While Leigh has taken on the mammoth task of sorting and disposing of the stuff left behind, I’ve begun preparing the house for demolition. One of the main reasons we wanted to buy this house in spite of all of its problems is that it is structurally sound and has historic characteristics underneath the visible layers. Cosmetic things can be fixed and altered, but once a home loses these other things, it can be tough to get them back (think failing foundations and roofs, house additions gone horribly wrong). So my task over the next month is to bring the house down to these strong and attractive core elements upon which we will rebuild our dream house.
Most of my work will be pure demolition–tearing out old carpeting and other flooring, ripping down plaster and lath. However, there will be a few things that we will want to restore and reinstall. A great example of this is the original wainscoting in the kitchen.
This is a design element that is authentic to a late Victorian-era house. The process for things like the wainscoting will go a bit different. Instead of carelessly ripping it off the wall and putting it in a pile on the floor, the wainscoting will be carefully removed so as not to damage it and will be stored until after demolition when it will be refinished.
Regardless of whether a room will experience demolition or careful deconstruction (or both), the room has to be prepared for this step. That has been the bulk of my efforts this past week. Before the plaster comes off the walls and ceilings, the rooms need to be cleared of all furniture, all shelves and hooks need to be taken off the walls, all the light fixtures need to be taken off, and the floors need to be stripped down to the subfloor (unless we are keeping the current floor covering). This process really makes me appreciate modern solutions to furnishing that don’t necessitate holding things down with dozens of nails. What I thought was going to be a fairly quick effort has turned into spending as much time pulling nails as taking things out of a room.
We are within days of actually tearing out all of the old, cracking plaster and the lath underneath it to expose the wall studs. Aside from the benefits mentioned above, this will provide us with an easy way of upgrading all of the wiring, plumbing, and structural elements to current code, and will allow us to reinforce any studs, joists, or other structural component that has rotted or weakened over time. Finally, once all of this is done we can insulate the walls and close them in. I’ll be posting updates as we move along in this process.