The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Tag: Demolition Page 1 of 6

The Kitchen Renovation Has Started!


Well, the kitchen demolition has begun! In a week we went from this:


to this:


then this!


The first week: cabinets, countertops, and floors

All the cabinets and countertops were moved out on the first day. As we could tell from the moldy cabinets, the drywall near the water source – including the wet wall (kitchen/bathroom) and the sink was in pretty bad shape. Our contractor came in prepared so the removal went pretty smoothly.




Just like many old houses, we found multiple layers of flooring in the kitchen. From the top to bottom, we had a thick layer of tiles, mortar, a thin layer of plywood subfloor, a linoleum flooring, another thick MDF board, and then the original subfloor.


Due to the noise and dust we had to keep Roxie downstairs all day long. She was like “dude I hope this is the last renovation you guys do in this house! ” Yes it is. Roxie, I surely hope so too!


On the second day our contractor started removing the floor. All these flooring boosted the kitchen floor up to meet the original carpet in the living room. Since we have removed the carpet and restored the original wood floor, we need to remove all these layers to level the new kitchen floor tile with the living room.


You can see from the picture below the thick MDF was at the bottom, then the white linoleum layer, and last the subflooring supporting the tiles.


It took three days just to remove the flooring – they were all glued and nailed together and also nailed to the framing below. Our contractor busted out the circular saw to cut away the layers of flooring, a couple square foot a time.


The second week: walls and subfloors

After the floor demo, the walls followed. First, the dividing wall between the living room and the kitchen was removed. Only a 3-ft section was kept at the corner to block off the stairs:


The old metal stair railing was taken out too. We will be replacing it with transparent glass trailing.


Then the soffit…This might be the worse look of the kitchen so far…


And the rest of the drywall!


All of our windows had concrete underneath the window stools. Our contractor said it was for gluing the window stool onto. Nowadays there are better adhesives to glue stones to wood, so people stopped using concrete under the stools. It is interesting to learn these little things about old construction.


The hall closet was also removed to accommodate the future fridge. It is a rather narrow space, only 31″ wide. But I really could not find a better spot for the fridge in our small kitchen:


Here is how the hall closet looked from the front door. It opened to the living room side. In our new kitchen, a solid end panel in the same cabinet color will be here. I think it will be nice to do an art wall here:


Installing new subfloors and preparing for tiles

As layers of the flooring were peeling away, we started seeing the damage on the subfloor. The original subfloor is only 1/2 inch thick. Not only it was rotten near the plumbing due to water damage, it also felt soft under feet in other parts of the kitchen too.


Our contractor did not think it could support the future tiles. So we happily replaced it with 3/4″ thick new subflooring.


Lifting the subfloor also revealed the air return on the kitchen floor. It turned out the original air return vent was undersized. We did some research about HVAC and really learned a lot about how to size/place return air vents. We will be relocating the air return – more on that later. For now, a hole was cut directly above the return vent on the new subfloor.


Here is the new subfloor! Our contractor put the waterproofing layer on top on the same day. It is only 1/8″ thick and allows the new tile to be leveled with the living room wood floor.


The work ahead of us…

I forgot how dusty a gut job gets. Fortunately the plastic drapes kept most of the dust out of the dining area and our offices. We still had to vacuum everyday, but it was not that bad.


Honestly, when dust is the worst we had to deal with, we should consider ourselves lucky. Whenever one demolishes a house especially an older home, there could be many surprises. In our case, since we have worked around this room from the above, below, and in the adjacent bathroom, we already knew what to expect behind the walls.


We knew about the lack of insulation, the messy framing, the old electrical, and the abandoned old pipes. We will be upgrading the electrical and setting up the new plumbing/venting next. It will be a messy job especially crawling through the loose insulation in the attic. But so is life, messy and unwanted tasks come at us everyday, and being an adult means that we can no longer push the tasks down the road, or load them onto other people. We are the ones to bare the resposibility and move things forward.


The updated renovation to-do list:

Now, allow me to share the pleasure of crossing things off the to-do list:

  1. Demoing the kitchen and the dividing walls between kitchen and living room. All existing tile, drywall, and floor will be removed including soffit.
  2. Demoing the hall closet space for housing the fridge.
  3. Running utilities – installing new gas line for the new gas stove, adding new plumbing and waterline for the fridge and dishwasher, modifying plumbing and waterline for the new sink and garbage disposal, rerouting the hood vent in the attic (in progress).
  4. Slav wiring for outlets and switches; installing the recessed lighting for the living room and the kitchen (in progress).
  5. Tiling the floor (in Progress!).
  6. Adding exterior insulation; repairing ceiling drywall, installing new drywall and waterproofing around the sink.
  7. Taping and mudding all the new drywall and skim coating old ones to get them paint-ready.
  8. Cabinets installation and countertop measurement.
  9. Countertop and sink installation.
  10. Tiling the backsplash and finish window trims.
  11. Appliances installation.
  12. Installing stair railing.
  13. Unpacking the kitchen and restoring orders in other rooms on the first floor (Before May 1st).
  14. Painting the ceiling and walls.
  15. Installing door trims and baseboard.
  16. Finishing the electrical by installing all the light fixes, wall plates, and the under-cabinet lighting.

Main Floor Bath: the Demolition

My, oh my.


Slav has demolished the main floor bath and let me warn you, what is behind the wall is NOT pretty. If you could stomach mold and rotten wood, scroll down for more update on the state of the bath.


The exterior/window wall

I’ve shown you the state of the window. We want to assess the water damage below and around it first, so the first thing Slav demoed was the tiled shower. We were fully prepared for rotten studs, but to our surprise, the wooden structures are very much intact despite some mold on the surface. Slav sprayed on lots of bleach on the studs and we have determined that very few pieces needed to be replaced.


Slav is no stranger to demolition work. During college he spent summers in the Big Apple working for a construction company doing mold removal and demolition, and that meant wearing whole body suit and full face respirator in 100 degree and humid summer, working in old moldy buildings without electricity and air conditioning. When I offered help to him on this demo job, he was like “do not even come in I got this”. He was wearing a filtered respirator and kept the fan running during the entire demo. But I was asked to stay outside of the room hence the lack of progress shots.


Fortunately, all the wood studs are dense and solid, without any signs of rotting. All we need to replace is the window stool support and some horizontal bracing around the tub:


See the window stool? It was one pieces of granite sitting on a piece of concrete without any waterproofing material in between. The stool itself and the concrete support were removed, and the horizontal 2″x4″ below the concrete will be replaced too.


We knew about the water leak at the tub faucet. So it was not a surprise to find mold around the tub/shower plumbing. We will be upgrade all the plumbing to PEX as we did for the basement, so Slav terminated the water pipes here by soldering copper caps onto the existing copper plumbing.


The floor demo

Based on the water damage around the tub faucet, we knew there would be damages to the subfloor around the tub. Slav moved the vanity and toilet out, and pried up the tiled floor.


Removing tile is a messy job – the tiles were not only set on mortar, but also on a sheet of metal grid. Slav had to cut the metal wires periodically in order to get manageable pieces of tile off the subfloor.


Here was what the floor next to the tub looked like. The subfloor was soft under the foot, which indicated that it was rotting and needed to be replaced.


Slav called me into the bathroom after all the tiles was gone, “we have another layer of flooring underneath the tile!” he said. Yep! There was a whole layer of linoleum, probably the original flooring when the house was built.


The linoleum flooring was glued onto a thin piece of underlayment which was stapled to two layers of subfloor. Removing it was not too difficult, just time consuming because of all the staples.


The drywall demo

After all the flooring was out of the way, Slav proceeded to remove all the drywall around the bathroom:



Again, there was some water damage behind the vanity but overall the wet wall studs were in good shape. Even the bottom plate did not need to replaced. Most of the damage was on the subfloor around the tub area:


Here is a picture of where the medicine cabinet used to be. You can see the water stains on the drywall to the kitchen side. It was because of the roof leak from the kitchen exhaust vent, which we have fixed while putting in a new roof.


Slav also removed the framing of the corner column and exposed the non-functional vent tube:



This vent tub has been cut in the basement, just below the main floor level. So we will just cut it above the ceiling and terminate it in the attic.


It took a few days of demo to get all the walls and flooring out. The room might look worse, but felt a lot lighter:



Can you see Charlie in the picture above? Despite the noise the pups were very curious what was going on in the bathroom. They kept trying to squeeze in and investigate. Slav kept the door shut to contain dust and spores, but whenever the door was open, you could see one or two little black noses poking in and sniffing!

The cast iron tub removal

Slav spent an entire day demoing the tub.


The work was difficult due to how much force it required to break the cast iron, yet how little vibration it could take due to our inability of uncoupling the tub drain from the plumbing. So Slav cut the tub into sections, then used an axe to break the tub one section at a time.



At the end, he cut loose the drain part and it felt like a big victory to see the whole tub gone! Luckily, the vertical framing behind the tub were also solid and can be reused. All we needed to do was simply removing the blocking pieces to which the tub was secured.


From the picture above and below you can see the water damage on subfloor, all near faucets and water pipes.



We will replace all the subflooring in this room. As a start, Slav cut away all the rotten subflooring along the wet wall. This process exposed all the plumbing so we can upgrade them from the top.


The rest of the subfloor was kept for now so we have something solid to walk on. They will be replaced after the plumbing is upgraded.


I guess we are getting a new floor register too.


The demo was complete!


After the demo was complete, Slav sprayed a couple rounds of bleach on all the studs and then brushed on a thick coat of this Zinsser primer to seal the wood.


We plan to waterproof not only the future shower area, but the whole bathroom before tiling, so no moisture will be able to get behind the tiles in the future. We want to make sure that nothing can grow behind the walls.


So! here it is how the room look like now – with the demo completed, we will be upgrading the electrical next, and a new window has been ordered. Our goal is to get the new window installed and the exterior wall insulated before the next snow, We also want to install better lighting and a new exhaust fan before starting the next stage of the rebuild.


To keep track, here is a simplified to-do list on the bathroom renovation:

1. Demolition – removing all the fixtures and wall/floor materials;
2. Assessing the water damage and mold control;
3. Installing new bath window and insulating the exterior wall;
4. Removing the ceiling drywall from the attic, wiring for new recessed lights;
5. Installing a new exhaust fan;
6. Upgrading wall electrical, including adding outlets and rewiring for switches;
7. Installing recessed lights and new ceiling drywall, taping/mudding/priming ceiling;
8. Pocket door framing;
9. Upgrading plumbing for toilet and shower;
10. Ordering new toilet, sink/vanity, and shower fixtures. Upgrading water lines;
11. Installing new subflooring, closing up the walls, and waterproofing;
12. Tiling the floor;
13. Tiling the shower wall with a shower niche;
14. Installing new window stool/trims;
15. Priming and painting drywall and ceiling;
16. Installing glass shower doors;
17. Installing shower fixtures, vanity/sink, and toilet/bidet;
18. Installing pocket door, mirror, and lighting.
19. Door trims inside and outside/updating nearby closet trims at the same time;
20. Accessories, plants, enjoy!

The Basement Bathroom: Before + Progress


When closing on our ranch, the most intriguing aspect was definitely getting the second bathroom. Slav and I had always lived with a single bath. Getting ready at the same time in the morning sounded exciting.

So, it might sound like a surprise that we’ve only used the basement bathroom a handful of times thus far. Well, until you see what it looks like.


Hello the future master bath.







It is not a diamond in the rough. It is the rough. We took no pleasure walking into this room, let alone using it. Sitting empty did not do this room any favor either. Over the last a year and a half, bugs and spider webs took over.


We have been wondering about the hole in the soffit above the shower. It turns out to carry an important function: the upstairs bathtub leaks and this hole lets water drain directly into the basement shower. Although unacceptable, you cannot deny the previous owner’s ability of thinking outside the box.


The soffit wrapped around the mirror wall and ended at a weird bump-out above the toilet. By opening the utility room drywall, we learned that the only thing inside the soffit was the fan vent pipe, and the weird bump-out used to conceal the water heater ventilation pipe, which has been discontinued when we upgraded to a tankless water heater.


The first order of business is to assess the room. Although small, this bathroom has the potential to be highly efficient, if we could properly address the following issues:

1. Poor ventilation.

The old bathroom fan was noisy and weak, and the only window in the bathroom does not open. Being the only old window in the basement, it will be replaced with a window that can be fully opened to the outside air. We will also install a proper fan to vent the bathroom efficiently.


2. The nearly-empty soffit.

As I mentioned, the soffit only houses the vent pipe for the bathroom fan, which will be replaced and relocated. There will be no reason for the soffit to stay, and removing it will allow us to raise the light fixture higher as well as install a taller medicine cabinet.


3. Builder grade finishes (of the worst variety).

Popcorn ceiling, heavily textured walls, and outdated aluminum fixtures. Ugh.




4. Direction of the door swing


Currently the door swings inside, which not only blocks the toilet paper, but also limits the usable space in the bathroom. We have discussed the possibility of removing the door completely and reinstalling it at the living room doorway. Moving the door two feet out will not only save floor space in front of the toilet, but also create better flow between the future master bed and bath.

5. Lack of storage

Currently, the only storage in the bathroom is the medicine cabinet. Unfortunately, it is made of MDF and was completely waterlogged. We have been using medicine cabinets for years and really like the hidden storage they provide. Adding a new and potentially bigger one will completely take care of the storage needs in this space.


6. The shower area

To save money and work, we plan to keep the shower area and floor tiles. Some good scrubbing and a new grout job will surely make them look as well as they function.



7. Saving space with a narrow vanity

I actually like the vanity for its narrow profile and the depth of the sink. Unfortunately, it was completely waterlogged down both of the side panel. We are in search of something similar as a replacement.


Something even more bizarre was the back of the vanity was completely removed and so was the drywall behind. A quick and dirty way to finish the plumbing job, like everything in this house. Ugh.


The Demo Progress

After getting on the same page on what to keep and what to get rid of, I took the pry bar and removed the soffit.




It is amazing how much drywall trash this small soffit turned into.


The flexible pipe you see below was for the old bathroom fan. It had been disconnected inside the soffit until we bought the house. This bathroom was used by four children and inevitably, all the moisture trapped in the soffit has led to mold behind the soffit.


The U shape pipe next the fan vent is connected to the upstairs bathtub. It leaks when we take showers upstairs. Based on the condition of the subfloor, we think it has been leaking for quite some time as well.


The medicine cabinet came off without a fight. The hanging metal box housed the broken bathroom fan.


Removing the corner soffit exposed the old ventilation pipe for the old water heater. This pipe goes up all the way to the roof. The current plan is to trim it at the ceiling level so we can re-drywall. But we also have the option of using it to vent through the roof.


The bathroom demo concluded the demolition in the basement, at least for the part that we intended to remove. While the drywall dust settles, we officially enter the planning phase, with home improvement stores to visit and plumbers to call. I cannot wait to come back for another update on this little space, which probably involves replacing the window or fixing the plumbing. The bath will only get cuter from now!


Page 1 of 6

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén