Category Archives: Kitchen Remodel

The Grey Ghost’s New Kitchen, Part 6: Loose Ends

This has dragged on quite a while, and will probably continue to, but I thought it might make sense to post some comments on a number of smaller items so far in the project.  Some are just notes on how I’ve done certain things, others are thoughts on what I’m planning.  As always, comments and suggestions are appreciated!


I’ve been asked how I have finished the cabinets–both what I’ve used and how it was applied.  All of the wood used is a red oak–in the case of the wood used for the face frames and the plywood for the sides of the cabinets, it was purchased at Lowe’s.  The cabinet doors and drawer fronts are also red oak, but supplied by Barker Door in Oregon.

I used an orbital sander (like this) to progressively sand all surfaces, starting with 120 grit, then 220 grit.  Before a final pass with 320 grit, everything was wiped with a wet rag to raise the grain–this results in a smoother finish when stain is applied.

The stain used for these cabinets is Minwax’s Espresso.  I found it on the shelves at Home Depot, but it can also be found online for about the same price.  I tried their PolyShades all-in-one product, but wasn’t nearly as satisfied as with the separate stain and polyurethane.  The stain was applied with a foam brush, and after sitting for about five minutes wiped with a paper towel.  The stain doesn’t dry quickly–it needs a day or so before it’s ready for polyurethane.  This caused a little bit of trouble at one point trying to get staining done when the weather wasn’t cooperating.

The polyurethane goes on pretty easily, but you do have to be careful to make sure you don’t go too thick and get runs.  A couple of hours between coats is all that’s needed for this to dry.  To get a smooth finish, a very light rub with 000 steel wool between coats knocks down any bubbles/bumps.  For most parts of the project, I put on 3 coats of polyurethane.

Stove cover

This is one part of the project that took a lot more effort than I expected.  I wanted

Routing on underside of cover.

the stove cover to sit level with the countertop, and to fit over the grating so that it wasn’t inclined to slide around while driving.  That meant a lot of work routing out about 1″ across most of the underside of the cover.  This probably took several hours, but I’m happy with the result:

Cooktop cover in place.

Ceiling trim

Haven’t quite figured out what I’m doing here.  I left myself enough room at the top of the cabinets to do a small soffit (mainly to cover some of the holes from the old cabinets), which I plan to add lighting to.  Just haven’t done it, and haven’t decided what I want it to look like.

I also need to figure out how to clean the ceiling.  It has a fine layer of what I think is diesel soot, and is a royal pain to get free.  I’ve gotten a few sections clean with a lot of work, which ends up making it worse by highlighting how dirty the rest of it is!


Looking forward into bathroom from bedroom, as it was when I bought it.

The floors were actually the first project, tied in with replacing the shower stall.  I used Allure Aspen Oak click-lock vinyl plank flooring, bought at Home Depot.  It’s more expensive than the laminate planks, but being solid vinyl is way more tolerant of moisture.  I’d had problems in the bathroom with the pressboard swelling from drips from the shower door and wet feet.

I didn’t take any pictures during the process, but here are a couple of pictures before and after in the bathroom.

Vinyl floors in bathroom and bedroom.

These floors have held up really well, and I think they do a good job lightening things up and providing contrast with the darker cabinets.

That’s all for now, but hopefully the next few posts won’t take so long!



Microwave, Convection Oven, and Range Hood

The microwave and separate hood were one of the things I was looking forward to changing as part of the kitchen remodel.  The hood’s fan made plenty of noise, but moved very little air.  And the microwave was higher up than was comfortable.

Kitchen before remodeling started

I also wanted to be able to use an oven for longer periods of time without dealing with propane exhaust.  The convection oven was part of the solution to that (though since it runs on the inverter, the lithium battery upgrade was also part of the process).  Ideally, I would have liked a narrower 24″-wide microwave/hood combination, but 30″ is the standard.  In part, that’s what made the project a total re-do, as opposed to piecewise upgrades.

Whirlpool Gold WMH76719CS Over-the-Range Microwave Oven with Convection and Vent Hood

The microwave I picked out was a Whirlpool Gold WMH76719CS Amazon $579.99, AJ Madison $489.10 as of today).  At the time I bought it, there was a rebate that basically made it the cheapest stainless over-the-range convection oven I could buy.   With nearly 300 reviews averaging 4.4/5 stars, you could say I was expecting a pretty good appliance–and it is–but it’s not without a few shortcomings.

First of all, it really does do everything it should–microwaving (with all of the sensor cooking stuff), convection cooking, the hood moves a fair bit of air with a reasonably acceptable amount of noise, and it’s a pretty big cavity.  For a shorter user, especially since I mounted it a bit higher than what’s standard, having all of the controls and display across the bottom is nice.

I do have a few gripes though:

  • The “beep” when you press a button isn’t quite in sync with button presses being registered.  Here’s what I mean–there’s an “add 30 seconds” button that I can quickly press 3 times, hear 3 beeps, but only have 2 of 3 recorded for a minute on the clock.  The part of the control board doing the beeping should send a carrier pigeon to the other part of the control board that’s controlling the microwave.
  • The button for the oven light is well inside the bottom corner, and above the button for the fan.  It’s impossible to find in the dark.  It should have been on the bottom row, and near an edge/corner of the control panel, not 4″ in.  Either that, or make it light up just a bit.
  • While the control panel on the bottom is nice, it makes for a big door.  I find myself frequently stepping back as I open the door, and with the opposing slide-out closed, I often end up ducking under the door when moving something from the counter into the microwave.  This is the one thing that, if I did it again, might cause me to pick a different model.
  • The owner’s manual is absolutely worthless.  I’m used to appliances like this containing a breakdown of all of the menus and what’s actually going on with a particular setting.  What’s the difference between convection bake and convection roast? Well, I know that convection roast draws more power, but that’s about it.  The owner’s manual is silent on this and every other cooking option.  It’s basically just a couple of sheets full of warnings that would apply to just about any microwave.

Again, overall I’m pretty happy.  The inside has been easy to keep clean, and it looks sharp.  It doesn’t really have to be any more expensive to address my complaints–it’s just a little rough around the edges with the user interface.


Cooking with Gas!

Ok, so I could cook with gas before.  But now it’s a much more pleasant experience.  The original RV oven went to a new home, along with the oven’s pilot light, too-small broiler compartment, and manual ignition stove top.

I wanted to replace it with a fairly inexpensive, but good looking gas range.  I wanted a waist-high broiler, so that anything I could fit in the oven could be broiled.  I wanted electronic ignition, so there were no pilot lights to mess with.  I wanted sealed burners to make cleaning easy.  And since it would be free-standing, I wanted a storage drawer to make up for some of what I’d be losing in terms of storage. Oh, and since I have LP, not natural gas on board, it would need to be able to run on LP.

Then we came to the question of 20″ or 24″ width.  Some of that ended up dictated by clearances and the space available.  Between the water heater and refrigerator cabinet, there was just enough room to squeeze in the dishwasher, range, and spice rack if a 20″ range was used.  A 24″ range would mean giving up the pull-out spice rack, and while there were more 24″ models to choose from, they were much more expensive (albeit from more well-known brands).

Avanti GR2013CSS 20″ Gas Range

What I ended up with was an Avanti GR2013CSS 20″ range, in stainless with a black glass door with window.  The link above is to Amazon, but at the time AJ Madison had a better price (more on that later).  It’s narrower than the range that came out, but also fills the full cabinet depth.  The oven cavity is a lot more usable–a 9×13″ pan fits with room to spare, with the long dimension running front to back.

It was easy enough to swap out the orifices on each burner (6 of them including the two in the oven), and installation was straightforward.  I did have to space it out from the wall just a little though, in order to clear the drain line running from the kitchen sink.  Overall, it’s a much better feel in terms of quality than the old range, particularly when it comes to the oven door.  It’s a properly sprung and sealed glass door, like what you’d expect at home.

I do wish the burners had a little wider range–there are three burner sizes (1 large, 2 medium, and 1 small), but I often find myself moving a pan from the large burner to the small one when going from a boil to simmer.

I definitely like not having to mess with the pilot light, and both the stove top and oven are much more usable.  One thing I did though, to make the covered workspace more functional, was to raise the countertop height just a bit from the standard 36″, so that the rim around the grating was at the same height as the bottom of the countertop, and the cover was routed out to surround the grating.  The weight from the cover keeps the grating from rattling, and the grating keeps the cover from sliding around.

Interior of oven, with light on.

I don’t often use it, but it is kind of nice having a light in the oven.  I suppose I’ve grown accustomed to opening the door to take a look after years without a window.  It’s an incandescent bulb, but assuming it won’t be on for long periods of time that shouldn’t be a big deal for energy management.  Notice that there are two racks in the oven as well, and both are usable with casserole dishes or cookie sheets.

I paid $488 delivered last January from AJMadison. Amazon shows it at $642 as I write this–so quite the savings from AJMadison, though it did take a little while to get them delivered (part of that due to a couple of winter storms).

After a year using it, I’m still pretty happy.  One of the igniters has been a little flaky once or twice, but other than that it’s as good as new.  Bouncing down the road, nothing has picked up wear marks, and the drawer hasn’t opened at all in travel.

Next up is the over-the-range microwave/convection oven.

Dishwasher Drawer and Boondocking

If you’ve been following the kitchen rebuild, one of the things that I added was a Fisher-Paykel DishDrawer.  I’ll do a more thorough review later, but I’ve seen a number of comments about water and power usage, and various remarks about not wanting or using one because of boondocking habits.

Less Water Consumption

Contrary to a lot of those discussions, the water consumption in particular for the DishDrawer is the main reason I put one in.  At under 2 gallons per load, which holds quite a bit more than a sink piled full of dishes, it can get the dishes clean with a lot less water than I can washing by hand.

Very Low Power Consumption

Today, I decided to actually get some real-world numbers for power consumption as well.  Since I have the DishDrawer plugged into an outlet in the back of the cabinet (that I can reach!), I unplugged it and connected a Kill-A-Watt power meter.  I might get a little more sophisticated later and actually record the data, but for right now I just wanted to see total energy consumption.

The specifications list peak draw at 5.8A at 110-120V.  That means for the 2-hour cycle, it shouldn’t use more than 1.4kWh.  We expect that it will be a lot less than that.  If we take a look at the EnergyGuide label, it shows 141kWh per year, assuming 4 loads per week.  141kWh/(4 loads per week)/(365.25 days/year)*(7 days/week)=0.676kWh per load.

The first test is running the normal cycle, with Eco mode turned off.  It’s a 128-minute cycle, consisting of a 120F pre-wash, 130F main wash, a rinse, a 130F final rinse, and heated drying phase.


During the drying cycle, I was surprised to see that power consumption held steady at only 10 watts.  If I wanted to be a little more precise, the chart would show 4Wh over the last 25 minutes, but that’s pretty negligible.

Cost per Load

Lets look at cost per load with a typical 12-volt DC lead acid battery system, and assume 80% overall efficiency.  That should take care of getting to 120-volt AC power at the dishwasher.  The EnergyGuide number would then equate to about 70Ah per load from the batteries.  In the real-world test (which doesn’t include the energy for the hot water), we used 0.45kWh, or about 47Ah from the battery bank.  If you’re paying for electricity, at the 2014 national average electricity price of $0.125/kWh, that’s just over a nickel per wash.

So far, I’ve been running the dishwasher once every two days or so.  That includes tossing in pots and pans, which fill it up fairly quickly.  But given these numbers, if I had 400W of solar on the roof, we’d be talking less than an hour per day to take care of the dishwasher.  Better still, since most of the energy is consumed at the beginning of the cycle, I could run the generator for a few minutes up front and have negligible impact on the batteries.

To each his or her own, but from now on I’ll be pushing a little button to get the dishes clean.  I’ll do another post later on with some more general comments about this machine, but if you can’t tell yet I’ll spell it out: I like it.

The Grey Ghost’s New Kitchen, Part 4: Doors and Drawers

If there was one part of this project where I really wanted to hand off some of the work, it was in building the cabinet doors, drawer boxes, and drawer fronts.  For the doors, I’d have a lot of money in tools for the various profiles on the rails and stiles, and would have to make up the raised panels without a planer.  Most of the drawer fronts wouldn’t have been too bad, but they also weren’t that expensive.  The drawer boxes needed to be fairly precise, to make sure operation was smooth–I wasn’t comfortable cutting a lot of larger pieces with just handheld tools.

Test-fitting new cabinet doors.

There are a number of companies that will make this stuff to order.  I ended up using Barker Door for the doors and drawer fronts.  They had a standard door configuration that was a pretty good match, and I was able to order online and specify all of the options I wanted.  What I’ve received from them has been very well made.

Installed and finished doors before installing handles.

For the drawer boxes, my initial plan was to use Barker.  I had purchased a few from them previously, and they make a very nice dovetailed box.  But once I got the cabinets finally far enough along to confirm measurements, Barker’s lead time had grown to about a month–I guess summer is a busy time. Unlike the upper cabinets, where as soon as the boxes were mounted I could put stuff away, missing drawers meant maintaining a mess.  I didn’t want piles of kitchen stuff laying around for a month.

My dad told me about another company, BHK, that wasn’t too far away, and when I checked them out I learned they had a quick-delivery program.  As long as you stuck to certain specifications, they would ship within 5 days.  They were also close enough for normal delivery to be only one day.  After a few phone calls to track down a distributor and get pricing (very reasonable, at roughly $20 per drawer), I placed my first order with them.

A BHK Fast-Track Drawer

They weren’t going to be dovetailed drawers, instead drilled and dowelled Baltic birch.  Not really a big deal in my mind, and still a big step up from the stapled particle board drawers that were in the old kitchen.  BHK delivered right on time, and everything was just as ordered.

For drawer glides, I already knew that I wanted ball-bearing, soft-close, full-extension glides.  I’ve used them before–the soft-close mechanism provides enough resistance when fully closed that they won’t open going down the road, and full-extension means that the back of the drawer box gets all the way to the front of the cabinet.  I ordered the drawer glides on Amazon (more info here), which ended up being about the same price as buying locally.  With one of the first few drawers I got impatient and bought a set of drawer glides locally–compared to what I ordered, that set was a much lighter capacity with looser tolerances–with some weight, the drawer would sag when fully extended.  With Prime delivery, the good stuff was only 2 days away anyway.

Next time, I’ll show how I built a pull-out countertop extension that, as a side benefit, gives me easy access to all of the wiring near the main door.


The Grey Ghost’s New Kitchen, Part 3: Demolition Down Low

This is when things really start to get interesting.  Going into this phase of the project, I knew I’d have a lot of re-measuring to do and was expecting some surprises.

New upper cabinets in, old stove out.  Dave working, Milo supervising.

The stove and what was left of the pantry cabinet came out first, followed by the sink.  The left end with all of the control panels and switches took some time to carefully disassemble, while still leaving enough hooked up for the RV to function.

Wiring mess.

One of the goals getting into this was to clean up a bunch of the wiring, and at the very least get it to a point where someone could reasonably follow what was going on.  There were way too many quick splices used, and in many cases daisy-chained one after another.  That meant that a number of circuits had really low voltage once a load was applied, causing problems ranging from fluorescent lights not starting to phones not charging.

Since the new appliances had already arrived, you’ll notice that they were being put into the empty spaces almost right away just so we could walk around.  They were also used to check and double-check dimensions.

One of the first surprises was seeing how the sink’s drain line was run.  As it sat, it would have forced the range out about 6 inches away from the wall, which wasn’t going to work.  The end where it went under the refrigerator and into the holding tank didn’t leave much room for reconfiguration.  In the end, the fittings at the sink end were cut off, and the pipe angled back closer to the wall.  It wasn’t optimal, but it got the stove back even with where the cabinets would be.  The spice rack, a Rev-A-Shelf 3″-wide pull-out, would have to stick out to clear, but since it would end up even with the refrigerator this didn’t seem to be a huge problem.

It did mean covering the side of the spice rack though.  3/8″ oak plywood was added on the oven facing side.  It might not seem like much, but that turned into a couple of other changes.  It shifted the range left, along with the dishwasher.  But the dishwasher didn’t have room to go left, as it was butting up against the water heater.  That meant getting clever with the face frame design and leaving the DW slightly offset.  If you look closely, you’ll see that the 1×2 on its right side is turned so that only the 3/4″ width is between the dishwasher and range.

Dishwasher test fit.

You can also get a better feel for the mess of wiring, ductwork, and plumbing.  In this picture, I had already re-routed the furnace duct–previously it ran over the top of the water heater, now it runs in front.  The drain plumbing would go through a few iterations before I got the setup I was after–I wanted to maximize the open space in the cabinet, and had to tie in to pipe at an odd angle.  A lot of the freshwater piping was eliminated–what they were thinking when it went in I’ll never know, but they kept it really close to the wall and tucked around the water heater opening.  That was always where it froze first in winter.  I lost count of the elbows that came out.

You can also see the spice rack, range, and dishwasher at least partially installed.  The dishwasher is a Fisher-Paykel single drawer, and the taller of the two form factors they make.  Not wanting to spend between $700 and $1,000, I looked for scratch-and-dent stuff. It ended up an eBay purchase, and with freight was about $500. I was using this thing as soon as it was installed, and it’s been running about every other day.  The project was a success as far as I was concerned as soon as this was operational.  There are far fewer dishes that end up in the sink, I don’t have to wash them myself, and the drying rack isn’t a permanent fixture on the counter any more.

The range and microwave were sourced from AJ Madison–one of the best places to see virtually every appliance on the market–and for those two, they also had the best price.  The range is made by Avanti.  I picked it for its size (20″ wide), having a true (“waist high”) broiler and storage drawer, and price.  So far, I’ve been very pleased with it, though if I had to complain it would be to say that I wish low was lower on the stove top burners.  All of the appliances will get a more in-depth review once I’ve used them a little bit more.

Test-fitting countertop section, and checking for level.

The countertops are actually a workbench top ordered from Grainger Industrial Supply.  I paid almost twice as much (~$400) as what Lumber Liquidators wanted, but Grainger delivered to me next-day, where LL wanted 3-6 weeks.  They were also prefinished from Grainger, and a little bit thicker (1 3/4″ instead of 1 1/2″).

Compared to a laminate or solid surface top, this was easy to work with.  The notch in the top over the dishwasher section was started with a 3/4″ hole at the inside corner, then cut with a circular saw and Kreg Rip-Cut jig.

Main countertop section set in place.

I definitely wanted an undermount sink, and wanted a reveal large enough that the cutout would sit on the sink rim.  With a constantly curving border and the need for a narrow kerf, that pretty well meant that the jig saw was the tool for the job.  Remember how I mentioned that the Grainger tops were a little thicker?  They would be at the very maximum that the jig saw could handle, but we got the job done.  A little bit of sanding and squaring things up with a router bit finished the opening up.


Now this is a sink! Only one bowl now, but a whole lot more useful.

I went back and forth while planning the new layout on whether to buy a new sink or re-use the old one.  The old one was okay, still in a like-new state, but it was pretty shallow with center drains. I wanted the drains at the back to keep the plumbing out of the way, but I also wanted a deeper sink.  I didn’t want to lose more counter space though, and double-bowl sinks less than 27″ wide are pretty hard to come by at a reasonable price.  This one was ordered from Amazon, and does the job well enough.  The water jug in the picture didn’t fit at all in the old sink.  Installation of this sink was made easy with the butcher block countertop.  Screws from the underside start easily, and hold it well.

Now back to wiring.  I’ve introduced the topic of switches in another post, and here’s where that method is being put to work.  All of the switches are now the same type (Carling Contura II), with different color lenses for different functions, and arranged in one group just inside the door where they will sit behind the pull-out countertop.  The heights for the two main rows of switches were set to that they’d line up in between drawers, so that the drawers could extend further back–they ended up at 25 inches deep!  The shallower controls for the leveling jacks sit in the middle, where they don’t interfere with the drawers, and the awning controls have been replaced with a single on-off switch and 2 momentary switches to control the individual awnings.  It’s a little hard to see in the pictures, but every wire is now labelled with what it controls, and all of the quick splices (at least in this area) have been eliminated.

New switch panel.

There’s still a little bit of work do be done, mainly to mount a new pilot light for the water heater (and clean!) to be able to call this panel finished, but it has come a long way from where it was.

More on getting things finished up in part 4.




The Grey Ghost’s New Kitchen, Part 2: Starting to Build Cabinets

So here’s where things get interesting.  How  do you build a nice set of kitchen cabinets with only small power tools?  As it turns out, it’s not really all that difficult, if you’re careful with a tape measure, and have the right stuff.

For this project, I bought a few new (small) tools:

  • Kreg K4MS Jig Master System — If there were one tool that was absolutely critical, it would be this one.  It has the jig, bits, and clamp to make pocket screw joints.  When I bought it, it also included a screw kit.  I only really used 2 of the screw types, and needed more of the fine-thread screws.
  • Kreg KHC-RAC Right Angle Clamp — this didn’t get used too much, but it helped when putting together the toekick and a few other joints.  The face clamp was used extensively, and is part of the master kit above.
  • Kreg KMA2675 Rip-Cut — this was bought before the kitchen project, but had already proven its worth (and introduced me to Kreg stuff).  My battery-powered 5″ circular saw’s worth was increased tenfold with this fence attachment.
  • Kreg KMA3200 Shelf Pin Drilling Jig — Should be pretty self-explanatory, but this made it fairly easy to get the holes drilled without too many screw-ups.
My old Safari’s kitchen cabinets, at 21 years old, put together with pocket screws.

The decision to use pocket screws was based in part on my first motorhome–at 21 years old when I sold it, its simple pocket screw cabinetry was still in great shape, and outclassed most of the wood stuff on newer RVs costing several times as much.  The new cabinets would use face-frame construction, like the old ones, but would use 3/4″ plywood for the sides (where they were 2 sheets of luan with 1/2″ pine strips between them).  All of the wood would be red oak, mostly 1x2s, easily purchased locally at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Pictures are going to be pretty scarce through some of this, as I was working alone for much of it.  In addition to the new tools I purchased, I also used a drill, 7″ chop saw, orbital sander, and a 5-inch circular saw–all stuff that can fit in a fairly small space (the chop saw taking up most of it).

The upper cabinets actually went together pretty quickly.  The face frames were pretty easy with the Kreg system, and accurate measurements when cutting the wood with a chop saw meant that everything fit together nicely.  You can imagine my surprise when I lifted the cabinets up (in 2 sections) and they fit cleanly between the cabinets over the entry door and the refrigerator cabinet.

Upper cabinets installed, without doors.

The microwave was a little more complicated.  I didn’t want another hole in the wall for the vent, which meant spacing the microwave out away from the wall and building a duct up and to the right of where the old hood was. It wasn’t pretty, but the microwave isn’t going anywhere.  It only sticks out about 4 inches more than it would have otherwise, and it’s higher than normal by a few inches so it doesn’t close the space in too much.

Once they were up (though it should have been done earlier), I used the shelf pin jig to drill the shelf holes, dropped the shelves into place, and was almost ready to start putting things away.  Before doing that though, I added 3 4-inch LED downlights, one under each cabinet.   They’re bright and at only 12W each still use less power than the 2 little halogen puck lights they replaced.  These lights are bright enough that the quick picture I took left the cabinets looking much darker than they really are–I’ll definitely get some better pictures as things progress.

The cabinet over the door (far left in the picture above) was kept, but has been sanded down in preparation for stain to match the new cabinets.  We’ll talk about doors and drawers in a later post.

Demolition down low starts in part 3.



The Grey Ghost’s New Kitchen

One of the biggest nagging complaints about the layout of the Grey Ghost was its kitchen.  There was plenty of storage, but a lot of it was hard to access.  All of the necessary appliances were present, but they were RV-grade and left something to be desired.

The Grey Ghost’s kitchen, as it was at purchase.

Last fall, the RV refrigerator was replaced with a residential unit picked up at Home Depot.  The whole refrigerator was about the same cost as replacement door seals on the Norcold, and its power consumption has averaged 37 Watts where the Norcold was at 200 Watts.

After two and a half years of ownership, Dave decided it was time to go ahead and re-do the rest of the kitchen.  This would involve complete demolition, and replacement of all of the appliances.  Here was the wish list going in to the project:

  • Increase countertop space.  There was effectively none when the sink and stove top were in use.
  • Squeeze in a drawer-style dishwasher.  At 2 gallons per load, it’s much more water efficient than washing a sink full of dishes by hand.
  • Replace the separate microwave and range hood with an over-the-range convection microwave
  • Increase countertop space even more!

Even though it provided a lot of storage space, the decision was made to get rid of the pantry cabinet between the stove and refrigerator, and extend the countertop that direction.  Of course, that meant that redoing the upper and lower cabinets would be linked together, but it seemed like the best option.

New Layout

Working from right to left on the bottom, we’d have a pull-out spice rack, the new range, the dishwasher, sink (with water heater in cabinet underneath), and then a pull-out countertop section with drawers in it.

To pick up a little space down low, the cabinets would be squared off, with the left section at 30″ deep and the rest at 24.  Both dimensions were there before, but the angled transition at the sink would be eliminated.  This would make for a bigger cabinet in front of the water heater, which would have enough space for a garbage can.

Up top, it would be all cabinets, save the microwave hood.  I wanted to gain some storage here, so two of the cabinet sections would be extended closer to the countertop (nominally 18″, like normal residential construction).  They would also only be 12″ deep, where the old cabinets were 15.  The reduced depth would open things up a bit, and really wouldn’t be missed too much, as deeper cabinets often just meant things getting lost in back.

Upper cabinets gone, starting to halve pantry cabinet.

The upper cabinet demolition looked straightforward, with just a little bit of electrical work and the microwave to deal with.  It was all down in about an hour.

Easy.  Now who’s going to build the new cabinets?  Check out part 2.


Three-Way Circuits without a Three-Way Switch

Here’s the answer to an electrical question nobody’s asking: How do I operate a 3-way circuit without a three way switch?  Why would I want to do that?

As part of a kitchen remodel, I was wanting to clean up the mess of switches around the end of the kitchen cabinets.  Right by the entry door, there were 15 switches of various types–some of the 3-way RV variety, some residential-style, awning controls that uses Carling switches, another type for the water heater, and still another for the holding tank heaters.  It wasn’t particularly attractive–ome had black mounting panels, others white, and they were different sizes and shapes.  A number of switches controlled outside lights, where you couldn’t really see whether it was on or off–including a motion-activated porch light that’s usually off even when the switch is on.

That last one is what made me want to use switches with indicator lights.  I also liked the idea for the three-way switches, to make it easier to find the right switch to turn off a light.

After a fairly lengthy search for what I thought surely already existed, I came up empty trying to find a switch that fit the bill.  I wanted high-quality, single-pole double-throw (SPDT or 3-way) switches with an indicator light.  The closest I was able to get was a switch from Carling.  They manufacture a wide variety of switches, mostly for the automotive and marine industries.  Depending on the vendor, they’re sometimes sold as complete switches, other places sell the actuator and switch body separately.  And while you can use spade connectors with them directly, I made use of their connectors so that I could easily unplug a switch without worrying about which wire goes where.  I bought on/off rocker switches with illumination, and Contura II actuators.   Not cheap at around $15 each, but I’ve used them before, and they’re a very high quality switch.

Carling Contura II On-Off Switch with Red Illumination

So how do we make a 3-way switch out of these?  Relays.  A standard Bosch-style 5-pin automotive relay is a 3-way (or SPDT) switch, just electrically operated.   Pins 30 (common), 87 (normally open), and 87a (normally closed) are the switching contacts, and pins 85 and 86 are for the coil that operates them.

With our rocker switch turned off, there’s no power to the relay coil and pins 30 and 87a are connected as shown in the diagram above.  When we supply power to the coil (our rocker switch turned on), the connection with 87a is opened, and pins 30 and 87 are connected.

We’ll configure the rocker switch to control the relay, and show how to wire it all up in part 2, just as soon as I get my wiring diagrams presentable.