“Mel, I can’t live with our tiny kitchen! We are either going to build an addition, or move out!”
My client was frustrated with her 6’ deep by 8’ long nondescript kitchen, with handmade “cabinets” and a cracked ceramic tile floor. Clearly someone with primitive handyman skills had “renovated” the kitchen. The old house held promise and I was eager to see what I could do.
Off the dining room, in the small back yard, lay a nondescript deck and a detached two-car garage. There was little room to park my van and set up tools! Bringing in a backhoe was out of the question: I’d have to dig the footings by hand! I agonized: shall I take on this job or pass it by? It’s the perfect job to do solo, I reasoned. It’s a job few other contractors would want to undertake. Am I getting myself into something I will come to regret, a small voice asked? I batted the issues around and even asked my wife for her thoughts. Then I agreed to take on the job, provided it was on a time-material basis: $40/hr and documented material costs. My “guesstimate” was in the $30,000 range. The competing bid was for $50,000! The job was mine!
I began work in mid December, 2006. While digging the foundation I hit a cistern, 8 feet across and 10 feet deep! An electric jack hammer would not so much as dent it! With a sledge hammer and brute force I worked my way through, filled the empty cistern with gravel, and poured the concrete footing. Foundation blocks were laid in late December, and floor framing began in early January. I left the exterior wall between the old kitchen and the addition in place until the addition was fully enclosed and insulated.
While tearing out the kitchen ceiling I ran into a new problem: second floor joists had been badly compromised during the previous bathroom remodel. A 9 foot span of 2×6 floor joists and the roof load were bearing on an undersized 2×6 beam! To take these loads off the existing beam I built a temporary support wall in the kitchen, telescoping vertical supports to the basement floor. Then I threaded a thick beam into the existing wall pockets and “sistered” new floor joists next to the existing ones. Carefully, ever so carefully, I let the full weight of the second floor bear on the new beam. And then I caught my breath!
I hope the photos convey the care I took to visually wed old and new construction. I laid an oak floor in the new kitchen, sanded the existing dining room floor, and applied stain and latex finish. I tore out existing pine trim in the dining room and replaced it with new trim, matching the original design. My trim boards are made of paint grade maple plywood, wrapped in solid pine edging. This is a cost effective method, and since all interior trim is painted, the use of plywood is masked.
Kitchen cabinets are by IKEA, the Swedish cabinet maker. They were easy to assemble on the job by the owner. Counter tops are Corian. The wall opening between the existing dining room and new kitchen was enlarged. Decorative ceramic tiles, made by the owner’s mother, were cut-to-fit, and installed in conjunction with factory made wall tiles.
My actual “time material” cost, including a partial rebuilding of the deck, was $21,000. Add electrical work and heat, and the final bill was near my original “guesstimate” of $30,000. The project took four months. Considering the cold of winter and extreme snow, I think it a reasonable period of time for a project of this scope.
The current owner recently asked me to replace all downstairs windows and refinish hardwood floors.