One of our favorite parts about renovating is the demolition part. Call us destructive, but there is nothing more satisfying than smashing a sledgehammer through some perfectly good sheet rock.
Wait. I take that back. There is nothing more satisfying than smashing a foot through some perfectly good sheet rock. We’ve done it. Can’t recommend it highly enough.
But before we could get to the foot-of-fury part of the project, we had take care of one of our least favorite parts about renovating: planning. Booo! Hiss! Boring!! …but totally necessary. We started by setting a goal.
Here’s what we planned on doing over the last weekend:
- Tear a big ol’ hole in the wall separating the guest bedroom from the hallway
- Install French doors.
- Seal up the old, awkwardly-positioned door hole (yes, door hole is a real term)
After we developed our game plan, we gathered our supplies. We put together a list of all the supplies we’ll need: sheetrock, lumber, nails, screws, etc. Bradley did all the estimating of how much of everything we’d need. I mostly just smiled and nodded and pretending to know what furring strips are. (Note: it has nothing to do with foxes or minks. Or leg waxing.)
We padded our list pretty heavily with extras. For instance, we know we’ll be putting up a lot of new walls upstairs, so we went ahead and ordered enough sheetrock for the whole floor. Our local lumberyard charges a flat $15 for delivery, so we took full advantage of it.
Our delivery arrived bright and early on Saturday morning, and we tossed all the extra supplies (gently) into the garage for storage until they’re needed.
Ohhhh, the luxury of space. The whole garage thing is new to us, and we are loving it!
We had already researched French doors to find a good deal. We knew we wanted 60″ wide x 80″ tall doors, and found that all the places we checked charged around $350. We ordered our door from Lowe’s and picked it up ourselves to save on delivery charges.
Then finally — fiiiiiinally! — the big day arrived. We’d rested up. We’d stretched out. We’d made sure our tetanus shots were up-to-date. We’d said our goodbyes to the wall on the left:
Some disclaimer-y type stuff before we get into the
meat & potatoes sledgehammers and sheetrock. This kind of work is usually better left to the pros. This guy:
…is a pro. He was born with a hammer in one hand and a level in the other. (Not really sure how his mother pulled that one off, but kudos to her.) He’s torn down walls and put up walls. He knows how to re-wire the lights, and he can plumb with the best of ‘em. He also knows how to throw a perfect put-down-the-camera-and-help-me glare:
In short, he knows what he’s doing. If you’ve never done anything like this before and want to try, get help from a professional. If you attempt to do this on your own, you will die. …just kidding. You might get hurt or destroy your house, though, so play it safe.
We started our demo day by making sure we weren’t about to demolish a load-bearing wall. That would be bad. Ceiling-crashing-down-on-your-face-while-you-sleep bad. Once we figured out our wall was a-OK to demolish, we turned off all the electricity so we wouldn’t end up Benjamin Franklining ourselves. Little Pennsylvania humor for ya there. Wokka wokka!
Bradley removed all the baseboards with a big ol’ crowbar. We plan on reusing as much of the original lumber as possible, so we stashed it away for later. After that, he used a box cutter to score the edges of the wall we wanted to remove:
At this point, we put on our respirators to protect our lungs from any potential lead paint dust.
Yes, ladies, my ventilator is hot pink. Safety first, fashion second.
Once our noses were secure, out came the sledgehammer and we bashed the wall down….carefully. We wanted to keep the other side of the wall — the inside of the bedroom — in tact, so we only removed one side of the wall. The sheetrock removal process was a lot like Operation Ivy: grab, yank, toss, repeat.
We were a little surprised to find random bits of insulation stuffed into the walls. Whoever put up the wall must have had leftovers and decided to throw in them. Either way, they’re not doing any good in this interior wall. We removed the insulation stashed it away for later use as well.
We found some fun stuff within the wall. Like this bit of floral wallpaper:
This floral border on top of the floral wallpaper. Someone sure loved flowers on her wall:
The biggest surprise was the Gold Bond brand drywall:
And here I thought Gold Bond only made foot powder. Crazy!
Eventually the entire wall was naked, the wood was exposed and all the old sheetrock was put away in four huge contractor trash bags:
Next, we needed to cut the hole to set our French doors into. Bradley drew out the dimensions for the door on the other side of our bare wall, making sure they were level and perfect.
And, because, we’re total nerds who can’t ever walk away from a Beetlejuice reference, we drew knobs on the door and knocked 3 times.
Nobody answered (sad face). So we pulled out the Sawzall and started cutting:
I’d never used a Sawzall before, so Bradley let me have a turn. It was love at first whirr. I was totally the girl who took shop class in middle school and metal smithing in high school and college, I became pretty scared of loud power tools. I had an accident in a metal class and sliced into my left thumb and forefinger. All the way to the bone. I had to get 22 stitches and — ew ew ewwww! — I felt every single one of them because the local anesthetic didn’t quite kick in. So after that traumatic experience, I’ve been a little hesitant to jump back into using things that could chop my fingers off.
After using the Sawzall, though, I’m ready. I’m back in love with power tools, and I can’t wait to try them all. Good thing we have a lot of work to do around the house!
Anyway, we Sawzall’d right through all the wood on the bare side of the wall, but used a handsaw to finish off the parts closest to the floors so we didn’t accidentally cut through them:
The wall popped right out and we removed it to reveal our new door hole:
Door hole! We knew right away that our hunch about putting in a French door was spot on. There was so much light coming in from the bedroom windows and from the windows in the hall. We could open up all the windows and let a breeze through. Everything felt so much more open and big and airy. We had time for a quick high-five and then got back to work moving some outlets around:
We also had to cut and install a header to sit above the door. Basically, a header takes the weight of the wall off the door:
See? I told you he knows what he’s doing. Once we had the header and frame in, we made sure everything was level. And, easy peasy, we slid the door right in:
OK, not really. When we went to slide the door in, we found out that it doesn’t really fit. No matter what we tried, the door seemed too big for the door hole. We had a minor panic attack. I didn’t get any pictures of it because we were too busy running around trying to figure out what happened.
We quickly figured out what we did wrong: we were being way too precise. Our measurements and cuts were so exact that the door wouldn’t slide in. D’oh! Our jobs are kind of all about making things look perfect. Bradley’s a furniture designer and I’m an art director. With our work, when something is off by 1/16th of an inch, it looks wrong. You have to get things exact or else they look weird or ugly or off. So we measured and cut our door hole to perfectly fit our door. Turns out walls don’t really work that way. Type A / perfectionist FAIL.
We had to go back and widen some of our cuts and make a few adjustments. There were door shims involved:
After another 30 minutes of tweaking, the door finally slid in and looked fabulous.
Toot freaking toot. That’s the sound of us tooting our own horn. Above is a shot from the stair looking down the hall. And below is a shot at the end of the hallway looking down towards the stairs.
And here’s a shot of the doors open, so you can get a looksie at that the header I was talking about earlier.
Before the day was over, we had one more task. We had to seal up the old, awkwardly-positioned door hole. Now you see it:
Now you don’t:
OK, fine, you can still see it. We still have to tape and plaster and sand and paint, but we won’t get that that till next time.
This entire project took roughly 6 hours or so. We had a few other projects going on at the same time, plus we had to take a time out to accept our delivery and run to Lowe’s and Home Depot. We’re pretty geeked about our new door and how it totally opens up the cramped hall.
Stuff we learned from this project:
- Handcrafted tables and well-designed brochures can never be “too perfect.” Door holes on the other hand…
- Power tools are not toys, but they sure feel like it.
- You can’t put on a respirator without making some kind of Darth Vader joke. We dare you to try.