Name: Dan Bailey
Type of Project: Kitchen remodel
Location: East Boston, Boston, Massachusetts
Type of building: 2nd Floor Condo in a Greek-Revival Row House
The Renovation Diaries are a collaboration with our community in which we feature your step by step renovation progress and provide monetary support towards getting it done in style. See all of our Reno Diaries here.
This week the electrician began tearing out the kitchen's old electrical system. I won't pretend to know anything about electrical work, but from what I understand, removing the old wiring requires a delicate touch. Deciding which wires belong to which circuit, and disconnecting them in such a way as to leave the electrical system in the rest of the condo intact and functional requires more patience and skill than I possess. This is one aspect of the renovation that I never considered doing myself.
The electrician began by labeling all of the circuits in the condo. Since the building predates electrical service, the circuits aren’t laid out in a deliberate way. Instead, circuits were added piecemeal over the years as the need for electricity increased. The oldest circuit in the apartment runs through the ceiling along the full length of the building and serves all of the ceiling lights. Apparently, when electricity first became available, it was primarily used to power single light fixtures in each room, and only one circuit was needed for this purpose.
As the electrician begins running new wiring, he'll attach electrical boxes to the wood framing, which will eventually be sealed behind the walls and ceiling. Installing electrical boxes shouldn't be a problem in the newly-framed ceiling and along three of the four walls. But the kitchen's rear wall is brick and divides my building from the row house next door. The only framing on this wall is a series of ancient, irregularly-spaced 1x4 boards placed flat against the brick and covered in lath. The original plan was to throw up some drywall over the lath and call it a day. But I now realize that this framing isn't deep enough to accommodate electrical boxes. So my contractor will build out new framing along this wall, which will provide room for concealed plumbing and electrical as well as a sturdy surface for hanging wall cabinets.
The added depth of the framing along the rear wall means that there may be less room along the perpendicular wall where the stove will be located. Since I've already bought the stove and all of the cabinets, we'll need to make everything fit. We're at a point where fractions of an inch matter, and since the lath along the rear wall added about half an inch of depth, it needed to go. So I pried it away from the existing framing piece by piece. The brick wall is now bare and ready for my contractor to add proper framing.
One of the coolest and most unexpected aspects of renovating a 165-year-old apartment has been uncovering long-forgotten objects and materials from the apartment's past. As I was pulling down the lath, I discovered a small, rectangular, ceramic dish lodged behind a section of lath. I’m not exactly sure what this object is. the top of the dish is shiny, while the underside is dull and unfinished. It looks like it’s smudged with paint, so maybe it’s part of a watercolor mixing tray? Or maybe it’s meant to hold makeup?
I finally finished priming and painting the fireplace surround this week. Now that I’ve finished this project, most of the major work in the dining room is done and I can turn my focus back to the kitchen.
Estimated time for project: 18+ weeks
Time remaining: 3+ weeks
(Images and diary text: Dan Bailey)