September 2016: With permit in hand, it was now time to prepare for demolition. The plan is to live in the bedrooms while we do construction on the living room, dining room, and kitchen -- rooms we collectively refer to as the common area, highlighted in the floor plan below.
After the common area is done, or at least livable, we will switch and live there while the bedrooms are under construction. Because we were about to lose our living room and kitchen during construction, we set up a living and dining space in the master bedroom and turned the covered back patio into a makeshift outdoor kitchen.
Here's how the rooms looked before the demolition. This is the living room and dining area with (somewhat haphazard) furniture.
Here's looking from the dining area to the kitchen.
We began clearing out the space. A lot of stuff we donated. Some stuff we kept and moved into other rooms. Some items were harder to move than others.
Eventually all the rooms in the common area were empty. Below is the living room just prior to demolition. The carpeting is extremely worn in some areas, and looks brand new in others. I'm leaving it in place to protect the hardwood floor underneath during construction. When everything else is done, I'll remove the carpet and refinish the hardwood floor.
Here I am perhaps contemplating the enormousness of what I was about to undertake, and having second thoughts...
I'm being somewhat glib about the prospect of beginning the demolition on the house, but it really was a scary thing to undertake. There's so much uncertainty, so much self-doubt and second guessing. How much is this project going to cost? Is it okay that I don't really know what I'm doing? What if I mess it all up? So many questions, and so few easy or certain answers. The house was kind of shabby in places and had some deferred maintenance, but it was perfectly functional. And I was about to start tearing it apart and turn it into an unlivable construction zone! And this is my wife's childhood home, no less.
Before I began demolishing the ceiling drywall, I collected samples of it from different parts of the house and sent them off to a lab so that the "popcorn" finish could be tested for asbestos. It came back negative. And with the first hole poked in the ceiling, it begins...
Demolition of Common Area
The idea was to take off the drywall in big sheets by trying to find the seams and pull the nails out rather than just smash it all apart. But as we were very much amateurs, we often ended up just smashing it apart. Wen and her brother Bin helped take out the ceiling.
Our friends Evelyn and Mindy came over to get in on the demolition action.
As the demolition progressed, I got more creative with my methods.
We got the living room ceiling out after several hours of work. For me this was the first of many, many long, hot, sweaty days.
The initial removing of the ceiling drywall was fun and exciting, but the next day the floor looked like a bomb had hit the house...
Next came the decidedly less fun and exciting process of shoveling up hundreds of pounds of drywall first into a wheelbarrow...
...and then into a huge dumpster.
The dumpster gradually got more full. But it was still only about 75% full when they picked it up. Not the most efficient use of an expensive resource.
A lot of the equipment I bought can be used throughout the project, so it can be considered an investment. The dumpsters, however, I did not use efficiently enough. I underestimated just how how laborious the demolition would be, and struggled to fill the 30 cubic-yard dumpster by myself within the 7-day rental period. I overworked myself that first week, so much so that the next week I needed a few days to recover and couldn't work. I learned later that I could have just extended the dumpster another week at no charge. I guess the lesson is to know what your options are and to be realistic and conservative about what you can get done within a certain time period, especially when you haven't done it before and uncertainty is high.
For some reason, there were no volunteer helpers for the cleanup part or any of the subsequent days of demolition. In any case, I pressed onward. After cleaning up the living room somewhat, I moved on to the kitchen. While removing the lighting fixture over the sink, Wen captured me having what appears to be a bit of a TRON moment.
Here's the view from the living room, through the dining area, to the kitchen, with most of the appliances, cabinets and countertop gone.
I attempted to disconnect the dishwasher without flooding the kitchen or shocking myself.
Also to be removed was the forced air heating and cooling system of the house. We will be without central heating and cooling until I install the new heat pump system. Here I am removing the furnace and ducting.
We borrowed cousin Rhoda's truck to take the appliances to be donated or recycled. Thanks Rhoda!
I wanted to open up the common area and remove walls that made small spaces feel dark and even smaller. One of those areas to be opened up is the front door entry (as opposed to the entry door from the garage). With the HVAC being moved, there would be more space to make a mud room area for removing and storing outdoor clothing like jackets and shoes comfortably, and for more easily transitioning between inside and outside. Here I am removing the HVAC cabinet and coat closet to allow the entry way to be enlarged.
Conclusions and Reflections
The demolition required a significant amount of time and money. I spent about 115 hours and approximately $2500 on the demolition. $1300 of that was for dumpster rental (turns out dumpsters are expensive), and the remainder was mostly on tools, safety gear, and equipment, including wrecking bars, gloves, hard hats, goggles, respirators, ladders and scaffolding, a wheelbarrow and brooms and dustpans and shovels, and blades for the reciprocating saw, angle grinder, and oscillating multitool. It sounds like (and is) a lot money for a DIY demolition of a space that's only about 700 square feet.
With the ceiling gone and a good portion of the drywall on the walls gone and the kitchen appliances and about half the counter removed, and the forced air heating and cooling system and ducts removed, I deemed the demolition sufficiently complete to begin construction on changing the roof structure of the common area. In retrospect, knowing what I know now through my own experience and based on conversations with actual contractors, even though the initial demolition that I did felt like an enormous undertaking and a hell of a lot of work, it was far from complete.
In retrospect it was premature to declare the house ready to begin construction. There were too many electrical wires hanging down from the attic, too many walls that had nails and staples and little annoying bits -- or even entire sheets -- of drywall and plaster on them. And the chimney and fireplace should have been gone. (Yes, I removed an entire fireplace and chimney, but that will get its own post.) Everything should have been removed from the kitchen, including all the counters and cabinets, and yes, even the kitchen sink. Everything should have been down to bear, clean studs and ceiling joists. The initial construction -- which I'll talk about in another post -- would have gone faster without having to back track and do more demolition. I didn't know that then, but now I do. And learning's the main goal of this project, so it's okay. It's good, in fact.
Another thing I've learned is that there's such a thing as taking the "insourcing" (that is, DIY) dictum too far. In this case, in fact I probably should have hired some outside help for the demolition. Considering what I ended up paying for dumpster fees because it took so long to do the work myself, getting outside help for demolition would likely have cost about the same or only slightly more, and would have been much faster. There's only so much to be learned about the physical process of demolition. At some point it just becomes mindless tedium.
But mindless as it is, sometimes it's still fun: