An Opening

Let me salute those of you who live in an apartment. Your living arrangement is much better for the planet. I’ve lost count of the amount of construction debris we’ve sent to the landfill in the 20 years we’ve owned this old house. I filled another dumpster yesterday re-opening the wall between the two front rooms and restoring the house to its original floor plan.

Should you want to attempt this yourself, Fine Homebuilding has a nice article on how to contain dust during demolition. It involves lots of plastic, an argument for not screwing up old houses in the first place. Their tips worked:

  • Wall off the area with plastic sheeting.
  • Put construction debris in plastic bags (the big orange store sells extra thick garbage bags for this purpose).
  • Vacuum like there’s no tomorrow.

Here’s what it looked like before (note the cracked drywall sheets that, I discovered, were barely attached to the studs):


And after:

I don’t have a picture, but I removed the studs after confirming that the old header was adequate (it’s not a load bearing wall). The next step will be to fix the plaster (I’m hiring this out). When the plasterers are done I’ll frame the opening with molding I’ll fabricate in my woodshop to match the doorways in the rest of the house.

A tip of the hat to the folks who do this dirty and dangerous work every day.

Leave a comment


  1. Much wisdom here.

    If you believe some of the home renovation drivel on TV, you may think that a sledgehammer is the most important demolition tool. Actually, your brain is. Proceed slowly and gently and make sure that you know what you are cutting into before you cut. Remove drywall in small sections and look behind it whenever you can. Be aware that water pipes, electrical cables and other services may be in totally weird places that you would never have thought of. You are still in trouble if you cut them, even though “It is not my fault – the plan was wrong”!

    • Great advice. I once witnessed a very close call with a sledgehammer and someone’s head at a previous job. And I should have been more careful with my own demolition work. While I was cutting open this wall I wore ear protection. I took off that ear protection to haul the drywall to the dumpster. When I slammed the dumpster lid closed it came down so hard that it made a sound as loud as a gunshot. My right ear is still buzzing.

  2. Congratulations on this project! When is is done it will look great, and you will look back and say, “Remember when that wall was there?”
    It’s always good to go slow and thoughtfully because people over the years have done some really weird stuff to their houses. I am past wanting to do this anymore, but I have, over the years, corrected some really sloppy work. I grew up in a household that always told us that we could do it ourselves, but also said, “Do it to CODE or don’t do it at all.” (And just because I was a girl I was NOT let off the hook!) Perfectionist are in my family and pioneer spirits too.
    Please show us when it is all done. Would love to see your woodwork.
    Again, congratulations!

    • I need someone to tell me to do things to code! I’ll post some more pictures when everything is done. And I think I’m going to tackle a dresser next . . .

  3. I admire your handiwork and bravery (ambition, craziness?) in taking on such a large project. And there sure are days where I think, ah, we shoulda just kept renting….

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