Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thar She Blows!

I think this entire house could be considered to be my white whale, but in this instance I'm referring only to the newly built and installed range hood. The installation was somewhat uneventful, in that I didn't drop any tools and damage anything, I didn't spill any paint, and I didn't knock any unintended holes in anything. I'm especially nervous and cautious when working in a room that is essentially finished and used every day, like the kitchen. When working in a room like this, my mantra is, “Above all else, do no harm”.

Building the housing for the Broan PM390 Custom Hood Power Pack Module was pretty straight forward. Fabricating boxes from old redwood T&G bevel board is the same type of construction I used in the cabinets for several rooms, so there is really nothing to figure out. It is pretty much just scrape paint, sand, measure, cut, glue, and assemble. Deciding on the right size was the only real challenge. I toyed around with a larger cabinet that had doors or shelves on either side of the Broan PM390 Custom Hood Power Pack Module, but for a number of reasons decided against it.

In the end I decided on a simple box whose soul purpose was to hold the Broan PM390 Custom Hood Power Pack Module. The dimensions of the box were decided largely by the location of the existing chimney vent I needed to connect the Broan PM390 Custom Hood Power Pack Module to. The Broan PM390 Custom Hood Power Pack Module needs to be 24 to 30 inches above the stove and then tall enough to hide all of the exhaust ducts. It needed to be wide enough to hide the chimney opening and still be centered over the area where the stove sits.

After constructing the box I needed to get electrical up on the wall. Again, this was pretty straight forward. After re-wiring the entire house myself this sort of thing is fairly routine. The outlet for the refrigerator is on the wall just to the left of the stove. The only real challenges were 1) getting through the horizontal framing member that the beadboard is nailed to, and 2) getting through the wall stud. As I pointed out in my last post, the reason I'm doing this project now is because I don't want to knock a lot of holes in the kitchen walls. Because I'm going to start work in the parlors next, I have no problem knocking holes in the those walls. The whole process took about an hour.

The red lines show where the studs are and the blue line shows where the wire runs. You can see I also made a repair to the plaster from damage left over from the 2009 earthquake. This was the very first wall I every plastered. This was done in my pre-blogging days and if I could I would do it over. I really learned a lot. What is most frustrating about that damage is that the original plaster from 1895 came through the earthquake fine. It was my skim-coat that popped off. Grrrr!

On the other side of that wall is the parlor side. By measuring carefully I could cut out one section of the Carson Mill Plaster Board and then drill 2 small holes to fish the wire from the existing outlet to the spot on the wall over the stove where the new outlet needed to be for the Broan PM390 Custom Hood Power Pack Module.

With the electrical in place I could mount the box on the wall and install the Broan PM390 Custom Hood Power Pack Module. Again, this went pretty smooth. I used a lot of duct tape and strapping to make sure everything would stay secure when the next 6.0 or greater strikes. I don't want to have to open the box back up once it is complete.

And here are a few shots of the almost finished product. There is one more small piece of trim detail that needs to go on, but for all intent and purpose, this is the finished look. While not even close to the over-the-top custom range hoods seen in most design magazines, I think it has a certain understated elegance that works well with the rest of my kitchen.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Parlor Pre-Project

Working on a house is like working on a puzzle. You may be holding the piece of the puzzle with the smiling girls face on it and you know exactly where it goes, but you need to finish the edges first and work your way towards that part of the puzzle. That is what is happening with the parlor project. Believe it or not, the parlor project starts with work in the kitchen.

Ahh, the kitchen. The never ending project that is The Kitchen. The first time I “finished” the kitchen I had a round kitchen table in the center of the room. That didn't work out too well, so I got rid of the table and built an island, complete with marble top and copper prep sink. Best thing I ever did.

The second time I “finished” the kitchen I removed the free standing cabinet in the alcove so I could put the refrigerator there. That cabinet ended up in the butler's pantry. That worked for a little while, but the refrigerator was awkward to get to in the alcove. To remedy that problem, I yanked out the 1890s cast iron stove, moved the gas stove over, and moved the refrigerator out of the alcove and put it where the gas stove was.

The last time I “finished” the kitchen was just two years ago when I built the marble desk in the alcove. I'm now sitting at that desk, as I write. This was another great idea and I now really had a finished kitchen except for one little thing. When I first started the kitchen back in 2005 I shopped for a range hood. The local home center has a selection of range hoods that are all totally inadequate. They are designed to go with modern cabinets and modern appliances in a modern kitchen. There is nothing the wrong with a modern design, but that is not what I was doing. Having one of those range hoods stuck on the wall over a vintage stove would have looked completely out of place.

At the time I shopped around for custom designed range hoods, but could not really justify $3,500 for a copper, over-the-top, McMansionesq range hood. I had only spent about $10,000 on what was pretty much a gut-remodel of the kitchen and there was no way I was going spend $3,500 on something that looked like it belonged in a Roman temple. It would have looked just as out of place as the much smaller modern range hood would have.

I really couldn't find any middle ground in a range hood. I thought about finding someone to fabricate something to my design - that is, if I had a design - but the idea became very back-burner in what was a huge kitchen project at the time and eventually sort of just fell off the back of the stove. No pun intended.

The reason this has come back to the front-burner now (to extend the metaphor) is because I never gave up on the idea of a range hood. In fact, the stove has always needed more lighting. It is one of those things that I always intended to do, but sort of gave up on it because I couldn't come up with a good solution. If I'm going to install one though, I need electricity on the wall over the stove.

The thought of cutting in to the wall up high above the stove is not something I really want to do. It would be a mess, of course, but more than that the kitchen has beadboard on the lower third of all of the walls. I can't simply drill a hole and drop a wire down in the wall. There is a horizontal framing member 3.5 feet up that I would need to get through. On top of that, the fireplace for the parlors is right behind this wall. It is hard to say how far the brick extends in the wall, but the fireplace in the parlor is set at an angle and the chimney has 2 flues, one for the parlor fireplace and one to vent the original wood or coal burning kitchen stove.

What I can do though, is work from the parlor side. That wall opposite the kitchen is in very rough shape and will need to be stripped down to lath and re-plastered. Cutting holes to run wire will not be an issue at all. On the kitchen side I will just need cut a hole large enough for a single gang electrical box. It will make a small mess, but nothing compared to trying to do all of the work from the kitchen side.

In short, now is the time to do this if I'm every going to do it at all.

I'm still left with the problem of the range hood itself. I found a site on line for Vent-a-Hood that has a “Build a Hood” applet on their web site. There is one style listed as JCH/C2 that is not really over-the-top and definitely not a run-of-the-mill hood either. Also, it is not made of copper, so it could be in my price range. Unfortunately, I never found out what one would cost. Several times, from several different computers and different web browsers, I tried to use the applet to get a quote. Each time it crashed on me when I clicked the “Submit Quote” button.

I contacted customer service. They wrote back a very nice email saying they were unaware of the problem and suggested I use the “Find a Dealer” applet on their site to find a dealer in my area. I could contact the dealer and get a quote. I had similar problems finding a dealer and another email to customer service was met with silence, so I gave up.

I was at Sears the next week and I had the idea that I can buy a garden variety range hood and wrap in wood or trim it out in some fashion so it looks like it belongs. I pimped out the fridge in oak and it came out ok, so why not the range hood. The trouble with that idea is that they all have the controls on the front. It just wouldn't work. I then went to the home center to see if they had something that would work, but they had pretty much the same selection as Sears.

What the home center did have though, was a catalog from the Broan company, which makes a dizzying array of range hoods. Inside I found the Broan PM390 Custom Hood Power Pack Module. This is basically the guts of a range hood without the hood. This is what is used in making those over-the-top, McMansionesp range hoods that cost $3,500. The PM390 was $325 at the home center, but I found it on-line for $189 and free shipping.

One, please!

So now I'm in the process of making the box to house the Broan PM390 Custom Hood Power Pack Module. I'm using more of my seemingly endless supply of redwood bevel board that came out of the 2 story addition I dismantled. This is the same bevel board I used to make the kitchen island and the cabinets in the kitchen, bathroom, and butler's pantry. I will trim it out with a 3 part cornice, just as I did the kitchen cabinets I made. It should (fingers crossed) look like it belongs.

Fresh from the woodshed

Cut, stripped, and sanded

The hope is that I can have some assembly done by next weekend so I can get a sense of where the outlet needs to be. With that information I can start to open the wall to find out how much brick I need to cut through. Hopefully, not much.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I've Got It Covered

An alternate name for this post could be 'Hoarders' because I've been hoarding cardboard for the past year just for this weekend. This is my form of drop cloth. I first put down plastic and then on top of that a layer of cardboard with the edges taped together. Preferably I'm working with large pieces of cardboard or the process can be quite tedious. This is the reason for the hoarding. Anytime a box from a dishwasher or piece of office furniture came along I jumped on it.

And now all of my bizarre behavior over the past year is finally paying off.

The big opening between the 2 parlors was reduced down to a pair of french doors during the apartment days, so that will all need to be trimmed out again. I imagine there was a nice spandrel or some fret work there at one time. The verdict is still out as to whether I will attempt to redo that. In a picture below you can see where there was once a door that lead to the kitchen. This was also during the apartment period. It has already be closed off and plastered over on the kitchen side.

The drop-cloth will stay down until after the plaster work is finished. Then I just slice it in to sections, roll it up, and off to the dump it goes. The walls in this room are par for the house. Not the best, but definitely not the worst. The rolling scaffold I made when I did the dining room and then I used it again in the foyer. It has been dismantled and tucked away in the garage since last year. Best $75 I ever spent.

This wall, while it doesn't look too bad, is really little more than a sheet of plaster leaning up against the wall. Most of the keys are broken. How it survived the 2009 earthquake, I'll never know.

These are the other 2 really bad walls that will need to be completely redone. The rest will need patch work and then a skim-coat for the everything. Fortunately, the ceilings are in very good to near perfect condition. There is one spot in the front parlor that has issues, but other than that they are in good shape. This is good because even with the scaffold I hate doing ceilings.