We don’t invite my parents to town simply to get them to work on the house with us, but somehow, every time they come around, we end up neck-deep in something. Two winters ago it was knocking out and rebuilding the back wall of the shop; last spring it was the ceiling fan and hallway lights; this time it was the kitchen counter.

Installed in an era when light yellow and brown streaks were fashionable elements of kitchen decor, the old pre-fab laminate countertop was intended to look sort of like marble, at least as marble was imagined. It wasn’t altogether bad, but it had a number of chips, gouges, and stains. Combined with the old and decrepit sink, the imagined-marble counter made the kitchen feel pretty dated. So, we took the sucker out last week.

As usual, what starts simple gets complicated. The disposal was not so much mis-wired as it was terrifying. Remember: Installed appliances always need to be hard-wired, not spliced into the back of a plug under the sink. Just so we’re clear, splicing into the back of a plug deep under the old, leaky sink is not an appropriate wiring technique. Fixed that one.

After a couple of days of shopping, measuring, cutting, drilling, checking the circuit breaker very, very carefully, and plumbing, it was done. The new countertop is also a pre-fab laminate, but it’s very contempo and seems to bring the whole kitchen (except for the unfortunate linoluem; maybe next year, Mom and Dad?) into the 21st century. And the new sink and fixture: Look at that brushed steel shine.

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