March 2007

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2 March 2007 — Kitchen/Dining Room Wall Removal

Say goodbye to this wall between the kitchen and dining room, we are opening up this space.

It wasn't too long before we found another electrical surprise in the wall. These boxes don't correspond to any devices on the other side of the wall, or any box covers. Uh oh, not again!

It took a couple of hours to get this far. These walls are plaster on top of thin wallboard. It's hard to pry this stuff off of the studs and it tends to break up into small pieces. This is enough for a Friday night.

3 March 2007 — Kitchen/Dining Room Wall Removal, Part 2

Another day, another demo. We covered the kitchen cabinets and appliances with cheap drop cloths and paid our last respects to the other side of the wall. Note the lack of any electrical outlets or switches corresponding to the boxes we found on the other side of the wall.

Yikes! Of all the buried outlets we've found so far, this has to be the worst yet. It was only covered by a thin layer of joint compound over a cross of fiberglass tape and topped with wallpaper. And yes, the wires were still hot!

The other box was more like the others we've found, but instead of newspaper, this one was stuffed with a scrap of some terry cloth and then covered with plaster. And yes, live, just like the other (the wires are tied directly together).

So now I am definitely resolved to removing absolutely as much of the old wiring as I possibly can even if it means ripping out all of the plaster walls in the entire house. I probably can't remove everything because the exterior walls are brick and tile and there is little chance of getting new wires up to them, but all of the rest of the old wiring must go, and I need to be reasonably sure that there are no surprise boxes like this left when I'm done.

By dinner time, we'd made pretty good progress. At this point, I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. I think the room is going to be much nicer with a bar/counter peninsula where the wall was.

After dinner, I got the crazy ass idea that I would do some archaeology on the kitchen flooring, which was built up about an inch over the original wood floors.

I obviously knew there was a top layer of thin composite plywood wood flooring, and at some deeper level, old green tile squares. What I didn't count on was that there were two layers of underlayment. The first was 1/4-inch plywood under the green tile squares, and then a 1/4-inch layer of some kind of pressboard above it, with sheet vinyl glued to it, and then the current wood layer firmly glued to the vinyl, and both underlayment layers securely stapled down. At first I thought I would pull up the current wood floor, then the sheet vinyl and its layer of pressboard, then the tiles and plywood, revealing a beautiful oak floor, just like we found in the rest of the house. But that happy scenario was not to be. The wood floor was much too securely glued down to the sheet vinyl, so I ended up cutting into it with a circular saw and using a big pry bar to pull it up in sections about three feet square.

And another complication was that the current cabinets were installed on top of the green tile squares. In this picture you can see that we've already moved the range and one of the cabinets out of the way. This cabinet was only toenailed in to the cleat you can see on the wall with two small finish nails. Is that normal? I'd hope not, but in this house it seems that less than the minimum number of nails are used for things like this while many more nails and staples than could possibly be needed are reserved for things like holding flooring down or for trying to eliminate squeaks in the floors (by driving lots of large nails directly into the floor in the middle of a room, for example).

But we pressed on and eventually uncovered most of the original floor. Or, I should say, we uncovered the paper and glue that was stuck to the original floor.

At some point that was far too late to turn back, we discovered that this floor is not oak, and so doesn't match the other flooring on the first floor at all. These boards are wider and are a softer wood, maybe fir. I guess I should have suspected something was up when I found out that these boards were wider than the others on the first floor. Hmm.

Here is a closer shot of the glue, paper, and a small spot where I tried some scraping and sanding just to see what would happen.

And here is a closeup of some of the two-inch ring-shank nails that we discovered all over the floor. I guess this was done to try to stop some squeaking? There must be more than 50 nails in various places.

Having fir floors might be OK, or at least usable for a while, but I don't think there is any way we are going to be able to scrape this glue and paper off with any reasonable amount of effort and without completely destroying the wood. And then there are all the nail holes. So I think we'll be completely replacing this floor, probably with something other than oak, as a contrast to the rest of the floors.

We will probably have to remove the cabinets to get the rest of this flooring up (even just the old tile squares and the plywood underneath). Our first thought was to just keep going and get on with replacing the wood flooring, then put the cabinets back (or replace them) etc. Pretty much a complete kitchen remodel. How's that for project creep?

But now we're thinking maybe that's not such a good plan, and we should just get the tile squares and plywood out and lay down something to cover the floors, put the cabinets back, and get ready for the outdoor work we have this summer, not to mention the remaining projects we have in the second bedroom and den.

I guess we'd better start finishing a few projects before the house is just a pile of rubble.

I'm sure we'll look back on this in a few years and laugh. I bet it will be the best joke ever.

4 March 2007 — Project Creep Anxiety

After spending a little time this morning freaking out about the number of projects we have going all at once, we did manage to get things back to a reasonably useful state. I was able to rip out the rest of the green tile and plywood flooring up to the edges of the base cabinets without having to remove any of the cabinets. Then we put down some cheap indoor/outdoor carpet over the glue and paper so we can at least use the kitchen. Once things were cleaned up my anxiety level subsided but I'm still a feeling a little on edge over the number of projects and the general state of disrepair around here.

After thinking about all the things we have going, we've decided to put the kitchen floor project on hold for now so we can focus on fixing the wiring in the second bedroom and finishing the walls and floors in the den and second bedroom. By the time those things are done, the weather will be warmer and we'll probably have to start working on outdoor projects, so unless there are a lot of rainy weekends this summer, there may not be much progress on the first floor for quite a while.

11 March 2007 — Swiss Cheese Ceiling

We had to put some holes in the ceiling (and walls) of the dining room and kitchen to replace some wiring. All these holes were needed to be able to fish the new wire but once they were all cut, I started to wonder whether we should have just cut one large hole instead. I guess we'll get to do that in the living room later.

By the end of the day we'd made some progress. Then later we realized that with the new arrangement of the room, we might want to have one or two three way switches here, so that will mean replacing some of this wire. But if we had thought of that before running the wire the first time, it would have seemed like we have a plan.

We even had light again in the dining room. Maybe someday we can have bare bulb fixtures in all of our rooms.

24 March 2007 — More Holes in the Walls

Here I am starting to open up the wall in the second bedroom so I can run new wire to the outlets on both sides of this wall (the master bedroom is on the other side). The second picture shows what it looked like after most of the cutting was done but before I put holes in the master bedroom side of the wall.

Here are some holes in the dining room and kitchen. I think I have the walls open enough now to be able to run wire up from the basement and to some new switches. The new switches will be for the dining room light and lights over the future bar that we will be installing between the dining room and kitchen. There will also be switches for these lights near the other doorway between the kitchen and living room.

Here's another reason we're doing all this demo. When we first moved in to the house, the wire you see hanging out of the wall in this picture was live (110V, at least a 15A but maybe a 20A breaker) and strung across the basement between the floor joists and the old dropped ceiling tiles. One end went up in the wall and the other end came out of the end of some flexible metal conduit thing, very similar to the other BX wire we have in the house except that this wire is about 20 gauge stranded wire, twisted and all the other old BX wire is 14 gauge solid copper wire. I found it very odd that this kind of wire would be connected to 110V.

I still don't know what it was for, or exactly where it ends up except that it goes up the wall into the second floor at least. Maybe it goes into the attic room somewhere. If so, then it will be a while before we know where it terminates because the attic is finished and we probably won't be doing any demo up there for at least a year, maybe longer.

Before I pulled it out of the wall at the point shown in the picture, the wire was running between a stud and a metal heating duct (converted to a return air vent some years ago) and the insulation was brittle and falling off in spots. Yikes!

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