Old House Kitchen Renovation – Part 1 – Before

Everyone knows the kitchen is the heart of the home. Even if you don’t cook much, or dine in the kitchen, people always seem to gather in the kitchen.

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

One of the reasons we chose our century home was the size of the kitchen. Our house is about 130 years old, but it seems to have a few add-ons here and there! The kitchen was newer than the rest of the house, and yet not particularly attractive. It is possible that this room was a porch that was closed in at some time, possibly in the 1930s. The decor when we moved in was a little bit 1980 and 1990s, so perhaps the cupboards were reconfigured then.

Our goal in renovating the kitchen was to keep it open, make room for lots of people, update the appliances and layout, to make it more functional, and to add some character – suitable for an old house, but to keep the room neutral.

Having just sold our previous country ranch home, we went through kitchen renovation – house sale drama. It’s well known that people can spend many tens of thousands of dollars on their kitchen renos. Real Estate agents will advise you not to renovate your kitchen though, as people always want to change their kitchen when they shop for houses. Don’t do it, they said, people will want to renovate their way. As we showed the house multiple times, we heard, “we’ll have to gut the kitchen”. It was well laid out, with white wooden cupboards an island and new white appliances.

Not wanting to spend $60,000 that wouldn’t please the prospective buyers, we replaced the cupboard doors, (uppers with glass), replaced the hardware, and changed the countertop to quartz. The house sold, but they were going to gut the kitchen!

Some original molding was left on the doorways

In our new century home kitchen we had yards of countertop, but so many overhanging cabinets, that it wasn’t possible to work at the counters without hitting your head. It’s great existing features included: a long expanse of workable space across the back wall, with a big window and partial river-view, 15 by 19 feet of kitchen floor space, 10 foot ceiling height, another smaller window – although in an odd place, a passthrough to the family room and original molding on dining room and basement doors.

The dog won’t fit through the cat door to the basement

The problems included: entrances in odd places, a cat door in basement door, new molding on floor boards and windows, uneven worn oak floors, mold behind refrigerator, asbestos under cupboards, large rodent droppings in cupboards, broken and misshapen cupboards and drawers, kitchen sink not centred under window, older white appliances, yellowed large pot-lights and a lack of character.

Newer molding was did not match the original over damaged floors

We were blessed with plumbing and wiring from this century, although things did need to be moved around.

The best thing that we did with our new-old kitchen, is to live with it through our first summer in the house, with 4 of our adult kids at home. This helped us to appreciate (or not) some of the features and layout of our house. After the kids left for university in the fall, we began to remove most of the cupboards and gradually take them to the dump – a few at a time.

We left all of the appliances and sink and main counter in so that we still had a functional kitchen, and then made our plans. We thought about which work we could do ourselves and what we needed pros for.

We had previously tested the house for asbestos, and knew that the segments of vinyl flooring below our oak floor contained asbestos. We started with professional asbestos removal – which was only in a few places – for $1500.

The asbestos below segments of the floor were professionally removed and replaced

We elected to leave the oak floor in place and have it professionally refinished. We didn’t want to lift it and find that there was more asbestos underneath, so it was best left in place. We had previously had the same oak floor, and knew that it was much harder to scratch than the popular engineered flooring that is on the market now. We also know how to sand and stain floor, but in this large – family room joined with kitchen area – we decided we needed a professional service and a darker matt stain. There was also some replacement of the floor where the cupboards had been, and the floor was quite wavy – so hard to work with. This was $2300.

We needed to have the gas line for the stove moved, and the electric elements moved and so hired electricians and gas fitters for that. We elected to keep the sink and dishwasher close to their original location, so my husband was able to do the plumbing.

Destruction and disposal was our work!

Then we decided the features that we really wanted. My husband wanted a heavy duty gas stove and fan in stainless. I wanted the sink centred under the main window. We decided to look for some trendier but farmhouse style features – a farmhouse sink, some overhead lanterns, open shelving and maybe a reclaimed brick wall? Perhaps an island, some original molding, and some retro looking pieces?

We set to work looking for these things, while the asbestos and flooring were repaired. We had a lot of fun and frustration looking, but eventually settled on some fun pieces from Wayfair, and took advantage of the Way Day sale in April!

We will update you with the reno – before and after photos and some product reviews for our finds! Our thoughts on the reno were, it wasn’t about the cupboards and countertops – they are just boxes and work surfaces, it was about how we were going to use the space and the extra things that we enjoy!

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