DIY, Interiors, Kitchen

Good Ol’ Days: Heat, A Snorkeling Mask and Plaster – This Old House Part 5

during renovation
Here’s a scene from June…I think our AC was still working at this point.

I am at the point in my kitchen remodel where I am questioning the entire Interior Design industry and the deceptions that are Pinterest and Instagram.  Why do I feel the need to update my kitchen?  It worked just fine before.  Yes, it was dark and the cabinets were over 60 years old, but it functioned.  When I die, I sure hope my last thoughts won’t be about my pretty kitchen remodel.  Oh yes, my thoughts went right there.

My feelings of being adrift in my own home aren’t helped by the fact that our old air conditioning compressor died about a month ago right before the 100 degree heat wave.  Timely.  The new install has been rescheduled a few times for various reasons (not ours) and we’re hanging on through this heat wave until the install date.  Hanging on like the cat in the posters.

safety goggles
Dave could not find his safety goggles and spent 8 hours removing tile in a snorkeling mask in a home with no air conditioning. I am not making this up.

Dave used something called a “Wonder Bar” and pried out the 1950’s floor tile last week.  You’d think using something entitled Wonder Bar would make magic happen, but it was an 8 hour job in our small kitchen.  As our tile installer, Todd sagely told us when he dropped in to see the demo progress, “Yep.  Back then tile installers really knew what they were doing.”  Fortunately, the floor feels firm with no signs of any prior water damage.  Per Todd, we are leaving the plywood subfloor which was laid over hardwood floor.  From previous jobs I’ve learned that it’s more expensive to salvage old floors than it is to put in new ones.  I’m glad to know that as it’s one more thing I am not compelled to overthink.

1950s soffit demo
Soffit and pantry wall during demo.

In ripping out the upper cabinets, Dave uncovered the old plaster and lathe ceiling and walls that were furred out and drywalled over in the 50’s.  This is the old yellow color that’s to the right of the soffit in the above photo.  It’s curious to rip out walls and a ceiling only to find another set of walls and ceiling behind that and realize that you’re standing in a room within a room.  I felt like we were in a Paul Auster novel.

It would have been quicker and easier for the contractors to build out over the plaster than to tear them down.  Plaster and lathe walls were installed in pre-war homes.  They were labor intensive and time consuming.   After WWII, contractors and homeowners started using a new product called gypsum board.  Unlike plaster which goes on wet, you can paint gypsum immediately after it’s hung.  Thus the nickname drywall.  (Source)

1950s kitchen demo
The “pantry” wall after demo. There was nothing up in the drywall soffit except the original 1930’s walls and ceiling.

Another thing Dave uncovered in the process was “Mystery Wiring.”  Behind the drywall and in the plaster were crumbling, cloth covered electrical wire that had been left there and capped off.  Old outlets without any ground wires were all around the kitchen just waiting for their time to shine.  This portion of the project took a good amount of time because we had to get an expert out to take a look.

The kitchen feels like a dusty oven, but it is light-filled now thanks to the new windows and the wall that was removed.  That’s the bright side.  The down side is that, with the AC out, it’s in the mid to upper 80’s almost all the time inside the house, Dave’s spending his summer break working like a dog and it’s stressful for Sylvia and I living and cooking in it.  I like to think that if the AC hadn’t died, I would be handling all of this with grace.

paint clothes
Me, after painting most of the walls white last weekend. It actually felt and looked good to do this.

Because we live in a small cottage, almost all of our kitchen supplies and food are being stored in our bedroom.   It’s crowded, dark (we’ve been keeping the drapes shut since the AC died) and chaotic.  Everything is stored in tubs and stacked on bookshelves and it feels like a hoarder’s home.  I keep expecting to find Time magazines from 1972 stacked up somewhere next to the boxes of pasta.

I think I’m done grumbling.   I am grateful that we can afford a new kitchen, but the heat and chaos are trying.  If we could afford to have a team come in and us move out we would have – but then, what kind of story would that be?

kitchen renovation
Current state of our kitchen. The beadboard ceiling is going in this week.

 

“The most expensive hobby a rich man could have is a boat, and the second most expensive hobby he could have is a very old house.” –Barbara Corcoran

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Good Ol’ Days: Heat, A Snorkeling Mask and Plaster – This Old House Part 5”

  1. Oh, I do feel for you! And reading this, I see why updating my kitchen (in this only 45 year old home) has not gone beyond the dreaming/sample buying/ as soon as we get to it stage. I do indeed dread the process. There never seems to be a right Time for such a big project. Being here in Florida and having just went through Hurricanes two years in a row where we were without AC for nearly a week each time, I can really feel for you trying to get things done in the heat. Good Luck! Can’t wait to see it finished…
    Gwen

  2. Hi Gwen, yes, it’s fun to dream about redoing a kitchen. If you can afford to have someone else do the dirty work AND can afford to move out for a portion of it, it’s much less stressful. This has been an excellent exercise in empathy for me for my clients.
    No AC in Florida is probably worse than no AC in Denver – that humidity is tough. It’s just hot, dry and dusty here… 🙂 Sounds like an advertisement for Denver tourism – sorry Denver!
    Beadboard ceiling is in! Tile goes in very soon. I will keep you posted,
    Laura

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