Renovating

The State of the Kitchen, through 2014 // Part 2

My first post about our kitchen remodel got published a little before I wanted. After writing the first draft, I’d hoped to go back through my photos to see if I could trigger any other memories about work we did to the house during 2014 since I was sure I’d forgotten a thing or two. And, I was right. I had forgotten a thing or three actually. But, once that post was published, I figured it wasn’t worth trying to figure out how to “unpublish” it.

Had I had the extra time with the first post, I would have added that we’d also demoed the drywall in the basement so that we could expose the ceiling joists and get a clean start on that space, rented a dump truck, and dug a trench for the gas line.

The basement of our house was pretty much a blank slate when we moved it. It had been finished in that the walls and ceilings had been drywalled and taped, but nothing had been mudded. There was one little walled off area, a bunch of handmade shelves, a washer and dryer, an ancient freezer big enough to trap a dozen small children (which the city eventually hauled off, paying us $30 in the process!), a hot water heater, a work sink, and a random toilet.

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We decided it would be really helpful to gain full access to the ceiling joists as we began to think about the plumbing and electrical updates that we were going to need for the kitchen renovation. Our house was definitely not up to code, at least not for electrical. The whole house ran off of maybe six circuits, with outlets being few and far between. In the main kitchen space there was only one outlet, conveniently located on the other side of the back door from the lone kitchen countertop. As is, if we’d wanted to plug in a mixer, for example, we’d have had to drape the cord across the back door in order to work on the kitchen counter tops. Our ancient electrical panel itself was really small and didn’t seem like it was even going to be able to handle all of the circuits required in a modern kitchen. Not to mention that said ancient electrical panel was located right above our washing machine and work sink (as you can see in the photo above if you can decipher what’s under those sheets – our makeshift way of trying to keep dust and debris off of our appliances when pulling down the drywall). Definitely not to code!

As for plumbing, we’d discovered that the water lines running up to our second-floor bathroom went up through the kitchen’s interior wall and then crossed every ceiling joist in the kitchen through a notch in their bottom edge (which, we learned, is terrible for joist strength) in order to get to the far corner of our house where the bathroom is. So, even though the old galvanized lines were in fine shape, we knew we needed to rerun those lines to minimize their impact on the ceiling. Since the only plumbing in our house went to our basement, our kitchen, and that one upstair bathroom, and since we were moving our kitchen plumbing and needed to rerun our second-floor bathroom plumbing, it just made sense to redo everything.

It was a little scary to expand demo into a new area of the house, but we didn’t really feel like we had a choice since we needed full access to both our electrical and plumbing systems in the basement. Thankfully pulling down the drywall was actually really easy. The tedious part was going back through and getting all the nails out of all the joists. We even went so far as to take out the walled off area, opening up the entire basement as one big (raw and unfinished) space. Well, I should say my dad went so far as to take out that wall off area! It was so firmly rooted into the basement’s concrete floor (and far enough away from where the water and electrical lines ran) that my husband and I had been ignoring it while working on the kitchen. However, when my parents were out for a visit, my dad decided it was time it came down, so down it went! Thanks Dad!

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Though we were trying to save as much of the original materials as we could, we had so much debris from the lath and plaster and drywall demo that we ended up renting a dump truck to haul it away. My husband was incredibly excited to drive a dump truck. It was cute to see him so giddy over a truck! That giddiness was important though since it got us through the hard work of manually loading the dump truck ourselves!

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We also decided to bring natural gas to our house. We were the last house on our block using oil heat, and we already knew that wasn’t an option for us after removing the chimney. We liked the flexibility natural gas would give us for heating, cooking, and hot water. After talking through the details with the city, we figured out that we could save ourselves a lot of money if we dug the trench for the gas line from the sidewalk to our house. My husband was actually excited to dig the trench, so I only had to cheer him on! We followed the city’s guidelines, digging the trench to their exact specifications, laying the conduit, and reburying all but its ends. Unfortunately, we hadn’t initially noticed that a natural gas conduit must be either yellow or white, and we’d buried a gray conduit in the trench! My husband ended up digging back up the gray conduit and laying new white conduit – all while still maintaining a huge smile on his face! That guy likes to dig!

Okay, now I really think I’m through with 2014. I hadn’t intended to drag it out into two posts, but that’s what I get for hitting “publish” instead of “save draft”. Next up: 2015 – converting the tiny back porch into a new powder room, redoing the house’s entire plumbing system all by ourselves, and hanging a flush beam in the ceiling so we could pull down a wall that had previously divided the kitchen in two. It doesn’t sound like much now, but it sure felt like a lot then!

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6 thoughts on “The State of the Kitchen, through 2014 // Part 2

    1. It isn’t quite as scary as it sounds. It’s just an old house that hasn’t had any of its major systems updated in awhile, but since kitchens touch on basically every system, our renovation requires us to deal with them all at once. A professional contractor would have had all of this knocked out in weeks – not years!

  1. Holy cow! What a project! You guys will be so proud when you’re done! Just don’t be like my parents and slowly labor for YEARS on a fixer upper, only to immediately move when it was nearly done! 🙂

    PS I feel your pain with the electrical situation… for some reason in our apartment, there’s only ONE outlet that we can use (besides the one the fridge is plugged into). So using any kind of appliance at all means moving things around. It’s super annoying! 🙂

    1. We’ve actually heard from quite a few people who grew up in houses their parents were constantly renovating. No one seems to look back on them with fond memories! We’re hoping to get this project finished before our daughter forms any lasting long term memories… But, we’ll have to watch out for how addictive it can be to change up spaces!

  2. Alex was probably so excited to dig the trench because he knew the ground wasn’t frozen… I’m sure he fondly remembers digging holes for our live Christmas trees in NJ during December/January

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