This past week marks ONE YEAR since we moved into your house!! It is hard to believe it has only been a year, yet at the same time it feels like just yesterday that we were setting up air mattresses in the new empty house! So we thought about it a little bit, what should we do to celebrate this momentous occasion? Go out to dinner? Get some drinks or see a movie? Nahhh… in typical Jesse & Seth fashion, we decided to wreck some sh*t. Let’s tear down the walls on the first floor, ya know, in our main living area that everyone who comes over will see! Why not?!
Truth is we set this crazy goal for ourselves (ok, I set it…) to have the first floor opened up by Christmas of this year. I said to Seth that I wanted our Christmas tree to have a place this year that wasn’t in the cold sunroom where nobody ever wanted to go in the dead of winter. The way our downstairs floor plan was set up was very segmented. It left us with two small living room areas, neither of which could fit more than 5 people comfortably. This proposed an even bigger problem in the winter because one of the living rooms contains the wood stove. So if we have that thing going, it gets incredibly hot in that room, but the warm air doesn’t circulate properly to the back of the house. So to remedy that, we have electric heaters in the back half of the house and those things have to crank all winter long, leaving us with a steep electric bill. To make matters even more interesting, we have an oil furnace with forced hot air but the thermostat for it is in the wood stove room… so it never really kicked on. If it did, you would get blasted with hot air for like 5 minutes and need to turn it back off before you melted. All together it was a very inefficient system, with potential for being totally efficient if the walls weren’t in the way! If the whole first floor was opened up, the wood stove could heat it all.
That can’t be too hard right? Just tear some walls down! Okay wait, let me explain that the bathroom is kind of in the middle of the layout and would need to be moved over to where the laundry room is currently. Well that’s okay because we just got the laundry room successfully moved upstairs last week! Woohoo! So that means we already have a hot and cold water hook-up and a drain in the area where we will want the new bathroom. All we need to do is tie into that for the sink and get a toilet in there. Hmmm. Looking at the pipes in the basement, we will need to drill a hole through the wooden sill holding up the house in order to put the toilet plumbing through. Somehow this is getting a little less “easy peasy” and a little more “does anyone know a good plumber?” But we don’t have the time to wait for the bathroom to be done before we start tearing these walls down. It is summer and I am home from work, we need to take advantage of this time!
So on one fateful Tuesday while Seth was at work, I decided it was time. Hand me the crowbar! Oh wait, hand me the camera first so I can show how nice I had the house decorated before I decided to ruin it…
The Stove Room:
Okay now that there is photographic evidence, hand me that sledge hammer.
At the time we only had one air conditioner plugged in downstairs and I had to turn the fan off to eliminate the spreading of dust, so I apologize for the sweat-drenched look in the picture above. This is how my sister found me when the stopped over to see what I was up to. I must admit though, breaking down the walls was fun. It felt like that scene out of Fried Green Tomatoes where Kathy Bates finally takes control of her life and starts attacking the wall in her living room. It was awesome (and now I really want to go watch that movie).
Seth got home late that night from work but we decided we had enough energy to tear down some more sheetrock and shelving. What we discovered in the process was of course, interesting. Similar to upstairs, the previous owner built a new wall every time he did an addition, instead of tying into the existing wall. So we have double walls to take down in a few places. We also found that behind the old sheetrock was old-style fiber board that needed to be taken down. It was like everything in the house came in twos. Two walls, two layers of wall material, what will be next?!
We also uncovered the old exterior wall of the house, with its original shiplap. Can’t lie, I am pretty excited about that! I will be saving these boards and using them for something. I am thinking a coffee table 🙂
Of course that was just the beginning of the discoveries of this project. We also found: paneling on the INSIDE of one of the walls, a light sconce still attached to the inside of the wall, oh and a petrified mouse. Like literally mummified…
Even crazier than all of that was the weird space we found between two walls. Turns out that behind the built-in cabinets in the “other” living room there was a 12in gap before you hit the wall of the bathroom. It ran the entire length of the wall.
Why on earth would there be this huge space?? If we had a nickel for every time we asked WHY in this house, we would be wealthy enough to pay someone else to do this work. There are no heating or cooling ducts in the space, no pipes to cover, just….nothingness. A loss of a few square feet of living space is what I think! At least we have the temporary wall already up for when we go to install the header where the bathroom wall is. Silver lining. Did I mention we are taking down load-bearing walls and need to install headers? Oops, minor detail…
Eventually it was time to determine which walls were in fact the load-bearing walls and which were okay to take down. After much deliberation and visits from my dad and brother-in-law (our go-to home improvement experts), we knew it was okay to take down the middle walls (both of them) between the two living rooms. Time for the handy sawzall and my earplugs.
Even Ted can’t stand that loud sawzall. He was hiding anywhere he could!
So do you remember earlier when I said there were two of everything in this house? I figured out what was next. Two ceilings. When we were cutting apart the ceiling to see the floor joists and to figure out which walls were okay to come down, we found that our stove room had two ceilings.
Double the demo, double the fun? Ugh. At least we can finally get rid of that track lighting…
Once we got the two walls down, we could really tell how awesome the house is going to look with an open floor plan. It was exactly how we imagined. The only downside is that we will have vertical beams to navigate around so a sectional couch is probably out of the question. But it doesn’t matter, we will make it work!
So next up on the agenda is finishing the bathroom upstairs so we can demo this one and installing two headers and four vertical beams. We picked up the lumber for the headers and beams yesterday from a sawmill 2 miles up the road, in the middle of nowhere. We had our neighbors over a few days ago to show them the progress of the house and they mentioned that the previous owner got the beams he used from the mill up the street. We decided that using the same mill to make the new beams would be pretty cool and keeping to the character of the house, not to mention it is supporting a local business. Win win.
The only problem with these is that they are very heavy, so installing them is going to be tricky. We definitely can’t just do this one ourselves. We are thinking of inviting everyone over for dinner and then some manual labor, kind of like the Amish do when they raise a barn. Just less bonnets and more booze.
Hopefully this week we will get more work done on the shower upstairs. We are going to be away for the next two weeks so you will just have to wait what happens next with the downstairs demo. In the meantime, go watch Fried Green Tomatoes and ask yourselves if there are any surprises lurking behind YOUR walls.
Costs this week:
Demolition: FREE (except for the flat tire Seth had to fix when he ran over a nail in the driveway right before we filled the bed of the truck with massive amounts of old sheetrock and wood…)
Headers & Beams: $380