But then we started doing the actual installation.
The first problem was that our contractor installed the electrical outlets too low on the wall to allow for a 4" backsplash. Yes, Brian can move the outlets further up but doing so would involve pulling new wire so instead we figured we would just square up the countertops to the walls so a backsplash wouldn't be needed to cover up any gaps (and, of course, this is just a pantry with no sink so a backsplash would be purely decorative anyway). This, however, meant that the countertops had to fit perfectly against the walls and that the mitered cut in the corner would have to be juuuust right in order to look good. But, as it turned out, the walls themselves aren't perfectly square because...well...I suppose because that would have made this job too easy.
So, long story short(ish), we spent most of a day moving the rather heavy countertops in and out of the pantry to measure, cut, and dry fit them. And we cut some drywall out so we could snug the countertops into the corners and the back wall. And then we had to make sure the mitered cut was right since we only had one shot at it (unless we wanted to go out and buy some more countertops).
|Getting started on figuring out the cut|
|Setting up a guide to use with the circular saw - no going back after this|
|Notice the cut drywall behind the short side? Nothing in old houses is ever straight (or easy).|
|Whew! It all fits.|
|Putting the stain on. At this point, we still think everything is going really well.|
|See the weird vertical streaks at the bottom of the picture? These were everywhere on the countertops. This was not good.|
|Here are the countertops, post-mineral oil bath. Streaks are gone but so is most of the stain.|
|While we were figuring out how to fix the stain, Brian used his biscuit joiner to prep the counter for installation|
|Relief! This time, no streaks|
|Both countertops look good|
So, surely the next step would be the easy one? We carried both countertops back into the pantry to join them. We had thought about joining them before staining but figured it would be easier to handle them separately and put them together in place. Based on our track record with this project so far, I'm sure you can guess whether or not we were right...
|We just push these together and we're done?|
So, we carried the countertops back out of the pantry (for roughly the three hundredth time) and into the workspace (which will someday be known as the living room). We joined them together using the biscuits and pocket screws (the Kreg jig continues to defend its title as Most Useful Tool around here) and then had to put yet another coat of stain on to make the new seam look good.
|Now joined together. But still, noticeably, not in the pantry.|
So, as I wrap up this far-too-long post for the far-too-annoying project, here are a few lessons learned. First and easiest, don't buy maple if you plan to stain it. I had a choice of maple or oak countertops and picked maple solely because I was a little worried that oak countertops would look too much like our oak floors...but I should have worried about the maple! Second, if you're joining countertops, do it first. We would have saved ourselves a lot of annoyance if we had just joined them before we even started staining. Third, when it comes to staining, I still don't have a clear idea of what really works or why but if we did this again, we would sand to a high grit (at least 220) before starting, cut the stain itself with mineral oil before applying, and treat the stain like a very finicky paint - paint it on and wipe it off very very carefully. And keep plenty of mineral oil on hand so if the first coat doesn't go well, you can dilute it and start over (and avoid the quick trip to the store that I had to make). Interestingly, putting on the dark stain and then taking it off with mineral oil produced a really nice weathered look that - if we weren't set on having dark countertops to tie into the espresso cabinets in the kitchen - would have been a very nice, if accidental, finish. With all that said, hopefully the next project will involve fewer lessons to learn!