Andi's Kitchen: Taking Care of the Basics

Renovation Diary

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Type of Project: Kitchen Renovation -- full gut remodel
Location: San Francisco, California
Type of building: 1890's Victorian condo

The Renovation Diaries are a new collaboration with our community in which we feature your step by step renovation progress and provide monetary support towards getting it done in style.

By the beginning of our second week we were already behind schedule -- that darn chimney still needed to be demolished. Luckily the plumbing contractors were able to do their work around the chimney. We asked them to move the stove back four feet into what was formerly the pantry, and move the water and drain pipes over two feet to make room for a larger sink.

Months earlier, our excellent plumbing contractor warned us about our gas pipes. Our gas lines were probably replaced soon after the 1906 earthquake. They were old and too small to convey enough gas for modern stoves. If we decided to buy a high-powered stove, it would under-perform and could break every 5 years from over-working. The additional cost to replace the main gas pipe and a few branch lines out to the city main was $4,000, essentially tripling our plumbing budget.

We did not know what type of stove we were getting at the time, but we knew that we wanted to renovate the kitchen the right way and bring all of our building systems into this century. We finally decided to upgrade the pipes, and in the process we took a big plunge into our contingency funds. The kitchen went from a $28,000 project to a $32,000 project. To console myself I poured a big glass of wine and microwaved a burrito, because I can only cook in a microwave currently. 

Then I went stove shopping and fell in love with a Blue Star range. It is made in the USA, the burner design allows for good temperature control, the oven fits a half hotel pan, and I liked how it looked. The range cost $3,600; combined with our plumbing upgrade it is a $7,600 piece of equipment. Hopefully I will like it -- the whole package is worth more than my car.

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Back at the ranch, the plumbers uncovered a creepy cracked pipe that was draining our upstairs neighbor's kitchen sink. It would have caused a lot of damage behind the walls, had we not caught it. We replaced that pronto and sent that bill to the HOA. 

Then the weekend came around again. Remarkably our friend Kevin came back to help remove the chimney -- it seems that he did not get enough demolition the weekend prior. We are beyond grateful for his help and advice. Kevin and Dean schemed on how to remove the chimney. They went up to the roof and examined it from above, then went down to the garage to try to find its base. They went into our upstairs neighbor's apartment to see if it was venting their range hood. In the end they determined that the chimney was being supported by our floorboards and was not venting any appliances, which was good news. If we could figure out a way to cut off the chimney's base and support it with a hanging structure from our ceiling, then we could use the remaining sections of the chimney to vent our new range hood.

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Dean sought lots of advice and, in the end, we decided to hang a supporting structure made out of threaded metal rods and 2" metal tubing from our ceiling joists. We then screwed through the galvanized cover into the terracotta chimney with big lag screws, and connected the screws to the structure. Finally we capped the bottom of the chimney with a piece of 3/4" plywood that would serve as secondary reinforcement. It was an elaborate design.

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Dean and Kevin spent an entire day designing and building the structure. The moment of truth came when we knocked out a segment of the chimney. The support structure held the remaining sections up to the roof, and it was extremely stable on all counts. The true test came a week later, when the San Francisco building inspector approved the work.

We are still a little behind schedule, but thankful to have that chimney out of our life. I took the terracotta chimney segments to Building REsources in San Francisco, if you are in the market for such a thing.

Estimated time for project: 9 weeks
Time remaining: 7 weeks

Check out the full series (so far) and be sure to join us next week for #6 of Andi's Diary.

(Images and diary text: Andi Forker)