Renovation of a 1900 House, Pittsburgh, PA

This was going to be a “simple” project centered around the removal of “a few” walls. The idea was to open up the main floor, expand the kitchen, rejig the powder room and throw in some new pot lights. While at it, the wood floors were going to be replaced, the kitchen millwork redone, and some of the plumbing and electrical services reconfigured.

To a large extent, the scope remained focused on the initially-set goals, but the process turned out to be far from simple.

To start with, the new steel beams now had to be supported with new steel columns and new, much bigger concrete footings. While adding significantly to the construction cost, the latter made a lot of sense; the existing footings amounted to no more than tiny chunks of flat rock.

In addition, many of the existing floor joists supporting the level immediately above the kitchen had been hacked and weakened to accommodate multiple past alterations. To make it good, individual floor joists had to be repaired, strengthened or replaced to meet the current building bylaws.

The subfloor planks, especially those in the kitchen, turned out to be quite uneven, full of holes and old, random patches. In order to make the floor suitable for the installation of a new hardwood finish, the existing subfloor had to be repaired, filled in, or in the case of the kitchen, replaced entirely with 3/4″ T&G plywood. Even then, however, the kitchen floor was found to be sagging, and so it was decided to put in an extra LVL beam under the kitchen joists to minimize the sag. This extra upgrade also helped carry the new 1,000-lb kitchen-island quartz countertop.