Last week, my uncle (and his brother*) came for a week-long visit to help me with my kitchen renovation. You remember the beginning of this plan, right?
The general idea was that I’d also take the week off work – to help with the planning, decision-making, and of course – payment for all of the materials. In hindsight, this really was the right decision. There were too many ups and downs to manage, too many trips to the store, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it as effectively from the office. Plus, I really wanted to be there to take pictures of everything as it went down. When he came for his last visit a few years ago, I missed out on a lot of those in-progress shots. But not this time.
I also naively thought I would be able to write posts last week to give you guys quick (and current) updates. But what I didn’t fully realize is how exhausted I’d feel at the end of each day. Excitement, worry, and anticipation all got the best of me, and some of you even mentioned that you could read it in my picture frame molding post (and you were right!). Too tired to go through the full process of writing, editing, and revealing all the drama. And yes, there most definitely was drama.
So now that I’ve had a little bit of time to reflect on all of the many things that happened last week, let’s get to business: Staycation Days 1 and 2 consisted mostly of planning and the molding work in the dining room. But I’m sure some of you were thinking, “Wait – what about the kitchen? Isn’t that the whole reason for this thing?”
Yes. And that’s where the drama comes in.
The whole time leading up to this week, I’d been certain I would buy the NUMERAR butcher block countertops from Ikea. I read review after review of them online, and knew that this was the way I wanted to go. I had a plan. I knew that we’d pick them up on Monday and probably get them installed somewhere toward the middle of the week. Might even have time for doing other projects in the house, like finishing work in the dining room. Sunday night, just as my aunt, uncle, and Timmy were arriving in town… I discovered the news.
Little did I realize during my little planning session that the countertops I’d been so certain of using would not only be out of stock, but (cue the dramatic music) … discontinued! I was so sure they’d be available, I hadn’t bothered to check the site after first planning. Up until this point, Ikea had always had them in stock, and I knew it was a popular item. Stupid, stupid mistake. I also tried checking out the availability of ordering online; sometimes it allowed me to go through to the estimated shipping page (which would have been $99 on top) – sometimes it errored out and would not let me order online at all. Ikea has apparently decided to sell out of their remaining solid wood butcher block and replace it with a line called AKERBY – a version that is made primarily of particle board with hardwood veneer on the top and bottom.** Granted, Ikea has consistently been a company that looks for ways to offer less expensive options for the public, and choosing to go that route certainly saves you some change. It was in stock. But my main problem? I intended to install an undermount sink. Cutting a hole in particle board is not the look I was envisioning!
A Night of Worry
As you can imagine, that little discovery put me in a serious panic. How would I find a replacement for the star of the show? Without the counters, there was no way I’d get the sink or faucet installed in time. Ikea was the only place I knew of that wouldn’t require special order. What would happen if I had to order them and wait? Would I really be able to figure it out on my own if my uncle isn’t there to help? And what other projects could I possibly have ready for him to help me complete if the only project I’d truly planned fell flat?
In a tearful panic, I sent a text message to an old friend Sunday evening. He’d worked for Lumber Liquidators for several years, and he knew a friend, Caleb, who still worked there. He was certain that butcher block wouldn’t be something they’d normally have in stock, but he would see what he could do. Call around. Give them my number. And wait to hear back. I ran over to Lowe’s just before closing to see if I could get answers from them, but no one was working toward the kitchen area. And then I had to call my uncle with the shameful news: I wasn’t sure how things were going to end up, and I had no answers. My aunt sent me a text later that night, reassuring me that if anyone could come up with a creative solution to make something work, it would be my uncle. If it came down to it, he’d find plenty of other things to do to my house on his own, countertop or no countertop.
Staycation, Day 1
Monday morning, they all showed up at my house, and me empty-handed. I was incredibly embarrassed, but they wanted to start looking around at stores to see in-stock options. While they weren’t ideal, and weren’t what I had planned for, they might still have something, anything, that would be an upgrade from the painted mess that currently existed in its place. My uncle began by checking around the kitchen’s existing countertop while I fretted and waited for the phone to ring.
As we were heading out the door, it finally did. James, calling from the Baton Rouge Lumber Liquidators location, called to let me know he was looking for butcher block options for me thanks to Caleb’s referral. They typically have four different types: maple, oak, cherry, and walnut. He suggested that the walnut looked fantastic once it’s oiled up (and gets a rich, dark color), and even better – they might even have it in stock somewhere in Georgia and could possibly give me a referral discount. Hooray!
Because we weren’t 100% sure if that would work out, we didn’t take any chances and headed off to Lowe’s and Home Depot anyway. Unfortunately, the longest pieces they carried in stock were only ten feet. I’d need twelve for the longest part of my counters. Technically, this wasn’t out of the realm of possibility – even the original Ikea versions would come in only eight foot lengths, so I expected to have to piece things together to fit. The main issue was that the options weren’t exactly pretty; nothing matched the warmth of the butcher block, and the cooler counter options had a lot of varied color that might not work with the new painted cabinets. But again, the phone rang. James found two sections of twelve-foot walnut butcher block in stock at a store in Kennesaw, GA. It would be over an hour drive from my house, but they existed. James then promised to call the store and make sure the stock was available for pickup, and it would be a simple matter of then driving over with the truck. Relief!
Don’t Celebrate Just Yet
I did a happy dance right in the store. We continued looking at the in-stock options just in case and began talking about what tools we’d need to really bring things to reality. The phone rang again, and as expected, it was James – but instead of the relief I felt just a few minutes before, he had bad news: the two pieces of walnut were damaged – split right in the middle of each piece – and were not going to be available to purchase. They didn’t have any stock in the other Georgia locations – not even another species of wood.
Frick. Frickity-frickfrickfrickfrickfrickfrick. I was upset. I was embarrassed and upset. I felt really guilty for getting myself into this mess and not having a backup plan. For not planning well enough in the first place. For making these incredibly helpful people in my family come all this way and then letting them down.
But, James (or maybe we’ll call him Super James? In partnership with my superhero team of DIYers for the week?) came to the rescue again: he didn’t have all bad news; he plotted and searched, and found me two additional pieces of walnut butcher block. In two completely separate stores. That weren’t in Georgia. But both were undamaged, and could be shipped to my nearest Lumber Liquidators location by Wednesday afternoon. I’d have to pay an additional fee to cover freight costs ($90), but I’d have my butcher block in time for my uncle to install it. Not only were these pieces in twelve foot lengths (technically, I only needed one piece at twelve feet and one at eight, but you go with what ya got), but they were a darker, richer wood than what I’d get from my original Ikea plan. I could make these counters food-safe and still get the color I wanted (instead of staining them with a non-food-safe product to a walnut color, I’d have actual walnut that wouldn’t need to then be re-treated to be food safe – just mineral oil). Even though it was going to be slightly more than what I originally intended to spend, in return, I’d get better quality and the length that I’d truly need. By the numbers, I spent about $300 more than what I would have spent at Ikea. If I’d thought ahead and ordered them online, I would have had to pay $99 for shipping at Ikea regardless, but if I’d ordered them ahead of time through Lumber Liquidators, I wouldn’t have had to pay for shipping. Not that it helps me now, but I thought it would be nice to share with all of you.
I’ve never been so happy to give someone my credit card info. Paid for and on their way, my butcher block dreams could still be a reality!
Today’s Lesson: Be a better planner.
There were a lot of ups & downs throughout the week, and there is still more to the story… so I think I’ll stop there. But I want to share the whole story, including my mistakes. I’m not an expert. Experts plan better than I do. I will screw up, and that will mean I learn something new to share. I shouldn’t have been quite so confident that things would work out. And I should have had a plan B. Better planning could have saved me a lot of headache; but thank goodness for small blessings. As you can probably guess, we re-arranged plans to keep ourselves busy while we waited for the counters to arrive on Wednesday, which is how we installed the picture frame molding on Day 2. I am forever grateful for the generosity of family and friends. And this is how a company like Lumber Liquidators (& their Baton Rouge staff) makes their way to my Christmas card list.
Do you have any roller coaster stories to share of your own? Now’s your chance to confess your own poor planning (& maybe make me feel less guilty?).
Just in case you were curious, this wasn’t a sponsored post. They found out about my blog about halfway through this whole process and never asked me to mention them in this or any subsequent posts, but I felt it was only right to share how helpful they really were. Best result of good customer service is word-of-mouth advertising, right?
*This came up last week in a reader comment: my uncle is related to me through marriage, so while he’s my uncle, his brother isn’t – thus why I’m referring to him this way in my posts.
**I’ve since learned from online forums that this may be only a temporary change in what Ikea will have in the future. Europe has solid wood options, which may be coming over to the US eventually. Not sure if this will still be the same NUMERAR line or if it will be under a different name, but that’s the story for now. If you know of any updates yourself, feel free to leave a comment. I’m sure other readers would love to know the info!