1. Prequel: Before the Adventure Began: Installing the Hood
The kitchen remodel actually started a few weeks ago when we bought the first appliance, a 36-inch Kenmore hood. We drug that monster home and put it in the basement in mid-May. A week later, I got the bug and set to. It was simple, all I had to do was remove the 50-year old existing Kitchen Aire hood (including disconnecting the electrical, which always makes my wife a bit nervous), take the bottom out of the cupboard above, cut four inches off the bottom of the cupboard without wrecking anything else, replace the bottom of the cupboard, install the new hood including hooking up the electrical (which always makes my wife a bit nervous) and, as I so like to say, voila.
Fueled by my favorite Lapsang Soochong tea stiffened with 3 heaping spoonfuls of brown sugar, I began. I took one look at the scummy old hood and went to the garage to get latex gloves. Then, overcoming my repugnance, pulled the filter for the last time. I removed the three mismatched screws driven through the sheet metal into the bottom of the cupboard that had held the hood in place for half a century, swung it down and rested it on a Pull-Ups box, facing towards the door. I then ran back and forth between the breaker box and kitchen pulling breakers until I got the correct one. The wiring was dead simple and in a moment I was hauling the old hood out the door to the neighboring apartment’s dumpster. So long!
I knocked out the front frame piece carefully so I could reuse it and barely damaged the side pieces in the process. Then, out came the shelf and floor of the cupboard followed by the old vent pipe. Taking apart things in this house is always easy as anything not original is more or less wedged in place. I’ll be surprised if the counter has more than two nails holding it on.
The main furnace we replaced two years ago was hanging on to one rusty wood screw. The furnace guys thought that was funny. I was glad to see it wasn’t held on by a coat hanger. Anyway, back to the vent. I pulled the wooden covering around the vent pipe off and saved it for future use. The vent pipe fell away from the ancient vertical pipe at a touch. When I put it back together it was fastened in just a tad better.
Then came the irreversible part, cutting off the bottom of the cupboard with a jig saw.
I hauled the new hood up from the basement and that trip told me I had to strengthen the mounting considerably from the 25-lb Modern Aire configuration. The new one weighs like 50 lbs. After figuring out how I wanted everything to go together, I measured about a thousand times and gripped my jigsaw. I probably could have lightly nailed a fence along the cut line since we are painting, anyway, but I just lined ‘er up and let ‘er rip. Got it pretty straight—straight enough to cover with a thin piece of trim, anyway. Next, strengthening the mounting site.
The easiest way to strengthen the cabinet was to bolt 2x4s on the inside, which spread out the weight, but are incredibly ugly. I will repair the ugliness when we paint. I used big old wood screws countersunk so I can patch and paint over them. Somewhere along the day, I went to Home Depot and got a 2×4-foot section of ¾ plywood from which I now cut a new cupboard floor, and trimmed out the hole for the exhaust vent pipe. I used big wood screws to fasten the new floor to the 2×4 ends and put the hood on a makeshift jig of two diaper boxes which I could turn to get slightly higher and lower heights. After hoisting the hood into place about 30 score times to check the fit, I finally pulled the wires through the back port into the connection box and we got ready to swing the whole unit into place for the last time. As we maneuvered it around, someone finally got shocked.
It was dark, by now. Near 9 o’clock at night, and I had been at it 12 hours. I had switched the breaker back on so we would have light. The wires were clipped off in the insulation, so only the tiniest surface of copper was exposed, but that was enough when the ends brushed against the metal back plate and shot a spark into Alexandra’s ear. We were in the midst of heaving it into place and there was nothing to be done except a head jerk and a shriek, then we got on with it. Stout fella, that girl.
Twenty minutes later the hood was held in place by six brass wood screws the size of a ten-year-old’s thumb. Full credit to Alexandra for holding that monster in place while I drilled the holes and ran the screws in. That was about it for the job that day. The next day I finished up.
Sunday morning I got started about 10, mounting the front frame piece, which went very nicely back into place four inches higher than it had been for the last 50 years. Hope it enjoys the improved view. At this point, I realized one end of the hood stuck out farther than the other by ¼ inch. Too far to ignore. Again with Alexandra’s help we dropped it down enough to shift and re-drill holes, so it was square and flush with the cupboard front.
Next, outside to cut down the cupboard doors to their new height. Easy as pie as long as you measure carefully and the router doesn’t get loose and gouge a divot in the edge. All went well and the doors went right in.
Things moved quickly, now. I hooked up the electrical, giving myself the second shock of the job when I was rummaging around inside the tiny junction box arranging the incoming wires. I didn’t yell as I have been shocked many times; it was daytime, so I went out and pulled the breaker. The wires coming in were white and black with a bare copper wire coming from the conduit alongside the insulated power wires. I presumed the bare wire was the ground, and must have been right as the house hasn’t burned to the ground, yet. The hood had black, white and green wires, and I knew the green was the ground, so it would have taken an imbecile to screw up the connections.
That said, I should note that in the old one, the connections were reversed—white to black, black to white, so I really wasn’t sure if the whole thing was going to work or start smoking right away. Everyone was at the park so it was a perfect time to test the connections. I stared at the open connection box on the hood for a long moment. Then went out and pulled the breaker. It didn’t immediately pop, so I knew things were probably okay. Still, I was a bit anxious as I rounded the corner , but the hood was just sitting there, not in flames at all, so: success!
The final step came a week later when I built stepped spice shelves into the cabinet out of the old shelf. Since the cabinet was higher, even though we’re both tall, we couldn’t see more than the first row of spices. Once up on their little step, everything was visible. The next week, after extensive online shopping, we went back to the Sears Outlet for a cooktop to match and got a beaut: five-burner Kenmore that matches the hood at a knocked-down Internet price of about half its retail cost. Two weeks after that, we got a Kohler double basin sink at Home Depot, the only appliance we have paid full price for. Those are in the basement waiting for the new countertops.
For a full photo set with more glib captions, click here.
Follow the whole story of the Great Kitchen Renovation of 2011!
The Kitchen Adventure Begins
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