For years, I have been looking at the terrible soffits, or bulkheads, above my kitchen cabinets. I can’t express how much I despise them, and the cheapness that causes builders to install them. I know that they have their place in some homes, for plumbing, wiring, or ducting. In my house, it was just plain cheapness. They were open to the attic and held on with less than five nails each. The one over the stove came down with disturbing ease. They were mostly held up by joint compound and paint. We had already removed a portion of the wall between the kitchen and living room. I was thrilled with how much brighter and open everything felt, but it still wasn’t quite right. The 12″ soffit drop just felt kind of off. We had been talking about removing them for a while, but Pete really didn’t want to deal with the mess of it. We realized that we had to at least remove the soffit over the new wall opening, as the new island range hood would hang far too low without removing it.
I scored the edges of the drywall, as not to damage the wall. You can see the importance of a good scoring before removing drywall, the right side wasn’t scored heavily enough and the break wasn’t clean, so I had to go back and scrape the edge with the blade. This was a hideously dusty process. Trust me, take your time scoring and make sure you get through it well enough before attempting to remove the panel. This soffit was an L-shaped, two sided box that took less than an hour to remove- including cleanup.
First step was to score the edges of the drywall covering the soffit. I did this while he was at work and didn’t take any photos until it was time to scoop out the blown-in insulation. After scoring, I used the pry side of a hammer and busted through the drywall to pry out the metal corner beading, Once the beading was removed, it was pretty easy to get a pry bar under the drywall that was nailed into the soffit box and pop it off mostly in one piece. I had to twist the drywall panel a bit to release it from all the layers of paint and joint compound. I removed the 1/2″ ply box by hitting the prybar with a hammer until it was far enough into the seam that I was able to use the force of the prybar to lift the edges away. Once I got the majority of pried, I put pressure on the bar to pop the front board free. It broke, but came away relatively easily.
He scooped out the loose insulation from the cavity, to keep so much of from raining down in our faces when we took the body of the soffit box down. He filled 2 trash bags with the vile, musty stuff. Once he had scooped as much as possible, we removed the old range hood ducting. We got the remainder of the box down with brute force. It came away fairly easily when we were both pulling on it. There was still a rain of insulation and other things I don’t even want to think of. We were glad to have on safety glasses and masks. I was really hoping that the ceiling had been finished before the soffits were built, but I wasn’t surprised that the builder cheaped out and just left it open air. I probably should point out that our roof and attic had already been evaluated and the wall we removed determined non load bearing.
As we had done before, we temporarily plugged the cuts in the ceiling to keep insulation from dropping into the house. The musty smell of the attic wasn’t really something we wanted to have in the house, and although we are in Florida, it was in the 20’s overnight and the air coming down was COLD! We had some leftover foam insulation from another project so he cut it to size and screwed in to the rafters. At this point we could have disconnected all the wiring and drilled a hole through the studs, but took a page out of the contractor’s book and made a cavity for them. The wires had to be tucked in so he used a large drill bit to eat away a chunk of one of the 2×4 studs to safely tuck them away so they weren’t damaged by the new drywall that would be installed at a later date.
The soffit also left large voids on the two side walls that we later plugged with drywall. and floated with joint compound to make a solid wall.
We ran the new duct and added supports for the almost 100 pound island range hood. At this point I had finally resigned myself to removing the popcorn ceiling in the entire main space. I had already removed the popcorn in the rest of the house and wanted to do a low profile coffered ceiling over it. Pete wasn’t having it. I removed the popcorn from the edges of the removed soffit and found that it came off considerably easier than any other room in the house had. Now it was time to add the drywall. We used the mounting plate to mark and cut the opening for the duct. At this point, Pete still wanted to leave the other soffit in place.
I had scraped the entire ceiling for the main space and just was ready to start taping the edges of the drywall and add texture. I was really unhappy with the thought of leaving the other soffit in place and doing all the work around it, with the possibility of having to patch in and redo the ceiling texture if we removed it at a later date. Time to put up a murder room and let the magic happen. We took down the two upper cabinets and put them in the dining room on one of the counters we made (details on them in another post to come), that was on two saw horses to make the cabinets easier to access. Yes, we have a sweet Star Wars sheet on the counter. Deal with it.
We followed the same process for this soffit for the most part. We scored the drywall edges, then pried off the corner beading. The second soffit box was more solid than the first and it took a lot more brute force to get it down. It took about 3 hours to remove it and clean the mess. The plastic really helped to keep the dust from getting into the rest of the house, but nothing will keep it out totally. Once the box was down, we followed the same process, notch and tuck the wires, and add drywall.
Floating compound on drywall is the process of layering thin coats of drywall and feathering it out to incorporate drywall pieces into a solid surface. Once the area was floated and sanded, my Sister-in-law helped me to add the texture. I will cover the process of using a hopper to add texture to walls and ceilings in another post. The texture was completed, then I used a soft grey paint to cover the entire ceiling of the main space of the house.
We measure out where we wanted the new pendant lights and used a drill and hole making saw bit to cut the drywall. He added pancake boxes for the lighting fixtures and wired in the new pendants. We put together and installed the island range hood, which took half a day and was a total pain. I will do a post specifically on how we installed it at a later date, as the instructions were incomplete and I exhausted the internet looking for information that just didn’t help.
This wrapped up the soffit removal and repair of the ceiling. I am thrilled to bits with the open and bright feeling of the main space!