Sign In to join the community | Help
Build & Remodel

Where to start?

After much hardwork, sweat, lots of tears, even more tears and stress, we finally became homeowners. Anyone who's purchased a home can certainly relate.


We purchased a 1920 brick home with lots of charm, a strong foundation, a good roof, and no mold - thank goodness.


Here's the breakdown, it needs lots of updating! It didn't seem like it when we chose this house, then we started to realize just how much this would entail...


The kitchen:


The only cabinets are where the sink is located up to the north wall to the doorway. There are upper and lower cabinets. The cabinets are shallow, and some of the drawers alond the bottom are badly broken. Then on the otherside of the north doorway is a 30" upper cabinet only. The countertops are laminate, and are lifting badly.


There is no dishwasher, the walls are lathe and plaster, there are only 2 plugs in the whole kitchen, one of which has no counter/lower cabinetry by it for appliances.


In addition, on the otherside of the north wall is a mudroom where the dryer is located, but for whatever reason, the washer machine has no hookup, and is in a separate room downstairs, (not directly below the mudroom either)


What I'd like to do is:

* new kitchen cabinets, and countertops.

*add a dishwasher

*run a water line through the north wall for the washer machine

*new floors, (thinking tile, probably ceramic)

*add a couple plug outlets

*new lighting/ceiling fan


Is there anyway of doing little things here and there to battle this great list, or will everything have to be torn out at once to do new wiring, plumbing, sheet rocking, etc?


We're on an extreme tight budget, and my husband and I are going to have to learn to do most of the labor ourselves, but we also can't live without a kitchen, (we have a 7yr old and an infant.)


Any help would really be appreciated!

Not what you were looking for ? Try posting a question
Posted 2012-03-12T23:07:03+0000  by buttercupbass buttercupbass

Hello buttercupbass and thank you for joining our How to Community.


Let’s start with;

Yes, yes and yes I can certainly relate to your experience with home purchase.

Did I say yes?:smileyindifferent:


Where to start?


Good starting point would be your question, right?:smileylol:


Is there any way of doing little things here and there to battle this great list, or will everything have to be torn out at once to do new wiring, plumbing, sheet rocking, etc?



My biggest concern with your project is electrical.


Having said this is a home build in 1920s and that there are only 2 outlets in the whole kitchen and no ceiling fans makes me think you may still have original knob and tube wiring.

Knob and tube wiring cannot be combined with today’s modern electrical systems. Most municipalities still allow you to keep knob and tube wiring in your home but only under condition that it stays undisturbed. Typically what happens with knob and tube is that building department will require the whole home to be brought up to code when you begin any rewiring work.

Adding a dishwasher;

I don’t know the layout of your kitchen but in ideal world you may be able to run new electrical for the dishwasher and outlets while you’re working on the new water lines for the washer. You are probably going to have to remove plaster on the mudroom side of the wall so that water lines can be routed and sewer modified.

 We are going back to electrical again with your next question…

My advice would be to check first if you have knob and tube wiring for right now.


Also post some pictures of the current layout we have experts here on the community that can chime in with some design suggestions as well.


Hope this helps.



Posted 2012-03-13T21:01:16+0000  by George_HD_CHI

Hello buttercupbass and welcome,

I can understand what you are going through but it really depends on your budget how far you want to go and how fast.

Unfortunately there is no way of doing it a little at a time, this will cause you more headache than its worth.

Steeltoes is correct in checking your electrical first, because you will need a few new circuits added to your kitchen to accomplish what you would like to.

Before you start any construction seal and close off any a/c or heating vents in the areas where you will be working also close the area off with some plastic to keep all the dust in the Kitchen so it does not go throughout the entire house.

If it was my house the first thing I would want to do is make a detailed drawing of my kitchen on where the new countertops and cabinets will be along with the Plumbing and Electrical, then I would update my electrical the best I could, like changing the Fuse panel to an updated Breaker panel with new wiring.


I would do this before I even started on the kitchen.  If you take the time to do the electrical correctly now, it will save you a lot of time and money later and it will be a lot safer for you and your children.


Next I would remove the old cabinets and countertops and old flooring.

After all that is done then I would rework the electrical and Plumbing to what you have on your drawings for your new Kitchen.


Flooring would be my next move and the Cabinets after that.


Its not the easiest job in the world to do your own Kitchen yourself but you can do it.  just have patience.

Don't think it can be done in 2 days, It will take you about 2-3 weeks if all goes well.



Just an FYI when you start to demo your kitchen keep a food budget because you WILL be eating out for at least a week or two while this is being done.

Posted 2012-03-14T13:41:29+0000  by AAriondo

That definitely puts a lot in perspective.


I'm not sure about the wiring situation, the kitchen does have a ceiling fan and two light fixtures that are newer - within the last 5yrs it looks like, and the mudroom that is adjacent to the kitchen has the breaker box, (not a fuse box) which is new, and still has 4 open slots to it.


How can I tell about what wiring I have in the kitchen? What would I be looking for?


I'll have to get some pictures up, I agree that it would help give some perspective to the layout of our kitchen.


If our kitchen does have the tube wiring, does that mean that in order to replace and update it, we'd have to do the entire house at that time too?


Thank you both so much, I look forward to learning more so that we can progress with an informed direction.

Posted 2012-03-29T08:06:08+0000  by buttercupbass
Ok, if you do have a breaker box and some new lighting fixtures you might have some new wiring also.
If you can carefully take off the panel cover and take a couple pictures of the wires coming into it and also maybe a receptacle and switch, that would help.
If you could get the pictures up this morning, Stukas will be in around 9:30 am est and he could help you with this also.

Posted 2012-03-29T11:27:33+0000  by AAriondo

Hi buttercupbass.  This could be a fun project if taken in small bites. I've done wiring in old homes like this and there is one thing that makes it easy.  Plan on putting sheetrock over the old walls.  We sell a 1/4 inch and it goes up easily.  With that in mind cutting holes and fishing wire becomes easier because we don'd care about the old lathe.  Like AAriondo said you will need  to upgrade the electrical if it hasn't been done.  Look in the attic and take pictures of the wiring.  If you see two bare wires in parallel with insulators this is knob and tube like was mentioned by steeltoe.  This needs to be replaced by a qualified electrician.  Bringing the wiring up to code will increase the value of your home and make it sell(If you're planning on flipping it).  Hope this helps.  Stukas   

Posted 2012-03-29T14:01:21+0000  by Stukas


The fact that the house has a breaker box rather than a fuse box, indicates that the house has been worked on in recent years. There is usually a label on the breaker box indicating when the work was done and by which electrician. If a permit was pulled (and there should have been), the inspector would have signed off on it. The amps still available can be determined by the size of the main breaker and the total amperage of all the branch circuits. They should total no more than the main.


You should have a master plan of what your kitchen should eventually look like. Only with a master plan can you know exactly where all new electrical circuits and plumbing lines should be. Personally, I would consider gutting to the studs those walls which contain the majority of these electrical and plumbing elements.  This would give unimpeded access to run the new lines. If it is an exterior wall, it would also allow you to insulate the walls. A 1920's house would have little or no insulation. Also, if any window alterrations are intended, this would be the perfect time to do it. The wall could then be drywalled and painted and the original sinks etc, temporarily used until the next stage is feasible. Should you decide to have a professional run your electrical and plumbing, the fact that the wall is totally open would reduce the pro's bid.


You could also buy the base cabinets which will eventually hold the new sink and dishwasher. I would be concerned that the cabinets are "open stock" which would still be available at some future time. Low cost temporary counter tops could be improvised from MDF which has been coated with a couple coats of Polyurethane varnish. MDF actually looks kind of interesting when varnished. It looks a little like cork. It can also be stained. This would certainly hold up for a year or two until permanent countertops could be afforded.


Just a few thoughts. Good luck!

Posted 2012-03-30T00:31:26+0000  by ordjen
Not what you were looking for ? Try posting a question