Working on the Old House #6 Let’s Get Cooking!

Well, no cooking yet, but let’s rip out this old kitchen and make something a little nicer for the folks that will buy this place.

First we’ll make quick work of this old basement door. Messed up would be a charitable description. We’ll take it down, sand and resurface and give it a new coat of paint. We’ll remove and rebuild the casings.

OK, that’s done. Now on to the kitchen.

I started taking out the old metal cabinets before I remembered I needed some ‘before’ photos. So here’s a shot with one upper cabinet down and several more to go. These were metal cabinets put in the 1920 home probably around 1940. From a distance, they don’t look too bad, but the sink area was rusted through and they were pretty messed up. The Formica top and banding was worn out.

So a little later we have the uppers and lower cabinets out. Plumbing is a mess and the two side cabinets were built in place. I contemplated leaving them – but I think you can guess they won’t survive. I’ll also redo the plumbing – maybe I’ll add a dishwasher….hum…

The uppers were still in OK shape, so they got to go to a new home somewhere in Illinois.

Now let’s get rid of the soffit. I made a little investigation hole (OK a big investigation hole) and nothing was hiding behind the wallpaper but an old recessed light can and .a clock receptacle.

Still in the same day – out comes the rest of the soffit.

As always, while I’m at it – I might as well replace the single pane metal frame window above the sink.

It ended up being quite the ordeal to remove the window – apparently, the contractor at the time had a metal window meant for masonry installation and thought he’d just use it in the kitchen. A couple hours were needed to get this thing out without destroying the wall.

Since this house was built in 1920, it has traditional plaster and lath walls. This area needs some repair. Fortunately, I’ve worked on old plaster houses for 4 decades, so this is a pretty easy fix. First we plan where to make our repair and draw a plumb line for the cut.

Then we get out our angle grinder (please don’t do this at home – without the guard that is.) An old masonry grinder disc is used to cut the plaster but not the wood lath.

Once the cut is made, all the old loose plaster is removed from the wood lath.

You can use almost any stable material for repair. Here I’ve used two layers of thin plywood, shimmed to closely match the surrounding plaster surface. The plywood is screwed to the wood lath.

To make the repair, you mix up some ‘Hot Mud’ – chemical set drywall compound. It sets by chemical reaction instead of the air dry premixed compound. This is a harder material and works well as the bedding coat.

The first coat of ‘Hot Mud’ is used to bed the spun fiber joint tape. I use FibaFuse tape. This first coat of chemical set compound make a good bond between the patch and the surrounding plaster.

For the next couple of finish coats I use standard premixed drywall compound. The reqular compound is easier to sand and feather out. Here I’ve got a couple fans to speed up the drying process.

So there you go – we’re off to make a new kitchen. We’ll see what we can cook up in this project. It will be done freestyle, with no real plans.

I can almost smell the bacon….

7 thoughts on “Working on the Old House #6 Let’s Get Cooking!

  1. Curt, this is going to be fun to watch! You always work it out to the 9s for a finish. 😉
    May I ask: is the FibaFuse tape good for patching late 50s early 60s ancient drywall? We have some major new cracks in our drywall seams (window corners – ceiling to floor!) due to having the corner of the house foundation lifted and braced. Sigh… patching anything on these walls is often futile, but something about your process gives me hope for a clean finish and a more permanent fix.

    • Hi Lynda!
      I like FibaFuse because it’s thin and strong and the compound saturates the tape to make it embed easier. On cracks I will open up the crack line and make the bottom of the crack wider than the top, like a pyramid. Then use a chemical set drywall compound (powder mix) to bed the tape, using as little compound as possible. Once that is set, I use regular pre mixed topping compound to finish out the repair. If it is in a high stress area (operable doors and windows) I use a 6″ wide fiberglass mesh crack isolation tape and regular premixed drywall compound and have never had cracking issues again. Hope that helps. Merry Christmas!

      • Nice job Curt! I had to laugh as I read this because I’m just about done resurfacing two doors/trim from the 1940s and it’s taken me a better part of 2 weeks of work (a few hours a day) 🤣. One door was solid wood with an old mortise that had been painted 3-4 times, originally with oil based. I had to fill the lock void for a cylinder. Used Rock Hard water putty and had to top with some hardened wood filler (have 10 other doors like this so any tips would be appreciated!)

        Also have an issue similar to Lynda’s as I noticed all the drywall tape joints and seams floor to ceiling are visible. After some investigation I think it’s because all the old nails are popping out. Was going to screw down around every nail, redo the tape joints and skim coat but wondering if there’s an easier method?

        Thanks for the inspiration- only hope I can do half of what you do with some experience!!


        (I commented a few months ago about redoing the parge on my foundation – that’s a whole other story involving a pump truck but finally got it done- never again!)

      • Hi Sara – thanks so much. I’ve had a lot of practice at this stuff, so…
        As to resurfacing doors. I’ve had good luck with using MH Ready Patch for dings and scratches – even leveling the surface with stubborn layers of paint. For bigger cracks and large chips, automotive bondo works very well. If there is a loss – like a large split or missing area, I will cut a small patch and use Tightbond III or epoxy to make the repair and then shave down to match the door profile. I replace all of my door mortises with new ones, but to fill, I would make a wood filler piece to take up the mortise and then finish fill with bondo. MH Ready Patch is a really good product that is waterbased.

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