We showed up to our house and found every surface on the second floor covered in plaster dust. We weren’t kidding when we said this stuff gets everywhere. This time, we even found that plaster dust had somehow worked its way into our shoes, through our socks, and wedged itself between our toes. We also got a case of what we’ve started calling “plaster boogers.” And by “we” I mean only Bradley, because girls don’t get boogers.
We know that all we need to expose our brick is a prybar, a hammer and a pair of biceps, but we were dying to try out our jackhammer. We had to be careful because a jackhammer can pummel its way right through some brick, so we set it on the lowest possible setting. Bradley took it for a test drive:
It worked like a charm! So he handed the jackhammer over to me and gave me some basic instructions
- Don’t use too much pressure.
- Don’t use too little pressure.
- Don’t bust through the wall.
Then he went to go work on another project and left me all alone with the big, bad jackhammer. But first he snapped this pic:
What you can’t see is the huge smile on my face as I yell, “YEEEEEEEHAW!”
Don’t let the cockiness fool you. When I took over jackhammering duties, I was 99.9% sure that I would pee my pants once I flipped the switch on. But after several trips to the bathroom to make sure that wouldn’t happen, I channeled my inner Brutus-the-construction-worker and let ‘er rip.
I jackhammered straight into the plaster at a 90-degree angle until I broke through the paint. Then I angled the jackhammer down so I didn’t chip the brick. This loosened the plaster so it fell right off. I nicked a couple of bricks, but it was so minor that it’s not even noticeable. For the most part, the plaster came off without a problem. And I found out that jackhammers. are. awesome. Good thing, too, because we have a whole lotta brick wall to expose in the kitchen! It’s a dusty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
The best part about using the jackhammer was how fast the plaster came off the brick. I could loosen up an area with the jackhammer and then use my hand to knock down big sections of plaster instead of chipping away at small sections using the prybar & hammer method.
Also, because more of the plaster came off the wall intact, I found some more of the weird stuff they used to hold plaster together. There were a lot of dried (and surprisingly well-preserved) leaves in the mix. Those fell apart when I tried to remove them for photography purposes. Bew hew! There were also some acorns and nuts:
That one was perfectly intact and completely preserved under the plaster. If it wasn’t for the lead paint, I would have asked Bradley to taste test it for me.
I made it all the way up to the door frame using just the jackhammer and my hands, and then I ran into a little problem. See, I don’t trust our ladder. That thing has fallen on my head not once, but twice. And it’s super wobbly. I didn’t have anything but the ladder to brace myself while I applied pressure to the jackhammer, and I kept feeling like I was going to tip over. Eep! I played it safe and switched to the prybar & hammer to finish off the rest of the wall.
Eventually I had all of the plaster off of the wall and on the floor:
The cleanup — as usual — took way longer than the demolition, and in the end, we hauled 7 giant contractor bagfuls out to the
garbage pile garage.
Little cheapskate tip for all you DIYers: buy your contractor bags from Costco. We got a giant box of 32 for $13. …right after we paid $8 for a tiny box of 12. Never again, Lowe’s. Never again!!
At one point, which trying to knock off a particularly stubborn piece of plaster, I banged my thumb with a hammer. Instead of sitting down and focusing on the pain, I decided to switch jobs and remove all of the “new” door frames off of the original frame. All of that white stuff under the door header is gone:
The sides still have some white paint on them, but all of the “new” door frames nailed onto the original wood doorway is removed. You can see the color of the original wood underneath:
We plan on sanding the door frame down and repainting it white to pop against the brick and the black floors (yes, we’ve finally settled on a color!).
After a whole lot of sweeping, vacuuming and dusting, we had a fully exposed brick wall:
It still needs some work. We have to wire brush it so all of the dust is off. We might have to repoint some brick where the mortar came loose. We also want to re-sheetrock the ceiling because we hate the raw edge where the ceiling meets the brick:
The wall that meets the brick on the right side is also pretty ragged looking:
We were already planning on sheetrocking it, so it’s no big deal. The wall with the French door was recently sheetrocked, and it looks so clean in comparison. It doesn’t have a corner bead on it yet, but Bradley’s cuts are pretty spot on:
This is the cleanest our floors have looked since we ripped up the carpet.
Sad, right? We’re dying to take a floor sander to it, but we’re waiting until after our painting is done. Anyway, it took a shop vac, a broom and a floor duster to get our floors so squeaky clean.
And it took one Bradley and one planer all of 20 seconds to screw up my clean floor goodness:
Without warning, Bradley opened up the French doors and started planing them down so they’d close a little easier.
Wood chips went flying all over, both in the hallway and in the guest bedroom. I cried, “Mah flooooors!” and vowed never to vacuum in this house again. Then I helped him hold the French doors open so he could sand them down and get them all smooth for painting. The drama never lasts long ’round our house. There’s too much work to do.
Spoiler alert: you can see the paint for our guest bedroom!
It’s a lovely shade of creamy tan. That’s all you’re getting out of us for now. We’re almost ready to paint, but until then, our lips are sealed. Mum’s the word. You’ll never take us alive, copper. Myah, see, myah! No talk of paint until our sanding’s done:
After Bradley finished sanding, we made one more change to the French doors. We haaaaated the way the original brass hardware looked.
So shiny and so…gold. They blinded us every time we opened the door. So we picked up some oil-rubbed bronze hardware from Lowe’s and made a quick swap:
Maybe it’s just because our new camera is way better than our crusty old point-and-shoot, but we think the before & afters are uh-may-zing:
We plan on painting the door black, so the hinges will basically disappear. Plus, matte black just feels so much better. We paid nearly $30 for the 6 hinges, so it wasn’t exactly a cheap fix. But we had a little money left over in our guest bedroom budget, so we went for it.
After cleaning up the floors — again! — we called it a day. We thought we deserved to relax a little with a brew or two:
Note the pile of plain white outlet covers that we’ll replace our not-so-pretty old outlets with. (Someday there won’t be a faux marble turquoise outlet in this house!) After our R&R, we called it a day and went out into the hall to take our final “in progress” photos. They’re not true “after” pictures because we still have some work to do, but the comparison is worth sharing. Prepare to ooh and aah. First up, our brick wall makeover:
And now our French door:
When we were packing up and leaving, we realized for the first time ever that you can actually see the brick wall from the front door.
And can we please talk about how sunny it is up there? The French door lets all the bedroom light through and everything just gleams. We love it!
What we learned from this project:
- Fingernails? Thumbnails? It’s almost as if they were made to be smashed by hammers.
- Plastic curtain goes up first with every demolition! We’ll never make that mistake again.
- A prybar and hammer work just fine, but a jackhammer gets the job done in half the time.