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Home Improvement Projects Foundations to finials, watts to wainscotting, tear-outs to tiling? This is the place!

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Old 07-08-2009, 04:34 PM
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Default My first home improvement project in my first house...

I'm a bit of a youngster... 28.... but happily my wife and I bought our first house last year and naturally I needed some kind of project to work on.

The idea came about after being forced to watch HGTV (No way I'm going to admit I enjoy it... even if you torture me) and watching them do something similar with a recessed area around a corner.

In any case... We have this big ole recessed area in the dining room as seen here:



I'd been scratching my head for quite a while trying to figure out what to put there. The idea of some kind of furniture was OK but I wanted to do something different. So I decided to build a free standing counter/bar deal. Keep in mind I've NEVER built anything like this before in my life. My wife knows this... and she was quick to point it out as well. So naturally while she was away one weekend I decided to throw caution out the window and tackle the project. How hard can it be to build a 10ft long free standing counter right???

Basically we're looking at a 2x6 secured to the wall studs with 2x4's relatively evenly spaced making up the support. The outer 2x4's are secured to studs on the sides just to be safe. There's a lot of weight here to support and I didn't want to rip the walls out of my new house.



Somewhere along the way I got the brilliant idea of doing inlayed tile squares... Which mean I needed a way to inset them into the top. I've got a ton of extra plywood around so I ended up laminating some 3/16" birch to the bottom of the 3/4" maple ply. The squares were premeasured and cut out from the maple so when I glued the sheets together the birch acted as a support for the tile. The best method? Probably not... but I was winging it with what I had on hand and with limited tooling.



Drum building involves lots and lots of veneer... So I happened to have a few rolls of Bubinga laying around that were made up of sheets 12ft long. After trashing my first go-round trying to use a proper veneer glue I decided to just take my chances with contact cement. Contact cement scares me... it often leaves me looking like this dude: However I managed to get it on there without too much drama thankfully.



Next up comes the stain... and you can see the slate tile I've got layed in there. I did use a cement backer board which helped bring the slate up level with the top for the most part. Natural slate is never going to be completely level so I had to figure out a way to make everything smooth. While I was contemplating spraying a finish on something so large I realized the easy solution would be bar top epoxy.



Voila... backsplash added... worlds WORST caulking job... and some nice shiny epoxy. I have since cleaned up the mess I made, I promise... Lots of lessons learned and if I had it to do over again I'd make some changes for sure but it's pretty darn solid and the wife loves it. (Most of my changes would be in the frame up, which as you can see is rather sloppy... most of the photos show parts that aren't yet completely secured as I was testing fitment, etc)
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Old 07-08-2009, 05:12 PM
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Default Re: My first home improvement project in my first house...

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Originally Posted by mckenziedrums View Post

Voila... backsplash added... worlds WORST caulking job... and some nice shiny epoxy. I have since cleaned up the mess I made, I promise... Lots of lessons learned and if I had it to do over again I'd make some changes for sure but it's pretty darn solid and the wife loves it. (Most of my changes would be in the frame up, which as you can see is rather sloppy... most of the photos show parts that aren't yet completely secured as I was testing fitment, etc)
It looks great! For a first project it's phenomenal.

But, I don't understand how it could be solid without a front support since it doesn't seem to be a torsion box. Why doesn't the front edge sag or spring?
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Old 07-08-2009, 05:19 PM
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Default Re: My first home improvement project in my first house...

3/4" maple + 3/16" birch ply makes for one STIFF piece. Add to it the cement boards where the tile is + the epoxy...

It's not ideal and yea if you stand on it I'm sure it will give a little but the 2x4's under it support it well enough. There are days when I'm half tempted to rip it out and do it over correctly but then I remember that it's hanging up there just fine and no one else notices the stuff that drives me crazy. (Unless of course I'm silly enough to post it on the internet )
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Old 07-08-2009, 05:31 PM
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Default Re: My first home improvement project in my first house...

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3/4" maple + 3/16" birch ply makes for one STIFF piece. Add to it the cement boards where the tile is + the epoxy...

It's not ideal and yea if you stand on it I'm sure it will give a little but the 2x4's under it support it well enough. There are days when I'm half tempted to rip it out and do it over correctly but then I remember that it's hanging up there just fine and no one else notices the stuff that drives me crazy. (Unless of course I'm silly enough to post it on the internet )
I'm not being critical, just curious. I tend to overbuild and to me this is underbuilt but if it is good enough I want to understand why.

Most of the 2x4 rigs are cantilevered off the back rail so I wouldn't think they do much as far as supporting the load. The cement board, while contributing some stiffness, also adds to the load which as far as I can tell is mostly about 40% of which carried by the apron board. What is it and how tall is it?

If the 3/4" ply on top (I'm assuming) is crown side up that also helps resist sagging. If you have put the thin ply on the bottom you do get a good bit more strength.

Anything else?

Last edited by MichaelKellough; 07-08-2009 at 05:33 PM.
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Old 07-08-2009, 05:38 PM
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Default Re: My first home improvement project in my first house...

Nice job, Tim! I think the epoxy over the slate looks great! I've been thinking about inlaying some fossilized fish in a piece of wood for a table or sideboard or something. The epoxy gives it a nice, seamless feel.

I would not have called this "freestanding". To me freestanding means that you can move it away from the wall to clean behind it if you need to. This is cantilevered, or something (Michael would know).

Excellent first project, though. Kudos to you (and your lucky wife - you can tell her I said that. It might be worth a TS55 or something...)
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Old 07-08-2009, 05:43 PM
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Default Re: My first home improvement project in my first house...

In all honesty I didn't even think of double checking which ply was up... Good call there. You'd be correct though, the majority of the load is being held by the back board (a 2 x 6) and the sides that are also secured to the studs. I'd imagine I gained at least some additional stiffness with the front facing which is just 3/4" maple ply glued to the top board and fastened to the 2x4's behind it. I chopped off the 2x4 braces so that the front fascia secures to them and is flush with the top. (The 2x4's are actually glued + screwed into the 2x6.. the pieces you see on top are shims to get it all leveled up. Again, rookie mistakes. )

I didn't take the comments critically at all... I actually appreciate any/all feedback as it will only help me make better decisions for future projects. This was a stretch considering the open span and in retrospect I pushed the limits quite a bit.
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Old 07-08-2009, 05:49 PM
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Default Re: My first home improvement project in my first house...

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Originally Posted by mckenziedrums View Post
In all honesty I didn't even think of double checking which ply was up... Good call there. You'd be correct though, the majority of the load is being held by the back board (a 2 x 6) and the sides that are also secured to the studs. I'd imagine I gained at least some additional stiffness with the front facing which is just 3/4" maple ply glued to the top board and fastened to the 2x4's behind it. I chopped off the 2x4 braces so that the front fascia secures to them and is flush with the top. (The 2x4's are actually glued + screwed into the 2x6.. the pieces you see on top are shims to get it all leveled up. Again, rookie mistakes. )

I didn't take the comments critically at all... I actually appreciate any/all feedback as it will only help me make better decisions for future projects. This was a stretch considering the open span and in retrospect I pushed the limits quite a bit.
The only way to understand the limits is to push them. You've got great instincts (talent).
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:17 PM
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Default Re: My first home improvement project in my first house...

Hey Tim, nice job! And that finish is awesome. Are you going to post a pic of the finished job? Not bad for a weekend project.

I'm looking at the big gaping space underneath the counter and thinking, storage space! So consider building some cabinets to slip in there, put some adjustable feet on them in the toe kick space and crank them up against the bottom of the counter -- maybe a little construction adhesive before you snug them up and you'll be good to go when everything sets up. Put a cover on the toe kick and no one will be the wiser.

Then, when your friends are over and recovering from a heavy drumming session and lean on the counter you won't have to hold your breath.

Jay
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Old 07-08-2009, 06:48 PM
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Default Re: My first home improvement project in my first house...

Thanks fellas!

I've actually got a wine fridge sitting on top of it right now that is destined to be sitting in a custom made enclosure underneath. It's also just the right height to stash the folding chairs we use outside on the patio so I've gotta come up with a fairly neat way of stowing those under it as well.

Unfortunately I realized entirely too late that the outlets are on top and not under... which is fine for appliances but I've gotta get someone to run electrical underneath for the wine fridge and anything else I need to plug in down there. While they're at it I'll probably see about doing some recessed lighting up above it. The picture of the epoxy is about as far as it's gotten... Everything else is pending my wife picking a wall color and that could take some time.

As for the finish... well that's easy. Mix... pour... sand off the drips. My first time using epoxy and it was the exact right stuff for this job I think.
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Old 07-08-2009, 07:14 PM
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Default Re: My first home improvement project in my first house...

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Originally Posted by mckenziedrums View Post
Thanks fellas!

Unfortunately I realized entirely too late that the outlets are on top and not under... which is fine for appliances but I've gotta get someone to run electrical underneath for the wine fridge and anything else I need to plug in down there.
Depending on what else is in the wall, you should be able to add an outlet by inserting a "remodeler's box" directly below an existing outlet below the counter and wiring between the two. As long as you don't run all six outlets above at the same time (Frozen Margarita Party), your load should be okay if the house was wired correctly to start with.

Nice work so far!
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