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Build & Remodel

The joys of remodeling an older home.

I have a home that was built in 1934 (used to be the birthing center for this small town - interesting history).  I have completely remodeled one of the upstairs bedrooms and the pantry, and am in the middle of extensive remodeling in several other areas.  This includes a complete rewire of 90% of the house as nothing is grounded and the lights are all on knob & tube wiring.  Since the wiring needs to be replaced and none of the exterior walls are insulated (plus everything is lath and plaster - yuck), I am gutting each room to the studs and moving forward from there.


In doing this, I am seeing a lot of previous attempts at remodeling, and a lot of it is done wrong.  For example, the bedroom upstairs that I just finished had one wall made from 1/2" plywood (CDX grade, not even sanded), and another wall butted up to it overlapping the plywood.  This wall was also floating in between the ceiling joists with no cross members installed to attach it.  The can light over the shower upstairs was improperly installed and had a metal trim ring and no seal.  I have replaced the trim ring with a proper one, but the can light is so rusted inside that it will need to be replaced soon.


In our bedroom, the closet apparently had a 32" doorway that was widened to allow for a double-wide closet with bi-fold doors.  The existing studs were cut away without replacing the header and no king studs were added for support.  Also, the door to the bedroom was narrowed from 36" to 32", but instead of adding another stud, the gap was filled with 1x4 scrap doubled up (some of it looks like it was used for concrete forms).  Fortunately that wall is not load bearing.  The wall between the bedroom and the livingroom is however.  That is where at some point they ran head vents from the basement up.  And since the wall studs do not line up with the floor joists, they cut the bottoms off the studs without framing them in.  The only thing holding them in place is the lath on the livingroom side.


The most recent remodel I will have to redo is the kitchen.  It was apparently done in 1996, but when it was done, very little rewiring was done, the existing plumbing was untouched, and the walls are not insulated.  I have a gas stove, but the stove vent is not connected to the outside.  The shutoff valves for the sink are ancient and leak (minor) but they are frozen to the equally ancient galvanized pipes running throughout the house.  Due to them leaking, the cabinet under the sink made from very cheap MDF has soaked it up like a sponge and is now severely warped.


I am enjoying the work I am putting into this house, and my efforts should last a long time.  Every thing I have added or redone has been well beyond minimal code, and that makes me feel really good.  To all of those DIY'ers taking on remodeling projects, my suggestion is to get as much information on what you are wanting to do as possible.  The most of people at Home Depot come from the various trades and really know their stuff.  And if they can't answer your questions, they have a lot of good books at the store that can help guide you on your various projects.  One simple key is if it doesn't look right, it probably isn't right.  Take the time to do it right the first time and it will last the life of the house.



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Posted 2011-02-22T18:48:07+0000  by GrueMaster GrueMaster

Hello GrueMaster!  It sounds like your home’s previous life as the town’s birthing center is experiencing a rebirth of its own.   You have been working on a number of projects - how long have you been working on this house?


It sounds like you have extensive remodeling skills – and a lot of patience!  I appreciate the time you took to share about your experiences.  I help design kitchens, and while we try to set a realistic timeframe for the project, situations like you described do occur.  Education is critical and doing things right will definitely last longer (and cost less) in the long run.


We would love to hear about your progress on the kitchen.  Please keep us posted. 

Posted 2011-02-22T21:20:40+0000  by Eileen_HD_ATL
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