Welcome to Shiawassee Street (part 4)
After I fell through the floor in my bathroom into my kitchen, I decided that I would indeed demo the kitchen even though I was originally planning to hold off as long as possible to have a working kitchen during the rest of the renovation while I lived there. So this expedited everything with the kitchen designing, even though I mostly knew exactly what I wanted since the first time I saw the house. If you didn’t get to re-live falling through the floor with me or see how this crazy house started, check out the first parts of this series here.
Before I really started the demo process in the kitchen, I needed to have a plan for what I wanted out of the kitchen so I knew what to take out and what to leave. Space planning is imperative in any major remodel, especially a kitchen! There are several rules and recommendations when planning kitchen to ensure proper workflow and movement through the space. The last thing you want to do is spend all kinds of money on a huge kitchen remodel, to find out the layout doesn’t work well! I cannot emphasize enough how important this step is!!
On top of that, having a plan was also imperative to understanding what walls were load bearing and if it made sense to take out any walls or not. Basically I wanted to weigh the cost versus benefit of taking out certain walls before I took a sledge hammer to the wall!! I had to bring in my contractor to help determine what was load bearing and what wasn't... and what it would cost to add the proper support back in if it was load bearing! So I started planning what I wanted my ideal layout to be. I like to start with a current "as built" sketch of the floorplan and then I can visualize what may work for the future floorplan.
The original floor plan of the kitchen was very strange. On the North and West walls were upper and lower cabinets with the sink under the window on the West wall. The south wall was shared between the kitchen and dining room and had the stove just kinda floating on this wall not surrounded by anything. The East wall was built around the refrigerator and had a pantry built in as well. I would later find out that this was the load bearing wall in the kitchen. Above is a quick sketch I did from memory of the West half of the main floor. This includes the kitchen, dining, and weird small open area behind the kitchen that I don't really know what was used for when this house was built. It also had a really small powder room in this area.
While I planned to keep the basics of the kitchen the same, I wanted the space open to the formal dining room with a large peninsula with barstools to divide the spaces. The refrigerator and pantry cabinets would be located in the same spot but without the wall built around them. And the range would be flipped to the North wall while keeping the sink below the window. Overall not a lot was changing but the changes would make a huge impact.
Because there was already a very large cased opening from the dining room to the front door/stairs/living room, opening up this additional wall to the kitchen would dramatically improve the openness of the entire first floor and give the feel of a much bigger kitchen even though it was remaining a relatively small footprint. Opening up this wall also allowed me to steal a bit of space from the dining room which allowed me to add cabinets and a breakfast bar where the wall used to be.
Taking out the wall enclosing the refrigerator and pantry would allow cabinets to be built around the refrigerator, include a floor to ceiling pantry cabinet, and a built in microwave with coffee bar station. This would give this wall a much more custom look while actually improving the storage in the space. The orange area in my demo plan above on the left shows which walls were coming out.
So the next available weekend after falling through the floor, I set out to start demoing the kitchen. Have you ever demoed a 100 year old kitchen? Let me tell you!! They made things back then a little differently then they do today! I wasn't just taking out drywall and stock Home Depot cabinets! This was a multiple day process to demolish this room!!!
I first set out to take down the wall around the refrigerator and pantry. Even though I planned for the refrigerator and pantry cabinets to go back on this wall... it would feel so much more open and more custom to utilize cabinets instead of a wall. It would also better utilize the space to not have walls present (a finished wall is 4.5" thick which is a lot of space to lose in a kitchen)!
I found out this was the load bearing wall in the kitchen and would require an LVL (Laminated Veneer Lumber) Beam... aka a "Lam" beam. This was to be done by my contractor and I couldn't remove the structural portion of this wall but wanted to do as much as possible to save money so I demoed it down to the studs.
In addition, I took down the rest of the ceiling to get a view of the joists and see what was hiding in the ceiling. If you remember from the last post, I had already taken down half of the ceiling when I feel through the bathroom floor!! When I opened up the ceiling, I could see how much the joists had been cut into over the years. And I'm talking huge chunks out of the joists only leaving a couple inches of the joist left!! Yikes! I consulted with my contractor and we ended up adding new joists throughout the kitchen and married them to the old ones to ensure the second floor was properly supported. An added expense, but 100% worth it to do the project right! Structural stuff is NOT a place to skimp on just to save a little bit on budget!
Taking down the wall separating the kitchen and dining room was next on my kitchen demo plan. I wasn’t exactly sure what I would find in the wall but was pretty sure there was at least one HVAC run through that wall and maybe some plumbing.
Demo in a 100 year old house almost always includes an immense amount of lathe and plaster which takes
about 10 times as long to remove as a drywall wall would take. For those of you that are not familiar or haven’t had the pleasure of ripping down one of these walls… a lathe and plaster wall basically starts out like a newer
type wall built of 2x4’s. But instead of encasing with drywall, small strips of wood were nailed across the 2x4’s perpendicularly about 1/4” apart from on another. Plaster was then smoothed over and pushed between the cracks of the lathe and flattened to make the wall that faces into the room. You can see an example of both in the image when I started tearing down this wall.
Because I suspected there may have been an HVAC run through the kitchen/dining room wall, I knew there was a possibility that it may have been wrapped in a paper - many times this paper had asbestos during the time period that this house was built. As likely most or all of you know, asbestos is a material that was used in the past in a variety of building materials and is known to increase the risk of lung cancer along with many other cancers or damage to the lungs. Asbestos won’t necessarily do damage if it is present - but when it is disturbed it has microscopic fibers that get into the air and in turn into your lungs which is what does damage.
I knew that I would likely disturb anything and everything when I started pulling off lathe and plaster so I didn’t want to take any chances. I suited up with a Tyvek suit and mask rated to keep out asbestos (not all of these are rated to filter asbestos)! In hindsight I probably should have not even started this wall if I suspected it may be in there, but I am now older and wiser. Indeed I did find an HVAC run wrapped in a paper so I left that for the professionals to take out. Don't mess with asbestos, call a professional to remediate it! The picture of me dressed in my suit and mask, however, was probably worth it… it was the subject of many memes at work!!
Once all of the walls were finally down, it was time to get rid of the rest of the kitchen including cabinets, countertops, and exterior walls. I had to save the refrigerator for when I moved in so I would at least have something to store food in when I lived in the house until new appliances were installed. Unfortunately this meant the fridge had to be moved several times and worked around while the rest of the kitchen demo was done. You can see my dad having to do just that!
I started on the cabinet and countertop demo. The cabinet boxes were original to the house and made of 1” thick plywood boxes nailed piece by piece to the wall with 3 or 4" nails. They were no joke to get out! I was seriously sore for days after ripping out those cabinet boxes (and this is after a couple of weeks of heavy demo already but they still made me that sore)! The cool part was that underneath the newer doors that the cabinets were refaced with at some point, I found an original door and it was a beautiful white shaker door! Exactly what I pictured would have been originally in the kitchen!! I was so pumped! Unfortunately because I didn’t know it was there when I was ripping things out, I damaged it so I wasn’t able to find a way to reuse it! I wish I would have gotten a picture of it!
Finding the original shaker door in the kitchen helped solidify some of my design choices for the kitchen! Since my plan was to stay in the house for awhile, I really wanted to go all out in the kitchen. I really wanted to stay true to the original style of a home built around the 1920’s but with modern upgrades. Shaker doors were a must - but upgrading to inset doors would really elevate the look. If you aren’t sure what I mean by inset doors, below is a quick diagram of partial overlay, full overlay, frameless and inset doors as a comparison (diagram from woodpointcabinets.com). Inset doors really give a beautiful and custom look as you can see in the image to the right (image from christopherscottcabinetry.com). They are harder to build as well which is why they are a lot of times toward the top end of price.
I planned to keep white as upper cabinets and for the full pantry/fridge/coffee bar wall. The lowers in the rest of the kitchen including the peninsula would be a deep gray. But I really wanted the statement of the kitchen to be the sink wall with the window and I wanted it to have a highly custom look. My plan was to have a stained knotty alder sink base, but offset it from the rest of the cabinets about 3 inches out so it really would stand out and have a grand feel when paired with a white apron front sink! Lastly, I absolutely love a mixed metal look and planned to pair black cabinet hardware with a super unique chrome faucet! Wait until you see how cool the final selections are!
The peninsula was huge and would easily fit 4 barstools as a breakfast bar for more casual dining while still allowing a full table in the dining room. The plan for the built in was to be stripped and stained. When you opened the door to the built in, you could see the original deep color and beautiful grain of the wood. I dreamed about getting it back there and my goal was to strip and stain the original moldings to match. This was part of my longer term plan though. At that current moment, I was focused on the most important aspects to be able to live in the house!
At this point, pretty much everything in the house was taken out… now that I had a design plan for the most important room in the house, it was time to start putting things back together and focusing on the key areas so I could move in! Up next, those gorgeous original hardwood floors!
You can find earlier parts of the Welcome to Shiawassee Street Blog series here: