Thursday, August 2, 2012

Demolition Begins

Demolition parties sound exciting. Come over for free food and help whack things apart! Pick up a sledge hammer, a pry-bar and a hammer and tear our new (to us) home apart. Later, come back and help us put it back together!

But demolition is never that easy. I failed to remember how dusty and difficult it was to tear out our plaster ceiling in the kitchen of our last home. This time around, the plaster is thicker and was installed on wire lath, not wood. The wire and thick plaster were VERY well constructed, which consequently means the walls and ceilings are VERY tough to tear out. Add in an excessive heat wave with a house with no operating windows (don’t bother asking if we had AC on – there is no HVAC system period), and the demolition job gets even tougher.

The first demolition day, 3 brave souls joined Christa and me in trying to take apart the upstairs bathrooms. We succeeded in removing the easy items – lavatories and toilets. But then came the master cast iron tub. If this tub was a claw-foot, we would have likely kept it in place; however, this was just a simple cast iron tub.

As we began demolition, we found that this “simple” cast iron tub had been built into the bathroom. The base went a couple inches below the tile floor; the sides went into the wall by at least an inch. Getting the tub out of the bathroom and down the stairs required 2.5 hours of our collective effort. In the end, we were so exhausted that we left the tub in the living room and decided that the tub in the kid’s bathroom was just perfect in its place and only required a refinishing.

We took it relatively easy in the days following the bathroom demolition. I tore out some built-ins in the kitchen and got ready for more thorough demolition. Our biggest night was spent tearing out the carpet and pads in four rooms. Thankfully, only one room of carpet was really cat-urine soaked and smelly. I don’t think I could have done all that we did in that heat if they had smelled as bad as that room. Removing the carpet revealed the wood floors that we were guessing were in good shape. We were generally correct – only one room will require a lot of extra work, mainly because the previous owners used the wood floor as a paint guard when repainting the room before carpeting it.
This past Saturday, 3 different brave souls (is that because it was so hard the first weekend? J) joined us  to start the real “fun” demolition: taking down the walls and ceilings in the kitchen. We began with this:

And ended with this:

Unfortunately, due to the heat and the effort involved in removing plaster on wire lath, we didn’t get as far as expected. I suppose that’s always part of a large-scale home renovation project. Sunday I spent more time at the house by myself and removed all of the old, bubbled paneling in the “bonus room” and busted a hole in the wall between the bonus room and the kitchen. Soon the two rooms will be joined to allow free flow between.

Whacking away with a sledgehammer is manly fun, but in this heat, it’s brutal. I’ve been drinking about 2 water bottles and 2 Gatorades per 3 hours, and I still feel beat. Breathing in this heat is made worse by being safe – wearing respirators and safety gear adds to the difficulty, but it’s worth it. Work like this is not for the faint of heart, and I’ll definitely feel better once it’s all demolished. After I get it done, I’ll write a follow-up post to share my do’s and don’ts for this type of work. My Google/YouTube search was only marginally helpful in finding out the best ways to do what I’m doing.

DISCLAIMER: We are not professional home builders/carpenters/journeymen. This is a blog about how we are undertaking a large home renovation project. We make no promises about any information we present – we are just do-it-yourselfers sharing our experiences. If you undertake a similar project, please make yourself aware of safety procedures and local codes. Keep in mind that you are on your own.

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