Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Not Loving Cats

It's not that I actively dislike cats. I just happen to be quite allergic to them, so I prefer to keep my distance.

Also, there's that thing with the litter box. I'm supposed to be happy the animal (any animal, for that matter) goes potty in the house? No, thanks. I'll pass.

Anyway, ever since we moved in to our new house, my pantry cabinet has smelled like a cat peed in it. To say that would not be a pleasant smell would be an understatement. It is one of the smells I most dislike in all the world.

I tried to kill the smell by leaving vinegar in there for weeks on end, and I thought that worked, but just the other day I smelled it again and determined to figure out if I needed to wipe down walls with vinegar, or what. I needed that smell gone!

So my first action was to examine the bottom of the pantry, since the smell seemed to be coming from the floor area. Starting with the bottom shelf, I decided there was something in the gap between the shelf and the wall of the pantry. Time to drag out the vacuum (this turned out to be spilled cereal, or cat kibble, or something).

Then I decided the toe-kick board looked loose, so was it possible to move it and vacuum under the cabinet?

Well, the toe-kick moved, but the surprise of the month was that the cabinet seemed to be sitting on a line of green fuzz.

Green fuzz? It was then we decided this cabinet was an afterthought install, and when some previous owner put it in, they installed it on top of the carpet that was there. And it was the carpet that smelled so strongly of cat.

At that point I decided that carpet was coming out. There was no way I was living with this cabinet - one of our primary use cabinets - smelling like cat forever. I have no idea how anyone ever lived in this house with this cabinet smelling so strongly!

Fortunately the bottom shelf of the cabinet was just sitting on the floor or base of the cabinet. It was a sheet of melamine cut to size. It lifted out fairly easily to expose the dark green carpet under the cabinet.

In addition to "just" smelling like cat, the carpet wasn't very clean. There were bits and pieces of who-knows-what liberally sprinkled over it. (Also, dark green? When was that last in style? How long has this cabinet been stinking? It makes me gag to think about it.)

So, the next project: how do we (I) get the carpet out? It is a fairly small square of carpet ,but it's held in place by the entire weight of the cabinet. And the cabinet can't be removed because it is attached to the cabinet to the right - and both cabinets are part of our tiled counter top. Since we're not ready to rip out cabinets and counter tops (nor do we have the funds), we'll have to work in the very small space to rip out the carpet.

Now, I've seen those renovation shows on TV. And it always looks easy to cut carpet and lift it out. I have a couple comments about that:

  1. When carpet is in good condition, it doesn't cut well.
  2. A dull carpet knife sucks.
Sadly the carpet showed little to no signs of wear (other than smelling like a cat spent all his time sleeping in that corner). The back of the carpet was still tightly woven, and the carpet pad was in good condition. Both resisted being cut by the knife I had, and once I did get a cut going, they resisted being yanked out by brute force.

Fortunately for me, splorp! decided it would be easier to grab pieces of carpet using a pair of pliers. Yes, that worked a lot better! Carpet yanked out in bigger pieces, and I was able to grab pieces left in the corners.

Making my job harder was the tiny space. At one point I crawled inside the cabinet to get a piece out.

Still, it wasn't possible to remove all the carpet. The pantry cabinet was installed where the carpet butted up to the original kitchen cabinets, so the carpet still had its tack strips in place. Yes, the pantry cabinet was installed over carpet, carpet pad, and carpet tack strips. It's a wonder the thing seems to be level, much less stable.

After I removed all the carpet I could manage to grab with the pliers, I finished the clean-up by vacuuming the bits of carpet out of the cabinet, and then spraying Febreze over the remaining raggedy bits we couldn't get out, and wiping the walls of the cabinet with water and vinegar. I poured some baking soda in the hole under the bottom shelf, and then wiped the shelf with vinegar too. Hopefully that kills the cat pee smell for good!

Though frustrating, this type of renovation exercise sort of makes it possible to see the previous floorplan of the kitchen. We have seen pictures of kitchens in other houses in our tract, and our pantry cabinet is unique. We suspect at one point the side of our kitchen with the windows and the sliding door was used more like a sun room, thus the carpeting in the kitchen area.

It's interesting to see what previous owners did to "improve" the house over time. You can see that under the cabinet is some very yellowed linoleum. This was very similar to the peel and stick linoleum squares you see today, though extremely yellow. I doubt it was the original linoleum (the house was built in 1970, and the linoleum is a bit tame for the '70s!) .

You can also clearly see that whoever decided to tile the kitchen tiled right over the linoleum, and that they cut the tiles to fit around the existing cabinets. That will certainly make for an interesting decision if we ever decide to demo the kitchen.

As intriguing as it is to get a glimpse of the past, this was one install where I wish the previous owners had not cut any corners!

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