Kitchen Soffit Removal

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The long and windy tale of the kitchen soffit removal… don’t say you weren’t warned.

My kitchen renovation began with removing the wallpaper and painting the cabinets. I had solid wood cabinets, but the doors were flat. Both boxes and doors (though doors were particle board type material) were covered with the same faux wood look veneer that was obviously from the 60s/70s era.

Here are some photos from the listing before I bought the house:

You can clearly see the soffit above the cabinets and the veneer on the cabinets. And the wallpaper, don’t forget the wallpaper.

The first project was removing the wallpaper from the whole main floor (living room, dining room, kitchen), which is detailed here.

Then came the wall removal around the kitchen to open everything up. I unfortunately don’t have any photos of that process (lost lots of photos when I got a new phone). Make sure when you are thinking about removing any walls in your home that they are NOT load bearing. Also check with your local permitting office in case you need a permit for wall removal. Generally non-load bearing walls will not require a permit, but it’s always good to check just in case. Load-bearing walls require the installation of a load-bearing beam – and the distributed loads need to be carefully calculated by a structural engineer (permitting office may not issue a permit without this step).

Luckily, my walls were not load-bearing, so it was just demolition (I actually paid a friend to do the demo part) and then patching up. My dad works pretty close to my house, so he came over during lunch breaks to patch my ceiling and walls where the walls were removed.

Back to the soffit…

This is what my kitchen looked like after we removed the wallpaper, surrounding kitchen walls; and you can see where we cut the counter tops to remove the cook top so I could put my new gas range in.

The circle hole was actually originally covered up by a clock on the wall. I believe the hole was cut out at some point to rig up the florescent light above the sink. I say rigged up because there were electrical splices everywhere… definitely not to code. You can also see some hanging wires in the foreground that weren’t quite moved around after the wall was removed. The square hole was where my dad and I cut in to peak through behind the soffit.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky to have just empty space behind the soffit. There were quite a few electrical wires and water/drain pipes. I knew the house had been re-plumbed for incoming water so most of the copper pipes in the soffit were not in use, but I wasn’t 100% sure. So, for the time being, we patched the holes back up, and only removed the soffit portion above the sink, hoping that would give a little more of an open feeling.

Yes, I did have several places where there was no flooring, so I just cut some plywood (not shown) for the time being to make the floor level and threw an area rug over it. You can see that in the photo below:

It worked fine… until the drain pipe behind my sink cracked and I had to rip up my floors. I was planning on doing it eventually, partly because the engineered wood flooring I had had was no longer being manufactured and I had a really tough time trying to find a match.

You can also see the line in the upper left corner on the ceiling… that’s from where the old wall was. (And I also had recessed LEDs installed… the little circle hole in the ceiling was from the previous tiny light fixture.)

The cabinets in the photo are not painted yet. I had removed the veneer and then was left with adhesive that just did not want to be removed. So I took a palm sander. To all the cabinet frames. Yes, it sucked. Yes, there was dust everywhere.

I also want to highlight the table that was being used as a make-shift island. Got that baby for $50 off craigslist.

$50 for that table! Solid wood and look at those legs! I plan on refinishing it eventually… the chairs actually are from another dining set. I just gave the table to my parents.

Back to the soffit again…

You can kind of see the recessed soffit above the sink in these photos. These are the primed and painted cabinet boxes, but I hadn’t gotten around to putting the doors back up yet.

We left that little side wall to the right of the french doors to put the thermostat (I switched mine out with a Nest), light switches, and outlets.

In the second photo in the very back you can see a whole mess on the wall… that was from ripping the cabinet above the stove out and placing a slide in range (this was just a cook top and the tall cabinet on the left is where the old (SMALL) oven was). I figured if I was replacing the stove I might as well go gas (my water heater and new dryer are gas), so I had a plumber come and install a gas line. That was not cheap. But I love my gas range.

The cabinets for the island: I got a whole kitchen full of solid oak cabinets off of craigslist for $300. All those cabinets in the island plus another 9″ base and 18″ base (in the corner underneath the green sheet) and then uppers as well. I gave the uppers to my dad for his laundry room re-do. I haven’t gotten around to painting those cabinets yet, as you can see.

So after seeing the mess behind the soffit, I was resigned to just keeping it and trying to disguise it. And thus the great soffit disguise Pinterest search began…

I liked the look of the clean lines and molding from Chris at White Wood.

This photo below no longer has a working blog, unfortunately. But it still looks great!

Use crown molding and cabinet trim to make soffit look custom. Cabinets are Ikea Lidingo.

And this amazing DIY post by Fisherman’s Wife! I love the clean white lines, the glass tile backsplash, and of course those wood counter tops! Fantastic makeover of a dated kitchen.

Disguising the soffit wall above the cabinets. I have wanted to do some kind of molding, but wasn't sure how to deal with how the soffit comes out farther than the cabinet. This looks like a great way to do it!

Unfortunately my soffit stuck out about 1.5″ to 2.5″ depending on which cabinet and then the height of the gap between the soffit and cabinets also varied, so standard molding was going to be difficult. I bought several samples of cove moldings, as I thought that would make the “softest” transition between the gap.

I would have been content (note: not happy) with the soffit disguise, but all that wasted space up there really bothered me.

But of course, the 57 year old cast iron pipe in the kitchen had different plans for me. Once I realized exactly where my leak was coming from (i.e. the kitchen vs. the laundry room), I called a plumber. He had to knock into the block wall to replace the pipe, but of course the damage had already been done. My whole east wall of cabinets were water damaged and moldy, and don’t even get me started on how nasty the dry wall was…

I knew I needed the drywall replaced as soon as possible, so I had a contractor come to replace the drywall. But I figured if everything was going to be removed, I might as well just go with my original plan and demo the soffit and remove that little half wall that I had the thermostat and outlets on (the contractor moved all these to other walls).

The demo didn’t take terribly long, but he had to cut lots of furring strips to slip wires through because both of the walls on the L-shape were concrete blocks with furring strips running vertically to act as studs to put up drywall and attach cabinets. Most of the old copper plumbing he was able to just cut out. The electrical lines created the most problems. I actually had to fire this contractor because he showed up 2-3 hours later than promised every day and he over charged me. So I ended up with a kitchen that looked like this for a while…

I figured the rest of the drywall could be installed after I got the new floor installed. And that would also give me time to find a more reliable contractor. So, with the help of my brothers and my dad, we removed the base cabinets and everything else in the kitchen. I disposed the damaged cabinets. I kept the tall (old oven) cabinet because that’s where I had put a shelf to hold the microwave and was acting as a pantry. My carport was full the brim with cabinets and counter top pieces for several weeks.

Once the floor was installed, I had my new contractor come to move the rest of the electrical and plumbing and then install the rest of the drywall.

And look what he found in the block wall when patching it up!

An old glass Pepsi bottle! It was really cool up until I was informed that construction workers would use soda bottles to pee in and then stick them in the walls. So yay, crystallized pee circa 1960.

Anyway, here is where we were after appliances and base cabinets were re-installed:

Ignoring all of the clutter and mess, look how open it is! I toyed with the idea of open shelving instead of re-installing the upper cabinets, but I have several roommates and since we all have our own stuff, I needed all the extra storage I could get. However, I did move the cabinets to the ceiling so I can install a shelf below the cabinets, like in the following photos:

Extend your cabinet with this inventive shelving

I like the open shelf below the cupboards & like the style hardware on the cabinets and drawers

So here is where I am currently at:

As you can see, I have a lot of mismatched cabinets… and a lot of clutter. I will get it all cleaned up eventually. And yes, I like onions, as is evidenced by the plethora of onions in the hanging baskets over the island. My 7 year old onion-hating self would cry (ha, see what I did there? … I hate cutting onions).

I will go over in detail how I obtained all of those mismatched cabinets and what I plan to do with them in a future post. For now, it functions, and that’s the most important part.



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