Jennifer's Kitchen: Tearing Down, Building Back Up

Renovation Diary

All the cabinetry and appliances have been removed.
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Name: Jennifer Pade
Type of Project: Kitchen remodel
Location: West Village, New York, New York
Type of building: 300 square foot apartment in a co-op building

Jennifer's renovation is underway! If you missed them last week, you can click back through and catch up on the introductory posts about the project, Jennifer's plans for the finished kitchen, and her budget.

I’ve moved into my temporary apartment, two buildings away. This temporary unit was just renovated, so everything in the kitchen is brand new, making me even more excited to have my own new kitchen finished! I’ve used the dishwasher about six times since I got here and feel I will never get over the excitement of having one. Moving to a new place temporarily is expensive and inconvenient (mattress on the floor, forgot my winter coat, no internet, phone or cable service for 1.5 months), but it simply wasn’t possible to live in my tiny apartment during the renovation. Besides, my two cats would have lived in terror of the noise even if there was space for us to stay. So we remain cozy in this temporary place while living close enough to check in on the renovation work daily.

Ferenc Forizs, my general contractor, inspecting the demolition.
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Monday, Day 1. Demolition starts. I’ve hired Ferenc Forizs from Double F General Construction as my general contractor. He did the renovation of an entire apartment above mine, which is absolutely gorgeous. The contractor and his two workers show up at 9am and we exchange keys, I hand over a huge check and we sign the final contract. I’m excited and (despite having saved for a year for this project) am suddenly utterly convinced that every penny I own will be gone by the end of this 5-week project and I’ll have to sell my apartment. Am also convinced that the contractors will break something, resulting in damage to my downstairs neighbor’s apartment, causing her to hate me more than she already does. At this point, I realize that I will have to pace my hysteria, since there are five weeks left on the project. (That evening I buy 4 bottles of wine at a nearby wine store. Just in case.) As the contractor and I are talking, his guys begin tearing out the kitchen cabinetry, which I find deeply satisfying to watch, knowing that there’s no going back now.

View of the day 1 demo from the bathroom.
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I leave for work, only to get a frantic text at 3pm from my super, who says that the contractors have left “huge piles of debris” on the fifth floor landing, in the elevator and in the downstairs hallway. (If I haven’t mentioned this before, I’m the president of my co-op board, so I have to set a standard with my project or everyone else will think it’s ok to leave huge piles of debris all over the building during their renovations.) I manage to get the contractor and the super on the phone with each other and extract a promise that they will take care of these things moving forward. Someone cleans up. Crisis averted.

Exposed floor joists, kitchen plumbing and half the bathroom folding door.
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Original brickwork and wood slatting from 1910 when the building went up.
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On Tuesday and Wednesday, the floor is pulled up, the ceiling is pulled down, all walls are torn out, the living room closet is torn out and all the rubble and trash is cleared away. The bathroom door is removed and the original (damaged) window frame is removed. All the original wood and brickwork from 1910 is exposed. Much of the brick has fallen out. The electrician arrives to determine which old electrical lines can be removed, where the new ones will go and where the electrical panel will now be located. This summer, New York City instituted a new electrical code which no longer allows me to have the electrical panel in the kitchen or bathroom. The electrician determines that the panel will be moved into the living room, on a far wall. During today’s work, the team manages to break some bathroom floor tiles, so those will have to be repaired before the project is finished.

Two pictures of the exposed ceiling joists. They're huge!
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No more work can be done now until the exposed joists are inspected. In my co-op, any renovation project requires that an engineer inspect the ceiling and floor joists for damage. If damage is present, the joists must be repaired before work can continue. I’m stressed about the inspection because some of my neighbors have had their reno projects extended for MONTHS because of badly damaged joists (typically caused by water leaks.) I can only stay in my temporary apartment for two months, so I can’t afford this to be the case. My architect has taken a look at the exposed joists and is cautiously optimistic. He sees no major damage. But we’ll get the final word tomorrow from the co-op’s engineer.

The co-op's engineer, the GC, and my architect, Jim Moorhead, checking the joists.
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Thursday: No work is done. At 3pm, my architect, the contractor, the engineer and I meet at the site to look at the joists. After several minutes of inspection, the engineer determines that there is some minor water damage to one ceiling joist only. He and the contractor discuss and decide that the damaged part of the joist will be cut away and the remaining section will be sufficient to remain. The repair will add two days at most to the project. Great news! Even better, the co-op will pay for the repair, since it’s part of the original building.

Small amount of water damage to one of the ceiling joists.
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Friday. Since the floor joists are undamaged, a new subfloor is laid down. And a frame is built over the heat riser.

All the door framing has been removed and the subfloor has gone in.
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Now that we know the condition of the joists and subsequent repair, the contractor can provide me a work schedule for the remaining four weeks of the project. Next week the plumber and electrician will begin working and while that’s happening, my architect and I will start buying appliances and shop for backsplash tile. I’m also trying to make a final decision about whether to go ahead and install hardwood flooring in the kitchen, or instead to put wood laminate in the kitchen and in the entire living room. The cost will be about the same either way, so I’m leaning towards the laminate, because the original parquet floor in the living room is trashed beyond refinishing. If I could afford to do hardwood throughout, I’d do it, but it’s simply not in my budget right now. My contractor will have samples of wood laminate next week and I’ll decide then.

The framing for the heat riser.
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Estimated time for project: 5 weeks
Time remaining: 4 weeks

Check out the full series (so far) and be sure to join us tomorrow for installment #5 of Jennifer's Kitchen Renovation.

(Images and diary text: Jennifer Pade)