Last fall, my employer signed a contract to remodel a kitchen in San Ramon, Calif. It was my job as project manager to work out the details with the client and manage the actual construction.

The home was a 1980s single-story contemporary with a long bearing ridge and high vaulted ceilings. A wall approximately 14 feet wide by 18 feet tall supported one end of the ridge and separated the kitchen from a family room at the back of the house. Except for a soffit (which we planned to remove), the only break in this vast expanse of...

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