What you will notice about a 1930’s house is that they traditionally have the tiniest galley kitchen. Our kitchen was cramped with two people in it, but I suppose it was only built with on person in mind (thanks sexist 1930’s). It was seriously tiny. In fact, Nick was able to spread his arms out and touch it from wall to wall. We knew from the beginning that we wanted to remove the wall between the kitchen and the dining room. We also decided that we wanted to remove the door way into the kitchen too. This would give us an open plan layout that would give us more space while we saved for an extension.
Once we exchanged contracts, we asked our estate agent if we could bring our builder in to take measurements and they kindly gave us the keys. We also used this opportunity to have the builder’s engineer to come in so he could make calculations. The wall between the kitchen and the dining room is a load bearing wall, therefore, it needs to be supported with an RSJ (look at me using terminology!). Our RSJ sits between both walls and it about 4 meters long. At the same time, we also had the fireplace in the dining room opened up to, eventually, contain the cooker. This also needed an RSJ to support the chimney breast. A lot of house renovators remove the chimney breast entirely, which enables more space in your kitchen. So if you’re short on space, it be something worth considering. We, however, loved the idea of keeping it and we think that it adds more character.
The wall coming down is not for that fainthearted! It was messy. Also, as soon as I saw it, I had a mini panic attack for a minute! Nick kept worrying about the ceiling collapsing (we had one night of the ceilings being supported by acrow props before the RSJ was installed). For some horrible reason down here in South Wales, back in the day, they mixed the plaster with coal ash so everything (and I mean everything) was covered in black dust!
The RSJ was set into both walls into a block of concrete. Because we had managed to get the builder and engineer in before we got the keys, the calculations had been completed and the steel had been ordered. Therefore, the builder was able to start this 10 days after we got the keys. This was music to our ears as it meant we were on track for our 6 week move in date. At the same time, we opened up the chimney breast and also secured the RSJs. We were quite lucky as the previous owners had installed a back boiler in here (that’s not the lucky part), which meant there was already a gas connection where we would need it for our cooker. Things were actually going to plan!
The Chimney Breast
This is something we are asked about often. I love that we’ve kept it as it’s become a real feature in our kitchen. A lot of the original brick work had been removed decades before when the back boiler was inserted, so I didn’t feel guilty widening it. We’ve tried to plan ahead for the extractor fan of the cooker and we deliberately placed the RSJs so there was a gap to be able to fit the ducting through. At this point, we also opened a hole on the side so that we can either have the ducting going through the side of the chimney breast and out the back wall. Or we can go up the chimney. Either way, we think it’s important to plan ahead for several options, if you can.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun
This is the part of the renovation that really takes its toll. It’s dark, it’s messy and it’s grim! My biggest advice with the building work is to keep that end goal in your mind. I remember thinking, ‘this place will never ever be clean’. ‘It’s going to be like this for at least a decade’. But actually, I don’t know how, but we did clean it. We did manage to get it to look good. And, we did try to have fun as well – otherwise, it’s just depressing!
Lastly, if you’re reading this and you’re in the middle of your renovation. Just remember that it has to get worse before it gets better so below is our before and after picture!