Like many homes built in this era and area (say that five times fast), our 1920’s home is tall, narrow and full of lots of small rooms. It’s perfect if you have a dozen kids that all need their own space (or need to house your ever growing lone chair collection– leave no chair behind!), but not so great if you want an entire family to have a meal together in the same place. See this is what she looks like from the outside. We also have a killer hill for a front yard that makes our big beast appear a little more spooky than she really is.
Today I wanted to dish about a wall removal that happened between our kitchen and dining room. Now, to start, let the record state that our dining room held our family of 5 just fine, but it wasn’t large enough to hold our local extended family for a holiday or big event — nor were any of their homes for the same reason. This of course makes the pressure (which is obviously self-inflicted — like any good over-thinker), to create a room that will house such an activity, immense. I come from a family that no matter how big it grew, we all dined in the same area, while wearing our un-ironic (at the time) Christmas sweaters, and thus I have every intention of putting my beloved family through the same torture. Somehow large gatherings are cool when Pokemon are involved, but less cool when it involves putting a napkin in your lap! *sigh* Kids these days.
Our dining room is a funny space. It houses an extra-wide doorway to the living room (unseen as it’s on the left wall in the photo above) and traditional doorways to the kitchen and front hall. There’s also a door that’s been removed that used to lead to the deck. Wait a minute — have we acknowledged the hideous paint in this room? Sure, sure it doesn’t look too bad from this shot, but the white ceiling trim has this, not-always-consistently-dark-green paint all over it. Although, it could have been all moody and on fleek (can we use that word when talking about decor or just our eyebrows?), but it was wrecked by bad application and lack of anything bright to make it NOT resemble a Hobbit hole. Move over Frodo, we’re movin’ in!
It also contained a sweet, built-in china cabinet with sliding doors and enough storage to conceal all drama pertaining to Taylor Swift and Kanye West inside — until I came along. Having lived in several open concept warehouse spaces in the past, I’ve come to love their floor plans as they tend to challenge our ways of thinking on how we use space and what things we can eliminate when we don’t have as many walls to keep stuff on. They’re freeing! Although it means you can’t hide your dirty dishes after dinner, it does mean you’re able to impart guilt on your guests to come help you tidy afterwards — and that’s what family events are for right? Guilt? (sorry not sorry Mom if you’re reading this).
Alas, with this structure, that wasn’t in the cards as our balloon-frame abode just won’t tolerate such stress without pricey, supplemental support and so I’ve settled for more of an “open as I can get” space. This of course means, that beautiful china cabinet had to go. We had grand plans to simply un-house it from the wall and build a frame for it and use it in our decor upstairs until we started in on the project. The cabinet had been built from scraps and was quite literally one with the wall so first things first, we removed the plaster on the dining room side of the wall and then started the demolition of the cabinet.
Now. normally, folks who undergo a renovation or repair on a certain part of their home tend to take a few precautionary measures before starting. They remove all furniture and accessories and decorative items and wrap in plastic or a tarp those that can not be removed. They might plastic off the area from falling debris or cover vents and open windows. Then — then there’s my husband. All of these seemingly large things are just too much when you’re SO EXCITED to tear something out. His love of getting a project started is not unlike a kid in a candy store or a 7 year old on Christmas morning. Truth be told, when every part of your home has renovation going on in it, there’s little place to actually move things too, but I felt as though I needed a disclaimer as to why our tables and other areas are all seemingly still full of stuff (and weird stuff too!) Remember this is real, real life!
So this is when I pause because y’all– removing entire walls from your home is TERRIFYING. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done it, there’s still this insane fear that the house will come crashing in on you. No seriously. It doesn’t matter how much physics is up in your head, that all goes out the window when you start removing studs. I’m O.K. with this guttural reaction as I’m the type of person who will go all Fried Green Tomatoes on a wall and yell, ” TO WANDA!” and demo things just because I can. So it’s probably best that my brain comes pre-wired to keep me safe. Moving on…
Piece by piece (
you collected me) it slowly came down. Now, we should probably note that this wasn’t our first project in the home and obviously isn’t the last, but it WAS the first time I’d seen my husband with a rather cautious look to him. I found out later, he actually WAS worried about the ceiling caving in and although he added additional header support to help hold things in place he couldn’t be positive that this wouldn’t yield in disaster. When I was younger I thought I’d be living on the edge by now. I guess this is as edgy as Wisconsin gets.
As we removed the cabinet we uncovered all sorts of treasures that were built inside. For instance, there was a newspaper from 1957 that is packed with amazing line art illustrations and job listings for both women and men — because of course they can’t have the same job! Why I never! We found a shot glass, two feathers and a some coins along with a whole host of dead spiders. Ew. Gross.
Once the main support for the wall had been removed there was this tension in the air. We had reached the point of no return and no matter what happened — this cabinet was coming out! It was akin to the suffering that plagues you the instant you realize you want to take your bra off for the night, and then realize you can’t because you still have to walk the dog or take the neighbors brownies and you’re instantly annoyed. Aaaaaaand by annoyed I mean grateful for the opportunity to provide service to your family and to others — no wait, I really just mean annoyed. There were 5,000+ nails holding this sucker in place and it seemed it would never break free, but once it had been pushed off its axis it felt as though it needed to have been removed like yesterday and so piece by piece (
he restored my faith) out it came!
Two sawzall blades later it was on it’s way to heading out the door. We took every last bit outside to our burn pile. For most folks, a fire in your backyard is held in a cute, controlled, little fire pit and you roast a marshmallow every once in awhile. In our home, our fire pit is the fastest way to get rid of wooden building material that can no longer be reused. First we strip reusable wood pieces and hardware from the debris and sort it out by like size and material. It’s sent off to find homes in the garage or out back in what we affectionately call “the lumber garden” (more on that later).
The rest, finds it’s way to the burn pile to die a fiery death, where it then turns to ash. It’s the cleanest way to remove old debris that can’t be salvaged or reused in any way, shape, or form. The ashes are then dug out every few weeks and we start all over again.
As an added bonus, letting your oldest tend to a 15′ materials bon fire in your backyard wins you serious cool points. It should also be noted that we live within a holler (see: yell, shout, scream) of the 3 firemen for our village and our children were trained in fire safety before they could ride bikes.
Now the space between the two rooms awaits its final treatments. The headers are in and we no longer worry that the sky is falling. We have a few ideas rolling around but as is the nature with working with found materials, you often work with what you stumble upon and not what you plan for! One thing we know for sure is this wall that leads into the kitchen will be covered in black pallet wood to help blend our homemade pipe kitchen shelving as we won’t be reinstalling cabinets, but I’ll save that story for another day! Thanks for tuning into our little “What’s Happening in Waldo” corner! Have you ever torn out walls? What sort of problems or things did you learn along the way? Let us know in the comments below!