Dan's Kitchen: The Big Hole in the Wall

Dan's Kitchen: The Big Hole in the Wall

Dec 6, 2013

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

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Those of you who have followed along from the beginning of this renovation may remember that early in the demolition process I discovered some sizable gaps in the mortar of an exterior wall in one corner of the kitchen. Since that time, I've been in denial about the ramifications of this discovery. I knew these gaps needed to be repaired, but I was hoping that the repair would be quick and inexpensive. I imagined that a mason would repoint a section of the wall, patch up the holes, and we would move on with the renovation. A few days ago, I finally brought in a mason to evaluate the wall, and he quickly disabused me of this wishful thinking.

At one time there was a three-foot by four-foot hole clear through this section of wall. The hole was low on the wall, just above the floor, too low for a window or a vent, so I'm not sure what purpose it served. Eventually, someone patched up the hole with new bricks. Unfortunately, these new bricks were a different size than the bricks used in the rest of the building, and whoever did the work didn't bother to properly anchor the new bricks into the surrounding brickwork. Instead, they cemented over some large gaps between the new patch and the existing wall. So now, a few years or decades later, the patched section of wall has begun to fail, separating from the surrounding masonry and leaving large gaps in the wall.

But wait, there's more. Most of the building's exterior walls are composed of three courses of brick, laid one behind the next. The patched section of wall, on the other hand, is just a single course of brick thick. This means that a mason will need to add two courses of brick along the interior of the wall, in addition to replacing or repairing the exterior portion of the wall. On top of everything, the patched section of wall is in a difficult-to-reach rear corner of the building. It's three stories up and partially blocked from below by a fire escape. So putting up staging to access the wall from the exterior will be challenging.

If you're thinking this sounds like a complicated and expensive repair, you are correct. Since the repair involves an exterior wall, it falls under the purview of the condo association. So I'll need to make a decision about how to proceed together with my neighbors. I'm currently gathering a few more quotes and opinions from other masons before meeting with my neighbors to review our options and make a decision.

In the midst of a late-night cabinet assembly session.

In my spare time this week, when I wasn't preoccupied with the astronomical cost of masonry repairs, I began to assemble the kitchen cabinets. We're still at least a few weeks away from installing cabinets, but I wanted to get a head start on assembling the cabinets to be sure that they're ready to go when we need them. IKEA cabinets are pretty straightforward to assemble. If you've ever assembled any IKEA furniture, you're probably familiar with the cam lock system that's used to hold the cabinet boxes together.

Finished cabinets are beginning to stack up in the living room.

I ordered custom doors and drawer fronts for the cabinets from Semihandmade a few weeks ago. I chose shaker style doors from their “DIY” line, which means that the doors are unfinished. My order shipped this week, so I should receive the doors next week, and I can then get started priming and painting all of the doors and drawer fronts.

The new gas line runs up the back wall of the stairwell.

In other news, the kitchen is now equipped with a gas line. The plumber came back this week and finished running the gas line from the cellar up the back wall of the stairwell and into the kitchen. But the most exciting development this week was the delivery of the new fridge. I had the delivery guys leave it out of the way in the dining room, and I immediately cleaned it out and plugged it in. Having space to store more than two days' worth of food feels like an incredible luxury. I’ve never owned a new fridge, but this is by far the fanciest fridge I’ve ever had – it even has a “bottle chill” button, which sounds intriguing, although I’m not exactly sure what it does. The fridge is a counter-depth model from Fisher and Paykel, only 26 inches deep, so it should fit perfectly in the alcove space I’ve set aside for it. And since the kitchen is narrow, the french doors will minimize the amount of space taken up by the fridge even when the doors are open.

The fancy, new fridge.

Estimated time for project: 18 weeks
Time remaining: 7 weeks

Check out the full series (so far) and be sure to join us next week for installment #15 of Dan's Kitchen Renovation.

(Images and diary text: Dan Bailey)

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