We got a kitchen remodel (more of a facelift, really) started a couple weeks ago, and it isn't a massive undertaking...except in a lot of ways, it kind of is. We're dealing with a house that was built in 1890, which not only means dealing with the standard issues common to older homes (settled foundation walls, sagging floor joists, etc.), it also means dealing with multiple layers of previous renovations.
The house where we're working is sort of a unique structure, and shown below in a map from 1909. The building is a shotgun/townhouse-style 2-family, although the individual units are separated by a gangway running between them. We're working in the southern unit, and the kitchen is in the eastern end of the unit, which at one time appears to have been almost detached from the rest of the house.
Any time I get to work in old houses, there's always a point where I try to play detective and figure out the original layout, or what the rooms were originally used for, or why certain construction exists in certain places. This house is no different, although I'm still stumped by it.
In looking at the 1909 map, the building wasn't big enough to have been a 4-family, with 2 units on the bottom and 2 on top, so I'm pretty sure it was always a set of 2-story shotgun-style units. The pink areas in the map indicate masonry (brick) construction, while the yellow indicates wood framing, so there appears to be some kind of covered deck or balcony at the rear of both units In fact, in spite of some massive renovations over the years, the underside of that wood structure is still visible in spots.
What's really interesting though is that little chunk that sticks off the back, the area we're working in. There's a full stone foundation undernath it, so I have to think it was either original or, at the very least, an addition sometime between 1890 and 1909. To access that part of the house, one would walk through the front door, through the house, then exit the house (this doorway still exists, and was very clearly an exterior door at one time), walk a few feet past/under the covered deck thing, then through another exterior door to get into what we now call the kitchen. In short, that little room we're working in, one would have to enter the house, go through the house, then exit the house in order to enter that space. The stairs to the second floor, which aren't original, are now located in the space that was essentially between the main house and the back room.
Another interesting thing is the basement access; the basement can only be accessed from outside the house. There are no interior stairs to get to the basement, which is a full basement (not a crawl space). I can't believe that was the original layout, but we can't find anything, anywhere, that indicates that there was ever an interior staircase to the basement. In some tiny way, it sort of bothers me to not be able to identify the original layout.
Anyhow...it was impossible to really discern, up front, what we'd be getting into in terms of what was underneath the existing floor; the only accessible floor register (removing that generally allows for a good view of the cross section of the floor...or layers of flooring) wasn't really all that accessible. Long story short, while demo'ing the floor we removed the existing ceramic tile, a layer of 3/8" playood, 1 layer of peel and stick tile, 1 layer of glue-down tile, and then another layer of 3/8" plywood, all of which was on top of the original pine floor. I generally don't enjoy demo, and this one was especially nasty because we had to do it in two rounds; we got the top couple layers removed from the entire floor (which is about 250 sq ft), and then went back and did it all again to get the remaining layers.
What we uncovered following the floor demo was that the kitchen previously had a bathroom in it, or was a bathroom. That was obvious; there was a large, squarish ghost mark on the floor where walls had formerly been located. The floor in that area, under the modern day kitchen sink location, was garbage (water damage). There were very obvious holes in the floor where toilet and bath tub drain plumbing had been, and holes in the floor where water lines had been located.
The client had hoped to salvage and refinish the original floor, as the rest of the flooring on the first floor is the original 3/4" pine. Unfortunately, on top of a large amount of waviness, the floor in the kitchen area was too destroyed and flat out rotten in spots to be refininshed. Instead, we 1, solidified the original floor (patched holes, sistered joists, drove screws, etc.), 2, glued and screwed down down a more solid, modern subfloor on top of that (1/2" OSB), 3, mortared and screwed down 1/2" cement board on top of that, and 4, set 12"x24" slate tile on top of that.
In between all those steps, we did whatever we could to get the floor as close to flat as we could. In some spots that meant using self-leveling underlayment. In other spots, that meant additional layers of subfloor material. It was an arduous process.
We split the tile work, which not only includes the kitchen but also a 1/2 bathroom and hallway, into a couple separate phases. Getting the kitchen area knocked out first allowed us to get going on setting the cabinets, while the remainder of the crew could conitnue on with the tile work. We aren't quite finished yet, although we should be close by tomorrow...and I was reminded, as I have been so many times in the past, that there's a price to pay for using charcoal-colored grout.