Construction- “Green” Remodel

kitchen (and master bath downstairs)

When we bought the home it had orange shag carpeting throughout. In order to replace the upper deck, which our inspector found had been rotted and precariously unsupported on one side, we had to take out all the floors in the upstairs kitchen and living room, as well as the ceilings in the master bedroom and bathroom, so that we could put in long enough joists to support the whole deck. You can see some pictures of the construction by clicking on this link. When we took out the ceilings in the bathroom we also found an old beehive that was no longer populated- pretty amazing they had found a way into the ceiling of the bathroom from the outside and had been living there, seemingly undetected. Bees these days…

We had serious time constraints for the project: We took possession of the house in early October, and only had until December 28th to finish demolition, add the new deck, add hardwood floors throughout the house, completely remodel the kitchen and two bathrooms, add new plumbing and electric everywhere it was needed, add a new gas line to the kitchen, paint the whole place, and mold and pour new concrete counter tops. So we basically had two and a half months to completely gut and remodel the entire house. And we were doing it all with permits, of course, so we had to have every step inspected. Needless to say, from the day we took possession of the house we had work going on almost every minute until it was done.

We decided to create our own concrete counter tops for a couple of different reasons. For one thing, they are a lot more “Earth-friendly” than granite, Caesarstone, or other options we found. We also had a large area of counter space to deal with- a complete “U” shape that took up the whole kitchen… so when we priced out the materials we liked we were getting quotes above $10,000. After everything else we had done this was just too expensive for us. We had always been interested in trying to do concrete counters and had been following Fu Tung Cheng and the amazing work he was doing with Concrete Exchange and Cheng Design in Berkeley, so we decided to try his method. If you ever decide to do this please don’t hesitate to contact us because we learned a lot. It was fun but not always easy.

The basic steps for the counters: We took really precise measurements once the GreenQuest cabinets were in, and then made templates for each counter piece we would be putting in. Because they are concrete, they get incredibly heavy, with the largest piece (the one around the sink, with steel rebar reinforcement for the narrow area in front and behind the sink) weighing in at almost 700 lbs! We then made “forms” out of old Melamine in order to create a smooth surface. We had six separate pieces to make, so we had to make six forms. We then rented a concrete mixer, somehow managed to fit it in our small jeep, and had a couple of very interesting and messy days mixing the concrete and pouring them in the forms. (We needed something like twenty 80-lb bags of concrete mix…) Once they had “cured” after about 4 days we were able to remove the forms and move them to the kitchen. We then had to polish and wax them. We really love how they turned out- we really like the rough edges and smooth tops. We finished polishing them and waxing them the day before we moved in. After that we installed the oval tile from Heath Ceramics… literally as the movers were bringing in furniture.

The Finished Product

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