Help Remodel This Split Level Farm House

MNnativeFebruary 18, 2014

Hello Everybody!

Great forum you've got here! I've read countless threads as I've been planning my remodeling project and have now decided to sign in and ask for help directly with my project.

Attached is the sketch of my upper level as it currently sits. (each square = 1') The home was built in the mid 80's and is a split level walkout with about 1,000 square feet on each level. The front door on the East side of the house opens to a landing that goes up or down. The garage is on the south side of the house and you can enter into the kitchen or basement from there. There is also a sliding glass door that enters into the main level dining area. I don't expect that the front entrance would get much use. We would likely use the garage entrance and slider most of the time to access the main level and the walkout basement door to access the lower level.

Our primary TV room is going to be in the lower level, we don't intend to make TV viewing the focus of the upper living area.

I am debating whether to remove the walls between the living area and kitchen and/or dining area and kitchen. I am leaning toward removing both walls, adding an island to separate the kitchen from the living area and maybe a peninsula to separate the dining area from the kitchen.

I would really love to hear some of your opinions on what you would do with this space if it was yours.I tend to get tunnel vision when I focus on a project and sometimes a fresh set eyes can really help to introduce other options.

This post was edited by MNnative on Tue, Feb 18, 14 at 15:50

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Sorry, I believe one would actually call this a "split foyer" not a "split level". Can I change the title?

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 4:27PM
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Which way do the floor joists run? That would help determine which walls are load bearing, and thus which are going to be expensive to move.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 6:02PM
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Sophie Wheeler

The wall running down the middle between the kitchen and living space is going to be load bearing for the structure. In addition. The wall between the kitchen and dining will support the ceiling. You need a structural engineer in to plan how to handle those issues. And then reasses the budget for an already expensive project. Just doing the kitchen without any structural changes averages 55K. Add in all the rest, and you're north of 100K.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 7:19PM
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What is it you don't like about this setup, specifically? That will help to inform how you should go about opening it up.

And, yes, it will be spendy, but some "farm houses" are actually farm houses, and you don't just pick up and move when you live on a farm...

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 7:28PM
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Rather than taking down walls, what if you opened the kitchen to the dining room? Maybe move the range to the other wall and slide the fridge to the back wall (with microwave) and give yourself a peninsula that looks out into the dining room?

I don't know if you would have room for stools (maybe with a banquette) but having a sight line would be nice, without having to take down an entire wall. Just put a post on the end of the peninsula and leave the wall on each end.

As for the living room, you could take out the upper cabinets and microwave and open the upper wall...but you would lose a lot of storage. To take out both walls and use an island, would be very expensive. This might be an alternative :)

From Kitchen plans

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 8:16PM
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Thanks for the input thus far. To address of few points brought up:

I don't yet live in the house. My brother bought this farm for the tillable acreage and I am buying the house from him.

I don't care for the little divided kitchen and dining area. Plus, our family room/TV room is going to be in the downstairs so I would like this upper level to be open. We envision using it to entertain friends and family and would like multiple casual areas for people to sit, eat, drink and chat.

This is a simple, 1980's rectangular 25' by 40' split entry design. Neither of the kitchen walls are load bearing. The engineered truss span the 25' across the house with no need for interior support. Just like the garage.

To the person talking about $55,000 just to remodel the kitchen and the remodel running into the $100k range if I take down a couple walls, I think you are extremely high. I'm not hiring 10 different contractors to come in on every individual project. Myself and one other friend are doing the entire remodel and we have estimated a total cost including a major remodel of the downstairs of $30-$40k and after crunching the numbers several times, we both feel that we can stay in the low end easily.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 10:14AM
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Sounds like you know what you want....

Have you considered an L-shape kitchen with big island, rather than peninsula and small island? Just an idea :)

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 1:04PM
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I do have an idea of what I think I like but I am very open to suggestions at this point.

An L shape with big peninsula is pretty much what I'm thinking. The biggest challenge that I see so far is finding an appropriate place for a pantry.

Here is a sketch that I just put together where both walls would be removed that might look alright. In this scenario we would build in a pantry and the large peninsula would be a 3' wide single plane with a prep sink.

The leg with the oven in it would be a split level type "breakfast bar" between kitchen and dining area. This would cut into the dining area some but I think there would still be enough room for a decent sized table.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 2:00PM
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While DIY components can significantly lower the cost of the project, it won't do it by 70%. The national average for a kitchen is actually 55K in the general region, with Minneapolis being 63K. A basement remodel is 62K and 76K respectively. That's without structural changes, using mid grade materials, including a vinyl floor for the kitchen and consumer grade appliances.

Here is a link that might be useful: Remodeling Magazine Cost Survey

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 3:26PM
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Not trying to argue but I can't even imagine how one might spend $63,000 on a 12' by 12' kitchen remodel unless you tore the entire exterior walls and roof off of it.

If I spent $15,000 in cabinets, $5,000 in counter tops, $2,000 in flooring, $4,000 in appliances and another $2,000 in lighting, ect. it would be WAY more than I think I am actually going to spend in this room and that would amount to $28,000.

If it was going to cost $75,000 to remodel the downstairs and another $63,000 to do the kitchen that would be WAY more than I'm paying for the whole property including outbuildings and 6 acres. I'd just bulldoze the house and build a new one.

Sorry to get off topic. What I am hoping is that somebody might offer up alternate ideas or point out any mistakes that I may be making.

This post was edited by MNnative on Wed, Feb 19, 14 at 19:16

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 4:10PM
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I understand what you are saying about cost. There is a huge difference in prices across the USA. I know people who buy whole houses for $63,000 not remodel kitchens for that amount. We DIY'd a huge remodel. The kitchen cabinets $4200, granite $4000, floor $2000, appliances $2000. Drywall etc. $2000???? All less than $15,000 for a bigger than 12 x 12 kitchen that includes cherry cabs, granite counters, hardwood floors, and a heated island.

All I can say for your plan is...are you doing real venting? I might have missed this.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 5:36PM
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I think that the way people spend $50,000 remodeling a kitchen is when they hire a different contractor for every trade and just let them do their thing. If you hire a different contractor for design, structural engineering, electrical, plumbing, flooring, drywall, paint, cabinet, counter tops, windows, ect. you will surely pay a very high premium. The reality is that a basic remodel isn't rocket science, (although some people seem to make us want to think it is) we aren't disassembling a nuclear submarine. And I'm not buying $1,000 dollar light fixtures and $5,000 ovens.

I hear people talking about spending over $1,000 a linear foot for cabinets?!? I've got a good friend who builds beautiful, high quality custom cabinetry who would happily build and install quality cabinets for me for under $200 a linear foot. And I can easily get nice counter tops for $40-$50 a square.

What do you mean by venting? If you are referring to the hood over the range, yes. The venting duct is already there, I will just be replacing the existing hood that is wedged between cabs with a free hanging unit.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 7:11PM
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I think I'd rather "hide" the fridge (from the front door/entry) than hide the pantry. kwim?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 10:29PM
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Actually, the more I look at this, the less I like your proposal--you still have a closed kitchen. You've also effectively used up the "living room" space (it will be hard to have a comfortable arrangement of comfortable furniture in there), and anyone going out the door (is that a deck outside?) must go through the kitchen to get there. You still have only 1 small/narrow entrance into/out of the kitchen space.

For a single person, it would be fine, but then the house is overkill for a single person.

If you haven't yet, I'd consider posting this on the kitchens forum and/or searching the kitchens forum for other split level home kitchen remodel layouts.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 10:37PM
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Thanks for the input.

Kirkhall, I like the thought of possibly flip-flopping the fridge and pantry, I'll mull that over.

I understand what you're saying regarding using up the living room space but I don't mind that, as our main 'living room' is going to be down stairs. In this upstairs layout there is still room for some furniture, just not a full, traditional living room which we don't really need. (especially after we complete the addition explained below)

Regarding the entry/exit doors, that is one of my biggest challenges with this home. Since it is a working farm and all of the working "farm" is actually on the opposite side, of the house from the front entry, realistically the front entry will only be used by holiday visitors.

Also, when friends and family come to visit this house they drive around behind the house, park and come in through either the rear garage door or that sliding door. This leaves no transitional entry to remove coats and boots, ect.

I have the perfect solution to this major problem. Outside of that sliding glass door is a 12' by 14' concrete slab which is actually the roof of a wood room below. Atop this slab we will build a nice large four seasons porch/entry way/sunroom addition and replace the slider with some nice french doors.

This will be an inviting way for people to enter and exit the home as well as a great space for sitting and looking out at the creek and farm. I'll put a little wood stove in there to dry wet, cold boots and bodies and create a nice rustic ambiance. I expect this to become one of the most popular and useful rooms in the home.

North of this addition is where we will build a large deck, running all the way to the NW corner of the house with a stairway going down the north face of the house to the walkout basement door.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 8:21AM
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Does it actually vent outside? I ask this because I find IRL that many people have no idea if their "hood" actually vents or just recirculates.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 12:16PM
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Here's my take on the layout. I know you said the TV will be downstairs and you'll spend most of your time there, but I don't think that's how it will play out. Whoever is spending time cooking in the kitchen will find they are never downstairs and because of this they'll never see the rest of the family. Plus, if there are children, they'll most likely prefer to be near the food source and hanging out upstairs. It all depends on how many are in the family and the age of any children. Just sharing what I've learned over a few decades. : )

I wouldn't take any sq ft from the dining room if you want to have a table in there. As it is, it's going to be very difficult for anyone entering thru the slider to work their way around a table & chairs. I would be more inclined to move the dining to the corner of the LR (near the stair wall) and use the entry as a casual seating area.
In your recent drawing, you show 6 sq ft of dead space. You can't afford to not make use of that area when you're already limited on space. Instead, if you keep the layout, use that unused 6 sq ft and make the pantry a walk-in. What is the media desk for?

Does the kitchen door have to be where it is? Can it be moved elsewhere along the wall? If so, then you place your pantry/cabinets along that wall.
I don't think you want put a breakfast bar that close to the patio slider, plus, it's not safe to have people sitting/eating next to the stove top.
I really don't see the need for a large peninsula with a prep sink. Instead, install an island, with storage, closer to the kitchen........which will leave more room in the LR.

For more ideas on design and layout, I suggest you post on the Home Decor forum.

This post was edited by annz on Thu, Feb 20, 14 at 16:08

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 12:39PM
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I would suggest also posting on the kitchen forum.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 1:04PM
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Thank you for the good advice annz.

Regarding the TV, ect. we don't want TV to be the center of attention on the main level (or just in life in general for that matter). We will just stick one in a corner somewhere or maybe put one out in the sunroom once it's finished.

We have only one daughter, age 7. But she has around 13 cousins, neices, nephews ect. around nearby. I expect that we will often have LOTS of people around, both children and adults. None of the children have been raised in front of televisions and we like it that way.

As mentioned in my previous post, the slider will become double french doors once the sunroom addition is completed. I've thought about moving the dining table to the living area, this might be doable but I'm not sure it will be necessary. There is about 9' of space there as it's currently drawn.

The way our family works, people (especially the men) prefer to sit around a kitchen table or lean against a bar VS sitting on living room furniture. The kids and occasionally the ladies may use the soft furniture but visiting men just won't do it. If I keep the table close to the door there the guys will feel more comfortable coming in entrance and plopping down at the table. If I move the table to the other side of the home they will have to decide whether to remove shoes, stop at the peninsula, ect.

We can probably move that kitchen door somewhat, I'll have to investigate further as it opens onto a landing the garage that is elevated above the garage floor a few feet. I appreciate your suggestion about creating a walk-in pantry as well.

This post was edited by MNnative on Thu, Feb 20, 14 at 19:59

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 1:45PM
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So, I grew up on a farm, and my cousins lived in a raised ranch and yes, we all used the lower/back door to come and go--very rarely through the front door--so I get what you are saying.

When we had family gatherings (Easter, etc), the kids would end up playing downstairs and the adults had their conversations up. (and, no TV up--like you want). But, we still used and needed the LR to be large enough for 2 couch/loveseats (about 5 seats) plus various chairs. And, when we all ate together, most of us would fit at the table, but usually there'd be another smaller table set up for the "kids" in the LR. Also, for card nights, etc, we needed the LR space for card tables.

If you take what you have drawn and "pull the chairs out" from the empty arrangements, you find that you don't have much room (a person needs 24-30" from side to side for each chair at a dining arrangement (table, peninsula, etc), and it takes up about 24" when a person sits in it from the edge of the table/peninsula. Then, you need to include walking aisles to get people in/out/around the table... I just am not seeing a lot of room for casual sitting/reading area, etc.

Maybe if you had a window seat along the front LR window?

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 3:00PM
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Sophie Wheeler

I'm not seeing this function well enought for what you are describing needing for the funds that will be involved. (Yes, your estimates are too low.) A teardown might actually give you the chanceto design to your needs without being constrained by the lay0ut of the old home. There's no way that the proposed layout of the home can comfortably handle the crowd you are describing without people stepping all over each other and sitting in laps.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 6:49PM
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Thanks for the input. I agree that there is very little space for casual, soft seating as I have it drawn.

I'm going to try eliminating the breakfast bar and pulling that peninsula back from the dining area a bit, moving the kitchen door and getting the pantry over by the fridge, and then downsizing that central peninsula into an island and see how that looks.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 7:00PM
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If we can move the door coming into the kitchen from the garage this could work very well. The table in the drawing is our current table. It is 40 x 60 (I incorrectly wrote 50 on the sketch) and expands an additional 18 inches on each end. This would allow us to easily seat 11 without using the sun room or living room furniture.

This post was edited by MNnative on Thu, Feb 20, 14 at 23:28

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 11:16PM
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Here are some more least they'll give you a visual.
On the drawing: if the back door will be a main entrance, consider removing the area where the stove is. Then put the stove on the wall where the sink (or frig) is and move the sink to the island (probably more plumbing than you intended!). For more storage, a pantry/cabinets could continue on the other side of the garage door, along the garage wall.
To minimize the space a table/chairs take up, see if a mix of chairs/bench will work for you. Also, for more seating, installing a bar under the window (along garage wall) will give you more seating and, hopefully, a nice view.
The following pics will give you some ideas. For more visuals check out I also show changes I made to your drawing.

Traditional Kitchen by Portland Kitchen & Bath Designers Robin Rigby Fisher CMKBD/CAPS

Contemporary Dining Room by Bend Architects & Designers Scott Gilbride/Architect Inc.

Contemporary Kitchen by Palo Alto Architects & Designers Ogawa Fisher Architects

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 11:32PM
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I think you have a real handle on what you want but a decision this big needs people you don't know and never will's opinion. Support and agreement is good and these folks know there stuff but it's your place you will live there.

You never mentioned budget but for the kitchen I don't believe your prices include labor, electrical and plumbing, do they?

I do know some people that paid more for the kitchen remodel around here that you can buy a simple tired home for.

12X14 sunroom. I was in the sunroom business and didn't want one for my home, sweltering in summer and stone cold in winter. Yes you can heat and cool them and watch those utility bills skyrocket. They look to be initially inexpensive but once you factor in added utilities it is more cost effective to extend with traditional construction with a large focal window. They will tell you they will appreciate the value of your property greater than traditional construction but now that they have been in fashion for a while they can actually be a deal killer. We are looking at homes and don't want anything to do with a sunroom.

Glass is glass, the greatest heat loss is through the glass in a home, until they invent a high insulating glass that is affordable that is simply a fact. R-3 per pane, maybe, you do the math. Full thermal break or not. No one would build a room and put in R-6 of insulation in a wall.

Sorry I know you are focused on the kitchen but thought I might give you my spin on sunrooms.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 3:32AM
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Annz, thanks for the input! I've spent hours on Houzz and agree that it is a great place to go for inspiration.

You must have been posting right when I did, as I posted a new sketch very similar to yours right above your last post, I just had the range in the island instead of the sink.

That is my biggest hang-up right now. I really don't want the cook top in the island because I do a lot of high temp sauteeing, blackening, ect. and believe that greasy residue would be impossible to contain. That said, I can not envision any other possible place to put it aside from leaving it where it is now and then I'm basically stuck with that wall that I really want gone.

This post was edited by MNnative on Fri, Feb 21, 14 at 12:22

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 7:44AM
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Personally, I would put the frig or the pantry at the end of the would be to your right as you enter the sliders. Then put the oven on the garage wall.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 2:04PM
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I have the perfect solution to this major problem. Outside of that sliding glass door is a 12' by 14' concrete slab which is actually the roof of a wood room below. Atop this slab we will build a nice large four seasons porch/entry way/sunroom addition and replace the slider with some nice french doors.

Have you had this structure evaluated to see if it was built strong enough to support a room above the slab? You cannot just take a one story structure and build a second story without looking into how the original structure was constructed.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 7:18PM
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Yes, I had it evaluated. It is more than sturdy enough for anything we want to build on it.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 9:56AM
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I wouldn't put your range/cooktop in the island--that is asking for trouble for venting and also for safety of people sitting on the raised side...
Instead, consider like your picture--putting the sink in the island and the range on the sink wall.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 8:55PM
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