Fun surprises when you open walls in a 60 year old house!

rebeccamomof123February 27, 2013

Well demo is well underway! Only a day into the project and the room has been completely cleared out, down to the studs. One issue we were aware we'd have to work around is the "main stack" which is our plumbing piping that will have to re-routed across the ceiling and down in the wall.

However we have now discovered a new challenge - the house has a main structural support beam directly where my pantry will be going. In my old kitchen, this was where my cabinets ended and we just figured it was an old plumbing pipe that could be cut. Nope. Thank goodness my GC is showing no signs on concern (at least not to us) and says we'll work around it - his plan is to replace it with a skinnier beam and incorporate it on the inside of the pantry down the side where it will not even be noticed. This means he'll have to make custom cut-outs down the whole inside of pantry and through my 4 deluxe roll-outs that I paid extra to upgrade. *sigh*

Also, the kitchen had NO insulation! They will be properly insulating the whole thing before new walls go back in. But, the GC is concerned that the toe-kick heaters I had planned on using to replace our old cast iron radiators might not throw enough heat out and wants to put one of my old radiators back in, under a window for added heat. He said we can leave it out and then if I feel the room isn't warming up enough, he'll come back and tie it in.

Ugggh, nothing goes as planned with a 60 year old house, I suppose.

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Fori is not pleased

That's not too bad! At least the post is in the pantry and not through your flatware drawer.

I can't believe you have cast iron radiators in what I'd consider a pretty new house!

Enjoy the process. This is the fun part... :P

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 10:26AM
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That's very true. I guess in that regard, I'm lucky. Thanks for the silver lining spirit, fori!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 11:00AM
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When we tore down the old workshop, we found a bunch 1938 newspapers that had been used for insulation. Some surprises are more fun than others.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 11:10AM
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We took out our old radiators in our remodel as well. Thought we would wait to see if we needed before installing. They are stil in the basement...not sure they will ever go back! It is cooler, but not cold. So far have not msised them!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 11:12AM
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Did you replace them with toe kick heaters? If so, how many radiators dad you have in the kitchen and how many toe-kicks did they add?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 11:46AM
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Brings back memories. Our 100 yr old house had straw for insulation (fire hazard!). We found all sorts of things in the walls including animal skeletons. Oh, and lots of nearly 100 yr old newspapers. What fun that was. And at one point the second story started sagging dramatically because they removed a wall around a chimney they didn't know was a major supporting wall. All turned out well in the end.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 11:50AM
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Yeah, we found a mummified bird. And some small liquor bottles. House built in 1919.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 12:02PM
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We found that when they remodeled the 1940 kitchen in 1961 they'd just put new cabs in front of old electrical switches and outlets, also they'd just hidden the old light fixture sockets in the ceiling. I think they were all still live. Amazing there was never a fire in 50 years.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 12:44PM
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"support beam" and "figured it was an old plumbing pipe" are not consistent.

Beams are horizontal members.
Columns (AKA 'posts') are vertical members.

Reducing a beam size is often significant enough to need a structural engineer.

The same with posts, though replacing with a smaller but just as strong post is possible (especially in metal).

Making a mistake in either can be VERY expensive (as in things start falling down, and not always all that slowly).

Two problems crop up over and over in moving waste stacks.

Maintaining adequate slope (1/4 inch per foot) over the new run, and noise from waste running in the pipe.

Having clean outs for horizontal runs remain accessible is another problem.

This post was edited by brickeyee on Wed, Feb 27, 13 at 13:03

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 1:00PM
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Yep. After six years of planning and saving, we gutted a terrible 1970s kitchen in our 1911 Craftsman, only to find that when previous owners added a flat-roof addition in the 1950s, they just cut out the back of the house and added on, and there were no posts or beam holding up the second floor. Plus, the flat roof scupper had apparently failed, over the years rotting out the corner of the house (including sill plate), which was hidden between cabinets and metal siding. Needless to say, this is why 18 months later we have a beautiful new beam, roof, and period-perfect siding and windows, but don't have a kitchen.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 1:35PM
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Oh, the misfortune, Mizinformation! I totally feel for you. well, at least your exterior must be spectacular.

I should have clarified - the vertical column or "post" is in fact structural, and must remain. It was wrapped in a wooden box and ran from floor to ceiling alongside my counter so it was unclear what was inside until demo day. Structural engineers were brought on board as consults to our GC and the decision was that some form of support must remain in order to avoid any future horror stories. It will be replaced with something more in line with today's materials and code and will be built in to our pantry where it will hopefully remain out of sight.

In terms of the waste stack, they've accounted for the proper slope necessary for the new run to go. Good point though, to make sure there is an access point should it need to be cleaned out. Another reason I hate septic.

Overall, I think we've troubleshot the problem pretty well. It just goes to show that remodeling a kitchen in an older home is a lot like having a birth plan for delivering a child: Plan all you want, but expect the unexpected!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 1:53PM
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What kind of flooring will your kitchen have? If it's tile, you could do radiant heat under it. If not hot water radiant, then electric mesh style might be an option.

Is the spot where your contractor wants the radiator to remain under the window in the location where your adorable window seat with all the great storage was planned to go?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 3:16PM
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Rebeccamom123-sounds like a wise general contractor. If he breaks a sweat, don't forget to breath. Loved you birth analogy and hope the worst surprises are over for you both.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 3:24PM
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Laughable - Oh NO! I draw the line at giving up my window seat and built-ins. I have big plans to spend lots of quality time on Sunday mornings in that spot, with a big cup of coffee!!

He was thinking it could go under the window that is right around where my peninsula turns out off the wall, almost parallel to where my stools will be. He says it would be completely inconspicuous there. He knows me way to well to even suggest taking my window seat away! And nope - I have hardwood flooring going in. But that was a smart suggestion that I didn't even think about.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 3:43PM
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Rebeccamom - No, we did not put toe kicks in either. We also made plans to add them later if needed. We have a gas fireplace in the family room and radiators in all the other areas so surprisingly the kitchen stays warm. Especially with the stove on. We did keep all the plumbing and just capped it in the basement. If we need to add back the radiators we will probably add cast iron baseboard to minimize the space taken up. We had no insulation in our walls either when we opened them up so we added and it is so much warmer. This is our first winter after the remodel, and so far so good. Then again, quite a mild winter this year in Buffalo!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 4:12PM
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Our last house had no insulation either. Built in the last 1950's. What were they thinking?

We found a preserved lizard skeleton when we gutted our kitchen. Poor thing got stuck under the cabinets. I donated to my children's elementary school Science Room.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 4:57PM
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When we put in a gas fireplace we found an old roll of Diamond aluminum foil in the chase. Not dating from when the house was built (1910), but probably from the 50s or 60s.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 5:37PM
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We found old business card like papers (1899) and receipts (1901) and hand written letters (1901 and 1902). A wooden umbrella handle, some metal decorative bands, a fabric sample book, and some old blouses. Structural nightmares around every turn, some far too recent to be acceptable. Horrible septic, no working well, and poorly done new electric that should have burnt the house down. Wood stoves were the only heating this house had ever had, and up until this past year, we had heated with stoves, but have upgraded to a wood furnace plus the stoves. Some walls still don't have insulation and some drywall is hiding crumbling plaster. We'll get to it one day.

Here is the first page to the 1901 4 page letter. The envelope and letter were in amazing shape for their age.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 6:39PM
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We haven't had those kind of surprises yet, but sounds interesting! A year or two before my grandfather passed away he was chuckling about my great-great-great-aunt's house. Apparently back in the day after she passed away those in charge of clearing the house got lazy. The took a bunch of old stuff, including at least 2 really nice victrolas (sp?), and shoved it all into the eaves in the attic. And then walled both sides in to hide it! Someone is in for a surprise!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 7:03PM
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We had a raised panel ceiling in the basement of an ancient house. One day while trying to locate a dead mouse we found a previous owner's stash of girlie magazines. You never know what you'll find!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 7:26PM
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Wow! We haven't started demo yet but I bet we are in for some surprises in our 1923 bungalow. It is great fun stumbling upon little tidbits that help tell the story of the home, though of course, the costly surprises are not fun.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 8:03PM
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I'd hang on to the cast iron radiators. We have most of ours but sure wish I had the few we are missing and didn't have the aluminum baseboards instead. The coolest stuff we found in the walls during the demo were a full woodpecker skeleton, an antique salt shaker, and a Christmas movie on 8mm film dating from 1959 - the owners of the house then was the town mayor.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 9:31PM
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