A Day in the Life of a Kitchen Remodel — Step 3: Insulation and Framing

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This panoramic photo shows the action going on behind the walls in our Mt. Airy kitchen renovation. You can see how well the crew cleaned up after the demolition, and you can also view some of the framing materials that have arrived.

Take note of the horizontal wooden straps found in some of the walls. That’s the wood lath behind the plaster on the other side of the kitchen walls we demolished. You can also see old wiring and pipes, as well as the backside of the 16″ exterior stone walls.

What you can’t see is that much of this house contains balloon framing. That means the wall stud bays are continuous from the top of the basement to the bottom of the roof. In the case of a potential fire, the fire would shoot up these stud bays quickly, which is very dangerous. Therefore, we will install wooden fire blocking and fire-stopping foam in these stud bays at the floor and ceiling levels. Then, the exterior walls, rim joists, and new stud bay fire blocking will all get spray-in foam insulation to reduce drafts and improve energy efficiency.

Our carpenter, Bob, also has to “fur” the ceiling framing and wall studs to ensure that they are level and flat for drywall and soffit installation — especially important in an old home, where sagging in floors and ceilings is common!

Be sure to visit our facebook page for regular updates and photos on this project.

A Day in the Life of a Kitchen Remodel — Step 2: Demolition

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demo 2

As you can see, we are now well into the demolition phase of our project house in Mt. Airy. This is when all of the “old stuff” in the room is removed, and we get prepped for construction.

These images show the plastic and plywood barriers our crew has installed to help protect the rest of the house from the inevitable dust and debris that results from demolition. Because the house was built in the 1920s, the EPAs RRP/Lead Safe Remodeling Rules apply here, as they do to any house built before 1978. The plastic is 4 mm+, and we use plenty of duct tape to seal all around the doorway and the floor. All of the other doorways and A/C outlets in the kitchen will also be taped up and covered with plastic, as well. This is because all the plaster and the trim on the walls and ceiling are coming down today, and the many layers of flooring will be lifted to reveal the pine subflooring underneath. Some of those vinyl floor tiles and the floor glue can contain hazards like asbestos, so it’s important to err on the side of safety in this way.

The plywood box with black tape in the bottom image is a temporary “duct” our crew built for the A/C intake vent in the floor there. The temporary ducting is now taking in air from the clean living room and directing it into the home’s forced-air A/C system. Air contaminated with demolition dust containing lead will be scrubbed from the air inside the isolated kitchen by an air-scrubbing unit the demolition pros use. (We will show what one looks like in next week’s newsletter.)

When the team is finished removing all of the demolition debris, it will be bagged and then taped shut before being put into a dumpster and taken to an approved dumping site. We’ll then vacuum all of the demolished kitchen surfaces — including the floor, walls, and ceiling stud bays — to ensure the dust is completely removed.

The demolition will take 2 days to complete. During this time, our clients out of town are enjoying some peace and quiet.

Be sure to visit our facebook page for regular updates and photos on this project.

A Day in the Life of a Kitchen Remodel: Step 1 — Planning


Our Mt. Airy kitchen remodel is in full swing this week. We began with an on-site review to discuss the existing space and the planned changes. We were able to discuss special circumstances of the project, and the crew had a chance to meet the customers for the first time. We reminded the customers about the spaces we need for work and staging, and we carefully explained how we will protect their house throughout this process.

We then put together a detailed spreadsheet schedule that begins with site set up, including protections to the floors and dust control, as well as disconnects for the radiators. We then move on to RRP-certified demolition, electrical demolition, and rough framing. Once the framing is up, the electrical, HVAC, and plumbing systems can be roughed in and inspected. Finally, we tackle insulation, drywall, flooring, and finishes. Walking the client through this schedule allows them to anticipate exactly what will happen as their project unfolds.

Be sure to visit our facebook page for regular updates and photos on this project.

Avoid These Remodeling Mistakes

We all make mistakes in life. Usually, they are minor, and we can move on with little damage to ourselves, our property and our loved ones. But renovation mistakes can harm all three. Let’s take a look at a recent call to our office that raises red flags for renovation mistakes to come.

An e-mail came in to our office from a young couple with a small 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom city house. The homeowners had lived in the house for 3 years and said they were ready to begin gutting and renovating the house. Sounded like it could be an exciting project. I asked some questions to learn some more about what was being planned. Here’s what I found:

1. They intended on living in the home while renovations were underway. (This is a recipe for discomfort, at minimum. In fact, many a marriage has crumbled under this kind of stress. Paying for a short-term rental is much easier and more comfortable for homeowners undertaking a major home renovation.)

2. The renovations would include every room of the house, including the single bathroom and their bedroom. (Where would they sleep or go to use the toilet or shower?)

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A Visual Breakdown of Kitchen Renovation Costs

I asked Dana, who is very good with the computers, to give us a simple pie chart of one of our recent kitchen projects. Here you go:

I wanted this tool because many homeowners think the most expensive stuff in their kitchen is the cabinetry and counter tops. You can see from the graph that this is not the case at all. In this case its less than 18% of our typical kitchen project.

“How come?” you ask. Let me explain;

The only way your biggest cost would be in cabinets and counters would be if you were swapping out the exact kitchen you have now; same layout, with new cabinets and a new counter top, or re-facing the kitchen you have and adding a new counter top.

Most of the people who call us want a completely new kitchen space with the room stripped to the subfloors and studs. So all the stuff that is in the walls; your pipes, wires, insulation, and often even the structural elements, doors and windows, gets moved or changed or replaced. And then we have to put in all the new stuff you do see like drywall, stone, tile, paint, cabinets floors, lights and outlets, heating and cooling and ventilation and lots of other stuff.

That’s a lot of stuff! Some of it isn’t very sexy the way cabinets and counter tops can be. But it all needs to be done if your kitchen is going to work well.

Luxe Details Make Even a Small Project Sing

This small master bath renovation that we’ve been working on is coming to a close, and the final “shiny bits ” are now going in.

Along with the sleek chrome lighting and plumbing fixtures, we selected two small custom granite pieces for the shower bench and the doorway threshold. We selected Absolute Black granite in 1.25-inch thickness with an “eased edge” to complement the minimal modern bathroom we designed for this 1957 split-level home.

The wall tile is a 12×24″ porcelain that looks like travertine, and the floor tile is a 6×12″ porcelain that looks like black slate. We think the granite is a nice, crisp addition to the scheme, and, while it is a very deep black, you can see from the lefthand photo how its crystals sparkle.

Tell us what you think.

Late Summer Trip to the Stone Yard

Last week, I made a trip to the stone yard to pick up a couple of small, deluxe custom pieces for a bathroom we’re remodeling. One was a bathroom threshold and the other was a shower bench, both in 1.25 inch Absolute Black! Items like these make a finished tiled bathroom sing!

Here are some snapshots from my trip. Things were very quiet the Monday morning I was there. The fabrication room was slow with summer vacation season — so slow, in fact, that the floors were dry. You might not know that all of this stone work is done with diamond-coated tools, which require running water to keep them cool. During busier times, these rooms are typically very noisy and very wet.

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Unforeseen Conditions

Many a customer will ask us what “unforeseen conditions” means. They ask because “unforeseen conditions” are explained in our contracts as something that can cause a “change order extra” to take place — and no one wants to spend money on something they don’t understand.

On this project, our plumbers encountered a cracked bend in the soil line. Here are some snaps of the problem:

You can see the old rusted pipes are in the basement ready to go to the scrapper. The new pipe is on site waiting for the change order extra to be approved. One snap shows the cracked bend where the toilet sits. The bend is in the bathroom floor under your toilet. You can see the large ugly hole in the living room wall the plumbers had to make to get at the pipe. The last image is from the bathroom looking down into the living room. This kind of destruction can be very upsetting to a homeowner, so it’s best to get the problem fixed and closed up soon as possible.

The bend is what is under your toilet and it’s connected to the soil line, which carries the waste from your toilet all the way to the street. If the soil line is cracked inside the house, what is in the pipe gets into your house. That’s sewage: solid and liquid waste, plus sewer gasses. It’s not a nice thing. If you smell something funny, this kind of leak is something to check for.

These cast iron pipes last a long time, and they are much quieter than PVC. When they fail, they corrode from the inside. Sheets of iron can flake off inside the house causing a clogged soil line, which forces sewage to back up into your house.

If the pipes in the house have not been used for a long time, they dry out and can crack when use begins again. Tree roots can also get into them. Ever wonder how those huge trees can grow on tiny front lawns? Yum! Soil line!

A cracked soil line is just one example of “unforeseen conditions.”

Here’s a Post We Love from Canadian Kitchen & Bath

BLUM hardware co created this aging suite to show you how your mobility is effected as you age, and how great kitchen design can help you age in place.


Listen to the speakers comments too on how most kitchen renovation buyers spend more time researching their car purchase than their kitchens, even though we all try to keep kitchens much longer than we keep our cars.

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Digging Out

Dear readers,

We have held off sending our regular newsletter until more of us dig our way out. In the mean time here is a snow man to make you giggle.

I saw this snow man at my NPB branch in Chestnut Hill. Send us your snow man snaps and we will post them too;

Our fabulous newsletter will be going out early next week. Let us know if you want to add anyone to our e newsletter list! And remember we are always looking for great newsletter ideas or questions!