Extensive remodel on a budget

caroteneMay 13, 2014

Hi All,

My wife and I live in the DC area where cost of services is high. We purchased a 1960's split-level home and would like to bring our kitchen into the 21st century. We're trying to stick to 50k + appliances. I did an in-place remodel of our previous home, but I know my limits and this job would need subs to do it right and safely. We've talked to a few design-build firms but the process has been unsatisfying. I'm willing to pay for design time if we can find the right partner.

Before we do that, I'd like to be armed with some great ideas and guidance from you fine folks! I'd be interested to hear what this forum has to say about our initial plans. Thanks a bunch!

I've attached the original floor plan and an Ikea design. The total span is 18.75 ft so we would need a support in the middle methinks. There is basement below the kitchen so access to utilities is pretty easy.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ikea kitchen plan

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The wall that runs horizontal through the middle of the floor plan is load bearing. The wall dividing kitchen and dining is not and can be removed completely. We want an open plan and an island with bar seating.

The focus right now is on layout. We'll deal with actual cabinets and materials later. Also, i'm attaching a pic from Houzz which was our inspiration. We like the range hood vs. downdraft due to concerns about downdrafts on this forum.

Spaces by Sonoma Architects & Designers Amy A. Alper

Here is a link that might be useful: Houzz inspiration

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 1:54PM
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Welcome to GW! I am nearing the end of a 60's tri-level main level gut (IKEA) remodel with a layout similar to yours. I started planning years ago with a design similar to yours but decided against it because of the distances between the perimeter walls and the island. My DH wanted to raise the ceiling since we'd have to redo the textured ceiling anyway even if we only took down one wall. Both walls went down, new beam added and ceiling sloped. I am very happy with the layout and light-filled space. I'd be happy to share our experience which was DIY, except for electric, drywall, and perimeter countertop. My DH is a journeyman carpenter/commercial contractor so the design build was not a problem for us.

Could you save your IKEA plan to a PDF so those of us that use tablets can view it?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 2:23PM
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Thanks bbtrix. I'd love to hear about your experiences. Sounds like a long road! I definitely have questions. I'll post a few screenshots from the ikea planner following this post.

1. How long was the span on your load bearing wall? Initial research suggests it can get pretty pricey if the span is too wide.

2. Did you order cabinets before you went down to studs? I hear this is risky but can shorten the project length.

3. If you were back to the beginning, what would you do differently in hindsight?

thank you!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 3:57PM
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view 2

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 3:58PM
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view 3

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 3:59PM
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1. The load bearing span is 24'. Not sure what it cost but I'm sure it was substantial, maybe the 2500 range. I can check. Ours looks to be a foot smaller than yours both length and width. Our space is 24x24. Our back door was practically next to the French doors so we removed it. I wanted to replace it with a window but a realtor friend said I needed more uppers for resale so I heeded her advice. I also have a door on the dining/living wall.
2. I ordered my cabs a year ago and we did demo early November. I was confident in the measurements and space plan and knew that filler would accommodate slight fluctuations. I also chose lowers that could be rearranged if necessary and indead I did change the layout once the walls were rebuilt. I have several 12" and15" pull outs so could rearrange for symmetry and reduce filler. I ended up making the island larger because I fell in love with the Kohler Stages 45". I was definitely influenced by my recent experiences in my 12" bathroom sink. My biggest decision was moving the sink from under the window to the island. I also wanted the stove to vent outside and my DH said it would be easiest on the outside wall. I would not have been able to center the sink and would have had too little prep between the sink and stove. I really love my layout.
3. My only regrets are my flooring (it was not as advertised and had many bad boards) and countertop fabricator. I am stilling cleaning up after the counter catastrophe. We should have returned the flooring but it would have put us many more weeks behind. We would be done now but are awaiting for walnut to ship for DIY Island top. We are retired and our bodies don't let us put in 8 hour days, so our time frame has been a bit longer. And from the get go, we said we wanted to have fun doing this. Now we just want it done!

Something to plan for is where do you stop? Since a tri-level spans 3 levels we are replacing the stairways and all bedroom doors as well as baseboard trim going up and downstairs. Also extended paint to the upstairs hallway and ceilings and the wall that goes downstairs to the family room. Visualizing the sloped ceiling and how it joins and intercepts the various levels was interesting.

Here's a shot taken a few weeks ago before the island counter was removed.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 5:54PM
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Carotene, I too have a split-level (and in the DC area )that needs remodeling and have all the same issues that you and bbtrix have mentioned. I've even considered shuffling the rooms around (DR up front, for example). I'll be watching this thread with great interest. Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 8:43PM
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Carotene, view 3 is a broken link. Also, could you post a floor plan? You have a traffic dilemma with your back door going directly through. My first impression is that you'll be moving food through the traffic several times during prep and the cooktop is very close to the seating. It would be helpful to know a bit about your family and traffic patterns and what doors lead to. If you haven't read the sticky on page one yet, I highly recommend it.

We're recently retired empty nesters that will be selling in a few years so we designed to try to have the space somewhat flexible. Of course you'd have to want an open plan, but no one would want what my space once was! Split level space is so tight and we have the added dilemma of visibility from the front door. With the lack of popularity of splits, the design decisions should match your mission statement and short and long range plans. Will you be in the house for a while?

Dccurlygirl, I also thought of switching DR and LR. It's totally doable if a larger dining area was wanted just by rearranging furniture. We use our living room as a reading/sitting area and TV/media is in the lower level family room. The flow works well for living and entertaining.

I will post more recent pix soon so you can get a better idea. Wish I had a wide angle lens.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 10:31PM
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Just noticed on another post that the sticky has dead links. Buehl posted a list of the relative reading links in her post.

Here is a link that might be useful: GW Useful Links

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 11:13PM
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Thanks bbrix. Beautiful kitchen. It must be even more rewarding having done it yourselves. Impressive. I'm trying again on the third link.

I read your comment about knowing where to stop on a split reno since everything flows together and had to laugh. It reminds me of that children's song Dry Bones "finger bone connected to the hand bone...". Luckily or unluckily for us, the house needs work top to bottom. We've already started on the downstairs and are working our way up. I guess well stop when we reach the attic :)

I'll read the sticky on traffic flow. The back door leads to a deck. During the mild seasons it will see heavy traffic to the backyard.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 8:54AM
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Great to hear! I'm using this thread as a discovery process for layout. I'll start a new thread on the actual remodel progress. As you know, there are a lot of splits in DC. Some may find them less desirable, but my wife and I actually like them a lot. The functional division of space can work really well for modern living. At our place, the next floor down from the kitchen/dining level is a playroom and the next floor up will be master suite + laundry. There is another level up from there (above this kitchen) for kids and guest beds. Each level affords privacy for sleeping, common areas, and play. Long live the splits!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 9:00AM
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Answers to follow-up questions:

We are here for the long haul and we're in our early 30's.
Young kids and active lifestyle. The island bar is attractive for quick meals and kids' snacks. The open concept is ideal so DW can watch the kids in the LR while cooking.

Accessibility from the outside is tough for elderly and disabled, so this house would never be a candidate for those buyers or suitable to us when we reach that age. Thus the kitchen does not need to accommodate special needs, wheelchairs, etc.

DR/LR swap: Not sure that would work here, but we're open to all suggestions. Nothing is set in stone just yet.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 9:16AM
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Here's the floorplan bbtrix. I'm thinking we may want to move the dishwasher out of line of sight from the front entry to the back door. I also don't show a row of glass door base cabinets on the other side of the island facing the dining room (per our inspiration pic)

I'll have to discuss with an engineer if we can get the full 19' span unsupported. Your 24' span gives us hope!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 9:46AM
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Yes, we do have quite a few split-levels in the DC area. And they are all unique. I'm not sure I have seen 2 that are exactly the same. I love the concept, but wish I had a little more room on the first floor.

My 4-level split (from bottom up):
*Finished basement, furnace room, laundry room,
*FR, powder room and garage,
*Entry, LR, DR, K
*3 BR w/ 2 BA

I'd love to see what other split-level owners have done with their 1st floors, so Iooking forward to more photos.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 8:59PM
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RE: beam for span

Georgia Pacific has an excellent doc that explains sizing for different spans attached. For the 19ft span to open up our floor plan, we would need 3 plys of 16" x 1-3/4 LVL beams. The beams are available in 24' ft lengths standard so it could be done assuming the point loads on the beam in the basement below are ok. They should be.

The issue for us is the height of the beam. The current bulk heads are approx 12" so we'd lose another 4" putting in the beam. The open concept becomes that much less open with only 6'8" clearance from the floor to beam.

Putting in a support post mid-span would reduce the beam height to 2 ply x 11-1/4" or alternatively 3 ply x 9-1/4"

Here is a link that might be useful: Georgia Pacific LVL beam sizing

This post was edited by carotene on Wed, May 14, 14 at 22:54

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 10:48PM
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I too love my 4 level split. Love the separation yet still intimate. It's interesting how different they can be. Mine from bottom to top:
-Unfinished basement, furnace room (same footprint as LR/DR/K floor)
-Laundry rm, powder, bedrm, FR
-Entry, LR, DR, K, Garage
-3 BR, 2 BA

Carotene, do you have a list of priorities? Since you plan to be there a long time you want to be sure you're happy with your structure and flow before you start such an extensive remodel. Can the back door be moved or perhaps replaced with French Doors in the DR? Can the kitchen and dining room be swapped? Where is your garage? How do groceries enter the kitchen? What is your current appliance layout? In my case it was a priority to lose my back door to gain counter space and open up options. I have at least 10 different plans with walls up and down.
New stretch of counter

Here's a shot of day 1 demo.

Here is a link that might be useful: First Three Weeks

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 1:57AM
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Good points and questions. I read through the sticky post last night as suggested.

The back door has to stay. We have walk-down basement stairs on the exterior wall where the DR is located so we can't put french in that room. Some neighbors have claimed the door and the window in the kitchen and put in super wide sliders or french doors. It would be a relatively low cost job.

Here are my thoughts and concerns on the proposed layout after reading the sticky.

The good:
1. groceries enter through our front entry or up the lower level stairs. We have pantry cabinets and the fridge right there at the kitchen entrance.

2. Flow for "outsiders" to the kitchen. The fridge and microwave are on the peripheral wall. The island bar is on the living room side so kids don't even need to enter the kitchen for a snack from mom.

3. The cooking zone is well protected from cross traffic and has landing areas left and right.

4. The clean up zone (sink/dw) is close to the dining room.

5. There is prep room between the fridge and cook top which is just on the other side of the bar. Quick meals can be prep'd in this zone and slid over to the bar.

6. There is counter space on the periphery wall. We would use this for a coffee bar (the grinds make a mess).

The bad:
1. You did mention that with the cooktop in the corner "L" of the island it may be too close to the bar. I think you're right. I'd like to move the cooktop to the counter between the DR and KT but still have plenty of landing space on both sides. The cooktop shouldn't be too close to the end of the island to avoid incidental contact by through traffic.

2. The sink is in traffic flow between KT and DR. Traffic through there is only during meal time and only by the help (i.e. mom & dad :) )

3. Having the microwave and hot oven at the back entrance could be a pain.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 8:37AM
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I'm a 1976 ranch in the MD 'burbs.
We had to beam an area on an addition that turned out to not actually be attached to the house.. i.e. the [ahem] nails had pulled away.

We ended up with an 18' I-beam, vs. a laminated beam, so the costs would be totally different. My then-DH and I actually put the iron beam in ourselves. He lifted, I shoved something in under it. He lifted.. etc. He was a GC, though, and knew the people to get the right strength.

Good luck with your remodel. Enjoy your time here. It's a wonderful area.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 8:52AM
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robo (z6a)

Edited away first para because I'm a dummy.

bbtrix you might have had trouble with your floor but it is stunning!!! Lovely kitchen!

My first thought was definitely sliders from the dining room, so it's a good thing you nixed that right away. Second thought is....switch kitchen and dining? That way you're looking at the dining from the front door, which is nice, and can still have sliders? The split I grew up in also had the kitchen inside, dining outside corner. Not sure why they were mostly laid out that way.

I live in a medium cost of living area (but in Canada, everything is kind of pricey) and it cost me about 50k to do a reno moving my kitchen to the other side of the house. additional costs: plumbing 4K, electrical 5k, finishing two rooms instead of one (flooring, drywall, etc), 10k. Add sliders 2.5K and beam 2.5K. Some of that cost would have happened whether or not I had moved as I would still have had to get in a plumber and electrician. But I had to go with less expensive finishes (cabinets 12K, counters 2K) to come in on budget.

I would do what I could to avoid one post in the middle unless it was attached to a wall. Even if it meant less head room or some kind of arch situation.

This post was edited by robotropolis on Thu, May 15, 14 at 10:10

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 9:57AM
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Wow- this brings back memories as I lived in 4 split level houses growing up. 3 by the same builder but each somewhat different.
I stopped by house 3(quad level) and the house I spent the most time growing up. The current owners were getting ready to sell it - I almost didn't recognize the kitchen as they were the original cabinets but painted white. The bread drawer was the give away- but it had double wall ovens and room for a table for. 6 of us!

Carotene- this will be fun to watch - I am not seeing a budget kitchen with removing the load bearing walls. I love your concept kitchen and your ideas

One thought- how wide is the counter between the ovens and fridge? I have a very similar set up in our new kitchen and wish I had more counter space between the 2 appliances. Ours is 45 inches. You could nuke the one cabinet to the right if the fridge to get more space.

One crazy thought that I saw on HGTV. - since you can't get rid of the door- expand the doorway to make a vestibule/pantry. $$

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 10:23AM
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We are taking down a load bearing wall and putting in a beam spanning 25'. It is crazy $$$ as we live on Long Island, NY another high priced suburb. It was the only way our layout could work efficiently. So we are biting the bullet(or should that be burning the wallet :-)) and going for it. So yes, 19' can be done.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 11:28AM
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Living / Dining swap?
I guess the biggest issue would be the extension of drains and supply lines (electrical box is actually closer). We're moving every single appliance anyway so I'm not sure the cost would be too much different.
The main plumbing stack is just to the left of the wall oven in the proposed layout. I'd worry about the long horizontal drain runs from the dining room to the stack. Even with 1/4" per foot drop this could be problematic. Thoughts??? It's all unfinished basement beneath the whole floor so this could be do-able. If we went this route we could remove the 30" exterior door and existing window and put in french doors to the back deck. That would be sweet!

In terms of flow, I guess we'd just have to carry groceries a bit further. Not a big deal and as robotropolis points out, you would see the dining room as you enter the house. I'll put some sketches together.

The countertop space on the perimeter wall is 51" wide. We could gain an additional 15" by "Nuking :) " the left high cabinet. Because we don't have a pantry, these high cabinets are critical to our food storage. Not sure i'd want to compromise on that. I'll look at base + wall cabinet solutions that might be suitable.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 12:34PM
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Robotropolis: sliders? not sure what you're referring to there.

My concern with the 16" LVL beam required for a 19' span is that the beam will hang an additional 4" below our existing header between the DR and LR. The total floor to beam clearance would only be 6' 8". That's a little low IMO.

Believe me, I'd rather not have a center support but I don't think we have the budget for exotic engineering work. The quotes we're seeing from design build firms is around $2500 for a max. 18' span. I'd bring the wall in 1' on the existing DR side to reduce the span a bit. If the kitchen was moved to the DR, this might actually be preferred if cabinets were along that far wall.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 12:42PM
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robo (z6a)

Maybe something a BIT like...?

Disadvantage: living room becomes a lot less formal with a view to the kitchen. Also without that much wall space, not sure if wall ovens would fit?

Advantage: kitchen gets good real estate and windows on two sides, you keep a good deal of your structural wall.

In a high cost area this option could be super pricey, so I am sorry if I'm suggesting things that are totally not possible.

This post was edited by robotropolis on Thu, May 15, 14 at 13:00

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 12:59PM
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I took this idea back to the ikeal planner tool...

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 4:29PM
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Rendering - view from the living room

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 4:30PM
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Arial view

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 4:31PM
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With this layout we have much better control over the span. This model has a The french doors from the DR onto the deck are snazzy!

The new placement of the bar further from the front door would probably work better for us. Right now, guests often pull chairs from our dining room table and place them in this exact location - we don't have tons of seating in the LR and the couch is on the far wall as oriented in the previous post. The bar stools would serve double-duty as bar and extra LR seating. Awesome.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 4:37PM
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Swapping gives you so many more choices! It should be less expensive, especially if you leave part of the LR wall. I think that is where you should concentrate, deciding what the wall support footprint will be, then the layout choices will be more clear. I grabbed your planner and played around leaving a portion of the LR wall and a support post since you had one in the original plan. Do you have existing soffits as the plan shows and are they necessary? Unless you have a desire to have the stove on the island, I made room for it on the perimeter. The windows make optimal use of cook space limited. Can windows be relocated?

Does something like this work?

This post was edited by bbtrix on Thu, May 15, 14 at 19:31

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 6:29PM
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Plan view

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to plan if interested

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 6:35PM
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Another view...gives some DR entertainment storage.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 6:38PM
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Regarding the plumbing, our main waste is in the same spot as yours and we moved it diagonally at least 9'. I've been meaning to ask if you will be getting Ikea cabinets or if you're just using the planner for visualization?

Also, does DW have a favorite way to prep/cook? Have any must haves? I was wondering if the cooktop on the island and stacked MW/oven were set in stone?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 7:11PM
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Thanks for the suggestions bbrix. We'll have to consider the center support + extra cab storage option.

We don't plan to use Ikea cabs - their tool is nice though.

DW is a great cook and baker. She needs room to roll out dough and good ventilation for cooking (woks, fried food, steamed foods, etc) This is why we went with a hood and not a downdraft which apparently doesn't work that well for venting.

As for appliance placement, nothing is set in stone. It would be nice to have the oven/range on an outside wall, but I haven't found a good place for it.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 1:08PM
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