Ah, the kitchen renovation. The endless, psychosis-inducing project-of-projects. Today I want to provide some updates about what we’ve done and what we’ve learned.
Full disclosure: We’ve not yet gotten to the sexy parts, like drywall. (Please ignore the fact that I just described drywall as ‘sexy.’ I told you this project does bad things to the mind.) Sexy-stuff or not, what we’ve been up to has done a lot to make the space safer and more stable, so I thought I’d walk through a few of our major accomplishments. For anyone that is thinking of tackling a renovation like this on an old house, it’s good to know how much work goes into just getting the space ready for the things you can actually see in the end. I, for one, had *no idea* when we started this thing how much work we’d have to do…
Previously on the blog, I described the demo process and basically suggested that we went from THIS…
Yeah. I know. But… baby steps.
Basically, that first stage of the process entailed removal of all the old plaster and lath, taking the room down to the studs. We also removed a plywood subfloor that had covered up our original heart pine floors for some decades, took out the drop-down ceiling made of acoustic tiles that had covered the plaster ceiling when we bought the house, and we had a contractor put in a support beam to correct the bowing in the ceiling between the two halves of our kitchen — spaces that, long ago when the house was built, were separate rooms.
That was Month One. Throughout Month Two, we’ve worked on this massive project pretty constantly, and we’ve made some great progress.
First things first, the roof above the kitchen needed to be repaired to stop some pesky leaks, and we had to have major plumbing and electrical work done. The plumbing under our kitchen was in need of upgrading and we needed the hot and cold water lines as well as the drain line moved from one side of the room to the other to accommodate the new layout the finished kitchen will have. We also needed a water line for the new fridge to be installed and the water and drain lines for the washer/dryer to be upgraded. (Having the laundry in the kitchen may sound weird, I know, but it’s fairly common in old houses in the South.) Also, the pre-existing electrical work was still largely knob-and-tube, as the image above at the upper-left demonstrates. That all had to be removed and new electrical work roughed in. When the drywall is done, the electricians will return and finish.
Following these systems-upgrades, we had to install more framing. You can see an image at the upper-right, above, of my stepdad, Steve, installing new studs on the exterior-facing wall, where the stove will go. Long before we bought the house, a large window there was removed and new studs were never added.
Then it was time to add furring strips. Oh, gawd — the furring strips. Basically, we needed to add strips a 1/2″ deep to the face of the studs so that the drywall will match the depth of the remaining plaster and lath on the other side of the room.
(Manny stapling the insulation into place. You can see the furring strips on the facing side of the studs.)
After the electrical work, the stud-additions, and the application of all of those freaking furring strips, it was time for insulation! (This was necessary as it’s an exterior wall.) I’m pleased to report that this was one part of the project that went super swiftly and smoothly! Manny and I had all of the insulation up on that exterior wall in about an hour.
Wait… did I imply we were done with the furring strips at this point? Oh, well — I was wrong. We’re installing a beadboard ceiling over the damaged plasterwork in the kitchen to match the pre-existing beadboard in the breakfast nook, and we have to have furring strips attached to the ceiling joists to secure this to.
(Two shots of the furring strips we added to the ceiling to support the beadboard we’ll be adding to cover the plaster.)
And then there is our floor. Our poor, poor original heart-pine floor. We were calling it the “swiss-cheese floor” there for a while because after we removed the plywood subfloor (which had been installed to support the bad laminate we removed after Christmas), we had to extract a lot of stripped and broken screws.
(Our original flooring revealed after we removed the first sheet of plywood sub-flooring secured above it. Are you thinking that that floor looks too far gone to save? Hmm… so did the flooring contractors I spoke to…)
(A close-up of the wood plugs we installed to fill the holes left after the screw-extraction work we had to endure to get the floors to a sand-able state. The floors are pine, but the plugs are oak — we just couldn’t get our hands on any pine plugs in the size we needed. We know the plugs will stain differently and will be noticeable when the floors are finally refinished, but we’re okay with that.)
The floor has already proved a massive effort. Under the old corner-cabinet on the exterior wall, the original heart pine had been removed and plywood left in its place. We had to add new (old) heart pine and also remove a few planks that were too damaged to be restored. You can see Manny and Steve removing and repairing some planks at the upper-left, above. At right, you can see a close-up of the muck and junk we had to scrape off of the floor then to prepare it for sanding and refinishing.
Here, you can see one section of the floor-patching in progress. The vintage pine planks came from a combination of places, as we ended up needing quite a few. Some we had laying around in our attic and under our house (on a little shelf, not touching the ground). Thank goodness the home inspector pointed out to us the ones under the house or we might not have known they were there. The rest we got from the Southern Pine Company of Georgia — one of our local favs, with a warehouse that is a must-see if you’re ever in town.
Chiseling and scraping that nasty-stuff off of the original floors was no easy task. It took weeks. It was unpleasant to say the least. We still haven’t sanded them — we hope to get to that this weekend — but after we do we should be able to tell if they’re refinish-able or if, as we have so often been advised, we’ll have to give up on them. Not that we’ll give up completely; the plan is that if we can’t refinish them we’re going to paint them. I will be *damned* if we put anything on top of them, though. Not. Gonna. Happen.
One of the most exciting signs of progress relates to that awkward second door frame. I mentioned in the demo-post on the blog that one of the design-conundrums Manny and I encountered when we were laying out the plan for the new kitchen was in regard to the two entry doors, side-by-side, leading into the space from the dining room. The previous owners had adopted a corner sink solution along the exterior wall because those side-by-side entryways from the dining room just didn’t allow for a galley layout.
My stepdad reframed the innermost door and cut away about nine inches of wall space — you can see the difference by comparing the two photos above — so that we’ll have a pass through. The sink and dishwasher will sit under it. You can see the new plumbing in the bottom of the image at the right above.
And here is an image of the passthrough-in-progress from the dining room. I know it doesn’t look like much, progress-wise, but it’s really exciting as we can no longer walk through that door. Well, Tilly can, because she’s super short and the lower part isn’t closed in yet. But Manny and I now have one way in and one way out of the kitchen from the dining room — just the way it should be.
For comparison, here is an image of the plan for the passthrough:
(The plan for the passthrough between our kitchen and dining areas, drawn by my stepdad, Steve.)
While Manny and I chose the design from some inspiration images, we can’t take credit for this elevation drawing. That’s all Steve.
Anyway, as these pictures are perhaps making clear, a very good deal of this progress is due to the real brains behind the operation — Steve. My stepdad is a retired surgeon, so he’s very meticulous. You wouldn’t necessarily assume surgery translates to this kind of work, but he has a great ability to visualize how you’d fix things. He also happens to have a lot of experience with renovations. It’s backbreaking, tiring work and we’re in the lot-of-work/little-reward stage still. But he’s been an immense help and he’s taught Manny and me a lot of things we need to know about how to work on and upgrade homes.
I should also mention that he has basically guided this project despite being unable to speak. About a year and a half ago, he had a total laryngectomy due to cancer. So we have had to proceed with a lot of writing out of directions. He demonstrates incredible patience with us, though, and without him we would have had to hire the entire thing out to a contractor and we wouldn’t have learned much of anything besides the fact that contractors are expensive.
We are getting really close now to the tipping-point — to the stuff that’s going to make the space actually look better, and like a kitchen again. Pretty soon we’ll sand and refinish the floors, attach the beadboard ceiling, box in the faux-beams, and put up and tape/mud/sand the drywall. Then it’s on to paint and cabinet/counter installation. I will be doing quite a happy dance when we get there. In the meantime, we’re plugging along and I continue to (try to) beat back the cleaning-demons that possess me.