Let’s cut to the chase

I love my contractor.

I almost can’t believe Jon’s fastidiousness. It has really come out in his tilework for the backsplash. Every time he comes to an outlet or switch, he makes incredibly fussy, perfect cuts around it, even though the edges of the tiling will be covered by plates. Each time the backsplash turns a corner, he does beautiful mitred cuts to match the tile edges up, and then he picks up the pattern on the new plane by repeating the fractional tiles at the edge of the previous plane. Look at pictures to see what I mean: whatever part of the diamond is on the left, he repeats on the right, so that each corner has perfect symmetry. He also lays the pattern out such that it’s perfectly centered on whatever is logically the centerpoint of the wall. See the picture over the sink: there is a column of whole tiles perfectly centered in the frame created by the cabinetry, and the pattern goes out from that center.

Yesterday I came home from work to find that he’d almost finished the backsplash along the back (sink) wall. He had one tile with a curved corner cut-out to wrap around the higher bar-top, and the margin between the tile and the granite was maybe half again bigger than the usual grout margin. He said to me, “I might have cut that one corner a little wide. It’s a little bit too far off the granite. I’ll redo that if you want me to.”

He was right about it being a smidgin too wide, but in the context–a backsplash tile that is under a cabinet and will probably be blocked from view by a telephone or something in real life–it didn’t seem like a problem. I said, “I’ll leave it up to you to decide, Jon; I’m okay with it either way.”

He walked in, looked at it one more time, and said, “Aaagghh–it’s too wide. I’m going to fix it!” With that, he ripped the offending tile off the wall and scraped off the thinset. The man is fussier than I am!

The last activity yesterday was for George to put the first layer of lacquer on the kitchen floor. I’ve chosen a lacquer called “Wet Look,” which gives the richest, brightest, shiniest color, to maximize the color and texture of the slate. The floor looks amazing.

I came home today to find Jon’s beautiful, completed backsplash, with all but the newest section grouted. The intricacy of it is already a thing of beauty, but I can’t wait to see it fully grouted and lacquered. See it yourself in the:

Newest pictures!

Almost there!

Old pictures

Two and a half months


Preparing for chaos

Demolition and chaos

One month in

Still later

Two months in


George has installed about half of the switches and outlets and the rest of the light valances are now in place. A few more scribe bits need to go in around the edges, and the glass (now resting in the living room) needs to be put in, and then the cabinets will be done, except for the handles, which should come in Thursday or Friday.

George is off tomorrow, but Russell is coming in, and Jon plans for them to get the big old hood installed, along with the range, refrigerator, faucets, and if time the dishwasher. His goal is to have the kitchen functional before he leaves for a week hiking in the Sierras. It’s hard to believe that by this weekend I might actually be moving back into the kitchen. What a luxury to have a full, functioning kitchen again after all this time!

I wonder if I’ll remember how to buy normal groceries?

Cutting to that promised chase, my point is this: I am fortunate indeed. Most people hate their contractors by this time. I was a little worried that I would, too–at the very least, I worried that I would be at wit’s end handling delays and stupid little mixups. I worried more about how I would deal with Jon if he did something awful or seemed to be cheating me in some way. I did not want to have to yell at a friend or, even worse, start playing legal games (which is part of why I went to the trouble of having my lawyer friends next door vet the contract).

Jon himself warned me that by this point in the project I would be so sick of seeing him, his mess, and all the delays that I would want to strangle him, and he would probably want to strangle me. I’m a project manager. I know that he was right: odds were that we’d be good and sick of each other by now. But the truth is, his work is so good, meticulous, and tasteful, I just want to hug him most days. Several times we’ve sat down with a glass of wine at the end of the day and enjoyed a good talk about music, or life, or whatever. He’s a total sweetheart, he’s doing a beautiful job, and I’m a ridiculously lucky remodeling client and friend.