Happy late Friday to a buddy! :) *(now Saturday afternoon) I have some words of positive-caution for my reading friend...
be careful what you ask of the universe... it just may provide you with exactly what you're asking for...
Similar to my tattoo post, a story painted through pain, I have been holding out to share this. As I organize my thoughts in preparation for this post, I find myself fumbling through my digital filing cabinet of project pictures. And in doing so, I'm surprisingly caught off guard with my timing... I really can't make this up. The last pictures taken of my amazing kitchen remodel project just happened to be taken on 12/16/2021... today just happens to be 12/16/22!
It's as if the universe intended me to hold out until today to share this story... all the while, it was the universe that led me to even being here in the first place. Last year in August I wrote a post called "be the butterfly"... later that day it set thoughts in motion that only became clearer just a month and a half later... In a fit of emotional excitement, I wrote a post called "the quiet superpower" which in short was a reflection of thoughts becoming things. I ended the post with the words:
These recent years of intentionally pounding on my craft, focusing on the small things that make the biggest difference, those efforts and experiences, leveraged by this quiet superpower, has granted the amazing opportunity to remodel an entire kitchen. :)
Considering the timing of the dates, it only makes sense that I share this with my friend :)
The funny thing about it all really is that it turns out that it was an 11 year old child who introduced me to her parents... So the story goes: Traveling through my small town of Surprise in my slightly loud handyman truck,
it was of astute youthful eyes paying attention.. her parents had been holding off on remodeling their kitchen for almost three years. She said that they needed to contact the Gud Handyman. After seeing the truck more than once, she persisted. Mom! you need to call that guy! Caving into the young child's suggestion, they searched my name on the Google webs.. I vividly remember being told, "no mom! It's GUD! good with a "U" handyman... " Bam! They found me :) When I met this family they told me their story.. They bought the home as a foreclosure back in the crash and have lived there ever since. They remodeled every room in the house, including the backyard and exterior paint... except! for the lower level. Approximately 700sf, a front den, living room, kitchen and a poorly located half bathroom. They had so much dislike for the kitchen that they chose to not even paint the space or the adjoining living room. hahah! I laugh because this is exactly something I would have done! Turns out the cook of the house, Miss Ruth, in a former life, owned a restaurant back on the east coast and was damn good in the kitchen. So working in a poor layout knowing what one knows... MAN! total suck factor. Getting to know their story a bit better, they had been entertaining this kind of remodel for many years. The problem was that they couldn't find someone they trusted to do the work. The husband, Joe, worked in the construction industry for a large commercial outfit, however, Joe's brilliance was behind the computers and IT. As a master at the binary language, he didn't feel good behind a hammer. We all have our gifts! :) That aside however, the man could smell bullshit when needed! Same for Miss Ruth! :) Contractors prior didn't jive very well with Joe's level of standards or expectations - so they held off for some time. To complicate matters, Miss Ruth had been fighting Leukemia for a number of years. She was a fighter! Constantly pushing beyond the expectations of the doctors. However, her numbers were dropping and the clock was aggressively ticking. She told me with tears in her eyes that it was her wish to host Christmas at her home and make a feast in her dream kitchen for her family. It was September, 2021... smack in the middle of Covid impacted world we lived in. Material shortages, a bat shit crazy real estate market, Covid, and more Covid... anyone trying to do anything at this time knew the undertaking, all compounded by uncontrollable circumstances that made getting anything done a total pain in the ass. Ruth homeschooled their daughter, the one with the gud eyes ;), and Joe worked from home off and on. They wanted to reinvent their entire kitchen space. Move a fridge here, adjust the island there, maybe expand here, would be awesome to relocate the poorly designed half bath, oooo! maybe even change out a window (Joe hates that window)... there was a lot to discuss. Having thought about this for years now, not to mention the experience inside the kitchen, Miss Ruth had a lot of good ideas. With vulnerable confidence I told them that I believed this project was possible and I would be happy to help. I followed up saying that until now, I had not done a job so big before, however, over my career of projects, I've done all of this with excellence, just not at once. To my benefit, they had already done their googling review check, facebook, and instagramming qualifications of me. I'm told that I wouldn't have been welcomed to the house otherwise. hahah :) So, my lack of experience in this scope did not bother them. I told them what I thought it would take, both in money and time, and we parted ways on a positive note. You never know how an interview will shake out, so someone in my case just moves on and grinds away while not being a pest to the potential client. A couple days later they called and said they'd like to take the next steps in trying to move forward. Ruth said that I was the first contractor Joe was comfortable with - beyond anything for me, that was a huge win! :) I was excited! :) I told them before we start planning to knock walls down and such, I would really like to investigate further. The house was a two story home, so the likelihood of pipes coming down a wall was very possible. I didn't want to plan to move something that meant relocating large plumbing. All of this meant that I needed to cut a large ass hole in the garage wall. hahaa.
Up until now there had been a number of other contractors who visited the house, yet, not one of them presented the idea to check inside the walls?!... I'm happy I did though :)
Toilet drain pipe from the floor above - CHECK! Now with a quality field check of measurements and non relocatable services, I told Ruth and Joe that I wanted to put all the ideas down on paper and come back to them one last time before we got started. :) Now with a clear head of scope, ideas, and wants, I was able to put a plan together!
For those that are wondering...
YES! Yes, I did draw shit up!
and they look pretty too!!!
There is something about drawing ideas down on paper that, for what I can imagine, feels like composing music. I can see the big picture, the small picture, the complicated areas, the fine details. It lights up in my head like colors connecting dots while telling me a story of material needs, problems, unforeseen scope, phase stacking.. sooo much! I also know that no matter how good I do, there will be curveballs that will require some deviation to the overall plan. There is a problem with this approach though... When I was done I quickly realized that I grossly, grossly underestimated the scope of this project. To throw gas on the fire, I already told Ruth and Joe what I thought it was going to take.
No one said being vulnerably honest was easy!.. but being this kind of transparent from the get-go is crucial. After I had a clear picture of what was required I linked back up with Ruth and Joe. In my head I was 1000% prepared to lose the job due to my lack of project expectations at the beginning. It was my goal to be transparent in every regard while showing them the reality of what I thought was needed. Keep in mind the stresses surrounding the entire ordeal... Covid, health/leukemia, the Christmas wish... dude?!.. I was aware of it all. When I did present the new budget all of those stresses came up right to the surface. I didn't enjoy that part as it was hella uncomfortable... To my surprise though, contractors before didn't show this level of transparency nor level of detail... all just superficial conversations. The increase in time and money wasn't what it was simply because I said so, I literally showed them why and what... Regardless of the project expectation backpedaling I was gracefully redirecting, this kind of detail just made sense to me. I broke the entire project down to phases, I even noted what I thought the project would take in hours. Not only did I need this kind of detail, I knew the whole family operated from the home - all day. And here we are gearing up to literally turn the house upside down. You can't do that without a plan.
When the stresses of the shock calmed down, Ruth asked me how I would even know how many hours it would take. "Do you track them?" Oh man! don't make me bring out the quiet nerd in me! hahahha!
YES! Yes, I do track them... religiously in fact :)
Without missing a step, I showed her the snapshots of all the projects I did for the year and the stopwatch notes I took to qualify that time.
Although it was a stressful situation for me, I was quite calm and collected... so were Ruth and Joe. :) The ownership of having underquoted my time and money, now mixed with the level of non requested detail assured them of my intentions. Following that day, we were ready to get started! :) Success! :)
SOMETHING TO CLARIFY
In most cases a contractor would buy all the material, manage all the subs, and do some installations. It was my full intent to specifically self-perform every task required to do this job... from what I'm told, this is very unconventional. What does that mean? That means on this project I personally did:
LV Cabinet lighting
Hood installation and new vent
Backsplash (75 square feet)
Conversion of slider door to single door
New door and security door
.... I think that's it. ;)
To keep costs down for Ruth and Joe, they personally purchased the big material and coordinated their two subs.
Dustless tile removal
I hired two contractors to help me out
My amazing drywall & stucco dude, David Banks , 602-810-7989
My awesome window dude, Eli Geschwentner, 602-296-8687
Although a bit stressful owning the overwhelming majority of the tasks, it's far less stressful than managing other people, their schedule, and craftsmanship. The outcome was quite phenomenal :) Now even more so that I'm revisiting the pictures.. :)
Thank goodness the temperatures were lower than the summertime... It made exposing the inside to the outside less of a pain in the ass.. while also being a pain in the ass! It was important to start with the phases that were the most daunting, all the while leaving some functionality of a working kitchen. :) From the front of the house, we knocked down the wall between the dining room and garage. There was a small section of a slab that was being used to store normal garage stuff on it.
Looking at the use of better space, I suggested we push the wall out and bring it inside so we can put additional cabinets there without decreasing the size of the dining room. :)
The timing of the large demo was perfect! Happened to be Tristan's Fall break! Had me a helper for TWO 10hour days back to back, followed by a shorter, exhausted 4 hour day :)
Can't frame a wall without a game plan!
Now!! To the back! :) No more annoying slider!
I was concerned that eliminating the slider would have a big impact on the natural light, however, it was quite the opposite. Ruth and Joe always kept the blinds shut because it let in too much of the southern sun, which can be hot in the winter months. Now, this much smaller window can easily have its blinds open. And when it is open, it funnels in a ton of natural light, all while keeping the heat out. Total win!
With the outside under control, we could move onto the kitchen itself.
In concern for cost savings, Joe and Ruth were cautious about the low voltage lighting. I told them that it was so important to the overall feel of the kitchen that I would be willing to do that part for free. I explained to them that while the kitchen is torn apart, now is the time to do it. They heard me out and were ok including it.
I am so very happy they did! It makes a bomb ass kitchen look and feel like a million bucks! All while not spending a million bucks! :)
The kitchen island is where all the cooking magic happens. The current design did not allow for a good use of storage or kitchen working flow of use.
It was sooo much fun watching Tristan try and tackle the island pony wall! I told him that this whole thing needs to come out. Here's a hammer! Make it happen! hahah!
He was incredibly gun shy about literally smashing a wall... Even Joe was getting into it. "Come on Tristan!" Tristan ultimately increased the size of his hammer and made it happen! hahah :)
Window wall action!
Of all the pictures I took, this one probably has to be my most favorite.
I think it's either due to the extreme randomness of crazy colors, or just the incompleteness of a large project. One thing my kitchen remodel got me comfortable doing was turning down work. I got really good at having to tell would be handyman customers, thank you, however I'm booked up until the end of the year. This was not easy, but necessary. To let them down gently, I would include that picture. It was always well received :) There's something about tearing through a house during a build that just inspires more ideas. I am sooooo guilty of this at home. But while shit is open, it just makes sense to add it now or you'll only wish you did later. Insert the great idea of a pot filler! What's that? It's literally another faucet that has bendable elbows allowing a chef to add water without carrying a pot from the sink back to the stove. :) Here are the logistics of the hood mixed with the newly added pot filler :)
To help gather the significance of the cabinets, I proactively drew them on the wall. This allowed me to install the hood and pot filler smoothly. It also allowed me to easily bury the low voltage cabinet LED wires behind the soon to be installed cabinets. :)
This day was a stupid kind of stressful for me!!
Due to material shortages and overbooked contractors, we had to capitalize on the timing of installation efforts. The countertop contractor needed to measure the cabinets in their final locations TWO WEEKS before installation. They're prepared to make field adjustments, however they need measurements that are 100% The stressful part for me is that I literally showed up with tools in my hands for the first day of work two weeks ago?! When I started blowing out walls and such we were still ironing out the design of the cabinets! Although Ruth and Joe hired him, the countertop contractor is going to look to me for the answers. I was there when the countertop guy came to measure.. and with a stupid look on my face, I'm like
Here's the kitchen!
HAHAH! I'm legit laughing as I recall this! :)
Notice the mismatched cabinet? When we designed the kitchen it was amazing on paper! but when I put all the cabinets together for the island, they occupied far too much space. It just wasn't practical at all. Things for the better always change and this was the right call! Thankfully when I demoed the kitchen we saved the existing cabinets. I used this old one as a dimensional placement. BUT! I only had one to use that was the right size.. SO! hahaha... there was also this dead space to compliment the retired cabinet. And the cabinet wall! hahah :)
Oh, and if you measure this arrow here, that's where you'll need to stop measuring!
Can you see the look on the countertop guys face?! BRO! I was sweating! I had never met this person before and he was not from America making a cultural difference in body language as well... as far as a first impression goes, I'm sure all of this made me look like a complete fool! Thankfully he was smooth to work with. It took him a minute to get his bearings on where he was measuring to and from. Although this kind of measuring was not comfortable or the norm, considering the time crunches we all were under, we had to make it work. Thankfully I had those bomb ass drawings to refer to!
The worst part of it all was that I was nowhere near done. Things still needed to be taken off the wall, moved, installed, rearranged, painted.. and! if there was a bust in dimensions, it would be 100% my ass - rightfully so too. Onward we went! The countertop contractor had what he needed, now it was my job to be ready. and dammit if ever!
I WAS GOING TO BE READY!
The thing to know is that when counters get installed, there is no changing shit for nothing. It better be right or adding a missing thing in the wall, you name it, it's going to suck hard! Considering what tasks were accomplished before countertops were installed is mind blowing?! Damn dude!
Check this shit out!
I did not work one weekend either. Shit! Not bad for pretty much one dude! hahah! and yes, I am totally patting myself on the back right now! hahah :) I'm happy to report though, the countertop install was hella smooth! :)
This day in particular was considerably special to Miss Ruth :) If you've not experienced picking out a countertop slab to then see them installed... man! it's a really cool feeling. :) and! In our case here, it made the kitchen that much more beautiful!
There isn't anything I do for a customer that isn't motivated by earning trust and building the relationship. Having spent so much time in their home, especially after putting two sizable holes in the outside walls of their home, I had earned my fair share of trust. :) Joe did not enjoy the experience of the flooring install when they remodeled their master bathroom. Knowing that outcome there had always been casual conversations for me to potentially do the floors. Now that the counters were in, my initial scope of the project was getting close to completion. Having already had so much ownership in the project, the trust that I had earned from them allowed me the opportunity to not only do the floors, but also install an amazing backsplash!
How could I say no?! :)
So before we went down the backsplash road, we really needed to consider our options... and like a gud contractor, I drew it up first!
There's something about the fine details of a backsplash that gets me all kinds of excited!!
The before and after's are incredible! Hard to believe that it's even the same kitchen!
I'm so happy Ruth allowed me to make the window wall have the same look as the stove wall. There was tremendous cohesion between the design and her choice in finishes. Ruth's vision was definitely coming through! :)
Now we can do the floors! :)
All 700 square feet of them!
When you get this deep into a project, you best have a thorough punch list.. one that is overwhelming even to your computer IT engineer client! hahah :)
Although Ruth had a hand in a ton of the design, I'm very honored that she allowed me to express my own levels of design throughout the project :)
One of those situations is hard to not miss! hahaha
Having a project this large without a random mishap or over ordering on materials is super hard. Even though my drawings were fa'ricken awesome! Sometimes I make a mistake now and then. In this case I messed up on a cabinet. I designed it correctly, however I annotated it incorrectly, and in doing so, we ordered one that was 6" longer than needed. It was a nice pot drawer that didn't have a place to go. Remember the notion of the kitchen island being too large in person?... yup... no place for those to go to either! We now had three extra cabinets that couldn't be returned. Our orphaned selection was two of a kind and one of a kind. As if it was planned from the universe, the two could saddle the one pot drawer making this look like an intentional cabinet set... hmmmmm... but where could we???
RIGHT HERE BRO!
In the front room.
This room Joe really didn't like at all. Not only did he not like the room, he was really! apprehensive in the location of these extra cabinets. With a team effort of Ruth and I we were able to lead Joe to an understanding that this would be a great thing. :) I told him that of all my years in real estate, a buyer walking into the house seeing this?! my man! they would love, love it! Even has an extra spot for a future wine fridge!
Ruth was tenacious in her efforts to find the right countertop. The universe continued to conspire against us! She found a remnant, already cut, and designed for an overhanging left corner with an unfinished right side - intended to be parked into a right hand corner. Furthermore! it was in the same countertop family the kitchen was in! AND! it was also hella marked down in cost AND, AND! about 17minutes from the house! No brainer bro! :) I got you!
*I take sooooo many pictures... every now and then, you forget to take a completed pic... **this is one of them. ;) You get the point though :) :) Now when people come to the house for the first time, they are drawn to these cabinets, loving their placement! All the while not knowing it was the universe that led us to such a neat creation of orphaned cabinets and a forgotten remnant countertop slab. hahahah! :) Not only do they look awesome, it really sets the stage for when you round the corner of the hallway and are happy slapped with such an amazing kitchen.
Joe cannot do anything but smile about them now... Nor can I! haha! :) If you're keeping up, I started this post with a similar picture comparing the timing of the dates. The picture above was one the last pics taken from this project. It was 12/16/2021 :) and as you can see, it was Christmas time too. Project Christmas Wish was completed 9 days before, just in time for the family to arrive from out of state. :) Gosh dang that was a trip for me! As I go through the pictures and details, I'm left with a lingering question...
Well Josh... how did you do on time?
hahah! I'm such a nerd!
Back to how I told Ruth and Joe about my time management, this is what it looked like for each day. :)
Seeking out all the pink colored ones (because that's how I delineate between the other jobs)
This is what it looks like :)
Ultimately leaving me with this data for digestion. :)
On 9/16/2021 I opened a hole in the garage to see what was possible.. :) If I was dating my kitchen project, we would be celebrating our three month, or 90 day anniversary as my last billable hour was 12/16/2021. I split each task into its own day, therefore dividing a full day's worth of effort into a day's "tally".. tallying the days, the project took 42.7 days, requiring 271.25 labor hours. Well how good did you do to your projections of time? I estimated that the job would take 178 hours.. of the 271.25 hours, 73.75 of that was additional scope. :) Shaking out to 197.5 hours If this was a test, I would have scored a 90.12% Not bad for a first go for a solo, self-performing contractor. :) I'm pretty sure however that there were some bonus points of additional complicated questions that are not included here, but if I wanted to count them, I probably could...
But in the end, who's counting?
LOL! I poured a lot of heart into my Project Christmas Wish and the outcome of that has made me a different person, a better person. To which I am grateful for. In wrapping up my thoughts, one thing I'm deeply grateful for is that Miss Ruth is still here on the planet fighting her Leukemia and can read and enjoy this. That's a hell of a Christmas wish! and I'll take it! :) Over the 90 days working on their home I took 527 pictures. It wasn't easy picking out what made it and didn't make it. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did putting it together. It doesn't fog very much in our little town, but last Christmas morning I drove to Ruth and Joe's to leave their family Christmas presents from the GUD Santa, and this is what the morning looked like. Again, the universe set it in motion and I'm compelled to close with this as my weekly picture.. Have a grateful weekend! :)