Pat's Kitchen Redo


After living in our 90 year old house for 15 years, Pat finally managed to prod me into taking some time off from fixing other folks houses to redo our kitchen (or 'kitchenette', as she called it). We had done a few basic fix-up repairs and painted the kitchen/dining room when we first arrived here in Pittsburgh in 2000 but we had still very little counter space and not enough storage (is there ever enough?). It was time, so in mid-October, I started ripping and tearing.

I have been gathering bits and pieces for this project for quite a while; the storage space in my basement shop was pretty full. I had a nice flat sheet of 3/4" plywood for the countertop and had just gotten the remains of 3 more sheets left over from a  tile 'hall runner' I'd installed in an 1892 mansion in Manchester to use for some of the cabinet boxes. I've only had to buy 1 more sheet of 3/4" AC and 1 sheet of 1/2" AC for the basic cabinets plus some 1/4"  Baltic Birch plywood for the drawer bottoms. Then I went shopping for hardware. I found a nice flat-flanged undermount stainless sink at Lowes for only $75 with drain baskets included and also got a real good price from them on a quality Delta center-mount single handle faucet with integrated spray head . I originally got some drawer slides from another Big Box store but finally tore them out after 2 days of installation frustration (too many plastic parts!) and bought better ones from Rockler (mostly metal and a bit less money, too). Those went in with no sweat. These folks also supplied some inset-door Euro-style hinges to complete the Craftsman-themed project.

Our house originally had a rather-antiquated and somewhat undersized (1-1/2") drain line running under the kitchen floor without enough 'fall' for proper flow to the main sewer line. The old kitchen sink and plumbing had also been located directly above the breaker box in the basement and from the look of things, some previous leaks had made their way onto the breakers (I had replaced them a while back). So part of my prep work for the new kitchen involved moving the drain and feed line stubs over 1 joist bay and running a new 2" drain line with proper fall to the stack. I also added new drains for the bath vanity and the washer to the stack (which I'd replaced during the bath redo several years ago) while I was running the new ABS. The new sink drains much better than the old one did!

Since our house is rather small, I had been trying to find a slightly-smaller sink to top-mount for a while. I really wanted to save a few inches for more counter space and the relatively-flat top-mounted flange wouldn't have the 'hump' flange of a standard stainless kitchen sink.  We fastened the sink on top of the finished counter with silicone under the thin flange which also sealed it to the countertop. Be sure to use enough silicone to form a complete seal and remove any squeeze-out before it sets up (use denatured alcohol). I also used a small bottle jack to put downward pressure on the sink to ensure a gap-free fit. It's also a good idea to leave the sink pushed down and undisturbed until the silicone has time to fully cure (48 to 72 hours) before removing any clamping device and before hooking up the water lines and drains or using the sink.

Here's a shout out to Dave at the Allison Park Home Depot for his plumbing assistance. A retired plumber, he's the sort of knowledgeable help Home Depot needs to hire more of.

While gutting the old cabinetry, I uncovered a source of some cold winter drafts mandating a bit of  drywall replacement. I also added cement board to the upper wall area above the sink for installing tile behind the new counter backsplash. On the morning of my wife's birthday, as I was removing about an 1" of old underlayment and vinyl flooring buildup, I happily discovered  the original  flooring (tongue-and-groove yellow pine) was still there, had not been 'mastic-ed over' and was in amazingly good condition. I texted Pat that her house had just given her a birthday gift. We plan on 'uncovering' and refinishing the floor on most of the 1st floor over the next several months.

About this time the old electrical wiring in the house chimed in while I was adding a new GFI-ed 20 amp circuit to support coffee makers, toasters and other household appliances. I spent about 2 days, first replacing the last of the old BX wiring in the house, then finishing by fishing new wires through walls, rerouting existing wires  and finally adding new Decora devices throughout the kitchen. I also added switches and wiring for the new under-cabinet lighting Pat wants. All in all. probably 1/2 my time on the entire job was spent running for parts for and installing new plumbing and expanded electrical services. No waste of time though, all this work had been needed for a while.

This project isn't finished yet but the Holidays and a closed house holding paint fumes required me to turn the kitchen back to Pat for her Christmas preparations. We'll finish the kitchen when the weather allows the house to again be properly ventilated with fresh outside air.



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