reschedule the inspection
1:15 Pressurize the waste lines ourselves with the bike pump (much faster than the supply lines, even though they have a greater volume, as they only have to be at 5 psi)
1:20 Jeffrey arrives and joins the inspection party
1:40 Micah wakes up from his nap
1:45 Inspector is done and leaves; we passed all four parts of the rough-in inspection, with a manageable to-do list of things to fix/change before the post-insulation inspection
1:55 Jeffrey leaves
2:00 Plumber shows up again (at the same time as the mailman). Told him we pressurized the waste lines ourselves and that it passed inspection. He seems pleased and leaves after a few minutes.
2:20 Micah and I leave to walk and pick Jonah up from school
2:21 Delivery driver calls to say he and his semi truck will be here in five minutes with our insulation
2:23 Peter moves both of our cars out of the way so that the tractor trailer can park in front of our house
2:35 Micah, Jonah, and I arrive back home as the delivery truck is arriving, and we stay outside to watch the man unload the truck
2:40 UPS parks across the street to deliver a much smaller package to us than the insulation, while we are standing outside watching the insulation delivery
2:50 Delivery driver is done unloading two pallets of insulation into the street right in front of our house (apparently “curbside delivery” actually does mean up against the curb, not even behind it)
2:50 We work on dragging/rolling 900 pounds of insulation from the street to our porch/yard, one unwieldy pack at a time
3:00 Give boys snack and let them watch TV while Peter and I move all the insulation inside (16 packs weighing approximately 56 pounds each, if you do the math)
3:30 Peter works some more, while the boys and I play
4:45 Peter and Jonah leave for church dinner
5:45 Micah starts asking to go to bed because he doesn’t feel well
6:30 Micah is asleep – restlessly
We didn’t necessarily intend for both deliveries to happen on the same day as our rough-in inspection; it just sort of happened that way. I was incredibly glad that Peter was working from home today (which he did purposefully so that he could be here for the inspection). I don’t think I could have handled all of these tasks myself. Peter didn’t quite clock eight hours of work, but he made a valiant attempt to get a bit of work done in between all of the people coming and going.
I don’t know how much time I actually spent using the bike pump today. It was probably over an hour. My arms are already sore, and I feel like I earned today’s ice cream. Especially since I missed the cake at church dinner.

Living Without A Kitchen, Part 2

Part 1 of Living Without a Kitchen can be found here. And now, what do we eat, and how do we cook it?

One of the ways I have been cooking without a kitchen is in the crock pot. There wasn’t a great place to put it, though, because of the limited countertop space. I needed somewhere to put it that was near an outlet and where it wouldn’t fall on the children if they tugged on the cord. The new outlet in the closet proved to be the perfect solution. Since then, one of my frequent dinner dishes has been “chicken in the crock pot in the closet.” I prepare it on the dining room table, stick the crock pot in the closet and forget about it. The children don’t bother it, it’s out of my way, and our closet smells pretty good after an hour or two.


Chicken in the crockpot in the closet.


We also have a BaconWave for “cooking” bacon in the microwave. We’ve only used it once or twice. Thanks, church Christmas store where children can buy “treasures” to give as gifts.

I have been able to make a lot of things without a kitchen, but I cannot boil water or bake cookies/cupcakes. On the occasions when I have really needed to bake something, I have gone to friends’ and relatives’ houses. At home, I have been using the microwave (which works fine, although the 2, 6, and 8 buttons don’t work), the toaster oven, the crock pot, an electric skillet, a George Foreman grill, and a microwave rice cooker. We registered for the electric skillet when we got married, although I’m really not sure why. I only used it a couple of times per year in the ten years before this construction project, but it sure has been my friend over these last eleven months. I have used it to cook meat, make pancakes, fry naan, cook eggs, etc.


Homemade chicken tenders (which the boys refused).

So what do we typically eat? Not having a kitchen has really only affected what we eat for dinner. We still eat cereal or toast for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch. A typical week of dinners might look like this:

Monday: chicken in the crockpot in the closet with an Indian sauce

Tuesday: pancakes

Wednesday: dinner at church

Thursday: leftover chicken

Friday: tacos

Saturday: take out pizza

Sunday: leftovers from the week before


I am always amazed at the amount of leftovers we seem to have. Leftovers are great because it means I don’t have to cook as often. If I’m going through the hassle of cooking “real food,” I might as well make plenty and then we can just microwave it some other night. The boys often don’t like what we’re having, so they might eat chicken nuggets or a sandwich for dinner. We do sometimes get takeout for dinner or go out to eat, but we haven’t eaten out nearly as much as we thought we might when we began this process.

We have still been able to have people over for dinner on occasion. It just gets a little extra cozy in the ditchen, and everyone who has come over knows in advance that we don’t have a real kitchen, so they aren’t expecting anything fancy.

Peter and I have always tried to be fairly environmentally conscious in our choices, but we have been a little less so during construction. We typically use cloth napkins but have abandoned those for paper napkins since we have not had a washer or dryer. We don’t regularly use paper plates, but there are some occasions when we opt for those instead of having to wash glass dishes. We have tried to be more thoughtful about the dishes that we do use. We use our water cups for two days before we wash them, and the boys use their water bottles probably a little bit longer than they should. Whenever Peter uses a plate for breakfast that ends up with only toast crumbs on it, I use that same plate for lunch, and then one of us uses it for dinner. (Don’t worry, if you come over, we’ll give you clean dishes.)

All in all, not having a kitchen has been somewhat of an inconvenience, but it’s been a fairly workable situation. This is good, since it will still be a few more months before we have any semblance of a “real kitchen” again.


Thanks, ditchen sink and cabinet, for making things manageable.

Living Without a Kitchen, Part 1

We have not had a real kitchen for over 11 months now. It’s amazing to me that it’s been that long already. Before we started the process of tearing off the old kitchen, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for how cooking without a kitchen would go. I do not cook a lot of gourmet meals, and we have a lot of yummy restaurants nearby, so I figured it would probably be okay. Turns out, I was right. It really hasn’t been that bad.

We don’t love having to wash all of our dishes by hand while our dishwasher sits in our shed waiting for the new kitchen, but I am immensely thankful that we have a kitchen sink in which to wash them. Our contractor reinstalled our previous kitchen sink and a little bit of the countertop in the dining room in the first days of the construction back in October 2014. If it weren’t for that, this wouldn’t have been bearable. I have heard stories of people who redo their kitchens and just wash dishes in the bathtub during the renovation, but those situations usually only last several weeks or a couple of months at the most. I can’t imagine not having any running water on the main level and having to go upstairs to our one bathroom for everything water-related.


Sorry, dishwasher.

Our dining room has become our combination dining room and kitchen (or the “ditchen” as we often call it). It’s tight in there, but it works. It’s kind of convenient having everything so close together. There’s not much counter space on which to make food, so the dining room table often doubles as prep space.


There are only two outlets in the dining room, and they were both on the same electrical circuit when we started (along with most of the first floor). As such, the circuit got overloaded very easily. It was already getting cold by that point last fall, and we didn’t have heat downstairs, so we were using space heaters to stay warm(ish). We quickly realized that we could not use more than one appliance at a time. We had to choose: toaster oven, microwave, or space heater. We didn’t have the luxury of cooking while simultaneously being warm(ish). Jonah got pretty good at reminding me to turn off the space heater before I turned on the toaster oven or microwave. We also tripped the breaker A LOT. Luckily the breakers are near the dining room and could be quickly flipped back on.


Cooking area.

After about a month of this, Peter managed to add a new outlet in the closet near the dining room (where the electrical box is). We now had a single outlet on its own circuit, which pretty much ensured that we wouldn’t trip it. We typically ran a space heater off of that outlet and then only had to worry about not using two cooking appliances at once. When we weren’t cooking, we would sometimes even get to have two space heaters running at the same time and feel almost warm. It felt luxurious.

In January, Peter and my dad replaced one of the two outlets in the dining room. Now we had another outlet on its own circuit with new wiring and (bonus!) it had three prongs instead of two, so our refrigerator could be plugged in without an adapter. If you’re keeping track, this gave us three outlets on different circuits in or near the dining room. I was really pretty excited. With this plethora of outlets, I have been able to cook more easily. I can even turn on the toaster oven and, once it’s pre-heated, I can use the microwave while the toaster oven is cooking something. This speeds up the cooking process a lot.

Next post: what we make in our ditchen.

Crimping My Style

We have finally arrived at telling you about installing our water supply lines.

Amanda spent a lot of time beforehand figuring out exactly what supplies we needed. She ordered most of the PEX, the manifold, and all of the fittings, with a few extras so that we wouldn’t have to run out to Lowe’s, from an online plumbing store. When everything arrived, she counted it all, which maybe seemed a tiny bit obsessive but turned out to be a good move, since the bag of 100 3/8-inch crimp rings we ordered only contained 55 of them. (The company quickly sent us 45 more.)


Unfortunately, we didn’t think to sort our supplies so nicely until after we had done the bulk of the work.

For the most part, running the actual water lines was as we expected – not too painful, and sort of fun. Each one was like a puzzle: How can I get this unbroken length of pipe from down here in the basement up two floors to the master bath sink, without it going right through the middle of the open floor plan of the kitchen, and without drilling through a laminated beam? For hot water lines, finding the shortest route is especially important in order to minimize water lost at the tap while waiting for all the lukewarm or cold water to flush out of the hot line.


This was totally safe. Totally.

Running PEX means you have to drill a lot of holes. It helps if you have wood-boring drill bits (Irwin Speedbor is one brand). The line to the hose spigot was especially “hole-y,” since the two options for routing it were to go through the exterior wall (and thus through each stud) or through the basement ceiling (and thus through each joist) to the back of the house.


Helping to pull our first set of pipes through the floor.

As we have noted, the beauty of using the manifold is that you use one continuous length of pipe for each fixture, running it from the manifold to the fixture. This mostly eliminates fittings (elbows and tees and such). You do have to connect the PEX at either end, and to do that, we used crimp rings and a crimp tool. The crimp rings are made of copper and are sized to the PEX; since we had three different sizes of PEX, we had three different sizes of crimp rings. The crimp tool that we bought is adjustable so that it can be used for all three sizes. Because we have to pass our rough-in inspection before we attach fixtures, we’re putting a test plug in the end of each pipe and crimping it. When it’s time to add fixtures, we will cut off the end of the pipe containing the test plug and attach the pipe to the fixture with a crimp ring.


For each pipe, we had to slide the crimp ring over the pipe, then insert the plug. We had to adjust the crimp ring to be the right distance from the end of the pipe and then crimp it. The trouble was that the crimp ring slides around while you’re trying to get the crimp tool in position. There were a couple of times when we had to use the Dremel to remove a crimp ring, or when we just had to cut the PEX and try again. Oh, and squeezing the crimp tool occasionally took all four of our arms.


Some of our fixtures need the PEX to come out of the wall, so we attached bend supports to give them the angle they needed, instead of having to cut the PEX and use an elbow fitting to create a 90 degree angle.


The black things are the supports.

After several pipes had been run, it started to get a little crazy at the manifold. The pipes were everywhere. It often felt like you were being attacked by pipes while standing at the manifold trying to attach one. They also got a little tangled amongst themselves, but we were glad that we were using color-coded pipes so that we would know which was which. Amanda used some zip ties to clean things up a little bit so that it wouldn’t look quite as much like Medusa.




How they look today.

We made sure to attach each pipe to the manifold as soon as we were done running it through the walls so that we wouldn’t forget where it went at the other end. The manifold comes with labels so that you know which pipe is which.


We aren’t quite finished with the supply lines. We have one or two more things to connect and our exterior hose connection to figure out. We also need to connect it all to our new water heater. But soon. Soon the supply lines will be ready for the rough-in inspection.

Manifold Destiny

Now that you know all about manifolds, we can explain why it took us two hours just to get ours mounted to the wall.

The first problem was the same sort of catch-22 we have encountered several times during construction. Completing water lines (and thus the manifold) is necessary before the rough-in inspection. And the rough-in inspection has to happen before drywall is installed, since much of the electrical, plumbing, and mechanical work will be behind the walls. But in our case, the manifold needed to be mounted on the wall.

Can’t a manifold go inside the wall, with an access panel over it, you ask? Indeed it can. But let’s back up. The manifold was to be located in the mechanical room. I suppose we could have tried to put it in the kitchen or someplace else, but the mechanical room is reasonably centrally located as far as water is concerned, and it’s where the water heater is. The mechanical room also has an exterior wall, and it’s not a great idea to put a manifold inside an exterior wall because of the increased chance of freezing. None of the remaining three walls were great options, either. We ended up deciding to put the manifold on the wall between the exterior wall and the cellar door. It wasn’t quite wide enough according to the instructions, but it was close to the water heater.


To get around the drywall issue, we made a rectangular plywood backer, mounted it to the studs, and mounted the manifold on it. The drywall, if we ever make it to that stage, will just butt up against the plywood.

So after two hours, we were on to the really complicated part: figuring out how to properly support the 24 water lines after they leave the manifold. The lines can bend, but the manifold manufacturer says to send them straight out of the manifold and through a support before a bend, to avoid putting bending stress on the manifold fittings – the whole thing is just a giant piece of breakable plastic, after all.


If you mount the manifold inside a wall and have plenty of room, you can drill holes in the nearby studs to support the water lines. Doing it the way we did, there were two options: (1) mount a 2×4 on the face of the wall like a stud that forgot to get behind the drywall, and then drill holes in it to support the water lines, or (2) mount a 2×4 flat on the face of the wall and put clamps on it where each water line passes by. We couldn’t really decide which to do, so we went with option 1 on the left and option 2 on the right.


Option 1 requires more drilling, and Option 2 requires more clamps.

In hindsight, I think I would have told myself to go with option 2 on both sides. The first problem with Option 1 was that in order to properly locate the holes for drilling, we mounted the manifold, then the 2×4, and then marked and drilled the holes — towards the manifold. Despite my best efforts, this resulted in several fittings being mangled when the drill got stuck in the 2×4, then crashed through it and rammed into the much softer plastic of the manifold. (We avoided connecting anything to the worst of these fittings, and I used a Dremel to smooth down the burrs on the others… we’ll see if it leaks.) We should have taken the 2×4 back down to drill the holes, but I was doubtful I could get it back in exactly the same spot. [Note from Amanda: Or we should have listened to our wife who wanted to drill the holes before mounting the 2×4, even if Peter didn’t think that they would line up right.]

The second problem with Option 1 came later, as we were hooking up the lines to the manifold. For fittings where we needed to attach a line but the positions above and below already had lines attached, it was impossible to fit the jaws of the crimp tool around the fitting. After much frustration, we eventually figured out a workaround: unscrew the fitting from the manifold, crimp it in the air, and slide it back into place. This was also a problem with Option 2, but Option 1 made the workaround a bit trickier.

Next time: the actual installation of the pipes.