Tue. May 21st, 2024

When we were looking for a contractor, we wanted someone who would let us do some of the work ourselves. Not only does it save on costs, but there are parts of the renovation that we’re particularly finicky about and the best way to get what we want is to do it ourselves.

Doing the plumbing and electrical ourselves (well, Alex doing it, really), was more of a cost-saving choice. Alex is almost a seasoned electrician at this point (especially after rewiring our entire house with my dad 5 years ago), but plumbing was a new trade for him.

His first task was ambitious and brave: he needed to replace the very old cast iron drain pipe in our kitchen.

With only one small water leaking incident, it went off without a hitch! And now we have a nice new plastic drain pipe!

The more daunting task (just in terms of hours of work) was to do all of the electrical and plumbing for the new kitchen. This work required quite a bit of planning and Alex wasn’t sure exactly how long it would take him. We budgeted 3 days in our schedule, which couldn’t really begin until the contractor framed the kitchen walls.

Because our contractor was so delayed, Alex got a bit of a head start by running all of the new cables and pipes in the basement so they were ready to be run up into the kitchen and eventually installed in boxes against the new studs.

Once the framing was done (almost a week later than it was supposed to be), the final electrical and plumbing work started and Alex had to get all of the plumbing and electrical done before the drywall could go in. This work was also time sensitive because our millworker couldn’t come and do his measurements until the drywall was up and those measurements would essentially start a 4-6 week clock for when the cabinets would be ready.

I had originally given Alex 3 full weekdays, plus the weekend, to complete the electrical and plumbing. Because our contractor was delayed, he then had only Saturday and Sunday to install all of the electrical boxes before the insulation spray foam guys were scheduled to come on the Monday.

To give Alex the space he needed to complete the work, Adam and I left the house to enjoy some 40 degree weather!

By the end of the weekend, Alex managed to install all of the electrical boxes and run all the cables through the basement joists. The worst part was that our drawings weren’t entirely accurate anymore because of where the window was installed and how some of the walls were framed. So Alex and I had to make some assumptions about where things would be and will have to adjust the cabinets accordingly.

We also made sure to take some detailed pictures and measurements of where everything was before we lost it in the drywall.

This proved particularly useful when we realized (after our spray foam went in) that the boxes under the window were about 3/4″ too high. The height of the boxes in this location were particularly important because we have the window, then three rows of subway tile and the counter. The boxes need to sit perfectly in the centre of the 3 subway tiles and the window and tiles need to be installed so that our countertop height is ~36″. I must have measured 5 or 6 times when the boxes went in, but I was still off.

I really struggled with the decision to relocate the boxes, even in the midst of fixing it, but I decided to change the height of the boxes. The spray foam wasn’t even the worst part. We had installed 2x4s below the boxes so we had something to attach them too. For some of the boxes, we were able to access the screwholes and remove the 2x4s, but for most we had to saw through the screws, hoping we didn’t touch any of the wires. Those pre-spray foam pictures came in handy. We also had to remove the drywall to access the boxes, which meant more drywall work again.

I didn’t take many pictures because it wasn’t a particularly pleasant part of the project, but you can imagine how emotionally traumatizing it all was. I couldn’t decide if this was worse or better than when we made the opening for our new “built-in” master bedroom closet 1/4″ too short.

In the end, the boxes were at the right height and we’ll just never speak of it again.

Not all of the plumbing is done because most of it has to go through the floor and cabinets (since the plumbing is on exterior walls), so we’ll deal with that once our cabinets come.

The electrical is complete except that the wires need to be connected to the panel. We’ll have lots of time while we’re waiting for our cabinets to finish this work.

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