Friday, August 31, 2012

Pry Bars and Wood Knots and Screws...Oh My!

Brigitte pries up an ornery piece of maple flooring
Now that the most troublesome part of the floor has been fixed, we started working on the rest of the floor. The troublesome parts were newer (70's?), while the rest of the floor is older (50's?) and properly constructed. The bad part about ripping up a properly constructed floor? It takes a lot more muscle!

That's a lot of wood! We'll save some of it for future projects (like our butcher block island)

Ah, that's better. Wood all cleaned up, paper all rolled up. Now we can get a good look at the subfloor.

A knot, aka a secret spy hole into the basement
Since it's made of old-growth wood, the sub-floor has plenty of knots. These tend to fall apart over time, leaving holes. We will need to add some plywood and filler behind them.

A few sections of the old sub-floor were too damaged to leave in place. We replaced them with sections of 3/4" plywood, which we secured with 2x4 blocking.

Brigitte screwing around. 
All of the original boards had come loose as we pulled the maple flooring, so we secured them with screws, then counter sunk all of the loose nails with a punch.

Justin laying down glue for the plywood
With all of the sub-flooring prepared (new and old), we added a layer of 1/4" plywood over the whole thing to create a nice, consistent layer before adding the tile backer. We first glued it down, then screwed it to the sub floor.  

1/4" plywood, glued and screwed over the sub-floor
This will lift the tile about 1/8-1/4" above the existing flooring, which means we'll have to install a transition. But it will also minimize the possibility of the tile cracking.

Justin lying down on the job!

Once we had a consistent surface, we checked to see how level it was. We found a 3 foot run where the floor has a 1/4-1/2" drop heading toward the chimney. Unfortunately, fixing this would be a major structural repair we can't afford to address at this time. To correct the problem we would need to put up floor jacks in the basement, and to do that, we would have to revamp all the plumbing (which we're planning to do at some point, just not right now).

Luckily, the area where the cabinets will be installed is all consistently level now. The area that droops is isolated to a corner where we have not planned to install anything but flooring. We will just have to live with this for now and see what ramifications this might have later on down the road.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Frightful things beneath the floor, part 2

We initially thought the poorly constructed, former-porch area would be the worst of the kitchen floor. But when we opened up the next section (between that area and the door), we found even worse problems. Specifically, the area directly beneath the door.

Our door is practically unsupported!

What we found was very little support under the door and wall.  There was a piece of wood just sitting next to those two stringers, supporting nothing.

A completely useless concrete cap on top of the foundation, blocking our way!

Once we removed the stringers and the insulation, we discovered a thick concrete cap covering the cinder blocks of the foundation. This serves no practical purpose. We had to remove this cap before we could even think about adding proper support to the door frame and the wall.

Justin and Bryan prying out the concrete cap

We constructed a beam of three 2X8's to support the door (you can see it installed in the photo below, right). We will be replacing this door sometime later, and without the extra support, this would be impossible. With the wall supported we started adding blocking and stringers to the joists to better support the plywood, checking all the while that things were level.

A view of our basement, and some structural additions to the floor

We had to adjust a little to install the new plywood. Due to a slight jog in the back wall,  a gap was left near the center section that will be filled in with floor leveler before the next layer of 1/4 inch plywood goes down. We would have liked to avoided that, but without reframing the whole wall, it just wouldn't be possible. We still have a slight rise in one corner where the old and new floors meet, but that will be fixed with floor leveler as well.

The first layer of plywood, completed

Friday, August 24, 2012

Magical Makeshift Kitchen Tour

When the kitchen is all torn up, with nary a countertop or drawer in sight, how's a girl supposed to make her oatmeal? Why, in a Makeshift Basement Kitchen, of course!

A folidng table serves as our main (crowded) prep area, with a power strip to plug in appliances. Justin also hooked up a new outlet (see photo below) for added convenience (and to avoid the inevitable fuse blow-out when you're trying to brew coffee, boil water, toast toast, and fry up pancakes all at the same time. Not that anyone's tried that yet).


We are washing our dishes in the oh-so-lovely utility sink. Sometime last year, I discovered the folding sink-side tray that our dish drainer is sitting on in the photo below. I wasn't sure exactly what I'd use it for, but am I ever glad I picked it up!

(By the way, yes, we know that the walls and floor of our basement look pretty ugly. Not to worry: someday down the road, you'll get to read all about our progress fixing them up!)


Without a stove, we are relying on a variety of plug-in appliances, some we already had, and others we grabbed at garage sales and thrift stores. This is what we've got:
a. Hotplate
b. Small electric skillet
c. Electric griddle
d. Microwave
e. Toaster
f. Four (!) crockpots, various sizes and vintages
g. Our fridge/freezer, still hooked up upstairs
h. Two dorm room fridges, not yet in use (picked up cheap at UW-SWAP)
h. Weber grill, recently given to us by some awesome people

The rest of our kitchen supplies and pantry goods are either piled on Justin's desk in the basement, or packed in boxes in our attic. We also have a table set up in our hallway by the dining room that we use for serving and prepping (and holding dirty dishes until someone runs them downstairs).

It's all a bit chaotic, and it kind of sucks, but I'm getting lots of extra exercise running up and down the stairs when I accidentally forget a fork or need to wash the odd tomato. Both of which happen more frequently than you might think. But overall, it's working out okay for us, and it will certainly make us appreciate our new, improved kitchen even more.

Fixing the Frightful Subfloor

The original sub-floor
As you may remember from an earlier post, we found some unsettlingly poor construction when we uncovered this section of the kitchen sub-floor. Luckily, our plucky protagonists were able to get it fixed and supported as best they could. 

Justin strugles to pry up the tongue and grove "sub-floor" (porch flooring), revealing the joists
Brigitte (or at least her feet) and Justin discuss what needs to be done.  The false wall to the left is completely unsupported. 
Justin gathers strength before delving into the task at hand (we got issues here).
Hey guys, did you know there's a hole in the floor?!

Here it is, nearly complete. The left side had to have 2x6 stringers added (all on joist hangers).  It would have been nice to add another 2X8 joist just under the false wall, but it would have required a massive amount of electrical and plumbing re-work.  The stringers should be robust enough at 12" on center to support the wall and the floor beneath the cabinets.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Frightful things lie just beneath the kitchen floor

When we removed the old cabinets, we discovered that there were some funky things going on with the floor. So funky, in fact, that we decided we'd be better off redoing the entire floor. 

In the above photo, you will notice several things:
a) Discoloration from old vinyl backing 
b) Water damage from improperly sweat plumbing
c) Cuts in the floor along the cabinet edge, evidence that the floor has been patched

What you can't see is a slight rise in the middle of the floor right about where Justin is kneeling, which is the most worrisome of all.  Initially we considered just living with it. But the more we looked at it, the more Justin was concerned that this "lip" might indicate a more severe issue. He also suspected that part of the floor had been shimmed to level it.  And unfortunately, he was right on both counts.  

Justin removes flooring with a golf-club-sized pry bar

There's no way to know what lies beneath the floor without tearing it up, so that's what we did. We started at the wall, working our way back with pry bars. We discovered that there were two different kinds of maple flooring, one that was probably original, and one stamped with the year 1994. So that confirms that the floor was patched relatively recently.

Removal in progress, with an unused sledgehammer for dramatic effect
What we uncovered beneath layers of tar paper, shims, and scrap wood was evidence of a poorly done kitchen addition. Below is the area where the original kitchen floor meets the addition. Part of it was probably a mud room, and this square section looks to have been a porch (note the door threshold on the righthand side). This area of the floor is roughly 1/4" lower than the rest of the floor, which explains the "lip" we noticed earlier.

Once the shims and tar paper were removed, we got a good look at where the floor joists attach to the original framing. 

The floor joists in the former-porch section are just nailed to the old exterior without a proper outer plate. Because the joists were simply nailed through two layers of siding (cedar and tar shingle), they have begun to sag. This is the root of the problem. Unfortunately, properly supporting and securing the joists is no easy feat. But we are determined to make it happen! 
Justin removes scraps of tar shingle and other debris from the gap around the addition

In the gap, you can see the improperly-attached floor joists

And this, folks, is what we have to work with. The exposed sub floor in the picture below will need to be removed down to the floor joists and replaced with plywood. We have already purchased the needed supplies at Home Depot and are prepared to get started. Stayed tuned for our next episode: sub-floor demolition derby!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Kitchen Layout: the Moment of Truth!

To get a general idea of our new kitchen layout (and to make sure all our measurements were correct), we arranged our appliances and new cabinets on the now-vacant kitchen floor. Will they fit?!

Why yes, they will fit, and quite nicely at that. We did have to modify the design slightly, but it all worked out perfectly. 

As you can see above, we moved the fridge to a more convenient location, away from the back door. The window behind it will be coming out (it's a north-facing window, and we have enough other windows nearby that it's not a big loss). We will also have a spacious island with a handmade butcher block top (more on that later). 

Our cabinets are unfinished oak. We really wanted oak, and buying them unfinished made this an affordable option (it also means we have more stain colors to choose from!). 

We didn't bother moving in the sinktop cabinet or any of the upper cabinets, obviously. But this gives you a pretty good idea of how it will look. It's such a better use of the space than what we had before! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Kitchen Demolition: Mission Accomplished

Kitchen: Demolished!
This is what it looked like just a few days ago

Kitchen demolition is complete! It went a lot quicker than I had anticipated. What took the longest was packing everything up and moving it out--either upstairs, out of the way, or in the basement, in our makeshift kitchen (that was my job). Ripping out cabinets and moving appliances was a fast process with three people working together (although, let's be honest, the other two did most of that job, while I took pictures and lugged things out to the dumpster).

Tearing out the countertop

The stove is gone; here go the cabinets!

Justin uses his trusty Makita drill to take down shelves

And the shelves come down!

Displaced dishwasher and stove where the breakfast nook used to be

There's no going back now!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

We have a dumpster!

It's a BIG dumpster! 30 yards, to be exact. Justin assures me that we will have no problem filling this up. 

Justin hanging out inside the dumpster. 

Brigitte preparing for some good old-fashioned dumpster diving (or not). 

Adventures in Kitchen Remodeling, DIY-Style

I was in love with this house from the first time we walked through it. But even then, I knew that the kitchen was too small. You can see here how tiny it is, constrained by the U-shaped counter. It's really difficult for two people to work in the kitchen at the same time (something that happens frequently around here).

Luckily for us, if you take the kitchen and breakfast nook together, you actually have a pretty big space. We already have a large dining room, so we don't need eating space here. Our plan is to take out the cabinets, remove the nook window, and wrap cabinets along all three walls.

Here's Justin's rough plan for the space. We are also going to build an island with a butcher block top.

I drew this sketch based on Justin's floor plan and a couple of his sketches. 

Another view, sketched by Justin.

And of course, we are going to do everything ourselves (except installing the granite countertops).

Did someone say "granite countertops?" I'll drink to that!