For some crazy reason (cocaine), architects in the 1980s thought it would be a good idea to design “dropped,” or artificially lowered ceilings in the kitchen and other downstairs rooms. Whether this was done for aesthetic or economic reasons, nobody knows, but for those of you that aren’t familiar with residential construction (all 6 of you reading this), the minimum standard height of a residential building is 8 feet, with “dropped” ceilings coming in at a paltry 7 feet high. The cavities that these artificially lowered ceilings created was often filled with wiring, duct-work, florescent lighting or rat carcasses.
Being a slightly larger than average height American male at 5’11.5″ (6′ on my license), I was not content to live under a ceiling of such questionable integrity, so I decided to raise the ceiling up from 7′ to 8′. This involved demolishing the existing ceiling, relocating all of the plumbing, wiring and HVAC ducting, and then replacing the ceiling at the new height. Here are some photos of the original ceiling prior to demolition, note the hole above the oven, where I had to fix the plumbing several months ago (follow-up post coming eventually).
I covered the cabinets, countertops and appliances with plastic and prepared to demolish the existing ceiling. I also demolished the ceiling in the adjacent hallway in the hopes of raising it up as well, or at the very least having easier access to the plumbing/wiring/etc. that was running into the kitchen. Demolition was performed using a crow bar, claw hammer, and my Ryobi cordless reciprocating saw. Considering none of my fingers/limbs were removed accidentally, and no gas lines were ruptured, I considered this operation to be a success.
Tearing out the original ceiling revealed a mess of false framing, wiring, a gas line, and some really shoddy HVAC work. Also, a fully intact rat skeleton, probably dead since the Reagan administration…
When I began to demolish the ceilings, I foolishly thought the two large boxes that I had would be enough to dispose of the existing drywall. However, when I had finished with almost half of the kitchen ceiling, the 4 foot high pile of construction debris in the middle of the room told me that I had planned poorly. I ran out to Home Depot and picked up a WM Bagster, or portable dumpster, to dispose of the carnage. These things cost about $30 at Home Depot, and Waster Management will come and pick them up for another $150. Not the best option if you can plan ahead, but when you’re dumb like me it’s a great solution.
Plumbing, Electrical and HVAC
So after removing all of the old drywall, some HVAC ducting, and all of the false framing that wasn’t needed to support the gas lines and electrical, the demolition phase had ended. The next step was to begin re-routing all of the electrical and HVAC work through the floor joists, and to replace the lighting.
I decided to replace the recessed light over where the kitchen table should be with a pendant light, replace all of the existing “remodel housing” recessed lights to “new construction models”, and replace the existing pendant light over the sink with something more modern. Here is a better view of the new recessed lights that I installed, and an existing gas line and HVAC duct that needed to be relocated. I decided to pay a plumber (fucking $600) to relocate the gas line, rather than die a painful fiery death, and opted to do the HVAC myself.
Over the next 6 weeks I would slowly re-route the remainder of the electrical and what not. Here are some pictures of the re-routed electrical, put through the floor joists. In total, I would say there were about 18 wires that needed to be cut and spliced, or cut and extended, including three 220 volt wires, and a 120 amp sub-panel wire that I again opted to have an electrician take care of (fucking $300). I also decided to remove one of the two existing HVAC vents in the kitchen, mainly because it was way too fucking hard to maintain the second one, while still raising the ceiling. I’m not sure how negatively this will impact the performance of the HVAC system in the house, but it’s the middle of the summer and I can’t fucking tell any difference. Here are some pictures of the wiring operation, in case that sort of thing interests you.
In that last picture, you can see where I routed the HVAC for the living room right through the top of the pantry. It’s not an elegant solution, but it works, and unless you look up inside the pantry, you can hardly even notice it. Also important to note, is that this marks the first time that I have ever used duct tape, on a duct.
Framing up the cabinets
Since there is loads of plumbing, electrical and HVAC ducting above the cabinets, I decided that it would be a better idea to frame and drywall above the cabinets, than to bother re-routing all of that plumbing ($$$$$). It’s not ideal, but it works, and I think it looks pretty nice once you see the finished product. Also I’d like to mention that making the framing above these cabinets for the drywall was extremely difficult, and if you don’t think that my framing is impressive then you can just go fuck yourself.
So after almost three months of demolition, electrical work, HVAC work, framing, and rat carcasses, I was finally able to have the drywall put back up. Drywall is not something that I care to learn how to do myself, and so I got a few bids from different contractors. They needed to replace the ceiling at the height of the joists (8′), and patch/texture the walls to match the existing orange peel consistency. I opted to texture the ceiling myself, so that it would match what I have been doing in the rest of the house. Here are some pictures of the drywall, before texture and paint. You can see how much extra height was added (1′) after I finished this massive undertaking.
At the same time, I decided to scrape the last small patch of popcorn ceiling inside the front door, so that I could texture and paint it at the same time as the kitchen/hallway. Here is a picture of the entry-way ceiling post-scraping.
The finished product
I still can’t believe how good of a job the drywall guys did, they matched the wall texture perfectly, and the ceiling looks great. The corners and framing over the cabinets looks so good, that you would think it was new construction. Anyway, they finished up last week, and I took advantage of the long July 4th weekend to texture and paint the ceilings, install the new pendant lights, paint the walls and trims, and painted a couple of doors too, just for fun. Here are some pictures of the final product, I’m going to replace a few of the doors downstairs, so just try to ignore the remaining beige doors/trim.
Anyway, that’s that, sorry for the shitty pictures. The kitchen ceiling is now one foot higher, and everything has been painted and updated. Overall, I probably spent around $3k, and about 80 hours of solid manual labor, but I think it was worth it. I worked on a few other projects during this time, which I may post about at a later date, but I just don’t really feel like fucking writing anymore, so if you actually made it this far and you actually read the text, thanks, otherwise go fuck yourself.