Archeology of a kitchen demo

weedyacresJuly 7, 2013

We demo'd the kitchen in our 1920 house yesterday. As a refresher, here's where we started:

I've painstakingly (emphasis on the PAIN) been working for the past decade (or so it seems) to remove 2 layers of glued-down vinyl. A steamer worked the best, but still required lots of scraping. Here's the "done!" photo of the floor.

We are keeping the uppers over what used to be the sink (and will become the range). We decided to salvage only one of the base cabinets (sink was a wreck, cabinets around the chimney were weird/not efficient). So we pulled them all out. Underneath them we found what I think may be original linoleum? Here's a photo of the front and back of the piece that was left.

There was also some newspaper under the base cabinets (why?), dated 1942, and thus providing evidence that the kitchen was "remodeled" then, adding the cabinets and cutting the hole between kitchen and dining room. The help wanted ads were eye-opening:

We are moving the doorway to the center of the stove wall, to make room for a bank of cabinets on the window wall. We originally planned to remove the uppers on the stove wall and relocate them to the window wall. However, on closer pre-demolition examination, that would have been nigh impossible, so we changed gears and decided to just keep the right-most wall cabinet and remove the left hand ones. Then we went to work on the wall. Here's the build-up:
4 layers of wallpaper
mint green paint (the original color of the cabinets)
1/8" luan-like board
1 layer of wallpaper
off-white paint
Here's a shot showing early demolition:

And the 4 layers of wallpaper. Dark green is earliest, moving diagonally up and to the right, with the teacup stuff being the latest.

Down to the lathe:

And into the pantry behind on the right. Stairs to the basement are on the left.

And we (easily) pulled down the cardboard ceiling tiles to reveal why they put them up.

It was a good day. :-)

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Congratulations on all your hard work and your discoveries! I have really enjoyed watching the progress of this home.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 12:30PM
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You've revived all those memories of ancient plaster dust and stale cabbage that greeted me on all the old demos I used to work on!

I eventually learned to leave that work to special crews. Or, better yet, build from scratch.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 1:27PM
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One other thing I just realized/noticed. There are actually 2 framed-out doorways in the raw structure. The center one appears to possibly have been "boarded up" at some point in the plaster era, as the lathe on both sides of that doorway conveniently ended right at that stud--or rather, at a nailer board sistered to the stud.

So is it likely there used to be 2 doors side by side? Or that the exit to the kitchen was towards the pantry and then left to the stairwell? Any ideas based on what was commonly done back then?

There was also a vent-type opening that had been covered over, but no evidence that used to be connected to HVAC, as it's just a hole in the wall between the kitchen and pantry. Guesses on that one?

BTW, I need advice on basement door placement. Below is a link to a thread in Kitchens asking for opinions.

Here is a link that might be useful: Basement door advice thread

    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 8:40PM
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Posted a reply on door placement in the linked Kitchen thread.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 5:10PM
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Is there any evidence of a wall between the pantry and the back stairs? My house at one time had two doors side by side, one going into a pantry and the other to the back door entry way. Most old houses have doors to the basement stairs - assuming there was an inside basement staircase. The basements weren't very inviting or places that needed easy access - cold in the winter and damp and smelly in the summer. They didn't do much insulating around the sill or under the joists in the basement or weatherstripping doors, so the door was useful to keep the warm air inside the living quarters, where you want it to be.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 6:24PM
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I would agree with kashka that there were probably two doors, one for the basement and one for the pantry.

Where exactly is the vent that you mentioned? Could it have been the opening for an ice box? In my old neighborhood, a lot of the homes still had the built-in wall ice boxes.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 10:57AM
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Have you thought of doing something like this in your kitchen? I read some of the thoughts on the arrangement from the kitchen forum and I came up with this. The sink doesn't have to be centered on the window, in fact, I'd prefer the place where I would be spending the most time be in front of the window. Or, to save money in your reno budget, I'd keep the sink where it is and put the fridge and stove on the outside wall.

Regardless of how you arrange the main kitchen, I would consider this option for the back stairway/pantry. I would also use this as a place to save the budget and I wouldn't mess with reconfiguring the stairs.

I would have a door to the basement, but it would be at the top of the first landing by the outside door and not at the very top. That back area would get the light from the outside door then. Mustiness, differences in temps between basement and main floor, etc are all factors. We had a door to our basement in our kitchen and we kept it closed all the time for those reasons.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 6:43PM
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That vent hole is visible in the photo above underneath the wallpaper close-up. Did ice boxes need vents?

There could very well have been a pantry door and a separate basement door. I'll need to take a closer look at the framing between the pantry and hallway to see if that was cut in later.

Geokid: Thanks for the additional thoughts on layout. Good point about spending more time prepping than doing dishes. I hate to have that wasted space in front of the stairs, though...

I'm going to rebuild the stairs regardless, because they're not super stable (and because I like making stuff with wood). :-) Someone in Kitchens suggested winder stairs where you've got the pantry drawn, to save a bit of room.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 8:15PM
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I don't think it would be wasted space. If you intend to use that back door often, you could have a little bench and hooks at the top of the stairs for shoes and coats.

As you've drawn your plan with the reconfigured stairs, the jagged hallway seems less useful.

The pantry that I've drawn where the fridge is could be where you put your floor-to-ceiling inspiration pantry. The one by the back stairs could be more for bulk items and larger items that you don't need access to all the time but don't want in the basement.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 9:20PM
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Weren't the vents for something like a vegetable/fruit storage cabinet? The shelves were screens to allow air movement. The cabinet was gone when we bought our 1908 bungalow but the vents, covered with painted wood, are still there on the outside of the house. And they're staying there! :^)

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 10:03AM
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Northbound, my pantry upper cabinet in the center has a vent to the outside in the top shelf area, it is screened on the inside with a metal closing flap, has a wooden hinged door on the outside which you open with a rope and pulley--the top panel of that cabinet door is a metal grille. There isn't space in there for maybe one or two jars, and no holes through the shelf to vent the lower two sections, so that leads me to think it was to cool pies, or just to vent the pantry. There is a gas hook-up in there where I think a stove used to be although that spot now holds my refrigerator.

Below that bank of three cabinets is my one-bowl two-drainboard cast iron sink, storage cabinets and counter is on the long wall of the pantry perpendicular to the left of the sink, and that run includes a full-height china cabinet, a drawer, two cabinets for storage, and a flour/sugar pull-out bin. On the other short wall opposite the sink and uppers is a 1x6 trim board half-way up with old wire coat hooks. The stove or whatever required gas would have been opposite the china cupboard between the wall and the entry door.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 6:08AM
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I see a tall filled-in opening centered on the wall with the chimney on the right corner. It's so tall I would think it was a door with a transom above.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 8:02AM
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Casey: That centered opening is only 6' tall and 24" wide. I'll have to pull of some more lathe to see if there's a transom above it, which I'll need to do anyway to install the header.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 9:37AM
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Imhappy&Iknowit IOWA zone 6b

I want that old lino and the wall paper with tea cups. I've been shopping for the same but it's not in my budget.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 4:40PM
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I meant the filled-in patch of lath above and beyond it, higher than the topmost shelf of the adjacent cabinet. It seems to indicate a long-since gone taller/wider opening

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 7:56PM
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