80-Year-Old Kitchen Renovation
By: Danny Lipford
When you’re undertaking an extensive kitchen renovation, or any renovation project, there are several things you’ll need to keep in mind. For instance, with this 80-year old kitchen we had to look at the existing foundation for any potential problems and to make sure that it would support the additional weight of new cabinets, appliances and stone countertops. After all, this is a lot more weight than it had to support 80 years ago.
Whether you have a brick pier foundation or a wood flooring system, look for signs of age and deterioration rot or even termite damage. We also checked the floor system for level before making any changes. Settling can occur in anywhere but it’s more common in older homes and if not addressed early could be a problem later when installing cabinets and other items.
Another thing to consider with a kitchen renovation is the layout of the space. This will dictate where large items like sinks, dishwashers and ranges will be housed. Also consider the small stuff such as supply lines for ice makers and gas lines of you’ll be using a gas oven or range. And even if you’re not rewiring an entire house, as we did with this project, you’ll want to give careful consideration to the location of all lighting and countertop outlets.
One of the more fun decisions to make with a kitchen project is the selection of cabinets. The main question is whether to invest in custom cabinets or manufactured cabinets. Each has their own advantages. Custom cabinets can save the day if you have a unique layout or style to your kitchen but many manufacturers have really diversified their product lines so do your homework.
The personality these homeowners chose for their kitchen was one not only fit for their family but also for their 80 year old home. The shaker style cabinets add to the historic flavor of the house but because they’re brand new they have all the modern conveniences that older cabinets wouldn’t. The contrast between the white cabinetry and the dark granite countertops is fabulous.
I’m not sure what the percentage is, but I think one of the most popular remodeling projects involves the kitchen. After 80 years, this one was in sore need of some improvement. A lot of electrical work had to be done, and it reminded me of a frequent question I have been asked by several homeowners regarding old wiring. More specifically, should aluminum wiring be replaced?
Well, first of all, you should be aware that the only homes that should have aluminum wiring would be homes built around 1965 up to 1972. The mid 60’s saw the price of copper skyrocket, so builders switched to aluminum for economical reasons. The problem with aluminum, however (which apparently no one seemed to be able to figure out for seven years) is that it is softer, weaker and is a poor electrical conductor. As a result, when faced with a large sustained load, such as from a hair dryer, the wiring would overheat.
Now, in spite of what you may have heard, fires resulting from overheated aluminum wiring are actually rather rare. Nonetheless, it can happen. So what do you do? Certainly, the most permanent solution is to replace the wiring, but it’s also the most expensive solution. Truth be known, you can go years upon years with no problems. But as your home continues to age, the greater the chance is that the aluminum wiring will fail.
In most cases this simply means that you will experience faulty operation of lights or appliances, dimming or brightening of lights when a motor kicks in or even a flame-out around an electrical socket and, eventually, a dead switch. In rare cases, the heat will cause surrounding materials to ignite.
If it is a real concern, have a professional check it out and give you a diagnosis. There are, in fact, other options instead of complete replacement. Since the fault lies, not solely in the wire, but where the aluminum wire connects to the wiring device, you can solve the problem by “pigtailing” a length of copper from the aluminum to the wiring device. This needs to be done by a professional, though. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DO THIS YOURSELF.
You may wonder why we did all this major renovation to the kitchen, and yet, kept the same old window and simply installed new trim to surround it. It could have been replaced, but it functioned just fine; it fit the style of the house; and it was in the right place, since the sink location didn’t change. Of course, other factors were involved that made it the right decision for the homeowners.
This particular house is located in the historical district. As is the case with many Historical Commissions, certain guidelines have to be strictly adhered to when performing any type of remodeling. All windows in this district must be true divided panes. And, since this was a unique size and, also, a casement style window; installing a new window would have meant a custom creation that would cost two-three times more than it should. So, all in all, I think the homeowners made the right choice to keep the original unit.
Granite or No?
People really love the look of granite. Can’t say that I blame them, either. It’s such a rich look and very durable. But, don’t let an uninformed salesperson mislead you. It does scratch and it does stain. You might want to consider a true quartz product, such as Zodiaq. Looks as good as granite and is much more resistant.
But don’t let that discourage you from a granite countertop. Just be prepared to perform some regular maintenance, such as re-sealing every other year or so. For scratches, your best bet is to have a professional strip the granite and polish and re-seal it for you.
Other Tips From This Episode
Random Orbit VS. Orbital Sander
Random orbit and orbital sanders not only have similar names, but they also look very similar which adds to the confusion. An orbital sander vibrates in a very small area. A random orbit sander vibrates in tiny circles and also rotates in a full circle. This dual motion creates a much more aggressive sanding tool. The orbital sander is a finishing tool and is much more forgiving because you’re less likely to over sand or harm a piece of wood. A random orbit sander is great for removing paint or knocking down really rough floors. (Watch This Video)
Lighting your Grounds
To see how low-voltage lights will look before you install them, grab some flashlights and either enlist the help of a friend, family member or neighbor by asking them hold the lights where you’ll install the lighting fixtures or attach some flashlights to wooden stakes and put them in the ground where you think you’d like the landscape lights. This will help you make sure that the fixtures don’t interfere with lawn mowing or walkways and that none of the lights are aimed at your windows or your neighbor’s windows. It will also give you a moment to see whether they’ll be easily accessible for service before you set the real thing in place. (Watch This Video)
Handy Paint Pail
It may not look like much but the Handy Paint Pail is great for small paint jobs or touch ups and unlike a paint can that can be awkward to hold or even tip over if you try to keep it on a ladder it’s effortless to hold. You just adjust the strap on the bottom of the pail so your hand is firm against the side of the container or for hands-free use strap it to your belt using the tightest setting. The paint pail also has a magnetic paint brush holder that’s really convenient and a built in scraper so you can remove excess paint or stain without the mess that doing the same thing on the edge of a paint can would create. For about $18, it’ll be worth the hassle you’ll save yourself and reduce fatigue in your arm and hand at the same time. You can even buy liners for less than five bucks to make clean-up a no-brainer too.