Category Archives: Renovations

Zero insulation up here right now. Just 2x6 joists, ship lap, and a bunch of wires and dust.

Peek into my attic

I’ve been using Service Magic to get leads on contractors for minor renovation projects. It’s  a good source for local contractors who know how to speak in complete sentences and understand the importance of following a budget and a timeline. My most recent request was for insulation and radiant barrier in my attic.

The thing I love about contacting people to do work like this is that I get to learn a lot about the service I’m requesting. Like, there are 3 standard types of blown-in insulation used in Texas: Rock Wool, Fiberglass and Cellulose.

Cellulose insulation is made of recycled newspaper bits. Although it’s the “greenest” option for blown-in insulation, it’s the choice most likely to be affected by water damage or rodents making nests in your attic.

Fiberglass blown-in insulation is different from the rolled fiberglass stuff I remember from our attic as a kid. Yeah, it’ll still stick in your finger if you touch it, and it’s still itchy, but it looks more like a pink winter wonderland now. This is the option I’ve selected for my attic.

Rock wool (or stone wool) is a type of insulation made from actual rocks and minerals. And since the guy I hired to insulate my attic didn’t offer rock wool, I didn’t take the time to learn any more about it than that. But here’s a picture anyway.

Blown-in insulation also comes in different “R” values, which just means the thicker it’s installed, the more resistant it will be to letting heat through and into your home. Wikipedia has more to say about that R values.

On top of the blown-in fiberglass insulation, I’m also getting a radiant barrier installed to help keep the radiant heat out of my attic to begin with. Radiant barrier will be installed next week. Insulation will come  sometime in June after I install my attic stairway and raised platform flooring for storage. I have no closets, you know….

Here’s what my attic looks like right now.

This is the granite I've selected for my kitchen counters.

Stop! You’re getting away with my kitchen!

I’ve come to a decision after months of hemming and hawing over what to do with my kitchen countertops. I have one word for you: Granite slab.

Sorry soapstone. Sorry poured concrete. Sorry granite tile and all the other options I’d been considering. Granite slab is going to work best for me right now. I hope you’re all not too disappointed. Because it’s going to be freaking awesome.

I decided to use Fox Granite as my installer for a few reasons.

  • Greg Fox (owner) seemed extremely knowledgeable, professional, and easy to work with.
  • The price was fair for the work to be done.
  • His website was actually usable and not some piece of crap with spinning GIFs left over from 1997. I could also browse his portfolio on my iPhone, and the photos were large enough to be useful.
  • Based on his portfolio, his work looked to be good quality.
  • He uses a Mac.

His installer is coming back on Tuesday to take measurements for a template. I’m actually looking forward to this. Once the granite counter and new zero radius undermount sink are installed, I’ll finish up the painting in the kitchen and install my track lighting. Oh yes, and window treatments. And windows. And and and….

Current state of the kitchen. It's quite rough.

Out with the concrete, in with the soapstone!

I’ve been talking to my home advisor lately about my kitchen countertops and the general state of my kitchen. During my remodel, my contractor and I agreed that we’d install temporary laminate countertops till I had it in my budget to get a concrete countertop installed. That was decision number one. Then I changed my mind and decided I’d do them myself. There are a ton of great videos and resources for pouring your own concrete countertop out on the Interwebs, so after watching a few videos and reading some how-to’s, I was emboldened. The next time my parents came to visit, we were going to pour, install, grind and polish a concrete countertop for my kitchen.

That was last October.

So, my parents arrived. They were here for 12 days, and we decided at that time that we’d be more productive if we tackled a bunch of little tasks instead of taking on the task of making a countertop out of concrete (which can take 10-14 days of on/off work if you’re unfamiliar with the work involved).  Instead of doing that, we installed a dishwasher, a new kitchen faucet, added some electrical outlets that the contractor had missed, and vented the microwave and dryer to the back of the house. Hmm. Seems like there were some other things in there too, but I can’t recall all of them now. Trust me. We were busy.

I’ve been thinking about this stupid countertop for months now. Concrete concrete concrete. Ha. My sister bought a house in Ohio about the same time I acquired the Hovel. Her house had a concrete countertop. Apparently whoever installed it was part idiot or a crack smoker or something (or maybe they didn’t find all the nifty YouTube video tutorials that I’d found) but hers is cracking, uneven and stained. They hadn’t even taken the time to level the cabinets to each other before installing the countertop. Crappy job, to say the least.

With that on my mind, I started thinking about other low-cost, high-quality DIY alternatives for kitchen countertops. Hellooooo soapstone!

Dorado Soapstone of Austin carries a wide variety of soapstone for countertops (and other stuff) and has a pretty nifty showroom, too. Bo Barkley at Dorado Soapstone met me at their showroom today to show me around and give me an estimate on my countertop. I have about 30 square feet of counter space to cover. They’ll rough cut it for me into the shapes I need to fit my kitchen AND they’ll deliver it to the Hovel for less than $2000 (per the estimate based on my quick measurements). Not bad. More expensive than concrete, but about $1000 cheaper than any other solid surface available.

That’s what I’m thinking about today. That and how to strip the paint off my kitchen cabinets and prep them for new paint. And new hardware. We live in exciting times, indeed.


May I borrow this stuff from 10/7 – 10/17?

I’m finally getting around to making my concrete countertop for the kitchen while my parents are in town, and I need to borrow the following items:

  • A cement mixer
  • A couple of sawhorses
  • A variable speed wet grinder

Contact me if you can part with these items for a few days while I work on my counters. I’d be happy to bake cookies for you in exchange for use of your tools.