Vent in wall from house built around 1920

I have a house that was built approximately early 1920’s on the east coast. Like many houses of this age, apparently when it was built, there was a vent for the oven that apparently ran along the corner of the wall, up through the corner of my bathroom, and to the roof. It was covered by a plaster type of covering and the corner was boxed in (in both the kitchen and the bathroom).

Long before I moved in, the vent was blocked at the wall and at the roof (the roof has been reshingled and there’s nothing there to indicate there’s a vent pipe). Needless to say, I do not have a 1920’s style stove in my kitchen with a need to vent the oven outside. However, there’s still the walled in corner of my kitchen and bathroom (on the second floor).

I don’t even know where to begin to try to find out how this could be removed, or what’s really inside of it. I can see under the house, and there’s nothing that goes from the kitchen floor to the ground (so it’s not being supported underneath by anything). I hate to go bashing out a wall without having at least some idea of what to expect.

So, you may be asking why I’m even wanting to know what’s behind the plastered corner…well, it current takes up about a two by two foot space of the room (there’s a big square in the corner!), which may not seem like a lot, but the bathroom is TINY and this square in the corner is using up some valuable floor space.

My question is does anyone know what I’m talking about, and if so, where could I find more information as to what exactly could be expected to be inside this squared space? How does one begin to consider removing it?

Mods, I’m sorry if it’s not in the correct place…I’m discovering that I’m more clueless about this than I thought I was.

something like that is called a surround. it surrounds pipes, vents or other utilities. it isn’t structural so it could be taken out if it is no longer serving its purpose.

your walls are likely real plaster with wood lathe if original. there may or may not be plaster on the walls behind them at least not in a finished state. so you couldn’t just take down and paint. you would need to do plaster work, maybe replace lathe, maybe repair current exposed plaster wall if the surround isn’t removed easily.

Oh, here’s a pic of something that’s similar (where the stove is vented into the wall). Only mine goes from floor to ceiling. Needless to say, I do not have a stove like that any longer.

Any guesses as to what’s in it, johnpost? I know that behind that corner is most likely the vent for the bathroom plumbing (and one galvanized pipe would be much easier to work around that having a 2x2 space in the room). How big do you think the vent from the original stove was?

And the walls do have wood lathe behind this plaster (which is more like old crumbly cement than plaster). The folks I bought the house from had redone the walls in one of the bedrooms and the lathe was piled in the garage.

Its a lot of work to gain 8 square feet, and too make economic sense, at $150 per square foot to build a house I wouldn’t go for it if the cost to gain that area was more than $1200.

I’d be very, very surprised if the 2 foot walls were load bearing.

First you knock out the plaster and lathe on the 2 foot walls with a sledge hammer followed by the studs and corresponding plates with hammer and crow bar and clean up the mess. Now you have to extend the surfacing of the coresponding two walls, floor aand ceiling. Good luck finding someone who can do plaster and lathe properly. . To do a really good job, you’ll probably have to refinish the entire kitchen and bathroom in drywall. No question, but that you"ll have to put new flooring in both rooms.

I’d leave well enough alone.

What you might want to do is cut out an opening , put in shelves, and finish the opening with a trim. Make use of the space (there’s never enough storage space in a house) with the minimum cost.

look in the attic and see what comes up in that space.

For that vintage, it may well be a chimney. Second the look in the attic to see what you are dealing with.
Touching ANYTHING in a old house rarely goes as planned, or budgeted.

If it goes floor to ceiling on the first floor, it was probably a chimney for a coal furnace, and the kitchen wood stove tied into the chimney. The stove pipe access was typically covered wtih a tin plate, about the same size and shape as a paper plate. Some of these used to have a tacky decorated country scene on them. Later paint jobs just covered up the plate, but you can still see it.

So you’ve either got a stove pipe or an actual brick chimney behind that lath and plaster box. Hint: there will also be a HELLUVA lot of greasy, smelly black soot inside, as well!

johnpost: There’s not an attic space above where that is.

The Vorlon: There’s nothing below it in the crawlspace, which I would assume there would need to be if it were a chimney.

Vow: I know exactly what you’re talking about, and I can see the place where it was patched in the wall.

There used to be a coal stove, in the basement, but it’s on the other side of the house (I can see where the coal shoot was patched in the rock wall). Where this is, under the kitchen, is a dirt crawlspace though, and there is nothing in that corner of the house (directly under it) that remotely appears to be a rock or brick support–which would be needed if it were a chimney–right? The part of the house where the kitchen is (and above it, the bathroom) almost looks like it was an ad-on at some point (which would explain why it’s a crawlspace underneath and no attic above).

The Flying Dutchman: I like your idea of just knocking through a part of it and installing built in shelves. If I get up the courage.

you might have brick or a pipe inside.

Check with your local equipment rental service and see if they have a flexible camera (here’s an example) you can rent. (You can also buy them fairly cheaply, but you get what you pay for.) This would allow you to drill a relatively small hole in the wall and look at the structure inside before you commit yourself. My husband has one and we use it often in our 110-year-old house, which is also a place where 8 additional square feet would come in mighty handy.

No, it wouldn’t be that hard. Remember that it’s a corner of the kitchen.

You could replace the old plaster & lath with drywall, and match that up to the remaining existing wall. Experienced plaster workers do this a lot. then you just have to paint or wallpaper to match the remaining walls. But you will probably put kitchen cabinets & counter (kitchens, especially old ones, never have enough cabinet or counter space!), so finishing the new walls might not be very important. Same for the floor – if it’s all hidden below cabinets, who cares?

But it will still cost more & take longer than you expected.
Like all house remodeling projects.

I agree – it’s not completely trivial to match new drywall with existing lath-and-plaster (because the lath+plaster is thicker than drywall, so you’ll have to shim out the drywall to match), but it’s not that hard. Do-able for a reasonably handy do-it-yourselfer, and a pro should be able to do it easily.

It’s a good point that if you stick a cabinet/shelves here, you might not need to worry about the floor, too.

Of course, it will cost more and take longer than expected, and possibly uncover something best left undisturbed that man was not meant to know of. But that’s the risk in old houses.