Terrific Broth

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

The Kitchen Renovation Has Started!

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

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to this:

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then this!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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

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

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And the rest of the drywall!

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Makeshift Kitchen

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We are just a week away from the start of our kitchen renovation. It is time to clear out the kitchen!

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We started by moving the appliances out, then cleared out the cabinets.

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All the cabinets, walls and floor will be demolished. The stove is still in working condition and will be donated.

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I cannot wait to bring more natural light into the living room once this diving wall is removed.

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It is hard to imagine how much stuff this small kitchen held. Dry goods and spices filled several big plastic bins. Liquid condiments are all stored inside the house to prevent from freezing.

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We took this opportunity to eliminate things we rarely used. The new kitchen does not have a designated pantry closet, so we will try not to overcrowd the new kitchen from the beginning.

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Our new appliances were delivered! The whirlpool fridge we original ordered was no longer available, so we ordered this LG fridge instead.

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The KitchenAid range and dishwasher are here too.

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We also received the sink and range hood. It is nice to have all the appliances in hand for our contractors to work with.

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We will be living without a kitchen for a couple months, so it is important to set up a temporary place to cook. We decided to keep it minimal and set up the makeshift kitchen in our basement.

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We also cleared the furniture out of the living room – once the dividing wall is removed, the living room and the kitchen will become one big space and inevitably, it will get dusty too. We removed the art work on the wall, took down the curtains, rolled up the rugs, and pushed the sofa against the wall to make some room.

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We also kept the dropleaf table in the living room to dine on.

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Roxie must be thinking we are moving again. She did not want to let the rug go.

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We kept our offices largely intact. We will cover the doorways of both offices with plastic to keep the dust down as much as possible. We will continue using these rooms as offices and guest bedroom during the renovation.

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Kitchen renovation is a big disturbance to our lives before the renovation even starts. I will be showing our progress on Instagram with short stories, which you could find in the “Kitchen” highlight. I will also post photos, starting with this one I snapped today. This will be the last memory of our current kitchen, which has served this house and the families living here for almost 60 years. Good bye the old kitchen! You had a good run and it is time to get a refreshed look!

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The Kitchen: Choosing Appliances

How is everyone doing this week? We are on the last stretch gathering supplies for the upcoming kitchen renovation. This week, we finalized all the appliance orders.

Choosing appliances was somehow difficult. We always lived in rentals with the most generic appliances, so this is the first time we had to compare different models. To my surprise, appliances with similar feature are priced very differently depending on the brands. We spent lots of time comparing features and researching trends. It does not help that we had the worst appliance right now – the range hood stopped working, the garbage disposer is noisy, and the heating elements on the electric stove are out of level and do not heat evenly – so every new appliance looked like a huge upgrade to us. But the renovation cannot wait anymore. We want to to have the appliance on hand during the renovation, so we finally pulled trigger.

The KitchenAid gas stove

The first decision we made was the stove. We knew that we need a gas stove. As much as I love a drop-in stovetop, our small kitchen does not have the space for a wall oven to be installed elsewhere, so we have to get a 30″ stove/oven combined model. We also entertained the idea of double oven models, but abandoned this idea after reading many bad reviews. We heard good things about KitchenAid and liked the looks of their gas stoves. So we decided to choose between their 30″ slide-in model and the freestanding model with similar features.

KitchenAid Ranges Cooking Appliances - KSGG700E

KitchenAid® 30" Free Standing Gas Range-KFGG500E | Grand Appliance and TV

We initially wanted to order the slide-in model for better re-sale value, but it is out of stock everywhere and cannot meet our timeline. So instead, we ordered the freestanding model with the controls located on the back panel. Although the slide-in model is more trendy, hence the longer lead time, we are totally OK with the look of a back panel. In fact, we prefer not having a control panel in the front of the stove for easy access to the back burners:

KitchenAid KSGG700ESS Range - Consumer Reports

Zoom in on Alt View Zoom 13. KitchenAid - 5.8 Cu. Ft. Self-Cleaning Freestanding Gas True Convection Range with Even-Heat - Stainless steel.

We also chose the KitchenAid stove for its burner and grate design. We prefer round center burner to the more common oval burner. This gas stove is one of the few gas stoves that offer rounded center burner. It also has a continuous cast-iron grate on top of sealed burners, so it should be pretty easy to clean. This model also offers a true convention oven with low-heat self-cleaning feature. I am looking forward to trying it.

The Cosmo range hood

36" 380 CFM Ductless Wall Mount Range Hood in Stainless Steel

Compared to the gas stove, picking the Cosmo range hood was an easy decision to make. This range hood is recommended by one of my favorite renovator/bloggers, Daniel Kanter. He used this range hood in many houses he has renovated, including his own cottage kitchen. I also appreciate his tip on choosing a range hood slightly wider than the stove top, which offers a more balanced look. This is especially important to our kitchen, because the stove/range hood wall will be the first thing people see when they walk into the front door. We need to make a statement with it. We are lucky that this wall has two big windows overlooking our backyard. The wall between the windows is 52″ wide, so a 36″ range hood will look perfectly proportioned between the windows. To make this statement wall look even better, we will tile the entire space between the windows from floor to ceiling.

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There is another Cosmo 36″ model with similar features and a backlit digital display at the same price point. We chose the one with push buttons, because we did not want more than digital panels in sight. Comparing to having another clock to look at, we like that the buttons on this range hood are almost unnoticeable from distance.

Image 9 - Wall Mount Range Hood 36 in. Ducted Removable Grease Filter Stainless Steel

36" 380 CFM Ductless Wall Mount Range Hood in Stainless Steel

The KitchenAid dishwasher

The most exciting appliance purchase we made for the kitchen was the dishwasher. We picked a KitchenAid model to match the look of the gas stove. My sister has a KitchenAid dishwasher that has been running smoothly for a couple decades now. And her only complaint about this dishwasher is “you cannot justify changing it because it never breaks”. That works for me! Slav’s mom also recommended the top control design. So we choose the top panel + towel bar combination because we trust our family’s taste!

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Since we had very little experience with dishwasher before, every feature on this dishwasher is exciting: it has a third rack for utensils; the middle rack is adjustable to accommodate taller pots. It is the quietest model on the market, only 39 dBA. It also has several features to ensure spot-free cleaning, including a weight sensor and extended drying cycle.

As of the finish, we chose stainless steel for all the appliances. Slav likes the cool metal look. It also fits better with the brushed nickel plumbing finishes we picked for the kitchen. We did not consider any panel-ready options – we cannot justify the extra cost, and thanks for the island, both stove and dishwasher cannot be seen from either the front or the back entry. We also wanted to be able to hang a kitchen towel on the dishwasher. We currently have the kitchen towels on the stove handle, which is not convenient when we need to use the oven.

Finally, an undermount sink

After decades scrubbing and replacing the caulk around sinks, we are finally getting an undermount sink! The sink cabinet we will be installing is only 27″, which calls for sinks under 24″. Since we will have a dishwasher, we are OK to switch to a smaller and single bowl sink. We also picked this sink for its 16-gauge construction. It is pretty deep – 9 inch to be exact. With the thickness of the countertop, this sink will allow us to wash our tallest pots without hitting the faucet.

We will be installing a trash disposal similar to the one we used now, but slightly more powerful. We have already gotten the sink faucet from Costco when it was on sale last year. It is the Varos from Delta in Brushed Nickel finish. We always wanted a pull-down faucet head – like I told you, everything in this kitchen will be a huge upgrade for us! We have Delta faucet and shower system in our upstairs bathroom and their SpotShield finish is really spot-free. So we decided to go with Delta for the kitchen as well.

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The French door fridge

Before the last year, I never thought we would be able to get a French door refrigerator for their relative large sizes. It turns out that we could find quality French door fridges narrow enough to fit our kitchen! One of them is this Whirlpool French door refrigerator we just bought:

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Although small, this fridge still offers 20 cu. ft storage space thanks to its 34.5 inch depth. It is considered as a standard depth refrigerator, which would have protruded 6-8 inches beyond regular kitchen cabinets. But in our case, this fridge will be situated in a small cove 6″ deeper than the room, where the hall/pantry closet is currently located. So it should only come into the kitchen 1″-2″ beyond the base cabinets.

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Besides the narrow profile, our fridge must-haves include an exterior water dispenser. Slav drinks lots of cold water so we always try to have this function. The French door design should provide better organization, and I particularly like the freezer drawer design. We supplement home-made bone broth for our dogs and store the broth in ice trays in the freezer. Getting the ice trays and bins of bones in and out of the narrow freezer (we currently has a side-by-side unit) has been a hassle. Now we can easily see how much stock we have left, and take them in and out should be a lot easier.

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The new fridge will be 68.5 inches tall, which allows us to put a cabinet on its top. This will be a 30″ wide x 24″ deep, offering lots of space for bulk storage that we do not access often. The fridge will be wrapped in a wooden frame with finished end panels in Maritime, so the fridge will look well integrated into this wall.

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The renovation timeline

With the appliances on hand, we’ll kick off the project with demo in the following weeks. Below is a rough renovation timeline we hope to stick to! Slav’s mom is visiting us in May and I would really like to have the kitchen cabinet installed and stuff unpacked by then. We can always pop some plywood on the counter to use the kitchen, but I want to have a clean house to live in during her visit.

  1. Starting in early March: demoing the kitchen and the dividing walls between kitchen and living room. All existing tile, drywall, and floor will be removed including soffit.
  2. The hall closet space and the living room doorway opening will be reframed.
  3. Running utilities. A gas line will be installed to feed the gas stove, plumbing and waterline will be modified for the new sink, fridge, and dishwasher. Our contractor will reroute the hood vent system in the attic.
  4. Slav will wire for outlets and switches, and install the recessed lighting for the living room and the kitchen. We aim to finish all the utility work in March.
  5. Starting April: Adding exterior insulation and putting the walls back together. Our contractor will patch and repair all the drywall necessary.
  6. Before mid-April: floor tile + stair railing.
  7. Our kitchen cabinets will be delivered in mid-April. The base cabinets will be installed immediately so we can measure for countertops. There is about 4 weeks lead time for countertop installation after measuring.
  8. Upper cabinet and appliances installation will be installed in second half of the April. We will unpack the kitchen as soon as we could, and install temporary countertops so we can start cooking in the kitchen before Slav’s mom gets here.
  9. While waiting for the countertop, we will take the opportunity to and paint the ceiling and exposing drywalls, and install door trims and baseboard. Slav will install all the lighting, including the ceiling can lights, all the task lighting, and under-cabinet lighting.
  10. Once the countertop is installed (mid-May), our contractor will return to tile the backsplash. All tiling and painting will be finished before the Memorial day weekend. This marks the end of our contractor’s work.
  11. In summer months, we will figure out how to refinish the stairs ourselves. We will also upgrade the backdoor and/or garage door, or at least refinish them to make it look better.

This kitchen renovation would have been the biggest single-room project we have ever done in this house. We started gathering supplies from the New Year, and I am sure finishing projects will last the entire summer. Nevertheless, we should have a new and fully functional kitchen around mid-June, just in time for our five year anniversary in the house! I see lots of takeout meals in March, April, and May. I hope you’ll come along for what will surely be an adventure!

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