Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Point Counter Point

The countertop has got to be one of the most stressful parts of this kitchen reno, despite my belief that it should be so simple. I keep thinking of the Aldous Huxley novel that I read in high school: Point Counter Point. The intellectual characters in this novel would never worry about something so banal as a countertop. I'm sure that none of them have ever even been in a kitchen, let alone soil their hands doing manual labour. Yet I manage to have long, Huxleyesque conversations with all my friends about this damn countertop, as if we are debating human nature, like the characters in Huxley's novel.

Problem #1: Choice. I can easily become paralyzed by too many options. I spent a lot of time looking at the different surfaces available: granite, marble, engineered stone, etc. I would love to go with the high end stone, but it is at least 4 times the cost of laminate, plus you can't install it yourself. In my urban reality of a small kitchen, I assumed that a new laminate countertop would not be too expensive. I budgeted the $17 per linear foot that the Home Depot quoted me, but alas, I was foiled. That figure does not apply to the corner sink. (Damn the corner sink again!!) The cost doubled because we had to get "flatworks" or else have two seams next to the sink. So now stone is only about 2 or 3 times more expensive, yet still a ton of dough. For me, more options = less decisions. Argh. If I were living back in Huxley's 1920's novel, the choice would have been easy, but not in our modern world.

Problem #2: I decide to keep it simple and just order through the Home Depot. Dan & I made another appointment specifically for this. We were both sick with colds, but kept the appointment, with dreams of a new countertop before 2007. Unfortunately our guy at the HD is not that experienced with quoting countertops - he has never quoted a corner sink. And since it is a Saturday, he can't call the supplier. Nobody else there can give us a quote. We leave defeated again. He promises to call on Tuesday with a price. We never hear from him again. Enter the Internet. A Google search leads me to two companies: Triplast and Norwill. I fax them my sketch with dimensions and they fax me back quotes. Triplast seems very professional and they have the best prices. They tell me that my order must be in by December 1, or we won't get it before their holiday closure. We go to Triplast before work to choose the laminate, place the order and make a deposit. Decision made!

Problem #3: On the way out of Triplast, I ask to confirm the delivery cost. They do not deliver. WHAT?!?! Everybody else that I called delivers for $50. How did I overlook this question on the phone? Triplast usually works with contractors and installers, not the uneducated public. Hence the factory direct prices. They ask who my installer is, and laugh when I tell them that it's me. They can't help me. Finally I get the name of an installer. He agrees to deliver my countertop for $60 (a rip off, but am I going to take time off work and rent a truck?). He tries to talk me out of installing it myself and offers to do it for $200. I decline. I review the installation instructions on the web, reassuring myself that it won't be that bad. Now all that I need is a belt sander.

Problem #4: There are too many types of laminate. I was confident in my decision until my coworkers started to question it. "White shows stains", etc. "Even Dover White", I ask? But that was it. I was doubting our decision. I called Triplast & they had not yet ordered the materials, so I put it on hold. We made a late evening trip to HD to look at the Formica samples one more time. I spend hours talking to friends and getting their opinion on all the samples. The results are inconclusive. In the end, we must decide on our own. On the morning of December 1, the absolute cutoff date, we go with Pionite's Rock Of Ages, despite being a premium laminate and costing $100 more. I know, it is a crazy name and the song is stuck in my head too!

Problem #5: The installer goes to the wrong house. He calls me and it turns out that he's off by 100 in the address. He asks me what to do. It seems obvious to me: drive around the block and come to the correct house. I'm sure that I didn't tell him to go to #26 since I live at #126, yet he is blaming it on me. I remind myself that I must be nice to him or maybe he will scratch my countertop. When he finally arrives, he says: I hope you know what you are doing. If you make a mistake installing, it is a very expensive mistake. Well, at least it is in the correct house. I re-read Rona's website instructions which say: Installing kitchen countertops is quite an easy project for most do-it-yourselfers. Maybe I will write this on the wall for encouragement.

Some friends came by last night and they admired the countertop resting against the wall in the living room. We had lengthy conversations about countertops and backsplash tiles, which from a distance likely sounded like the deep, intellectual debates that Huxley's characters droned on about in Point Counter Point. Can kitchen renovations really be good fodder for fiction? HGTV: what have you done to drama?


Anonymous said...

We have had a white countertop for 12 years. It is the easiest colour (is it a colour?) out there.
Cleans up beautifully with VIM cleanser.... Lorraine

Mike said...

I just found this post...and can totally relate to what you went through.