The most frustrating ordeal was probably the kitchen. Along with those in the master bath, the kitchen's floor joists had to be resupported in order to handle the weight of the terra-cotta floor tile and limestone countertops I planned to put in.

Someone had told me there was a great place to get limestone countertops called Fieldstone Center. When I checked the company out, though, it turned out they specialized in landscape stone. But they said they would cut countertops for me—I just had to have templates made, which I did for about $100.

The supplier offered to deliver the stone for $75, a bargain for not having to deal with transporting the hefty 2 1/2-inch slabs. Unfortunately, when I opened the back of the truck I found that the countertop with the sink hole cutout had broken in half, so I sent everything back. The company would recut the piece at no charge but not redeliver it.

So on June 17—my birthday—I got a couple of 2x4s and built a makeshift rack on the back of my truck so the stones would sit upright. I drove with over 700 pounds in back, worried that each pebble I went over would break one of the three slabs. At home, the eight guys I'd hired to help me were waiting to move the mammoth counters into place. When the last piece was in, I realized that the sink hole had been cut in the wrong place. Needless to say, that was not what I wanted for my birthday. So the supplier had to recut the stone for a second time.

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