Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Saga of the New Gas Range

Cooking is one of my passions--so in house shopping, each potential home's kitchen received a bit of close scrutiny: the layout of this one was bad, that one had older appliances, this one had too little counter space, etc. The biggest lack at Chateau Papillon was its electric range; I'd gotten a bit spoiled to the cooking efficiencies of gas while at the rental home on Tapawingo Road. But Chateau Papillon, unlike several homes we looked at, already had natural gas running to the house--so converting to gas for cooking couldn't be that difficult, could it?

First things first: we got estimates and hired plumbers to come out and run a gas line to the kitchen; the existing gas line entered on the opposite end of the house, where it fed the furnace and water heater. At least the drop ceiling in half the basement made it relatively simple to route the extension line, though it still involved multiple visits from the plumber, a Washington Gas subcontractor to re-do the meter and regulators, and the Fairfax County gas inspector.

Of course, I had to run a new electric line for the gas range, too. The electric range had a 220 volt range outlet in place; the gas range needed only basic 120 volt line service. The home's breaker box was full, of course, but removing the big 50-amp, double-pole breaker for the old range gave me plenty of room to add a 15-amp circuit for the new gas appliance. (Fortunately, I've worked informally as an electrician before, spending summers in high school working for my uncle's construction business--that saved us quite an expense!)

The biggest problem, though, became the range itself. The existing electric range abutted a wall--and bubbled paint testified to the poor choice of location that had been; our home inspector recommended a heat shield for safety (and with a gas range's high heat output, a doubly-necessary precaution!) So I put on order a metal plate that would cover the wall next to the range and thought no more of it--and after some measurements, ordered the gas range itself.

I'd ordered a fairly basic GE gas range, one with a "power" burner and another "precise simmer" burner but little else fancy (we'd after all just spent several hundred thousand dollars on the home plus thousands more in our initial renovations). Its dimensional specifications matched the electric range we'd be replacing, so once the gas line was in place, we'd be set, right?


What GE didn't mention in their specs was that the range's console was actually 31 inches wide, even though the oven and range top were but the specified 30 inches. In the recommended installation with at least two inches of space on either side of the range (remember the need for a heat shield due to the wall being so close?), that extra inch wouldn't be a problem... but in our tight quarters, it became a show-stopper. The only viable solution was to cut into the wall itself!

I planned to cut out the drywall alongside the range, replacing it with the metal heat shield I'd ordered. That would buy me at least a half an inch, which would not only let me get the range into place but would also be better from a safety standpoint as well, moving the wall surface back just that little bit more from the range.

As you can see in the photo above, I first cut (using a utility knife) the outline of the new heat shield, then used a drywall saw to slice away the wall itself. I even got a hammer involved--I realized once I'd cut the outline, there was no reason to wear myself out sawing through the drywall when I could just break it up into chunks and trim away the last bit of paper backing.

That got the space opened up; I then had to add some framing to support the new heat shield. Initially, I ran full 2x4's between the existing wall studs, but then I realized I only needed to put anchor blocks at the corners (notice the one to the upper left--necessitated by the routing of the light switch wires), which I attached via drywall screws to the remaining drywall. I then ran some J-bead along the exposed edges of the drywall, applied several coats of drywall compound, and sanded them flush to the wall.

The finishing touches included another coat of grey primer and two coats of VT Maroon paint; the heat shield then screwed to the supports I'd added, followed by a trim layer of shoe moulding mitered to sit inside the opening and reinforce the J-bead edges.

The range was still a tight fit, but not because of the console any longer. My work notching the wall and putting in place the heat shielding took care of that perfectly. A second heat shield went in behind the range; I will probably frame it in shoe moulding later to make it consistent with the side wall (and yes, we do plan to replace the microwave with a black unit to match the range later as well).

What a saga! Well, what's life without a bit of spice to it?


abbey said...

Hello! I am thinking of trying to convert our electric range to a gas one as well (we also have exisiting natural gas heat). Do you mind me asking how much it cost for the installation, etc. of the gas line (we would also have to pay for an electrician to switch the voltages, bc we are NOT handy in that respect as you are :) ). Thanks! By the way - I believe you said you use Washington Gas - we do too.

John Nolley II said...


The installation from F. J. Hooks Plumbing ran us about $800. However, that is higher than in most cases, because they had to run the gas line the length of the house--the gas meter, furnace, water heater, etc., were all on the opposite end of the house from our kitchen. A "normal" installation would tend to run closer to $400-$500, if I recall correctly. This cost covered the materials, labor, county inspection, new regulator (necessitated by the long gas line run) from Washington Gas, etc. (e.g. everything but the range and the electrical outlet).

As for an electrician's costs, I'd think, depending on the particulars, it would cost $200 or less to run a new outlet & line. It's been a while since I priced electrician's work given I typically handle it myself at Chateau Papillon, but from a retired electrician we know, that sounds about right based on some of the jobs he's told us about. It could be as little as $50-$100 if there's a nearby 120V line they can tie into already; I ran a dedicated new circuit since the other line in the kitchen already had a lot on it.

Marva said...

Hi John. We totally relate to the gas cooktop too close to the wall. I'm looking for a heat shield also. Where did you find what you needed? I hate to cover the beautiful wood of the cabinet next to the cooktop, but if that's all we can do, that's all we can do.


John Nolley II said...


We went with a metal shield found in the appliances section at Lowe's, made I think by NuTone. It's normally designed to go behind the range and cover the wall between the range and an exhaust hood above it, but we used it just as well on the side wall. They're available in black, white, beige, and perhaps a few other colors (basically, to match popular kitchen appliance tones), and come in several sizes. I think they run around $30-$40.

I'd asked around a bit with carpenters I know regarding a suitable heat shield, and from the home inspector to those carpenters, they just said, "A piece of metal." That's pretty much all this thing is, and so far, it's stood up well to the heat of the stove. Where the paint had bubbled and blistered from the electric range the previous owners had, this metal plate rarely gets more than slightly warm to the touch with the gas range.

Justin said...

1I have just bought a brand new gas range cooker and I am so satisfied. My kitchen now is complete. Rangemaster is really fantastic.

academic said...
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