Creating kitchens and baths for finicky customers since 1993

backsplash features inset metal tiles for accent and texture

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The End (of the year) is Here!

Today is not just any Saturday, it's the last day of 2005. We've had gloomy skies, moderate temperatures, about an inch of snow--nothing special. These are, however, the final hours of the year. A New Year is knocking at the door. We'll be making resolutions, going to the gym, setting new goals, and celebrating another year endured, perhaps. I've taken a few days off, after putting the finishing touches on Millie's kitchen. Soon it will be time to go back to work, and face whatever challenges 2006 presents.

This is not just any year-end, it's also the final days of Chase-Pitkin, my main employer since 1993. It doesn't feel like the end yet, with so much work still to be done. Soon enough, though, those few remaining jobs will be complete. Then a truly new year will begin for me: a new employer, new contacts, and new places to buy my tools and supplies. I'm not overly concerned about this uncertainty, but I'm certainly saddened by the impending closing of the entire Chase-Pitkin chain. I've met so many good people over the years; and I'm not sure how many of them I'll ever see again. I'll miss the Sales, Labor, and support staff at the office most of all. As those fine folks go their separate ways, the end of an era (for me) will have arrived. I wish every one of them well, wherever they go.

So Happy New Year to you all. To Blane, who's been there since the beginning. To Dave R, who moved on a few years back, but left big footprints behind. To Rick P, who stepped into those footprints and filled them admirably. You've been a fine "boss" and friend. To John M, and Pete S in Sales: bright futures for you both. To Sabrina, the very best. To Jim A, who never let me down. To John K, and Jim D: I'll miss you both very much. To all the incredible Kitchen Designers (too many good ones to name each), who helped create so much good work for some many great customers: I hope I get to see your names on plansheets again someday. All of these people, and too many more, will be starting over this New Year. For some it will be difficult and depressing; and for others the opportunities will surpass their best hopes. Wherever you go, and whatever you end up doing, I hope it's a truly Happy New Year for every one of you!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Day Three for a Christmas Kitchen

Today's "to-do" list would have depressed me, so I ignored it as much as possible. There was so much to do on this new kitchen that I couldn't really process it all. Instead, I just plugged in all the tools and went to work. That strategy paid off nicely. I actually accomplished more than I would have been willing to write down on that list! Having the right tools, easy access to the jobsite, and a workshop (breezeway) right next to the kitchen--not to mention a very nice, considerate customer--made everything go well. If I only had a camera with me, and a good "before" picture...

Here's what I wrote in the job-log today, for this kitchen: (on-site, 8:30-5:30) Start-to-finish [S2F after this], clear pine soffit, scribe molding, and crown. S2F--100% custom corner cabinet. S2F--plumbing plus sinkbase installed, with 6" fillers as needed. S2F--range hood fan-lite combo. ...Whew! I'm not bragging, I'm simply amazed at what I got done by pretending all those things didn't need to get done today (they did, in fact!). Sometimes I get too stressed out and over-think the day's work that lies ahead of me. You know, when you can't fall asleep because your brain is going 'round-n-'round for the next day.

This one should be all but done by tomorrow afternoon. I'm sure I would finish, except that the very last (for all time) Chase-Pitkin Christmas Party starts at noon. I don't mind getting there late; there's always something left to eat. But I want to see as many of the gang as possible. I'll never see a majority of these people again--many are leaving the field we're in now for new opportunities. So this will be a final chance to commisserate and to say good-bye. Some will leave quite early, so I'll probably miss those few. But I won't miss the party itself. We've all been together too long to miss this chance to say so-long. It ain't gonna be easy, I know that. By the way, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, too!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Two Doors Open

It's been a very interesting couple of days. I had scheduled an important job for Monday, but realized halfway through the weekend that I had never confirmed delivery of the product. Things have been very, very hectic; and deliveries are an easy detail to miss. The job called for installation of an interior "French" double-door set. In good weather I can carry this item on the roof. Good weather should return sometime in May.

I had no choice, though, so I went to the Brockport store to pick-up the door unit, hoping I could secure it to the roof-rack. I knew the Nebraska-plains-style crosswind would be a problem, no matter what I did. The problem never arose: the door was no longer at that store! (All CP stores are in close-out/all sales final mode. Nothing is safe, including pre-paid customer product.) I didn't panic, but I also figured the install was a bust for Monday. Fortunately, Lauren (formerly of Contractor Sales) really went to work for me. She found a replacement door at another store, secured a truck and driver, and got it out to the job-site before dark.

This door was going into an opening between a vestibule and a main room. In a church. And it's nearly Christmas. When the Deacon heard about the missing door and the possibly late-afternoon delivery, he explained that he had promised the Parish Pastor the job would be done for their Christmas Service. How could I let him down on that promise? I figured it would be a late night, and it was. Just the drive from the Brockport store to the church took more than half an hour. The wind howled the whole time. I stayed as late as I could, and used up all the materials I'd brought. So I went back this morning to finish.

The short ending to this long story is: the door is done, it looks great, and we're all happy. I'm pretty tired from the driving and the background-stress. But it was worth it. To see the Deacon's smile when he came to inspect the job at the end was wonderful. Merry Christmas to the Royal Church of God in Christ, and happy Christmas to me, too! On to the next one--a kitchen much closer to home for a very nice repeat customer. Let it snow!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Week in Review, already!

Christmas is coming at warp speed. This past week flew by at a similar pace, too. The new kitchen is done, and turned out very nicely. The hardest part of that job was hauling off the old cabinets and countertops; it was uphill all the way. Cold, too--below twenty degrees. Thank God for inside work. Unfortunately, Thursday's job was mostly outside. I had to fix a door. That's something we don't do much anymore: fix things. Most of the time we replace things, which is fine. But it was nice to find that I still know how to repair, as well. This customer's entrance door was solid, but not well sealed and had some jamb damage. I did some strategic cutting, fashioned a new piece to replace the broken section, did some mortising, added some new weatherseal, and ended up with a servicable result. It's not brand new and perfect, but everything works fine and the customer didn't have to empty her savings account to get it done. Despite my numb fingers, it felt good.

Overnight leading into Friday a system of sleet, freezing rain, then snow moved in. There were accidents aplenty Thursday evening, and a whole slew of off-the-road incidents Friday morning. One driver found himself in one of the ponds along the expressway near our home. That brought out the whole fire department, plus a fleet of tow-vehicles. Schools were mostly open, though. I kept it close to home. Measured the countertop for next week's kitchen and got those numbers delivered to the countertop shop. Had to go over some website info with Frank there, and then off to the next item on my list. That was a service call for a big bathroom job done earlier this year, for a customer who's been very patient about it. Took just a few minutes, and on down the road I went. One day closer to Christmas, and only a few hundred more things to do and finish by then!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tuesday Day Two New Kitchen

Day Two for my new kitchen went well. Had a small surprise this morning: the dishwasher had spent the night dripping fresh water onto the floor. Must have loosened the connection when I was re-setting the supply line. No big deal, luckily--concrete floor underneath. Spent the day doing some of the tricky stuff, like the end panel and all the trimwork. That little kitchen was filled with tools!

The main countertop is in, and the sink is all hooked-up. That's always good progress. With the new cabinets in a much lighter shade, plus the green-swirl countertop, and now the new sink and faucet, the room looks entirely different. The customer came home in time today for us to see the results together. She's happy, so I'm very happy! That's what it's all about, isn't it? Tomorrow should be mostly low-stress, with knobs and haul-off the big jobs. Have to re-install the old rangehood, too; that'll be fun. There's the update.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Monday, snowy Monday

Today began a brand new job, which is just as it should be for a Monday. Even better, the new job is a kitchen, not a bathroom! Not that there's anything wrong with bathrooms, but I sure have done a bunch of them in the last several weeks. Kitchens are neat, and clean, and straight-forward. And even though they are usually bigger than bathrooms, kitchens are less demanding in terms of plumbing changes and fixtures. It wasn't all roses today, though.

I like to know where I'm going, so I almost always MapQuest® the address before I go. (These jobs are measured and quoted by the Sales Dept., not by me.) The problem is that sometimes the map service isn't sure where a place actually is, so it just guesses and shoots an internet arrow onto the map. I've had this happen at least five times in recent memory. Today's kitchen was listed as being on "Gregory Park," but the paper map shows only Gregory Street and Gregory Hill Drive (I think). MapQuest® showed its happy little star right there in the middle of Gregory Street, so I was suspicious. So I reconnoitered (can you spell that?) early this morning. The house numbers were all wrong, off by two hundred; so I chalked it up to mapping imagination. Had to call my customer for directions. And there she was, right under the mapping software's star.

What threw me off was that my customer had mentioned she was in a condominium, and I didn't see anything appropriate during my drive-by. Damned forest, keeps hiding the trees! Her building is a huge, gorgeous orange-brick post-War school, converted to condo's about twenty years ago. The fact that there wasn't any sign with the name "Gregory Park" on it is only a poor excuse for my missing it. The next problem was parking, since each owner has one spacallotteded and the signs all read "no contractor parking." My customer deeded her spot to me for the duration; I didn't get towed. Yet.

Things went very well after that, and I've written enough for tonite. No glitches so far, and no wood to knock on nearby, so I'll write more tomorrow. By then, this kitchen should be mostly complete and I can leave the knock-on-wood for the next job. See you then.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Wrappin' up the week

The real winter weather has arrived: snow, high winds, single-digit temp's, and car-wrecks. So Mike and I spent the coldest day of the week outside, climbing up and down an aluminum ladder to apply frozen sticks of aluminum trim, then trying to apply frozen beads of caulk. Vinyl replacement windows. Gonna be a year for them, with gas prices still high and lots of people worried about how they're going to pay for heat. Windows are one of the very few remodeling expenses that can be assured to pay for themselves, sometimes in just a couple of years. At the warehouse, despite the impending demise of our employer, vinyl windows are stacked and packed and parked every which way, waiting to be installed. Hundreds of them.

We put in a total of seventeen windows on Wednesday--Mike, his helper Frank, and I. The first house had eleven new windows, which went very well, mostly hassle-free. The second house, rental property owned by the folks in the first house, had just seven more windows; but they were a real pain. Every one was on the second floor, and every one had fifty-year-old wooden storm window combinations painted shut to the outside. Some had cars parked beneath them: a true recipe for disaster. That's why, if you're keeping count, you'll notice window number eighteen didn't get installed until Thursday. The rest of Thursday was ladder-day, starting the morning at a toasty twelve degrees (that's Fahrenheit, folks, not Celcius). Had to take five-minute breaks in our trucks with the heat running, just to get feeling back in the small bones.

I'm trying to remember what I did on Monday and Tuesday. That seems like weeks ago now. Oh, yeah, that was inside work in a place that kept the thermometer at about seventy-five. Which is way too warm, by the way, especially when you have to dress for at least a certain amount of time spent outside. Layers, that's the key. Monday's job was figured for two days, but I had a great helper (John Metzger) and things went well. Easy access, too. That makes a huge difference, not having to climb stairs or navigate long sidewalks and driveways. That overheated Monday job does seem like it was last month, though. A couple cold days will do that to you, stretch the time out like that. Tuesday was an inside day, too, with a lot of work that needed to get done on the website I'm putting together for a local countertop manufacturer. That will be online by Sunday, if I don't get too many interruptions.

Today was more windows, but only three, and only one of them rated "difficult." Things were touch-and-go there at one point, when the tricky window looked like it wasn't going to fit. It all worked out in the end, though, and that last window is the one that looks fantastic. Big old farmhouse on the top of a wind-swept hill out on the east side (farm country out there). Snow was blowing sideways at one point, right about the time I went to install the only windward window. The roads stayed mostly clear by afternoon, and the snow moved on. Even the howling winds died down a bit by evening. Almost looks like Christmas out there now. As it should. The weekend's here, and the clock is ticking down on the big holiday. Couple weeks more, that's all. Next thing you know, it'll be spring again! Yeah, sure it will. 'Til then...

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Busy week and Winter's here!

How busy was this week? Not a single post all week, that's how busy. The irony is that on Tuesday morning I showed up to begin a large, ambitious bathroom remodel and the customer cancelled! You might think that would have led to a splendid four days for yours truly on a beach somewhere; you'd think incorrectly. I've never had a customer cancel a sold job before, but it wasn't any huge problem. She was upset by current events by my employer (Chase-Pitkin, western NY); I understood her concerns, sympathized, and helped her reach the right people to set her refund in motion. She called me back two hours later to ask if I could come back and get her job started. She had been reassured and was ready to proceed now.

That's not why it was a busy week, though. I won't get back to my worried customer's bathroom job now until early 2006. When a hole opens up in the schedule, especially in the weeks just before any major holiday, you fill that hole almost immediately with work you had pending. That only took two phone calls, and made two other customers very happy. Now if I could only figure out what to do with the other up-in-the-air sold jobs. Christmas is coming, and they can't all be done by the holiday. Impossible. But Mike P and I installed four exterior doors, along with four storm doors; and we worked 'til nearly dark to finish them, too. I started work on a website for an important client, from scratch. And last this week, refitted a left-over door and frame for another customer whose existing door was ready to fall out of the wall onto the driveway.

I'm not complaining at all. Despite the impending closing of my employer of thirteen years, I have more work than I can reasonably handle for the immediate future. The process of shutting down has been smooth so far, with the exception of my cancel/don't cancel bathroom. I have a good reputation, and have industry contacts with some outstanding people who trust me. If life is a roller-coaster, mine at least has good seatbelts. I like roller-coasters, anyway. Now, about that week on a beach...yeah, that would be nice, too. I'll just have to earn that break, and find a way to squeeze it into the schedule. Until then, back to work!