Tear down this wall!

This post is about moving walls and re-framing.  When we last left off, the kitchen looked like this:

2014-01-24 20.24.07

To understand where we went from here, recall that two major purposes of our remodel were connect the kitchen and the living room and introduce more natural light into the house.  Both of these ideas required removing walls or punching holes, so we did a little of both.

Typical Nor. Cal single floor houses consist of an eat-in kitchen adjacent to a living room, usually in the front of the house.  The only other rooms in the house are bedrooms.  Because we have no dining room, we couldn’t lose our eat in area, and because we have no other living space, we couldn’t add a dining area to the living room.  We also still needed enough space to store our dishes, food and kitchenware, so we were loathe to lose the wall and all of the upper cabinets along the top half of the wall connecting our living room and kitchen.

Our solution was to punch a hole to make a passthough between the kitchen and the living room as well as remove about 18″ of wall that overlapped between the living room and the kitchen.  We did not actually do this work ourselves; we used the contractor we hired earlier in the process.  This is what is considered “minor construction”, but if you’re reading this blog for advice and not laughter, you probably should check with a professional before you undertake it on your own!  …read on for why…

Here is what that wall looked like after framing the pass through:

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and from the opposite side looking back after removing the edge of the wall:

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You can see where the old wall jogged and jutted out by looking at the edge of the plastic wrap about and the pinkish line along the floor.  We’re seriously considering installing some long shelves along the back wall, not unlike these but without the stove in the middle.  One concern is what we can put on them though since an earthquake could un-style an open shelf quickly and dramatically – plus these would be directly above the dinner table.  Anyone have any thoughts about this??

Anyway, onward…  Here are both after cutting out the pass through and screwing in new dry wall:

photo 2

Now you can actually see both rooms in one photo!  First lesson: In CA houses, most walls are supporting walls which means that they cannot be removed trivially.  Even for this slight wall movement, there was a tiny amount of reframing in the attic because of where the joists ended.  If we had removed the entire wall, we would have needed to have a beam installed in the attic.  While this is often worth it, it can turn what may be a minor project into a major project.  It’s important to know what to expect before you order cabinets that need to fit the space or otherwise begin the project.

You also may notice the giant plywood art in the living room.  That actually used to be our front window, which brings us to the question of how to get more natural light.

Previously the front window did not open (and we have no air conditioning).  We wanted the pass through help share the light from our huge front window with the kitchen…but we also figured out that changing it to a bay window would increase the light.  We opted for a framed bay 1) to save money on the window and 2) so we can hang standard window shades (that open down so that Tilley doesn’t get to bark at every passing car).  Here’s the window from outside as they started framing:

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(that’s my shadow, not Darth Vader on our front lawn) and after it was framed:

photo 3

We’re still waiting on siding.

And here it is with the window installed from the inside as we watch the Olympics (how do you learn to luge anyway?  If you’re a kid who’s really fast on water slides?):

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It was of course installed the day after our one heavy rain all winter! You can also observe the second lesson: construction is dirty!  We’re starting to feel like we are camping with all of the filth on the floor, but it seems pointless to chase after them with a broom every night.  Plus, the rain and Tilley’s paws didn’t help. We’ve taken to walking around in shoes.  Things should get a lot cleaner after our hardwood floor is installed in the kitchen and we clean up on Thursday!  Clear out any rugs or make sure they cover them if you aren’t planning on replacing them.  We actually have a new rug in the garage.  It’s also from Flor – Flor rugs are great, especially if you have pets.  For 8-12 bucks, you just pop out and replace the ruined square.  Although I was silly and bought a rug cleaner, my understanding is that you can actually hose the squares down.  Finally, the area rug comes in any size you want and they are the same price (or cheaper) than a low end, crummy area rug of similar size.

Third lesson: never have I given any care as to what kind of window is in my home.  What brand?  Grid (aka panes*) or no grid?  Pattern?  We went with a grid-free, double paned window that we can open the sides of…but I have to be honest, we didn’t even go to the window store.  This is one place where we copped out and took the contractors recommendation on a standard Milgard window.  We also swapped the window in the kitchen to keep them looking the same.  Our contractor also waited for the initial framing before ordering the window to guarantee that it fit.  This is one way to avoid having to caulk leaks around the edges later.  This probably was unnecessary, but looks more consistent from the outside.

*In common vernacular, panes can either be sheets of glass or the little squares that traditionally divide up a window.

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