Ask me why I haven’t ventured into the dropped ceiling above the kitchen and downstairs bathroom before. I don’t have an answer for you – I should have poked my little head through this little closet panel months ago.
It was pretty obvious, even to my virginal-homeowner eyes, that the ceiling in the back corner of the house wasn’t kosher. I assumed (mostly wrongly, it turns out) it was added with the central air unit, to hide a spiderweb of hot air ducts and cold air returns and all that nonsense. So I thought I already knew what was up there – poking my head up to confirm it wasn’t a high priority.
But I was wrong, and here’s what I think the real story is. At some point (early 1970’s I’m guessing, based the avacado and yellow paint above the dropped ceiling), a wall was taken out between our kitchen and dining room. The large swinging door I found in the attic was probably the pass-through between the rooms. That wall went right through the middle of the house, though, and someone was smart enough to know that the second floor would cave in without some support. That explains the massive steel I-beam I could see. It’s directly underneath the drywall in photo below. (Look at that trim – yeesh. The things you learn to live with until you can repaint.)
C’mon, Wallace - let’s go to the rest of the ceiling cavity!
I still don’t understand this soffit in the office – it’s an empty drywalled box. Utterly superfluous. There aren’t even electrical boxes inside of it. Weird choice, mysterious ceiling-builder from the past.
You can see the vent for the bathroom fan in the second photo. It perplexes me – why didn’t they run it through the joists? The lathe-and-plaster ceiling above the bathroom is in great shape though, so bonus. I’ll just have to patch one hole in the exterior wall, cut another one a foot higher, and cut a new ceiling hole. This bathroom project just gets bigger and bigger.
And here’s where the real surgery happened. In this picture, I’m leaning around the plumbing for the upstairs tub (which I can see through the floor – crazy, I know) and reaching the camera out to get a shot of the “spiderweb” of ductwork I thought I’d find.
It’s one duct. One. Plus the vent for the stove’s exhaust fan (which, again – you couldn’t run through the joists? They even run that direction!) Other than those four things (bathroom vent, stove vent, single air duct, tub plumbing), the dropped ceiling is vacant. Empty. Which is both awesome (it can come down!) and demoralizing (it can come down, which means I can’t in good conscience leave it up).
Another neat thing in this picture – the upper board in the foreground is the top of the original wall between the kitchen and what’s now the office. The bathroom and closet were a later addition – maybe added the same time as the I-beam and dropped ceiling. I think that means I can place all three doors I found in the attic – the swinging door I mentioned above, one for the original opening on this wall, and one directly from our bedroom into the old nursery (now the guest bedroom).
We’re definitely not ready to tackle the ceiling anytime soon. Plus, I think it seems more manageable to do it in stages, room-by-room. The downstairs bathroom is turning into a massive to-do list anyway, so maybe that ceiling can be the first to go back up to 9′. The superfluous office soffit may stay, actually – I’ve tossed around the idea of built-in bookshelves, and it would be a nice header. The office door to the bathroom is getting drywalled over (so the only door will be from the back end of the kitchen), so there can be almost an entire wall of shelves.
If I build a secret swinging-bookshelf entrance to the office closet, do you think I can win some sort of raddest-houseblogger award?