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HELP: Kitchen & Dining Room Remodel

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We want to remodel our kitchen and dining room in the most cost efficient and functionally effective way. In addition to maximizing our current space, we'd like to create some new space by replacing our existing kitchen and DR windows with alcoves. We don't want to hire an architect or involve our notoriously difficult planning commission unless it's absolutely necessary. I will serve as the general contractor and will even help in certain areas like design, demolition and painting. But I will leave the rest to the pros. I can share our existing layout to give you an idea of our current constraints and potential. Please let me know if you can help us tweak our design options and provide other tips along the way. Also, any information you have on alcoves would be helpful. Thank you!



Hi. Welcome to Just Answer.

I wil be happy to have a look at what you have so far.

As for the alcoves anytime you start moving walls you must include the local building inspectors office. They get real snippy if you dont. Snippy as in snipping the cash out of your bank accounts (fines!!).

You dont have to use an architct though. The planning department always has an engineer look over the plans and approve them or reject them.

Alcoves shouldnt be a problem unless there are bearing points involved.

I look forward to seeing what you have drawn up.

Best, Smitty

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I will post a layout soon...probably later today. My current plans involve expanding the foundation and walls. I'm trying to avoid that now, so I need to tweak the design(s). BTW...our potential window or door alcoves would not change the foundation. We were only looking to expand the floor space by 2 feet at each opening. The alcove joists at bottom of windows or doors would tie into our basement ceiling boards for support. We would not need to create footers, etc. I didn't thing my local building inspector needed to approve that type of change because it's essentially replacing an existing window and the extra square footage would be de minimis (30-40 sq ft). But we also plan to do some work in a 2nd floor attic above our garage and LR that would require an architect and our planning board. So maybe I'll try to get everything approved at the same time. Thoughts? Also, do you know of any good resources for alcoves?

Dave, if you are just wanting to install pop out windows you will not need permits. If you want to increase the floor space (e.g; all the way from ceiling down to the floor) then permits will be required. Even if there are no new footings required you are still changeing the floor plan of the structure. If you do that permits are required.

As for the architect they are not engineers. They have to have an engineer sign off on the proposed changes. You can avoid both by drawing your own plans and then just submit them for approval. An engineer will check them before approval.

If needed I can asist you with drawing up the plans.

As for premade alcoves I do not know of any company that makes them. Pop out windows you can order from home depot, lowes, etc.

Best, Smitty

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks, Smitty! My neighbor was just telling me yesterday that our village likes residents to have an architect. He ended up hiring an architect and it was a breeze. But I agree with what you said. Let them do the work. That's one of the reasons why I pay property taxes, right? :-) Anyway, I've attached our 1st floor layout with the kitchen and former DR areas blank. Areas in green shading are kickouts or alcoves that we could create. Areas in yellow need to be built within current walls.

Attachment: 2013-07-23_033029_rough_1st-floor_layout_2013-jul22.pdf

Just yesterday we moved our DR table into our long and awkward LR (14'3" x 28'). We're trying to see if we could use this space as a LR/DR combo. It actually looks pretty good. The DR table is minimized most of the time and there's enough space for the formal LR and DR together. When we need to use the DR table, we can rotate it and expand it and even add another table at the end.


If this layout works, then the old DR on the attached plan can be opened up with the adjacent kitchen to make one large space (~14' x 33'). I don't think the separating wall in red is a supporting wall. Now it's just a matter of what interior walls we knock down and what type of windows/alcoves/doors to use. Half the folks who look at our current layout think we should incorporate the middle hall into the kitchen. I'm torn too.


I have several other drawings that kick either the back wall out 7-10' or expand behind the LR where current small deck is located. The kickout behind DR/Kitchen would be easier from roof standpoint. I haven't ruled out kicking the wall out behind the Kitchen and DR by 10'. I designed that layout and it looks really good. But it would be more expensive. I can send you that layout soon.


LMK if you think we can make things work without expanding into our backyard. Any feedback would be appreciated. I know you probably have some questions to ask, so feel free to do so. Thanks!

Looks like you have a second story or do the stairs go to the basement?

If no second story can you please pencil in the roof lines for me. I may be able to determine if the walls are bearing from that.

Also need to know if the roof is a hipped roof (all angles are sloped) or a gabled roof (has streight up wall at ends). If gabled please indicate which ends.

Thanks, Smitty

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

The curved staircase off foyer goes upstairs (as if you walked in front door and walked up). There are also straight stairs going down to basement at end of long middle hallway headed away from laundry room. I will send you the other info tomorrow. I'd do it tonight but I'm about to fall asleep. Thanks!

Sounds good. I have a full day schedualed tomorrow, but should be home by 6pm


Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi, Smitty! I hope you have Excel. I'm attaching some different layouts. Each square is a 6"x6" space. This file includes layouts for each level (basement, 1st & 2nd floors) in different variations. Any room measurement is top to bottom by left to right, so 20' x 13' is 20' long by 13' wide on the spreadsheet. Sorry if that's not the best explanation.

Attachment: 2013-07-24_032950_rough_layouts_4smitty_2013-jul231.xlsx

I have other possible ideas but don't want to bias you too much with my existing plans. Note: areas shaded green would be an expansion of our existing external walls. Areas shaded yellow are a reworking of interior walls. Green/yellow areas could be either an expansion of exterior or working with what's already there.


Sheet "1st_A" is a plan that a friend who's a chef and owns her own catering company came up with off the top of her head. She still wants to noodle on it. The back and side walls of the expanded space would be mostly windows. We have a lot of woods on our property, and there are some great views in all directions.


Tab "2nd-FL" shows our plan to create a master BR and bath above our current garage and FR. Currently, this 2nd floor space is just a long attic. There are 2'x8' boards running top to bottom of the drawing above the garage, but only 2'x6' boards running left to right above the FR. I'm not sure what kind of load they can sustain without additional support. But center hall/laundry on 1st floor has two walls that support 2'x6' boards above Laundry and FR. All rafters are 16" between boards center to center. All of our roofs are gable. I tried to mark this on the "2nd-FL" tab.


The unfinished attic above the LR also has 2'x6' boards but these are running top to botXXXXX XXXXXke the garage. This would be a great area to expand the roof and use it for unfinished storage instead of using current low ceiling garage attic or 3rd level attic. But this space is secondary to the Kitchen and DR. Next is the Master Bath/Master BR.


If we could somehow make Kitchen/DR work with existing space and not blow out back wall, then I'd still be happy because we'd have the money to expand the master BR/Bath on the second floor and more area in our backyard before woods start about 40 feet behind our current back wall. But if those attic floors I mentioned above are not going to provide enough support for the Master Bath/BR or unfinished storage (later), then I might put more money into a crazy big kitchen with space below for additional basement. FYI...we live in a colder climate so footers have to be dug pretty deep, so no reason not to go all the way down and expand basement if we end up expanding our first level.


Some other points that might noteworthy is the small area behind our current small deck (14'x7'; behind current long LR) has some water damage on basement foundation. So this needs to be dug up anyway sometime in the future. But if we expanded this area to expand new LR/DR combo, the LR roof would need to be replaced or we'd need an architect to get creative. Also, the back wall of kitchen and DR is probably the best place to expand because current roofs wouldn't need to change. This would be a first floor expansion only because there are other areas to expand the 2nd floor, as mentioned above. And if we did expand kitchen and DR back, I might go an additional 2 feet to 12' to add some extra low-level cabinets along back wall. This would also make the basement addition bigger. You can stop me at any point if I'm sounding ridiculous. :-)


LMK your thoughts. I will add bonus and rate you multiple times to compensate you for good feedback along the way. Don't feel like you have to solve this puzzle in one response. I've lived here for 6 yeas and still struggle with it. Thanks!

WOW! Awsome drawings and detail! This is going to take me a while to sift through and hopefully understand what you want to accomplish.

How you did this with excell is beyond me. I can do a small very basic spread sheet and thats about it.

FYI I use open office. Free and much more functionality IMHO.

Ill post something for you by tomorrow afternoon.

Best, Smitty

P.S. Please do not rate until I know for sure that I can do this.


Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Sounds good. Thanks! I bet there's a better architectural program than Excel, but it's all I know how to use. I have Sketchup8 installed but don't know how to use it properly. Maybe I should load the latest version and learn. Also, I can post some actual interior and exterior pictures if that would help. LMK.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Also, take your time. No need to rush. Even if you just helped me with the feasibility of converting our attic above LR (2'x6's) to unfinished storage, the garage attic (2'x'8's) to a Master Bath/Closet, and attic above FR (2'x6's) to a Master BR, then I'd be happy. Thanks!

Dave, I just use MS paint to do drawings with. It wont automatically insert the dimentions and most of what I draw iant to scale but it works for me and I can scale it if I need to.

One good thing about it is I can do a screen shot of your drawings and it will come out at the same scale.

I fiddled with a couple ideas last night but havnt done any drawings yet. Ill do a couple tonight for you to look over.

Best, Smitty


The Home Smithy, Home Builder
Category: Home Improvement
Satisfied Customers: 9622
Experience: #1 Home Improvement Expert 30+ years experience
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Sounds good. I was trying to load some pics but my computer isn't reading my camera's miniSD card.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I found something from about 4 years ago (or longer) when we were kicking around ideas with a friend. He drew this 3D diagram using SketchUp. I also have some screenshots of our home exterior in 3D, as well as each level of our home. Our friend created these too. I'll get that file to you soon. For now, check out this file and let me know your thoughts. Note that the entrance to the Kitchen from the hall is different than what I have in my drawings.


Yup. It's also looking from the opposite end. e.g; the kitchen is on the left instead of the right as you have it in your floor plans.

No biggy though. I can just flip it in MS paint if I need to.

Im going to have to have another look at SketchUp. I tried it when it first came out and didnt like it. But then the program was real buggy then too.

I have a copy of Chief Architect 10 with the kitchen, decks, and landscape add ons somewhere. Maybe I'll dig that out. Now thats a designing program!! Virtual walk throughs, does your take off lists for you, and all kinds of stuff. BIG learning curve though.

I have to get my pantograph set up tonight so I can do some signs for the Dog House's second anniversary bash. I forgot all about doing this and I promised the owner that I would do it back in May. Besides that you have provided a lot of information to go through and I would like to be sure that what I provide you is what you are hoping for. Its been a long time since I have done this with a customer so I am having to remember how I did the drawings, applicable building codes, and then there are the new changes to the building codes, etc, etc, etc. Please bear with me.

Thank you.


Customer: replied 4 years ago.

These SketchUp drawings aren't exact but they should give you an idea of the exterior and interior of our house. For instance, the 2nd floor drawing doesn't show the bath at the end of the hallway, which is on my drawings. Also, our basement isn't boxed up like the SketchUp drawing shows. Finally, the 1st floor kitchen layout isn't the way it looks now. Anyway, I hope this helps.



Customer: replied 4 years ago.

You can focus on kitchen while I open another question to others to handle the load-bearing ability of our attic floors (2"x8" boards above garage and 2"x6" boards above FR and LR). Just let me know if that would be easier. Thanks!

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Why did my question get closed? I just asked you to focus on the kitchen while I open another question to address the load-bearing capability of our 2nd floor attics. Please let me know how you want to proceed. Thanks!

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I wasn't trying to rush you. I just thought it would be easier if you focused on the kitchen instead of the 2nd floor attics. But if you've already worked something out for those areas as far as load-capability, then please go ahead and share it with me. Thanks!

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Relist: Answer quality.
He closed the question more than once without giving adequate reason.

Regarding your remodel situation, it is more than just a question, its an engineering... and... design project! Smile. and a nice on at that.

It is a few light years beyond 'just an Answer's scope and pricing format. .. involving engineered drawings and all.

The company is currently looking into these sorts of extended services however.. I will send this question to their business office, lets see what happens.

To put this into perspective....a design firm will need to involve a structural engineer and draftsman, then present multiple options for your ongoing review and approvals.. These things can take days. Their minimum on that work would be in the $3,000 to $5,000 range... just answer unless you do multiple positive ratings for each answer, we limit out at the 'just a single answer' level and at starbucks prices.

I would tend to follow Smittys advice and make my own sketches and submit those to the city and let them do the engineering review... after one review though they will not do provide any useful engineering data, but just decline or accept with a comment that registered professional engineer in your state needs to be involved... that is how, and why the states set it up.

Doing it without actually seeing the house is risky for you as well.

Good luck on your project,


Trying to advise you without actually seeing the house is a tall order as far as the structural issues go, those are a lot more complex than just the type of lumber involved.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks, Phil! That's all Smitty had to say. I will simplify my questions in the future. This one got out of hand. :-)

Hello again, It would be nice if you gave Smitty a positive rating for his excellent range of good advices, that means a lot to us experts on this end, we work on our own time at our own expense. We get nothing unless you rate positively.

Smitty will no doubt thank you... we are also retained here based in part on how many questions we answer well enough to get a good rating on.


Customer: replied 4 years ago.


Hello, now you have created another happy expert.

You are invited to stay in touch notifying us of progress and any suggestions you might need short of a full blast engineeeeering project .