Tag Archive for 'Kitchen'

Finishing stages of kitchen???

Let me start this post by saying……this is a post that was started way back at the start of December, but I never had a chance to finish it. Life is very busy, and I just don’t have the time or energy to do everything. So this post is being back-dated. Yes, I know that’s cheating, but whatever! There is another story that goes alongside that too, as I didn’t really realise just how hard I was pushing myself. But we’ll get into that at another time. Sorry for the book-like length…..

Let me start with what I had started posting…….all that time ago……

Herr Hoffmann had left the kitchen in a bit of a mess – electricity-wise. There were a lot of cables hanging out of the walls, and neither Ina, the electrician Roman, nor myself, quite knew what he had in mind. Over a great sleep one evening I worked it out. Which was quite awesome really, because it meant we could finally finish up the kitchen – which we thought we were pretty much ready to do. Essentially we have a deadline to get the kitchen ready to cooking status. Ina’s mum is coming over to celebrate Christmas day, and is staying for a few days. In addition, Doris is so nice that she is bringing along one of Ina’s and my favourite christmas dishes – a hirsch goulash. This means the stovetop must be functional by this point in time – the 25th.

We have already had the groundwork done. As described in a previous post, Roman the electrician hooked up the stovetop to ensure enough power was available, and although still connected with a normal 25A fuse, we knew everything would be fine – as well as safe. Which formally it was anything but. The thing is, where the stovetop is meant to be connected is the island kinda part of the kitchen – not a true island, more  a peninsula. Although I now know you are not meant to refer to it like that – either way, I think that is rather an accurate way of referring to it. The point being, none of this part of the kitchen is finished. The plumbing still needs to be done, the electricity still needs to be finished off. The wall needs to be finished off so that the bench top is level and at the lowest height possible.

Not sure if I mentioned this previously, but since doing the floor on this level, it has been lowered overall by around 10cm. That is awesome, since it means one floor height overall on this level, but it caused a minor issue with the kitchen bench top. The wall supporting one side of the bench was now way too high. Luckily there was still a bunch of mortar on top of the bricks (this used to be the kitchen wall dividing the kitchen from the living room – we are now using part of it to support the kitchen bench top – and Ina and I could cut all the mortar off the bricks and go down to the top of the bricks. Removing another level of bricks would have made the wall too low, and would have caused far too much work. I mean, when I read my posts, it does’t really sound like we are doing much, but believe me, it is a stack of work. So down to the bricks is fine enough. My calculations tell me that we will have an overall bench top height of around 94cm. Sounds kinda high, but for tall people like us, that is just fine. And let’s be honest, the average height of a german is rather taller than shorter. So thinking long-term, this is not going to damage the rental potential of this place either.

Anyway, after shaving all the mortar off, we were ready to start work with getting the bench top there permanently. Sounds easy right? Wrong. A LOT of things to consider. And a lot of prep to do beforehand. For the bench top to sit nicely against the chimney wall, I realised I needed to re-plaster the wall. No biggy, since in preparation to finish the kitchen off we had the electricity cabling finished (since my wonderful dream of how it was intended to be) and the wall had huge channels cut into it right to the top. I would have to plaster up those channels anyway, so plastering the entire wall didn’t really phase me. And at this point in time, I am pretty damned confident of my plastering skills. Still not keen on doing an entire hug wall, but I know I could if I had to.

So I plastered up the wall, and then Ina and I could measure out, and cut all the wood parts we needed to in order to get the island part finished. That meant cutting the bench top with a circular saw, as well as the two wooden end pieces, which will be painted to look like a continuation of the plaster walls. We could lay everything out in the kitchen – the dishwasher, and all the cupboards that are going to live under the bench top, and get precise measurements also. And that’s what we did. And then fitted everything permanently, finally running a fat bead of mortar on top of the wall supporting the kitchen bench top to ensure it was equally supported. Of course after cutting all the mortar off the surface, it lowered the wall overall, but was not completely even. So some bits of the nechtop were unsupported. Running a big, fat bead of mortar fixed that! Ina and I then, quite literally, sat on the bench top since we knew it needed to be as low as possible for our calculations of being level to work, and our combined weight would squish it down enough into the mortar to do so.

And that’s it. Section done. After this I plumbed in the dishwasher, the sink, and the hot water unit under the sink. Why are we using an electric hot water unit directly under the sink, and not the hot water from the gas hot water unit upstairs in the bathroom? Well, for one there is no hot water connection, since that was never planned. I mean, essentially the top floor was built way after the bottom floor – I think in 2007 or something, and when they built it they never ran a hot water pipe downstairs. I find that weird, but the plumbers we’ve had here said that’s very normal. It gets really cold here, and the hot water would take too long to get to the bottom bathroom, let alone the kitchen, I call bullshit, but whatever.

So I had the pleasure of realising Herr Hoffmann had not only purchased a hot water heating unit that was ineffective (it was a low pressure vented unit), but he had also purchased not one, but two kitchen sink taps that were incompatible with that particular hot water heater. Since it was a low pressure unit, it required a special tap with three pipes, instead of the typical two. Anyway, long story short, both taps were dog ugly, and I had already decided on a different tap by Nobili, which matches the new bathroom taps very nicely, and which requires normal pressure. So I did a bunch of research, ordered a new electric hot water heater by Siemens (a 10L job instead of the tiny 5L we had), went to a few hardware stores and bought all the necessary parts required to install the unit, and set about installing.

By this time Doris was already here. The kitchen was finished enough that we could christen our stovetop and cook on it for the first time together. By the time I was installing the hot water, dishwasher, kitchen sink, and kitchen tap, it was the eve of my birthday. Oh yeah, that’s how I roll, no rest for the wicked! So I finished everything by around 12.30am, Ina, Doris and I could all crash, and I could relax on my birthday. That was the plan at least.

Well, we awoke to the bad news from Doris that something was leaking, and there was a pool of water in the kitchen which had made its way across to the living room. Bugger. Now I needed to find the slow leaks. I had done everything so well, well at least that’s what I thought. Finding the leaks was easy enough, fixing them was another story entirely. And fix them I did. Although first I turned the water supply to the kitchen off, so I could go with Doris and Ina to a beautiful cafe for a birthday brunch (paid for by Doris – too nice!) that was chosen the day before when I was working on all the piping on the 27th. And man what an awesome cafe, and an awesome brunch. I tell ya, I had not only one dish, but two! Bacon and poached eggs first, and pancakes second. What a pig 😛 When I came home after brunch I got about to fixing the leaking pipes. I had to, there was another deadline. A small group of close friends were coming over that evening for a drink to celebrate my birthday. This was the first time any group of friends had been over to see the place, since it had basically been a complete construction site up until then. So water leaking onto the floor was not an option.

Anyway, fix it I did. And since then there have been a bunch of things done. As a gift from a bunch of my friends here, they all chipped in to get new handles for the kitchen. I did not at all like the handles that Herr Hoffmann had bought for the kitchen, and my friends all knew it. Yes, I complain a lot about things sometimes. I try not to, but when something is bugging me, I tend to be quite vocal at times. Anyway, we now have new handles which improve the look of the kitchen tenfold, I have adjusted all the doors and whatnot so they are even (as well as can be in a place where essentially nothing is straight – altbau – you know the story), and that’s where we’re at.

The kitchen is so close not being finished now I can hardly believe it. And if you look at it, no one could imagine the amount of work that went into it to get it to this stage. We are now plastering and sanding the entry walls, getting them ready for paint. The entire entry and kitchen area will be grey. The grey matches the slate floor and the cream kitchen very nicely. It was a tough decision. What color. But I have this Adobe app on my phone where I just point it at something, and it works out a cool scheme. That’s what I did. Pointed it at the kitchen floor and got a color scheme. I went to the paint shop with that color scheme and chose colors accordingly. Too easy. So yeah, we’re still not finished with all the plastering and patching up of places that have been opened up. And just when you think you are done with something you realise you actually aren’t.

We thought the main wall of the kitchen was finished, but we had what we thought was a faulty oven. When we tried to install it, as I think I’ve mentioned before, the front panel was totally electric. Well, the oven wasn’t faulty. We returned the oven and received a new one only for it to have the same problem. The front was totally live. And I’m not talking about just a few volts here, we’re talking about 230V of deadly power – not cool. Logical thinking tells you that the problem mustn’t lie in the oven, but rather the electricity itself, the fact that there must be a problem with the ground. Well, I checked a few power points only to realise that the ground was completely live. There was no ground. Not good, not good at all. And that was after having plastered up the wall, painted the wall, and installing that side of the kitchen rather permanently. Roman had to come back to fix it. Having no ground is extremely dangerous. And only due to the fact that we have a stone floor with no accessible earthing were we not electrified in the first place. Touching the oven when standing on a floor that is earthed would end with the result of an extreme electric shock. Lucky.

Our electrician, Roman, came back and fixed it all up, meaning he had to remove the built-in fridge and open sections of wall that were beautifully closed up and painted, which now means we have yet again, holes in the wall that require plastering up and painting. Talk about sisyphus work!! Oh well, we haven’t done that yet, maybe in a few weeks.

Why in a few weeks you ask? Well, at the end of this week I am off to San Jose for work, where I will be for the next couple of weeks. Got a few meetings with the typical crowd, Apple, Adobe etc. So will be out of this place for a while. Maybe Ina will do it whilst I’m away, but I doubt it. Moving the fridge is at least is a two-person job. And I don’t really expect her to do such hard work by herself. Meanwhile I’m going to spend a weekend in San Francisco to chill and get over some jet lag, and then drive over to San Jose to get on with work.

But that’s it. That is the current status. A fully operational, 95% finished kitchen. The apartment overall is probably around 90% finished. It really is just polishing that is required. Well, more like sanding, plastering, sanding, plastering, sanding, painting. And that is the work that really sux. You can do so much, and at the end of the day you see so little progress. It’s not like getting a dishwasher in, I mean, that is a thing you notice. No, plastering and painting is so subtle that after days and days of work you sometimes look around and feel like you’ve done nothing. Anyways, here are some photos. I know this way of displaying photos six for you guys because making the shot bigger means clicking away from the page – sorry – I really should combine all these posts into it’s own topic – like my bass traps, and have a linked photo album. That will happen – but that’s extra work that I don’t have the time for at the moment – so apologies im voraus – as we would so over this way 😉


And the renovation story continues….

Attention, if you do not like the use of coarse language, you might best be off skipping this article – I guess I let myself go in places 🙂

Well, I guess it has been a while again since my last post. Just so busy everywhere lately.

So where was I last time, yes, the flooring guy had just finished and Ina and I had to fix up a section of that floor. Well, since then we have had the following done in the following order:

  • Found antique door that matches the front door to install in guest bathroom
  • Guest bathroom door removed, frame made bigger and moved as far left as possible
  • Floor heating laid where the slate was to be laid (entry/guest bathroom/kitchen area)
  • Guest bathroom finished off (if you could consider that)
  • Decided on a colour scheme for the entry/kitchen area
  • Started installing kitchen
  • Had electrician come in to install floor heating amongst a million other things

The list doesn’t really look long, but geez, that is no representation of the time, stress, and hard work involved. Both Ina and I are pretty beaten down and worn out. I mean, I did intend on plastering this weekend, but I just can’t stomach the thought today I’m afraid. So instead I’ll write a blog post about what we’ve done, and what we will do!

The door we found for the guest bathroom was a real score. We needed something narrower than the front door since we just didn’t have the space for anything wider, but at the same time much, much higher. The door that was originally there when we bought the place was about 5ft high – literally. And I am not keen at all on bumping my head on the doorframe on a daily basis – trust me, I have been down that path before. And although we managed to make the guest bathroom bigger by ripping it apart and all, it still isn’t huge. And for the tiny space (approx 2.5m2) a door the width of our front door just wouldn’t have worked out. So perfect. But man, what a search. I guess you can imagine, with so many apartment buildings in Berlin reaching way into their second century, and a lot of those buildings having been ripped down or completely renovated since the war, the choice is quite large. We went to one antique shop just on the outskirts of Berlin which is – get this – situated on over 20,000 square meters. Yes, you heard me, 20,000. Safe to say they had a lot of doors there, and we were overwhelmed by choice. Quite literally, thousands of antique doors.

Anyway, after the door was selected and brought back to the apartment we could get on with the job of the carpenter ripping out the current tiny door and door frame, so the bathroom guys could continue with building the bathroom. The bathroom guys moved the hole in the wall so the door frame could then be installed as far left as possible, and after the bathroom had been plastered (well – not my choice, they used plasterboard) the carpenter came back and installed the frame and door.

Now our tiler could come in to do the entry/guest bathroom/kitchen area first with the floor heating unit, and then tile over that with the slate. We chose a grey/green slate. It is actually just a pretty light grey with a very faint hint of green which we both really like. I love slate, but having a really dark colour in this apartment – especially over the winter period – is not something I was too keen on. Anyway, the slate went down and he did a great job. As seems to be typical of any labourer no matter what they are doing, they always start off the job really, really well. But seem to always run out of time and go in fast-forward towards the end. Meaning you’ve got a bunch of fix-ups to look forward to. This is for every single builder/labourer you have through – seriously, every single one. Anyway, fixing his stuff was rather minimal and didn’t piss me off too much.

One thing that really did upset me is one corner wall in the kitchen. I have been struggling ever since we bought the place to get this piece of wall as straight as possible. And I had prepared the floor before the slate was to be laid absolutely perfectly – nothing sticking out from the wall hindering his way from completing the job without hassles. Well, as I said, and as is typically the case, he was rushing towards the end and obviously cut one piece of slate used for the skirting board a little too long – around 10mm. What do you think he did, shave that 10mm off and then mount it – no – he mounted it to the wall 10mm too long – meaning there was a gap between the wall and the skirting board – right at the place I had been working on so hard to make perfect. I was actually so pissed I rang him and asked him what the heel he’d done. He gave a bullshit excuse that something was sticking out of the wall and that’s the closest he could get it. Yes, absolute bullshit – I did that wall myself, I know for a fact everything was perfect and straight.

Anyway, what do you do? Well, there is no way I am living with a 10mm gap between wall and skirting board – so I just built the wall out 10mm with plaster – it’s still not finished, as you’ll see in some pics – but it will be so good you’ll never notice what I’ve done….at least that’s the plan 🙂

After the floor had been laid we were really happy, the majority of the really messy, dusty work had been done and we could finally clean and keep the place relatively clean. Up until this point in time Ina and I had essentially been living  out of our bed. There was just no other place in the apartment where we could sit. Upstairs was full of our combined stuff, and downstairs was a complete work-zone where nothing was safe. It’s also too cold to be outside now, so the rooftop terrace we have is useless, and we up until very recently we had no heating due to the guess bathroom still being incomplete. Oh, good times I tell you. I don’t want to mention how many times I’ve looked over the edge of our terrace looking down to the ground far below thinking how easy it could be to end it all – no cause for alarm, I wouldn’t do anything rash – but you know what I mean!?

So, after the slate was laid, the bathroom could be finished off – which they just did this week. Well, if you could consider it to be finished off. There are, as per fucking usual, quite a few tasks in there that I need to take care of. The power points are crooked, two of the sockets require the wall to be plastered and painted behind since the electrician was not practising his gentle touch that day. And there are the pipes coming out of the wall for the washing machine that have a metal plate over them that are completely crooked – which drives me mad, mad I tell ya!!

I guess that’s all just to be considered polishing – but geez – fuck polishing I say, I am so sick of it. If I did my job like these guys do theirs, the software on your computer would only work 90% of the time and would look like shit. You think I’d keep my job – no, nor me. I guess you can tell be the use of expletives that I am somewhat over this.

A couple of friends came over to help last weekend and we brought our two couches down to the living room, and all the kitchen items, and started putting it all together. Roman and Bartek are very handy guys, and we actually had a nice sunday of constructing the majority of the kitchen – thanks guys! And now we have a kitchen, albeit, all show no go, but it is on the way! Now is probably a good time to mention another one of the many fuckups – I mean, I could tell you so many stories about the ridiculous things that go through builders heads, it’s just amazing. There is no way you could predict some of these things and say to the builder beforehand, for example “We know the front door frame isn’t touching the floor at the moment because we dropped the floor 100mm, don’t worry though, we will extend the frame, so please don’t stick slate skirting boards under this tiny section.”. I mean, you would never think of saying something like this would you – but that’s just what happened – we now have slate skirting boards very carefully cut so they run under the front door frame along the section where the doorframe no longer touches the floor because we dropped the floor 100mm. Yes, batshit crazy stuff like that happens all the time.

This fuckup however is so impressive due to the high frequency of fuckups that this one single builder is responsible for.

When we bought the apartment, a builder was in the process of installing a new kitchen. Ina and I quickly realised this was not what we wanted to do and told him to put a stop on it. At around the same time we realised that the work he was doing was pretty damn dodgy, and we would prefer other builders do it really. But yeah, back to the kitchen. He had contracted all the units and attached legs. Ina and I disassembled the entire kitchen and moved all the units we could upstairs – but there were two units that were just too large. At the time we really wondered about the legs, they seemed so poorly attached, and far too weak to handle all the weight of a kitchen. Albeit, it is an Ikea kitchen, and Ina and I have very little experience in the realm of kitchens – so we really had no idea and just accepted that the legs could potentially fall out, and were rather on the weak side of things. Both of the large units are 195cm high, and one contains the oven, so instead of taking them upstairs, we moved them to the living room to allow the plasterers/builders access to the entry/kitchen area, and then moved them back to the kitchen to allow the builders/plasterers access to the living room, and vice versa a couple of times.

Well, the last move was from the kitchen back to the living room again to allow the tiler access, and on this fateful day one of the legs of the unit holding the oven fell off. It was one of those moments where things happen in slow motion. We say this huge 195cm unit containing our oven go crashing into a freshly plastered wall, on its way into our brand-new, and awaiting installation basin for the guest bathroom. Just an awesome moment. I tried to save it as much as possible, but the thing buckled and broke apart, allowing the oven to basically fall out. Again, I tried to save it from hitting the floor – which I was majorly successful at doing, but it still took a bit of a hit. An when we installed the oven with Roman and Bartek, and plugged it in, I immediately noticed somewhat of an electrical field emanating from the oven – no matter where you touched it. No one believed me though, everyone else, including Ina, touched it and said it was fine. That was until I grabbed an electrical screwdriver that has a glowing bulb in it to indicate when there is voltage, and touched the oven with it. Yes, the bulb glowed brightly, indicating our entire oven is live. So we need a replacement, but before we can take this back to Ikea, we need the receipt for the kitchen – which this bloody builder has somewhere. So our kitchen cannot be finished until this idiot pulls though. Did I mention we transferred 1000 euro across to his account in order that he could purchase a dishwasher and fridge to complete the kitchen, which he didn’t buy, and now we need the cache back so we can buy them – but he still hasn’t transferred the cache back either? Oh, and that in January he is moving to Kassel in January. Yes, just great. Pretty sure I hear the crisp sound of notes being placed in a solicitors hands to sort this one out. Oh well.

And finally, just yesterday we had our electrician in to connect the floor heating, move a bunch of power points around, connect the light at the top of the stairs that we were unable to turn off etc. And he also did a great job apart from connecting the stovetop. I was quite concerned about the power situation. The stovetop is a induction, which although is very energy efficient, uses a lot of it when it is on. It needs either a 2 x 16A circuit, or a 1 x 32A. Power in Germany is 16A per circuit, so it means we needed to use two of those. And for the stovetop it can either be 230V or 400V. Anyway, he said we would be fine, we have a 5 core 2.5mm2 cable running through the wall which is capable of carrying 3 phases and supplying enough current. He said he’d create two new automatic circuit breakers to supply the total of 32A. Well, I came home yesterday to find that although he has hooked the induction stovetop up, it is still connected to the same 25A fuse that it always has been. I do not feel safe about this at all – not at all. I do not want to risk an electrical fire just because some idiot is putting too much load on cables that were never intended for such a load. Oh well, another phone call next week I guess. The joy!

Suzie was over this way last week too, and was actually the first person to stay here. Thank god we had a living room that was semi liveable to hang out in, otherwise things would have been tricky. She was doing her European tour, and played a few gigs in Berlin as part of that.

But that’s about it, that is all I’ve been up to – well, apart from work that is. And work is a freaking nightmare currently. My department is super overworked due to some internal changes, which means that our workload in the last 2 months has jumped by more than 100%. Something I could never have anticipated, nor my forecasting, by use of the last 5 years worth of metrics, could ever have told me. What does this do if no change is implemented – well, we all know don’t we? People leave is what happens – and I was blocked from hiring – so was put in a very difficult position. This has resulted in two people from my team recently handing their resignation in. If I don’t find replacements pretty soon I’ll be in some hot water……just awesome.

And above all I am flat broke. I mean, as Dave Chappel would say “I’m broke bitch!”. This place has gone a little over budget I guess, and I am really looking forward not having to fork out thousands each month to give to some builder/labourer who is working on the apartment who I am not entirely satisfied with anyway.

But you need some pics to whet your appetite and understand on a visual level what we’ve been up to. So without further ado, here you go (I’ve tried to put these in order):




Still truckin’

Still moving along, albeit quite a lot more slowly than I was kind of hoping for. It’s a just timing really, and predicting the fuckups that both you, and the builders are going to make.

The slate has been delivered, as you can see from the photos below. 840kg of it. Who is taking that up to the top level – we are – yay, go team! Seriously though, we looked at the delivery and were like, “awesome, with his truck arm thing he can place it right next to the front door” – which he did. And then we were like “awesome, it’s all on a pallet and individually wrapped in small packages” – yes we though, easier to get up all the stairs like that.

And then he delivered the pallet right next to the front door of the building, and we realised it was just that one pallet of stone tiles. It looked rather small. Deceptively small for something that was apparently so heavy.

We took the plastic wrap from the pallet and tested to see how heavy each smaller packet was and we were like “whoa, this is not all going to be done today – no way!” – and for the last week or so we have been coming home and taking a packet of slate up with us at the same time. Each packet weighs in itself 34kg. It is heavy stuff. That didn’t mean that we could leave it on the street though, no, fist we had to move all of them to the stairwell of our building at least – killer!