Wednesday, April 9, 2014


So this past week I was supposed to knock out (heh) the demolition.  I'm afraid my results are inadequate, but it turns out the one-room challenge copycatters are actually asked to link up their results (check them out here!) on Thursdays, not Wednesdays, so I have one more night to do some damage.  If I get the rest of it done tonight, I will update this post with that progress. 

So to refresh, here is the wall where I want to put the closet:

And here is what I am hoping it will look like after I am done:

And here is what the green bedroom side of the wall looked like in real life:

And then I did stuff.  I tried to be methodical (my results are laughable, but I really did, I swear).  First I removed the left side of the door frame, since the new wall would be starting there.  In the process I badly damaged the part of the plaster I was keeping:

So, "significant plaster repair" is now added to my to-do list.  I was particularly hoping to find that the piece of wood that forms the left side of the door frame reached all the way to the ceiling - so that there would be a natural break in the lathe and plaster there and I wouldn't have to worry about damaging it further during demolition.  No such luck:

Ah, well.  Next on my list was emptying the master bedroom closet:

And then removing all the shelves:

The shelves all turned out to be particle-board (though the band of wood along the top and the baseboard appear to be very old), so my new theory is that the shelving in the master bedroom was a rough imitation of the (apparently much older) shelving in the smaller closet in the green bedroom.  Which it was time to clean out:

Resulting in this:

Every bedroom is now in chaos.  Now, I don't know whether you remember my discussion of the gray soon-to-be-shelves area in my plan for the finished closet:

The dark-gray box to the left of the brick pattern.  I attempted to explain that I want to leave the resulting wall recess in the green bedroom wide enough to put a decent-sized piece of furniture in it, so I'm not planning to extend the new closet all the way to the chimney on the left.  But the shelves in the green bedroom closet actually do extend that far (you can baaaarely see the shelves extending to the left in the photo above), so I figured I would keep that portion of the length as a shelf niche in the new closet.  The dark gray box represents the shelf niche.  So I cut the original shelves down to just the skinnier part:

I figured I'd use a big Rubbermaid storage bin for debris hauling, and it made a decent sawhorse as well.  (Above photo is pre-sawing.  I should've put MY NEW SAW in the picture - I finally got my OWN circular saw, and will be returning my long-borrowed one to my buddies.)  Then I put the small shelf pieces back in the closet:

See, on the left.  Because nothing bad could happen to them there.  Cue ominous foreshadowing music.  By the way, did I mention that just getting the shelves out of that closet was a horrendous beast?  It was a horrendous beast.  Took me almost half an hour of wrestling and pounding and trying to avoid an arm full of splinters - they fitted in there that tight. 

Anyway, as you see, I'd also ripped off the door frame around that closet.  Oh, and removed the door.  My next chore was to remove the picture rail from the section of wall slated for demolition - ideally without damaging it, in hopes of putting it back up on the new wall after it goes in.  I even thought to cut away the trim at a 45* angle, since that's how it will need to match up with the trim on the new walls:

So clever, I am!  I did the same on the adjoining wall:

That blue color is not painter's tape.  It's one of the colors the walls were in that room when we moved in.  Then I applied my little 45* angle cutaway technique to the baseboard:

And everything just fell apart.  I marked the angle wrong, so I had to re-mark it.  Then my worn-out jigsaw blade would barely get through it at all.  Then I realized I had had the angle marked right the first time and had cut the angle backward, and figured I would just cut a straight line instead.  But the saw wouldn't really do that either and the wood broke off.  So then I figured I would just try to salvage the trim at the bottom of the baseboard, since that looked like the hardest thing to match at the store, and I actually got the cut angle on that correct (see above), but apparently the original installers used some sort of ninja nailing process and I destroyed the stuff trying to pry it out:

That is a splintered end of trim, if you can't tell.  Sorry these photos are so crappy.  I figured cell phone photos would be adequate for the demolition story - should have realized my errors would call for showing off in all their glory.  So then I did one more intelligent thing:

I ran the circular saw up the edge of my demolition line so that when I ripped out the lathe and plaster to the right of the line, I wouldn't accidentally rip out the stuff to the left that I wanted to keep.  (Before I started in with a hammer, I actually extended that line a little further with a hand saw.) 

I knocked out most of that prep work on Sunday.  Then on Monday night I finished both sets of income tax returns AND the amended federal returns from 2012.  (Some of those may even be accurate.)  I am a SUPERHERO!  And then last night it was time for The Serious Demolition. 

Have I mentioned that I hate demolition?  Hate it. 

So most of ripping out walls can be done with a hammer (sometimes a pry bar is also useful).  In my elaborate curses of this process and how difficult it was and how filthy my whole house is now (and I TRIED to contain it) and how many additional steps I now need to take in re-building because of things I caused or uncovered in the demolition stage (and I really was careful to try to foresee problems and contain the damage), I need to remember that (a) I correctly determined that there would be no plumbing or wiring in the walls - points for me and (b) it would have been an unspeakable nightmare to reroute plumbing or wiring, had I found any.  Anyway, the hammering:

So there you may be able to tell that I had ripped out the lathe and plaster that formed my (green) side of the wall, and had still to rip out the lathe and plaster that formed the back side of the wall (which faced into the master bedroom closet, for reference).  The drippy-looking stuff between the lathes is called plaster "keys" - the technique is, you attach the lathes with gaps between them, and then you throw trowels-full of wet plaster at the wall in just such a way that some slops between the lathes.  As it dries, it hardens, and these "keys" hold the plaster onto the lathe.  Very clever, yes?  Here's a cross-section of plaster, with keys:

Anyway.  Further smashing:

Turns out there wasn't lathe on the other side of the cavity above the two closets, which actually is really nice.  Because, as I suspected, there was blown-in insulation up there:

You can sort of see it in the above photo - piles of gray dust (look at the right edge).  I was actually afraid the cavity would be totally filled with it, so this was a relief.  I hate blown-in insulation.  I mean, not as insulation.  Just if I have to touch it.  It's so INDESCRIBABLY ICKY.  And I was afraid that I would have to bring the ceilings down in both closets by pulling them down onto my own head.  I was not worried about being concussed by falling plaster; the thought didn't cross my mind till just now.  No, I was worried about getting blown-in insulation in my hair.  So gross.  But because of this configuration, I didn't have to do that - I just reached through those openings and pounded the closet ceilings down.  And then tore out the facing wall of plaster on the right.  Bringing us to this point:

You see that innocent-looking gray color at the bottom of the right-hand closet area?  That's a pile of blown-in insulation, broken lathe and plaster, and general debris so deep that I lost my dust-bin in it and could not find it, even though I suspected it might be in there and poked around with some stuff (touching the insulation as little as possible, of course).  By the way, I don't want to suggest that I'm a prima donna generally.  I was so filthy by the end of this process that my hands were dark gray, my face was gray, and I left dust footprints wherever I walked.  (Since I always do demo barefoot.  I got at least six splinters and picked out another ten as I was going, but I have never gotten a nail in my foot, and I routinely leave them on the floor.  Maybe I should update my tetanus shot at some point.)  This might give you a bit of an idea:

In the lower-right corner is the green bin, full of ripped-down lathe (and other things you can't see in this photo).  What you really need to know is that I filled five green bins full of debris, and there was really never more than one bin's worth in the room at the time - had I let it all pile up, the disaster above would have been incomparably worse. 

The remove-it-as-you-go idea was kind of brilliant (thank you, thank you), but the really brilliant part was that my dear husband removed all of it, including the hard work of finding somewhere in the trash to stuff it (and picking out all the lathe to put in the fire pit, when it would no longer fit in the trash cans).  Partly this was because I was so filthy I didn't want to walk in and out of the room more than I had to.  Partly it was because I wanted to keep smashing, rather than stopping to empty bins.  And partly it was because the bins were so heavy I couldn't really have carried them down the stairs. 

Here is another picture of the heinousness:

So disgusting.  By then it was almost midnight, and a work night at that.  So piled all the debris into the bin one last time, and swept everything.  This didn't have the effect that you normally think of with sweeping.  It just meant there were no longer piles of filth:

For some reason that picture is particularly blurry, perhaps representing my mental state at the time.  Tonight, my goal is to put in some strategic circular saw cuts to enable me to rip out the wall between the old closets (it happens to be made of wood, not plaster), rip out all the support posts, and get rid of the baseboard from the right-hand closet (you can see it in the picture above, with three lathes hanging onto the back of it, at the bottom.  It's very hard to remove - it's bound in by the adjacent baseboard and actually is below the flooring, making it hard to pry out.  Oh, did I mention I will also have to patch gaps in the flooring?).  And then I will gather every cleaning rag I have and try to banish the dust - cutting drywall and studs will produce a little more mess, but it will be less all told than the amount of dirt I'll track around if I don't clean this ASAP. 

I imagine this project will illustrate that building a new closet is easy compared to demolishing an old one and then building.  I am telling myself that the most time-consuming, most difficult, and most unpleasant part of the job is now over.  Please, God, let this be true. 


Hello everyone!  It's Thursday morning now, and last night I BROKE MORE THINGS.  I started by trying to run the circular saw along the edge of the wood wall that divides the two original closets, so I could knock those out instead of prying them out from between the door frame and the blue-painted plaster (leaving a hole, and maybe damaging the plaster).  But the circular saw wouldn't go, because (I eventually realized) it kept hitting nails.  My first and easiest task, and it was a non-starter!  I was already exhausted from not sleeping enough the night before, and I was feeling about ready to give up. 

And then I remembered I had just brought another saw in from the garage - the reciprocating saw, with the special demolition blade.  (Cuts through nails as well as lumber.)  I figured it wasn't time to give up until I had sawed something.  And the fearsome giant studs that I was afraid I would never get rid of barely put up a fight:

The star of last night's demolition was definitely the tag team of the recip saw and the four-pound maul:

Realizing this as late as I did does not make me sound very intelligent, I know.  A saw specially made for demolition and a huge hammer with an axe on the end are good at destroying stuff?  Who'd have guessed? 

I also discovered something I just did not see coming, after hundreds of times using my pry-bar.  I knew that when you need to drive the pry-bar into a small opening, you use a hammer to pound on it.  And then I reached around for my hammer, couldn't find it, and grabbed the maul.  It never crossed my mind that it would work better if I used A BIGGER HAMMER.  With a standard 16-oz. claw hammer, the pry bar only widens an opening that basically fits it.  With a 4-lb. maul, it will simply create an opening.  It will actually just destroy whatever is in its path - not a surgical operation, but very gratifying when you're very tired and don't even have the energy left to pound intelligently. 

And once I got the beams down, that immovable wall suddenly didn't seem so immovable any more:

Though I may have overdone things juuuuuust a touch:

I did not actually mean to split the frame around the closet door; I was planning to keep that.  Another thing to repair, I guess.  Then there was the hideousness that formed the original back wall of the master closet:

It turns out that that hideousness was caused by the fact that the baseboard on both sides - in the green bedroom, and inside the original master closet - was installed before the floor was laid, and therefore was below the level of the hardwood (making it very difficult to pry out).  And then apparently an awful lot of plaster dripped down into that wall cavity during the plastering, causing an amount of debris between the baseboards that covered the entire room in plaster dust, again, when I tried to remove it.  At one point I even despaired of finding subfloor under there - I was convinced that the support material way under there was some demonic mix of plaster and cement.  But once all the studs came out and I could smash with abandon, I was able to clear the whole area out.  Here's what it looks like (post-cleaning):

Obviously, I'll need to fill in some flooring.  I'm 99% sure that the flooring on both sides is Southern yellow pine, but now I'm tempted to use white oak just because I happen to have some left over from the porch floor.  And it's only inside a closet.  Thoughts? 

Oh, as you see, I also have to patch the wall on the right, and cover the gap between the door frame and the blue wall.  But that's what trim molding is for. 

And suddenly, when I thought demolition would never be finished, and I would have a giant hideous partly-demolished hole in the guest room for the rest of my life, it was done

I hate demolition.  On to building! 


  1. well for the record, i think you are doing great- who cares about the mess! :)

  2. Wow, that is some serious, serious demo work you've got going on! Sounds like this has been a frustrating week - hopefully thinks will go more smoothly this next week!

  3. Oh my God I cannot believe you are doing this by yourself! Demo is the worst! I am so impressed! Excited to see it all finished!

  4. I am so amazed that you did all that yourself!!!