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We Got the Windows!

January 24, 2012

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It’s been about 15 years, but we finally got the new windows! Hurray for us! We’d ordered them a long time ago, and they came in yesterday. We didn’t get replacements for every window in the house (sheesh, this house has a ton of windows!) but there are enough for now. I’ve never installed new windows so it will be quite the adventure.

Oh wait. I did install a window before– a brand new window. In the kitchen! How could I forget! It was only two years ago.

This was the original window in the kitchen. It was installed in 1972, when the previous owners remuddled the kitchen into an orange and brown 1970s funk extraordinaire. The window was wood with an aluminum frame. I had warped so badly that I could not open it. Imagine– the only tiny window in the entire kitchen and it’s stuck shut! Painful, indeed!

Ugliest Kitchen2

We removed the piece of junk in summer of 2010. What a glorious day. 🙂

Removing Old Window2

I ripped open the wall (which was severely rotten from water damage) and discovered some water damage and poor remodeling from previous owners. They had cut into floor joists to fit plumbing pipes and the beam that held up this part of the wall. I decided to rebuild the entire section of the wall.

Window Open

It was my masterpiece. I built it to perfection. The window frame not only had to house the window, but it had to hold up this portion of the wall, which was sagging. I made the frame very sturdy.

Window Rough Framing

This is one of the greatest sights for a DIY homeowner.

Its Level

The running gag around the house was that a tornado could rip through the town and level every single house, but my window frame would still be standing. 🙂

I never got photos of us installing the actual window because it took the entire family to haul the thing into the opening, level it, shim it, and nail it down. As soon as it was up, though, Livvy hopped up for her inspection.

Window Int

I installed trim in a Greek Revival design that reflects the rest of the house.

Window1

The new window gives off a lot of light. It’s glorious having such a bright, airy kitchen!

Window2

Of course, the new windows I just got for the living room are a totally different animal than this kitchen window. The new ones are vinyl REPLACEMENT window– the kitchen was a “new construction” window with nail flanges. For a vinyl replacement window, you have to fit the boxy frame directly into the existing window frame. I’ve never done it before. I’ve already done some studying and have watched some good videos about the process. *cracks knuckles* We’ll probably get the windows installed next week. I’ll be sure to let you know! We have to install a few on the second story of the house, so I would sure appreciate your prayers! 🙂

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Blast From the Past, July Heat Wave Edition

July 22, 2011

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My son’s Biology course is finally over (the kid “A”ced it, too!!), so our summer has begun and our thoughts are turning toward wrapping up a few of the undone projects from last year’s renovation. I’m not planning any big projects this year– I tend to intersperse them every other year, for sanity’s sake! That, and I still have to pay off the kitchen renovation.

But we really can’t do much this week because of a very intense heat wave that’s hit the Northeast. I suffer in the heat, so I’m waiting until it passes before I attempt any projects. I remembered that about this time last year, we had a stretch of unusually hot weather, too. What were we doing then? I checked it out.

OH YEAH. Insulation.

Oh gosh, installing insulation in July is a nasty job. You have to wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, dust masks…. and the fiberglass seems to shake loose from the batts and go right for your face. But the job is SO WORTH it come winter. The house has never been toastier. Ever.

kitcheninsulation2

kitcheninsulation

We also installed our plumbing about this time. We used the new-fangled material, PEX. It’s a very stiff plastic material, a suitable replacement for the super-expensive copper.

PEXinwall

PEXmanifold

Have you heard about all the copper thefts going on? There’s been quite a bit in my area. These jerks will raid an entire house, ripping out the plumbing so they can sell the copper at the scrap yards. When we went to the scrapyard to sell our old copper pipes, the scrap yard took my husband’s driver’s license information! Apparently, the cops are monitoring the flow of copper in the area.

Did you notice how the husband installed the PEX into such lovely rings? 😀 I love the PEX manifold system. When we went away for a week-long vacation out of state, turning off the water supply was a piece of cake. And when we have to turn off the water supply to a fixture, all we have to do is turn the valve at the manifold.

Going over these photos is somewhat therapeutic for me. I’m not getting any new projects completed, and I feel somewhat low about that, from time to time. It’s easy to get discouraged with so many small (but important) things to do yet. Looking over the photos helps me remember how far we’ve come. I’m really praying that next year, we tackle the upstairs level. And get new windows. After that, it’s just the exterior and yard!!! Oh, and maintenance. :-p

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10 Things About My New Kitchen I Am Thankful For

June 14, 2011

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I’m taking my dear friend Carole’s suggestion. After a particularly harried day fussing over a plumbing cob job problem, Carole said, “Go get a cup of coffee and look at before and after pics of your kitchen and cheer yourself up…” Hey, who am I to pass up a cup of coffee??

So I did. And I figured I’d write about the amazing things about my new kitchen that I am SO thankful for. Our kitchen renovation was a BIG job. I don’t think I’d ever tackled anything so intense, except maybe childbirth, lol. Even the 2007 living room renovation paled in comparison to last summer’s big kitchen blitz. We and some folks from our church rebuilt everything on our own– electrical, plumbing, heating system, insulation, drywall, flooring, cabinets and counters, and appliances. Whew, it was a very intense year. In case you missed all the tremendous fun from last year, you can check out some of my blog posts here.

Here are 10 things for which I am very thankful.

1. We’d gutted the kitchen and dining room to the bare bones. I am thankful for that because I’m a rather fussy person. I don’t like to inherit another person’s “disaster.” Old houses are almost never disasters– old houses are exceptional in that they are solidly built with superior craftsmanship and quality materials. In this, they have new construction beat. However, the common “disasters” that strike an old home is usually sub-par remodeling or neglect. My house has suffered from both, but especially from terrible “remodels” in some of the rooms. Much of my turmoil comes from fixing previous remodels. So I like to gut the walls and start from scratch. I don’t like patching up previous owners’ disasters. And I also like to see exactly what’s behind the walls. I’m still looking for those gold dubloons somewhere.

Kitchen Gutted

2. I am thankful for my dishwasher. My daughter and I STILL give thanks regularly for it. We used to wash loads and loads of dishes by hand. When I used to babysit kids, I was washing dishes for ten people three times a day.

dishwasher90273

I got a cheap dishwasher, too– the kind without the electronic panel and no fancy features. I’d heard that fancy dishwashers break easily. I got this cheapo model in case it died early– then I wouldn’t feel so bad if it broke on me. But it’s been going like a champ. And we LOVE it.

3. I am thankful for my vinyl plank flooring. My first choice was hardwoods (whose isn’t?!) but it was too expensive and I didn’t think I could install something like that myself. So I opted for easy care vinyl plank flooring. It really is very easy to take care of, and doesn’t look too bad!

DR flooring2

4. I am thankful for my kitchen window. I love this window. It’s so big, more than twice the size of the previous window. I can see the entire backyard through this thing. And when I open it, all the breezes come in. I love the woodwork and the pendant light!

Window1

5. I am thankful for my wood countertops. I bought them online and had them delivered, can you believe it?! 350 pounds of countertops! Laminate might have been a little cheaper, but it would have been too much work to custom make it to fit my large space. The wood is just so wonderful. I am just starting to relax a little about the countertops. Before, I was rather hyper about any scratch or swelling. But now I’m not as fussy, because if the wood gets a scratch or swells, I can simply sand it down and recoat the surface with oil.

BevAreaCounter

6. I love my dining room. 🙂

DiningRoomDone2

7. I am SO thankful for insulation. Maybe that sounds kind of weird, but if you have ever lived in an old, uninsulated house, you know exactly what I mean. The insulated walls make the house so, so much more comfortable. I can’t wait to have the upstairs insulated.

DRinsulation

8. I am thankful for new electric. For several years, we had no electricity in many of the rooms. After we gutted the living room in 2007 and saw the condition of the 100-year-old knob-and-tube wiring, I disconnected it for fear of fire. We were without electric in the kitchen except for a small ceiling light and one outlet. It was a pretty miserable room to be in, so dark and ugly.

When we gutted the kitchen and dining room, I wired new electricity throughout the house. I also wired Ethernet. Of course, in some of the upstairs bedrooms we only have one working outlet and a switch-operated ceiling light, but it’s one NEW outlet and a NEW light operated by a switch (before, the ceiling lights were pull-chain, ugh). I am very, very thankful for our new electric. I sleep so much better at night now.

electric2242

9. I am thankful for drywall. I adore the inventor of drywall. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. There are some “hard core” old home owners who install plaster and lathe in their homes, but not me. Plaster is dusty, dirty, ugly, it cracks, it’s lumpy and bumpy and did I say it’s dusty? It also smells. :-p I like my drywall.

DR ceiling sheetrock

10. I’m thankful for my new cabinets. They cost me a verrry pretty penny, but I love them. They are solid plywood. Beautiful doors. I love the color and they are so durable.

Window2

Can you believe I’ve counted to ten already?! I could keep going on and on!

In case you’re wondering, this is what the old kitchen looked like.

Ugliest Kitchen1

Ugliest Kitchen2

Now you see why I am so thankful. 🙂

It’s rather easy to see only the things that go wrong when you have an old house (mostly because things are always going wrong in an old house!!). But there’s a lot of marvelous benefits to living in an old home. And I am grateful to have a home. I shudder when I remember apartment living!

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My Before, During, and After Story, Part 4

November 20, 2010

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This is the story of our renovation, the toils and victories through a sweltering summer of blood, sweat and tears. Read all the gory details of Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Our kitchen project was finally coming to a close. Yet even now, three months since we moved back in, there are many unfinished projects awaiting me. Now that I am back to a normal schedule with kids’ schooling, my online job, and such, I can only chip away at these remaining projects, slowly but surely. My goal is to batten down the hatches for an Upstate New York winter, and I’ll pick up the hammer and saw again in the spring.

After we tackled the butcher block countertops, we collapsed for a few days. Almost all of the really intense physical labor was done. Except the flooring. We’d installed plywood sub-flooring over the 70s hardboard subfloor over the 50s linoleum over the 1855 pine planks…. thank God, they’d removed the funky 40s carpeting somewhere in there (although dregs of it appeared from time to time as we removed partition walls). I love wood, just LOVE it, but it is so expensive. I decided to go with TrafficMaster allure vinyl planks. It looks like wood– for a second or two, anyway– but it’s durable and easy to install. Cost me a small fortune, though, I’ll tell you what. But I had been waiting SO LONG for a new floor.

Vinyl Flooring

Very easy to install. I guess that's why it's so pricey.

Island

It took me about 8 hours (straight) to install the dining room floor, 10 hours to do the kitchen.

Once the floor was done, the room looked like a real kitchen again. We moved in shortly after. Oh, the JOY!

DeltaH20_5

BeverageArea

This is our beverage area, which I conveniently tucked under the stairwell. Note the painted pantry shelf to the left. Still has no doors, though...

TheKitchen1

dishwasher90273

Our favorite appliance. Oh, how we dreamed for this moment! LOL, six adults in a home make a lot of dishes.

I’d mentioned before about the sink and window as the room’s focal point. I carefully crafted the trim around the window to reflect the home’s Greek Revival architecture. The Greek triangular pediment and fluted trim is repeated throughout the house. I stained this wood extra dark to make it stand out. Cellular blinds soften the hard lines. I need more color and decor here, but all in good time.
Window1

2010 was a wild, crazy ride for us.

MyFan1

I’m spending the winter quietly, taking things slower as best I can. I work at home to pay off the kitchen. If we had hired out to have all this work done, the job would have cost us a small fortune. By doing everything ourselves, we saved a ton of money. It was a lot of work, sure, but I think everyone was enriched by the experience, especially my kids. Here’s a quick breakdown of the economics:

According to this chart, we saved over $36,000 by doing this ourselves. That is a HUGE savings! Yes, I took time off from work to work on this renovation. I worked on reduced hours for four months. However, consider this: a kitchen renovation gives you an average of 70% return on the cost of the project, so I basically “earned” $25,200 on the value of the home. That’s more than I make in a year, let alone four months. So even though I’m not seeing a liquid $25,200 cash in hand, it’s part of my real estate investment. It was well worth it, I think, to go reduced hours on my job (with which, I figure, I lost about $2000 income) to earn $25,200 in capital investment on the property. Moreover, improving the electrical and water supply reduces our insurance premium, the insulation in the walls reduces our heating bills,  and everything in general improves the quality of our lives here.

I think my DIY project was worth it. But I’m SO GRATEFUL it’s over!

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My Before, During, and After Story, Part 3

November 18, 2010

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This is the story of how we gutted our 1855 home’s kitchen and dining room. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

I have thus far blogged about the kitchen renovation. Originally, gutting the kitchen was my only goal. In an old house, it is SO easy to get carried away with multiple projects, because there is always so much to do. As I planned the kitchen job, I realized I’d have to do the dining room, too. Part of the renovation goal was to wire the house (I’d disconnected the old, decaying wiring in the house three years previously). We’d suffered all those years without any electricity in the bedrooms upstairs, the upstairs bath, and the dining room. I decided to gut the dining room, too. This way, I could wire the upstairs rooms from the opened dining room ceiling.

Wiring 1

The house framing method is balloon-frame, a building fad in the mid 1800s. Studs sit on the foundation sill and reach all the way up to the roof rafters, like a hot air balloon seams. It quickly grew out of fashion because cutting wood at such lengths was expensive; and the drafts produced by the open cavity from basement to attic was a fire hazard. But I was able to snake wiring up the stud cavities.

Since there was no plumbing in the dining room walls, I thought renovating the room would be easy. However, the walls are 155 years old, wavy and narrow. Installing the sheetrock for this room was AGONIZING. If I ever had to hire for a job, it would be sheetrock. What exhausting, dirty, depressing work. Nothing is straight or plumb in this house, so the walls and ceiling looked terrible. Not to mention that at this time, Upstate New York suffered one of the hottest summers on record. We were absolutely soaked through. I drank about 1 to 2 gallons of iced tea every day. It was a big trial for us to work through this. So many times we wanted to quit.

DRcornerceiling1

Wavier than a surfer's paradise, I tell ya.

DR ceiling sheetrock

It was just my daughter and I who did the sheetrock, with later help from my son. It took us THREE GRUELING WEEKS to do this huge room. Never again...

Walpapceiling

The wavy ceiling turned out so poorly, we decided to paste embossed wallpaper on it. That was another GRUELING week of work.

pediment10

I wanted to retain the Greek Revival architecture of the house, so I spent a long time building new trimwork for it. I love my miter saw!

DiningRoomDone2

The room was a tremendous challenge because it has four windows and SIX doorways. But here's the finished product.

Back to the kitchen project. There was a large space- a former pantry closet that was awkward and cramped– and I didn’t want to close it off completely… So we solved the problem by creating a narrow pantry shelf accessible from the side of the closet. The guys from my church got this up in one night!

Narrow Pantry

pantryshlevsquirky

This is after the sheetrock. It's a little quirky, but I love it. I have to build custom doors for it. That open cubby hole to the left will house a closet with a roll-out garbage bin... still not completed yet.

BroomClosetdrywall

I like quirky closets so much that I built another one, between the kitchen and dining room doorways.

The guys from the church helped me install the sheetrock in the kitchen, to save my sanity. I hope I never have to do it again. Woo hoo! It’s over and it looks spectacular!

FirstCabs

Once the walls were closed up, we could start installing cabinets. Yay!

KitchenAug30

Kitchen2August30

It took me a long time to choose countertops. I originally chose laminate (I was on a budget!), but the long run (11 feet) would mean I’d need custom laminate countertops. Time was running out for us– it was already late August– and I knew I could not build custom laminate, nor could I afford it installed. After much research, I bought butcher block wood countertops from an online wholesale dealer. It requires a little more maintenance than laminate, but it’s absolutely beautiful.

installbutcherblock1

The delivery man placed it at the mouth of the driveway, and took off! We had to haul the 350 pound counters 150 feet down the driveway, to the kitchen. Fun.

installsink2

It took three kids and me to make this sink cutout. I was trembling with anxiety the entire time. One bad cut, and my countertop was ruined. Praise the Lord, it came out OK!

Delta Faucet almost there

Delta gave me a faucet for this renovation. I LOVE YOU, DELTA! We love our sink. 🙂

The end is near! Stay tuned for the next section– it’s the best part of all!!

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My Before, During, and After Story, Part 2

November 16, 2010

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Over the summer, we gutted our kitchen and dining room, and replaced the entire electrical system and water supply system. Read Part 1 of our story here.

Redoing the electrical system in this house was harrowing, but not as harrowing as in 2007, when I had replaced the living room and bedroom wiring– for now I knew what to expect. The wiring was probably installed here in the 1920s, judging by the knob and tube system and the hardware used. It had been added to over the years– very piecemeal– and by the time I opened a wall in 2007, it was a disaster. Wires were bare, chewed by mice, spliced with tape… and every once in a while, we found a buried junction box when we opened a wall.

Hidden Junction Box

An inaccessible junction box is a code violation and fire hazard.

Crazy Old Wiring

Because I could find no electrician to assist me, I studied at night and rewired the house by day. I even learned to install circuit breakers in the service panel. The electrical inspector […]

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Finding Inexpensive Kitchen Furniture

November 14, 2010

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I’m trying to complete a few finishing touches for the kitchen yet. I’ve been (slowly) building a small phone and organzation station on one side of the kitchen, using cabinets I got at a discount. I need shelves to hang on the wall in the corner, and really don’t have time to make them myself. I found the perfect shelf– a kitchen cabinet end shelf, with rounded shelves– in the discount bin at the home improvement store. But it was $182!! ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY-TWO dollars! For a little shelf 2 feet high! I was flabbergasted. What IS it about kitchen furniture that makes it SO expensive?

Another thing is finding affordable plate racks. My cabinets were very inexpensive (as far as cabinets go), but the accessories for the cabinets is excruciatingly expensive. Why do cabinet companies charge extortion-like prices for a matching hunk of wood? The glass rack that my cabinet store is selling is $130!! Why so high?

Well, enter the Internet! What a difference!Free shipping, too! No traffic, no long lines, no hunting through the discount bin… gotta love the Internet.

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Couldn’t Wait…

October 20, 2010

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I hung my beautiful giant clock up in the kitchen. I had promised myself to wait until the kitchen was completely finished, as a means of motivating me to keep on keeping on with this endless project, but I just couldn’t wait. I couldn’t!! The clock was BEGGING me to go up on the wall.

BigKitchClock

The thing is huge, and weighs perhaps 20 or 30 pounds. I was no mean feat hanging this sucker. Because there is no central stud on this wall, I had to cut open the drywall, insert a block of wood between the two flanking studs, and patch the drywall back in. It took about 4 days (spackle had to dry, we had to repaint the area, etc etc). But FINALLY, it is up! I absolutely love it.

It goes with the kitchen design so well, has that bronze-y finish and an “Old World” feeling. It matches the ceiling fans exactly.

Below the clock will be a long mantle-like shelf. My iPod dock will sit on it. Yes! We got an iPod dock! My Hubs picked it, and it is really high-quality. I’ll have more on that, later. And oh yeah- under this mantle shelf will go a heater… whenever we get those installed. 😐 The forecast calls for flurries on Friday! I’m a little nervous because the basement window is still not filled in, and we have no gas lines for heaters yet. :S Both The Hubs and I have been totally swamped at work, and have absolutely no free time at all. *sigh*

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New Kitchen: The Laundry Alcove

October 5, 2010

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In the new kitchen is a laundry closet, or “alcove,” as we sometimes call it. Honestly, I didn’t want the laundry appliances in the kitchen… but I had no where else to place them. We had to shoehorn the closet into a small corner of the kitchen. It looks “OK,” but it’s not the best choice, in my opinion.

Laundry1

Perhaps someday I can relocate the laundry area, when I finally convert the garage into a family room/utility area or something. I think the laundry closet is awkward, stuffed behind the back door and next to a window. I tried to make the area look as natural as possible, by adding more of the Greek-style pediment and fluted trim to the opening, and adding a window seat beneath the window next to the closet.

Laundry2

I originally planned for bi-fold doors to close off the laundry area, but it’s really too tight of a squeeze to fit them in. So I have to use curtains. These curtains are not my final choices: I will hang heavier drapes to help block out the noise of the appliances.

I also hung my retro tin signs. 😀

Laundry3

So obviously I still have a lot of work to do. We still have no clothes dryer installed yet (need to route the gas line). And with winter coming, we REALLY need to get on the ball and install the heaters (more gas lines). I am thankful we won’t have forced air heat this year. No drafts, no dust, and no threats of sickness from the 60-year old ducting system. GOOD RIDDANCE to that junky system!

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New Kitchen: The Delta ToucH20 Faucet

September 30, 2010

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Delta Faucet company graciously gave me a Delta Pilar Pull-down Faucet with ToucH20 Technology. We absolutely love this faucet! I am a Delta fan, anyway– when we moved to this house, the bathrooms had Delta faucets (old Delta faucets, because the bathrooms had been remodeled in the 1970s and 80s). They work marvelously, after all these years– not a leak and they still look great after decades of washing and use. I was pretty impressed. So when Delta asked me if I wanted to test out their new kitchen faucet, I jumped at the chance.

It also looks stunning in the new kitchen:

DeltaH20_5
DeltaH20_1

We installed the faucet ourselves (as we have everything here). The installation was very easy. It’s always helpful to install the faucet before placing the sink onto the countertop. But the Delta faucet is structured to be easy to install for new installations, or for old– it requires NO basin wrench! Hurray!

deltafaucet connect

Delta Faucet connections

Delta Faucet almost installed

deltafaucetgoingin

The faucet has a few very unique features:

  • It’s got a very high and wide faucet spigot, which makes it great for filling large pots.
  • The “touch” technology is just that– you do not need to push the lever to turn on the water. All you do is touch the faucet or the lever to turn on the water. It’s great when your hands are dirty or sticky.
  • The spigot has a removable sprayer, which is very nice. The end of the spigot has a button that you can switch from stream or spray. The sprayer reattaches to the spigot with a magnet (Delta’s “MagnaTite technology”).
  • The faucet comes with a terrific soap dispenser that you can fill from the TOP of the sink! I love that. No more handsoap sitting messily on the counter.

DeltaH20_3

DeltaH20_2

The Touch feature is battery operated (takes “C” batteries). The electrical component in installed under the sink, in the cabinet. I have had the batteries running for three weeks now, and haven’t had to change them yet. So it’s nice to know the faucet is not a battery-consuming monster. Moreover, if you prefer not to use the touch technology, just shut it off and use the lever as you would any other sink faucet. It’s great that there’s a choice.

DeltaH20_4

The Hubs said the instructions for installing the sink are superb. He didn’t have any problems understanding them at all. He does have one tip when reading the instructions: make sure you read the ENTIRE section before you begin doing anything. A section may have a “Note” at the end, which may be important. So read through the instructions entirely before beginning, and then read each section through as you install the faucet.

We installed the faucet in a matter of minutes. I was PRETTY impressed. Delta has made this faucet a real easy “do it yourself” project. Even the wiring for the touch feature was easy– you just plug in a few plastic receptacles and pop in the batteries, easy as cake. I think Delta did a great job in putting this together for the DIYer.

When we first got the faucet installed and activated the Touch technology, we wondered if the cat would activate it, or if the faucet would be overly sensitive. So far, it’s been great. Sometimes I have to really rap on the spigot to turn the faucet on, but the lever is more sensitive (so I tap the lever instead of the faucet). One time, a metal pot in the dish drainer shifted, and touched the lever. The water turned on. It was weird seeing the water turn on automatically! But Delta has an automatic shutoff for the faucet– the faucet will turn off after four minutes, in case the faucet is accidentally turned on (say, by a cat or a wayward pot!).

Delta has an entire webpage dedicated to the faucet at deltafaucet.com. You will find helpful installation videos. I give HUGE kudos to Delta for creating such a nice faucet, but also DOUBLE HUGE kudos for making it so easy to install, and for providing installation videos. They really did an excellent job.

After having it installed for over two weeks, here are my thoughts:

PROS:
ToucH20 Technology
Nice big, round spigot
The nice hand dispenser
Very attractive
Can use the battery-powered ToucH technology, or turn it off to use manually as you would a regular faucet
Automatic shut-off after 4 minutes
Easy to install/great instructions in ENGLISH written by people with ENGLISH as their FIRST language- yay!
Is made by Delta

CONS:
Sprayer doesn’t have super-powerful water pressure; it’s more like a shower. Don’t expect to blast greasy dishes clean.
Uses batteries
Is a little costly
The stainless steel finish is “OK.” I’m not a big fan of steel. The faucet does come in a bronze finish, too.

One other note– you may become very spoiled after installing this faucet. So spoiled that if you use another faucet elsewhere in the house, or go to a friend’s house, you will be tapping the faucets and wondering why they don’t turn on. This is a great faucet and I give it a big Thumbs Up.

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