A Foundation evaluation should be the first step when performing a kitchen remodel to rule out the need for repair. Too often, we are called in after the kitchen has been remodeled to perform a foundation repair. Kitchen remodeling ranges from $15,000 to $30,000 plus appliances. It usually involves new counter tops, perhaps a change out of cabinets, and a new tile or wood floor over concrete.
Let’s dissect how a remodeler will work around the out of level floor: In a total tear out and rebuild, the remodeler will float the whole floor with an inexpensive leveling compound. The compound is an excellent base for leveling floor tile or leveling wood over concrete. Floating the floor means that the contractor doesn’t need to shim counter tops on the new cabinets, which would otherwise be out of level. But floating a kitchen floor level is about as effective as floating the deck of the Titanic level just after the iceberg crash.
Over 70 percent of the time, the greatest loss of elevation in the Dallas and Fort Worth area is on an outside wall. More often than not, a kitchen wall.
Until the foundation is stabilized by underpinning, the foundation will continue to drop year after year. That is the subject of a whole other article. Suffice it to say, a drop along the exterior will cause the wall to lean.
To disguise the leaning wall and the mismatch with the sides of the cabinets, a contractor will add trim. There is though a problem with the back-splash along a counter top, as you can’t hide, but have to split the difference between the leaning wall and having a back-splash that is perpendicular to the counter top. Room corners with mounted cabinets are also hidden with trim.
A year after a kitchen remodel, the improvements should still look great. But at this point, adjacent rooms still suffer from foundation distress, and the problem is growing worse. Without underpinning support, continued foundation dropping is a foregone conclusion. Year two passes and problems begin to arise. Cabinets separate from the wall, back-splash and counter top separation occurs, walls may crack, floor tile starts to crack or loosen and a foundation repair seems to be needed.
Now it’s reluctantly time to call in the foundation contractor. Gosh, sure would be great to get that adjacent bathroom, bedroom or dining room floor level while we are getting the kitchen foundation repaired. A competent contractor will advise you that it is not going to happen. If the foundation contractor lifts to level those adjacent room floors, the kitchen will be torn up. The best that a foundation contractor can accomplish is a modest lift and stabilization, returning the kitchen to approximately floated level, and underpinning and stabilizing adjacent rooms to prevent further floor drop. So now, those floors will need to be floated and refinished as well. Here is an important point.
Read this twice: The cost of foundation repair before a kitchen remodel is significantly less than after remodeling. I repeat, The cost of foundation repair before kitchen remodeling is significantly less than after remodeling. Why? Because a sagging foundation tends to draw more of the house downward. The elevation drop propagates into the house. To recover lost elevation more than eight feet from an exterior wall will require interior piers, which cost 30% more than exterior piers. Then too, there is the added cost of replacing floor tile, carpeting, or engineered wood overlays. And if we are too regain all the lost elevation in adjacent rooms, it means over lifting the remodeled kitchen. Over-lifting the kitchen beyond floated level means its time to call in the kitchen remodeler for a complete re-do. All the accommodations that the kitchen remodeler had to make have been for naught.
We know how great it is to have an updated kitchen. Speaking from personal experience, my wife planned for years, and then for 6 weeks we couldn’t use the stove or sink as our kitchen remodel was underway. But the good news is that the floor was level. Because I am in the foundation business and can see the future, I had my whole exterior underpinned years ago, before problems began. So please, get the foundation problem solved before undertaking major remodeling such as in a kitchen. You will be money ahead.