Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

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Remodeling an 80-Year-Old Kitchen


Find out how we remodeled an older kitchen that was past due for a complete makeover, including cabinets, countertop, and island. Watch this video to find out more. ...More




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Remodeling an 80-Year-Old Kitchen

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Watch this video to see how we renovated an 80-year-old kitchen that was badly in need of updating, including:

  • Leveling the floor
  • Wiring and plumbing
  • Installing drywall
  • Laying wood flooring
  • Replacing the cabinets
  • Installing granite countertops
  • New appliances

Read episode article to find out more.

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Danny Lipford: This house is undergoing an extensive renovation, this week we’ll concentrate on the kitchen. When you’re extensively renovating a kitchen, like we’re doing here, there’s a lot of things to consider that many people just don’t pay a lot of attention to and they end up with some unexpected expenses right in the middle of their renovation.

Now, whether you’re working on a home that’s 80 years old, like this one, or you have a home much newer, a lot of the things we’re going to cover on this week’s show will involve all of those scenarios. Now you need to think about the foundation when you’re renovating your kitchen to make sure that it will support the heavy load of a modern kitchen, also the electrical system needs to be evaluated, the plumbing, air conditioning and heating the importance of ventilation and then you have to choose the right cabinets to tie it all together. This week we’ll guide you through this complicated process so stick around.

The extensive kitchen renovation that we’re working on this week is well underway and it’s kind of hard to even think back on the original kitchen and how small it was and how the cabinets were really needing a lot of work and the appliances had definitely seen their better day.

Now, we started this renovation by completely removing all of that right back to the actual stud wall, so we could really see what was behind the walls and see if there were any problems that we needed to address. Now, one thing the homeowners definitely wanted to do is to eliminate a window on this side of the room, so we studded it up, plywood, the siding on the outside basically it looks like a window was never there from the outside.

And they’re really not doing away with a lot of the natural light because there’s plenty with the two windows that will remain in this position right over the new location for the kitchen sink. Now the homeowners found a few things they wish they had not and that’s some damaged siding we had here or actually it’s the sheathing that had to be replaced from the outside, found a little water damage and maybe a few termites in there as well. So that’s been replaced, but with everything opened up like this, it’s a perfect time to evaluate everything.

First Joe or foreman checked out the crawlspace beneath the kitchen for any problems with the foundation, we’ll be adding a lot more weight to this kitchen than it supported 80 years ago with new cabinets, appliances, and stone countertops, so we had to have a solid foundation to support that weight and the investment. The concern with masonry, like these brick piers, usually revolves around the deterioration that comes with age but with the wood floor system you also have to look out for those termites.

These joists just look great outside but could be hollow inside from termites or wood rot. Fortunately that wasn’t the case here. We also had to check out the floor on top side. Settling is a concern in older homes but it can happen anywhere so it’s a good idea to check the level of a floor before you begin making any changes. If there’s a significant level change or a sag within the space it will become a problem later when the cabinets go in, this simple test using a string and three gauge blocks will quickly show where any high or low spots are in the floor.

The location of plumbing fixtures almost always changes in a kitchen remodel and in the case of this older home we’re reworking everything right down to the main sewer line. The layout of the kitchen will dictate where the big items like sinks and dishwashers go, but it’s also important to consider the small stuff too like water supply lines for ice makers. And if you’re cooking with gas the location of those lines will have to be noted for the plumber as well.

We’re also reworking this home’s whole electrical system, but even if you’re not rewiring the whole house, you want to give careful consideration to location of lighting in the kitchen. These recessed can lights are great but once the drywall goes in they’re not easy to move around. It’s also a good idea to think about the placement of countertop outlets with consideration of the appliances you’ll be using.

Routing all these wires and pipes will put a lot of holes in the bottom plates of the walls so Joe’s filling them up with a foam sealant before the walls are insulated. Between the foam blocking the drafts and then new insulation this kitchen will be a lot more comfortable but any time the walls of a home are opened up the insulation should be evaluated to see if it can be upgraded, here there was no insulation so the answer was pretty easy.

Finally we’re ready for the drywall. As soon as the drywall was installed in this kitchen, Mark, our finisher, got started taping and mudding to finish up all of the walls. And while he’s working on that, we have to do something to this floor. Look at this hodge podge floor. We’ve got plywood over here, some oak flooring here with some type of vinyl on it, and then back over here we have some tile that looks so old it looks like it’s original to the house.

Now, in order to create what we need in order to install the new 3/4″ oak flooring on this subfloor we have to really look at it closely. Now a lot of these boards are fairly loose, we have a lot of broken pieces here, this will all have to be removed and plywood put in place of that. And all of that work is just about to get started.

The first step is removing the hodge podge of materials that are there now so that the guys can begin cleaning up anything that would keep the new subfloor from being flat and stable. The spaces are measured out carefully so that the new plywood can be cut to size to fill the voids, but before it goes down they apply construction adhesive to the joists for an extra measure of insurance. Then the plywood is nailed down securely to the joists.

Hey while these guys finish up here, check out this week’s Simple Solution.

Joe Truini: These two similar looking sanders also have similar sounding names, which adds to the confusion. This is an orbital sander. If you look closely the pad vibrates in tiny circles. As the motor slows down you can see the pad vibrating, this model is often operated at about 14,000 RPM. Now that’s an orbital sander.

This is a random orbit sander, and its pad vibrates in tiny circles but also rotates in full circles. Now that dual motion creates a much more aggressive cutting tool than a finishing sander, but a finishing sander more forgiving sand not likely to over sand or harm a piece of wood.

The random orbit sander is great for removing paint or knocking down really rough boards. It also costs slightly more than a finishing sander. But if you’re a very active do it yourselfer who does a lot of projects around the house, chances are you might need both of these tools in your workshop.

Danny Lipford: The new trim that was installed on that existing window really dresses it up, all we need is a little paint job and that’ll look brand new. Now we’re right in the middle of a kitchen renovation where we’re using it kind of as a backdrop to show you a number of things you need to consider if you’re about to renovate your kitchen.

Now, at this point we already have our drywall up on the walls, up on the ceiling, all completely finished and all of the subfloor repairs that we had to do are all complete and ready for the 3/4″ hardwood floor to be installed.

We’re also almost ready for the one thing that’ll change the look of this room more than anything else, the installation of the kitchen cabinets. Now, kitchen renovation more so than any other renovation to your home requires some real advanced planning, thinking about how you want the kitchen to lay out, and how you want it to look. That means a lot of tough decisions have to be made, and many of those decisions revolve around the selection of the cabinets.

The first one you will face is whether they’ll be manufactured or custom cabinets, as the name implies custom cabinets are made specifically for your kitchen which can be an advantage if the layout or style that you want is really unique. However, in recent years major cabinet manufacturers have diversified their product lines to satisfy almost any taste or any layout requirements.

Cost is one of the key differences because cabinet making is a very labor intensive business. And you’ll pay more for custom cabinets in an area with high labor cost but they may prove to be a bargain in an area with lower wages. There may also be some differences in the materials used.

Custom cabinet shops tend to use primarily solid wood and plywood while large manufacturers may rely on composite materials with wood veneers for all but their highest end products. In either case you can get quality cabinets if you do your homework but you still have to decide on what they’ll look like.

Cheryl Kees Clendenon: What I like to say in terms of cabinetry we have to suit the needs of the kitchen, however, something like this for example, we want to have a little bit of sis-boom-bah, a little bit of zip-a-dee-doo-dah, something that gives the kitchen a uniqueness. Because everybody wants to have something that’s unique, no one wants to go into a kitchen, whether they know it ahead of time or not, and see a wall of cabinets.

And that’s the mistake that a lot of people will make. They think every square inch has to be cabinetry, closed cabinetry with doors, but utilizing something like this with glass cabinets with a plate rack with these little bitty drawers. You’d be surprised how useful these can be, these little drawers like this. But aside from the usefulness it gives the kitchen personality and that’s something that’s really important.

There are things like this a full extension drawer that revolutionized the cabinetry industry when people started doing this because now you can bring your drawer all the way out and get full use of that space. The same with the big deep drawers you can put pots and pans in there you can divide them up, I can make even a small galley kitchen very efficient by how you utilize the cabinetry.

So when a client comes in and they so well you know, I basically like the footprint of the kitchen that we have right now, but it just doesn’t work well. Sometimes that’s a layout in the way that people are moving, sometimes it’s where the cabinets are allocated. A lot of times you’ll see a soffit going across the top with no duct, no lights or anything in it, in an eight-foot ceiling kitchen.

So we want to take that and take that extra shelf, even if you don’t use that shelf day to day, you can’t get to it, it’s where you’re Christmas dishes are stored or your holiday things, things like that. You can get away with less upper cabinets than people actually think they can. But when they come see me and I propose a hood or doing something like this or something that’s, they think I don’t know if that’s really useful.

I don’t want to be able to see my dishes or what have you, but if they have this space suiting the rest of the kitchen, then something like this is what gives their kitchen personality. And let’s face it that’s what everybody wants. Every client wants a kitchen that has their distinct stamp of personality and attitude in it. It’s just not all about function, it’s all about looks as well.

Danny Lipford: The personality these homeowners chose for their kitchen was one that not only fit their family but also their 80-year-old home. These shaker style cabinets add to the historic flavor of the house but because they’re all brand new they also have the modern conveniences that older cabinets wouldn’t.

They’re adjustable shelving in the taller cabinets to make them more functional, concealed hinges on all of the doors, and roll out drawers hidden inside several of the units to make them more accessible for storage. These cabinets are custom units so the cabinet makers’ crew is doing all of the installation.

But whether you choose custom or manufactured, you’ll want an experienced cabinet installer on the job when they’re going in. These guys know all the tricks for getting everything dead on level and to fit tightly together, that’s important not only for the finished look of the kitchen but also for your enjoyment of the room as well.

When the cabinet crew is done, the countertop installers arrive to begin setting the granite countertops for this kitchen and boy does it really start coming together. The contrast between the white cabinets and the dark granite is fabulous.

Hey, while these guys finish up all their work, take a look at this week’s Best New Product.

Danny Lipford: It may not look like much but this thing is a real timesaver when it comes to painting. The Handy Paint Pail is great for the small paint jobs or touch ups and unlike a paint can that can be so awkward to hold, especially when you’re working 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 great magnetic paint brush holder that’s really convenient and a special edge so you can remove excess paint or stain without the mess that doing the same thing on the edge of a paint would create.

There are even disposable liners for these things that really make clean up a snap. Now the quart sized paint pal costs around $9, the gallon sized is around $18. Not a bad price for the hassle you’ll save.

Danny Lipford: We’re back checking in on our kitchen and I think the homeowners are achieving a lot of what they set out to achieve, and that’s to bring a lot of the character and personality of this 80-year-old house into the kitchen.

I think the shaker style doors certainly reflect that and it being mounted flush in the cabinets a good look and also the antique hardware, that’s pretty cool as well. Now we’re real close to finishing this whole project, the appliances will be installed in the next day or so, later today the plumbing fixtures will be installed to complete that.

But we have a lot of work yet to do on the island cabinet, and as soon as you see this you might realize that it’s a lot higher than most island cabinets, here’s the reason why. We installed the hardwood floor a couple weeks before we were able to put the finish and the stain on the hardwood floor, so that it would have time to acclimate and draw any of the moisture out, being in this air-conditioned space.

During that two weeks the cabinets were installed and we raised this cabinet up on a temporary base because the furniture style legs that are so popular on the island cabinets will allow you to see under it to a certain degree, and by finishing this we’ll lower this back down later and everything will look great.

Now, another reason that we have this elevated is that the homeowners are doing something a lot of homeowners are doing in their kitchens these days and that’s to let the island cabinet take on a little bit of a different personality, but one that’s still complementary to the rest of the kitchen with a completely different finish.

What we’re planning on doing is bringing in a specialty painter that can match the stain and the texture of this piece of furniture that will be attached to an adjacent piece of furniture in an adjacent room, and all of this will have that finish. That way keeping it elevated makes it a lot easier for that specialty painter to complete all of the work. Then we’ll take the base out, lower it back down to a regular height, then we’ll put on the granite countertop and all of this part will be finished. I’m just really anxious to see how this will look once they finish their work.

The first coat of stain that’s applied is a lighter color. It quickly becomes obvious though that this will bring out the beauty of the wood’s grain and warm up the kitchen considerably. By adding additional layers of stain the decorative painter will not only get the island closer to the color of the antique piece he’s trying to match, but the multiple layers will also give the finish some of the depth and texture of an older piece. Our strategy of lifting the island up seems to be working well, because he’s able to cover every part of the island completely and quickly. Soon we’re able to lower it back down into its final position to await the granite countertop.

The backsplashes here are also getting granite but instead of using slabs of the stone as they did for the counters, the owners have chosen granite tiles for the backsplash. Now besides being less expensive and much easier to install than slabs, the tiles will add a different look to the walls above the counters particularly because they’re being set at a diagonal. Before long the appliances start to arrive and that’s a signal that we’re really getting close to wrapping this thing up. This is what a kitchen looks like when it’s one day away from completion. Some of the appliances in place, some ready to slip into place, and others yet to be uncrated.

You know all of the decisions that you make on a kitchen renovation are so important that you pick the right appliances and fixtures and do it in a timely manner and this is the stage where it really pays off. Another important aspect of that is making sure you have every little part that an electrician and plumber will need in order to complete all of the installation of the plumbing fixtures as well as the appliances.

Now, another thing you have to be careful of, damage, I mean think of how bad it would be to have an electrician or plumber damage one of your cabinet doors or the expensive hardwood floors, or even the granite countertops as durable as they are can still be damaged. So it’s important that you have cardboard under anything that you set on the countertop or some type of drop cloth. You know if you have those electricians and plumbers come out multiple times because you forget to get one little part, that can really cost you a lot of money.

Hey, we got a busy day ahead of us but when it’s complete this kitchen’s going to look great, and we’ll show it to you next.

Tricia Craven Worley: Lighting can add a lot of drama and interest to your garden but you know one of the problems is you’re not exactly sure what it’s going to look like even if you see it on paper. So whether you do it yourself or have a professional do it I suggest that you give it a try and lay something out.

Now, as you can see I have taped this flashlight to this stake and I’ve already tried to do a layout, I’ve spaced them about 4 feet between each other and this light I think gives the impression of halogen light or incandescent light and so many of the lights for a garden are down facing so this is a really good idea for that.

Now, over here I have some luminaries, which are basically just bags with sand inside and the candle, and this gives an idea of what a solar powered light might be like. When you do your layout make sure to be careful of where the mower goes and also you want to make sure that you avoid the light shining into your neighbor’s house or your own house.

Danny Lipford: A kitchen renovation not only improves the look of your home, it also will increase the value of your home probably more than any other home improvement project when it’s time to resell.

Now, when we started this project a few months ago, it was a very small, kind of a dark and gloomy kitchen. But now through the renovation we were able to expand it considerably and provide all of the modern convenience that the homeowners wanted.

Now, when you’re ready to renovate your kitchen a few things you really need to look at closely before you get too far.

Make sure the foundation, the electrical, the plumbing all is in really good shape, because that’ll define a lot of the scope of the work that you’re about to take on. And make the decisions in a very timely fashion especially, some of the bigger items like the countertops, cabinets, and of course the appliances. But if you do your homework and you have a little bit of patience, your kitchen can turn out looking just as nice as this one does.

Hey, thanks for being with us this week and we’ll see you next week. I’m Danny Lipford.