What Lies Beneath: The 12-Year Kitchen

Our kitchen renovation project started out with a couple of hidden land mines, and moved quickly into a series of hidden works of art.

Fortunately for us, we were working with an architect and contractor who knew how to anticipate landmines, and we’d been living in the house long enough to know where the likely locations were. We’d had trouble with termites before, particularly on the side of the house where we were about to build, and Keith had seen lots of houses with termite damage. So our contract anticipated having to replace lots of old wood—and it’s a good thing, because there certainly was termite damage.

Termite damage in the floor under our refrigerator

Photo: RHenry

It was hard to believe the old extension was actually standing at all—we discovered that it was held up at each corner by a single 2×4 planted on a brick.  And the extent of the termite damage was simply amazing—one of those corner 2x4s was chewed through to almost nothing. Entire chunks of flooring were eaten through—including the floor right under where our refrigerator had been standing.

Since so much of the damage was in the extension that was coming down anyway, we could just marvel at it as it was carted away. But the sill under the main house had evidence of termites, too, along with signs of water damage from a long-ago leaky sink, so that all had to be repaired or replaced. We unearthed the old gas pipes, fortunately empty and disconnected, that once fueled the lights in our house. Two mysterious water pipes reached high up the kitchen wall—we theorize that they once fed a wall-mounted heater, and we’re grateful they were no longer connected to anything.

The hidden works of art lay in the framing and roofing that Keith built over the next few weeks. Norm’s plan had called for a walk-out bow window, a single unit we could order from a window manufacturer. Keith was worried about how he’d be able to match the existing casing on such a unit, so he asked us to order three individual windows instead. Then he went to work framing it—by hand, calculating angles and miters in the rim, joists, and studs, and cutting everything with amazing precision.

Framing for the new kitchen extension

Photo: RHenry

That was impressive enough until I watched him creating the new hip roof. Also by hand, also one angle and miter cut at a time—now I find myself looking at hip roofs in a whole new way. They are amazing structures indeed, and it’s a shame nobody gets to see the craftsmanship that goes into building a great one. And we have a great one! (We threw Keith a curve ball by deciding we wanted a skylight in it, but he never missed a beat.)

Keith Mazzarello framing the hip roof on our kitchen extension

Photo: RHenry

The down side is that doing things right takes time, and we were well into May by the time the walls and rafters were done. We still needed plywood sheathing, and windows and door installed, before we’d be enclosed. I will be eternally grateful that we had taken Keith’s advice and waited on the start date—we ended up open to the elements from the first week in March until the second week in June, more than three months. I shudder to imagine those months if they’d been December, January, and February!

The hip roof, complete

Photo: RHenry

Next: Small Choices, Big Decisions—and Hoping It All Comes Together

For more on kitchen remodeling, consider:

2011 Kitchen Trends
Create an Outdoor Dream Kitchen
Quick Tip: Budget Kitchen Remodeling