I previously mentioned that the kitchen was scheduled for installation in April 2017. In fact, the install slipped to May, but no one who has ever remodeled (or done anything in Spain) will be surprised by this.
My kitchen designer decreed that self-installation was not an option. So for a change, I agreed to pay the price in Euros instead of tears, sweat and toil.
Before the kitchen installation could begin, however, I needed to lay the flooring. More detail later about the hardwood flooring that covers most of the main floor (Euro floor 1/ Anglophone floor 2).
I don’t like hardwood in the kitchen because of previous experiences with water damage. Instead, I opted for porcelain tile (Roca) with a hardwood print. First, I needed to raise the level of the kitchen floor by 8 cm to cover the mole-like trails of mortar that contain water pipes, electrical wires and the other instalaciones of the house.
First I built a wooden frame to divide the tiled area from the hardwood floored area, as well as the invisible under-cabinet and under-island areas. Then I got to work mixing mortar in the one-legged cement mixer that the builders left in my courtyard for the better part of a year.
I mixed and I mixed. And I hauled the mortar upstairs. And I poured and screeded.
And I mixed and hauled and poured and screeded.
And more of same.
I ignored the advice of every Jordi, Jordi and Jordi, who insisted that I mortar and tile under the cabinets and instead installed water resistant fiberboard. to save on money and effort.
Over the mortar I poured a thin layer of self-leveling compound, which (strangely) does not actually level itself. You have to spread it out with a trowel and even then the level of levelness is inferior to what this amateur can achieve with a screed. The compound, however, does seal itself for a much more solid surface than can be achieved with the sand topping mortar. This makes it much easier to slide a notched trowel over the surface when tiling with thinset mortar.
The tile instal was a bear. I was convinced at the time that the difficulty lay in the unevenness of the floor. However in a more recent bath install, I discovered that the tiles themselves are slightly bowed. A bowed tile will never make a perfectly level floor, not matter how hard you try. With lots and lots of effort, I think I achieved something pretty close to level. I’m not sure whether to avoid this particular tile in the future or to avoid the 85 x 22.5 cm format entirely.
Once the tile was in, I began laying sleepers for the hardwood. These are 3m x 8 cm x 6 cm softwood boards, tied to the mortar subfloor at both ends and the middle using screws and plastic anchors embedded in the mortar. These “skis” have to be notched to clear all the tubes and mortar mole-trails.
I screwed the oak flooring to the sleepers until I was clear of the kitchen area. I had some problems with the supply of the hardwood (more on that and the hardwood itself in the next post) and as a result I had to stop midrow in the area you see above right.
Words to the wise: (1) Never stop midrow in a flooring install. Boots and other forms of footwear will destroy your product. Care will not be exercised by third parties. (2) Never, EVER, let a Catalan builder into your house until you have two coats of varnish on your flooring.
Once the flooring was installed, magical kitchen-building elves appeared and created what I believe is not too shabby a kitchen!
For the kitchen design, I chose two relatively new materials. The cabinet doors are opaque tempered glass mounted on an aluminum frame. The frame concept allows you to use thin and/or fragile materials that have not been previously considered adequate for cabinetry. The color is piombo, or “lead”, which is a gray with a greenish tint.
For the countertop I chose Neolith, a large-format porcelain that is marketed as granite 2.0. All the hardness and beauty of granite with the added benefits of heat resistance and 0% porosity for complete stain avoidance. I wanted to go for a color that contrasted more with the cabinet doors. There were some striking dark tones and some industrial looks that I muchly preferred. But dark colors are often seen as risky in a kitchen, and not everyone loves the industrial look. My Council of Advisors steered me toward a more neutral gray, a “safer” choice that was sure not to offend la señora María.
The appliances are Miele, with a gas range, double European-sized (60 cm wide) fridge and freezer combos (built in), electric oven, microwave and dishwasher (built in). The range hood is recirculating, thus avoiding a 3 meter steel tube in the middle of the kitchen.
The kitchen is FULLY AVAILABLE for the use of my visitors. I eat relatively modest portions and I don’t skimp on compliments…