House Project – I Think I Married a Super Hero!

Our house project continues…

Now that the tree has been removed from the roof and the others have been pruned we can move on to the next phase. Our second priority is to get the roof redone. While we are waiting for some estimates from roofers we’ll begin the demolition.

Even before the dumpster arrived I had Rick tear out the carpets and take them to the dump.The previous owners must have left their animals in the house as the carpeting in both bedrooms was saturated and the whole house reeked of urine.I couldn’t wait for the dumpster, they had to go…NOW!  When I asked him to do this I had no idea that there were two layers of carpet in each room…Peuw! Poor Rick! It was so bad that I bought some concrete deodorizer to clean the floors but never had to use it because the smell went away a few days.

As frightening as it sounds, there were people living in this place six months before we bought it…I can only imagine what these people were like.  From the neighborhood chatter, the owner was once a nice young man who had his own business just a few years earlier…before going to the dark side, when he tried to convince himself he could be another Walter White. Sadly they fell victim to the scourge of drug addiction and eventually lost the house that once belonged to his mother and father. I keep trying to picture what it looked like when it was first built in the 60s.

So, this is our dumpster. It arrived at 8 AM and I know Rick couldn’t wait to start ripping into the demolition. As you can see, Rick carefully laid the debris neatly in the dumpster so that we would not have any wasted space. Our plan is to gut the house down to block and rafters and we wanted to fit as much in as possible.

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The kitchen cabinets practically came down in one piece. Most of the plumbing was rotted through so Rick plugged up the lines but we did end up with a working toilet and we had running water on the outside. Yay! It’s amazing the conditions you can work in if you have water and a toilet! This is the kitchen sans the cabinets.

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Rick did most of the heavy demolition. The previous owners had a habit of just covering an old surface with a new one…the living room had  two layers of drop ceiling. Why anyone would put acoustic tiles in a residential home is beyond me but two layers was simply confounding. The front bedroom was also layered but with sheet rock and paneling.

The kitchen was the worst with thick, thick, thick plaster. It was so thick that part of it fell on Rick as he was taking it down and it left a nice bumpy gash on his arm. When I saw it, and was about to express concern he gave me that look…you know, the one that says…don’t start…just don’t. And before I could say anything he said, “These kind of things are going to happen when doing this kind of work.” Okay, okay, I thought…no freaking out. But after that I did put together a first aid kit to keep at the site.

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There were also two layers of paneling in the living room which I tore down. And, not surprisingly, there was evidence of mice living happily in the ceiling and duct work. We never saw a live mouse, hopefully scaring any away with our loud noises. And we found carpenter ants chewing up the bathroom door frame. We’ll be discussing insects in a later post….grrr!


One week later…our dumpster was filled and ready to be picked up. Rick did this all by himself!!! While I was at work he was able to get the majority of the insides demoed. He still had the bathroom, back bedroom and a block wall to take care of but decided to take those loads to the dump using the work truck that we bought a year earlier…just for this purpose.

I have to say that I have been completely blown away watching Rick do the demolition. He’s a real work horse…no, an ox. I have seen strong men move heavy things almost effortlessly but watching Rick tackle each aspect of the rip out and to do it non stop, all day long….well, I was impressed, maybe even in awe. I think he has super powers!

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It was extremely tough work…I would get tired just watching him. I knew he needed a reward and had something simple in mind. I left on a quick errand and when I returned he came out to greet me in what I’m pretty sure was his second or third shirt for the day.

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And this is what he looks like when he sees that I brought him a slushy and a couple of hot dogs!  Now that’s a happy face! Sometimes it’s the little things that can make your day!2015-06-11 16.00.03

I only worked on the house on the weekends. I was in charge of removing the floor tiles which I was pretty sure were made with asbestos. I did quite a bit of research to identify if mine were indeed asbestos and to learn the abatement procedures.

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The tiles were relatively easy to remove and I had them all removed and bagged up on the first weekend.

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The mastic which held the tiles in place was the real troublemaker. I studied different methods to remove the mastic (which I’m pretty sure had asbestos too), buying all the necessary chemicals, tools and equipment…and it all sucked! Whatever others used in the videos to make it look easy didn’t happen in real life.

It was back breaking work. We experimented trying to find something that would lift it easier and with a bit of trial and error Rick came up with WD-40. When poured on the mastic and agitated lightly the stuff came up, basically turning it into a sludge which can be scraped up and discarded. We decided to try using a pole brush for the agitation. Did you know that WD-40 came in gallon containers? I didn’t. It took one gallon to do the back bedroom and to say it was messy work would be an understatement. I felt like I was working in tar fields.


Even with WD-40 it still was a lot of work. Here you can see where I have removed some of the mastic. That took me several hours to do. Each day I would go home thinking maybe I should just pay for the abatement company. After a couple weekends of doing this, I managed to throw my back out and was laid up for a week, unable to work. My strong advice is to let the professionals to this. Don’t get me wrong…it can be done but I don’t think it was worth it. In the end, the money we saved by doing it ourselves was spent on doctor bills (big sad face).


The kitchen floor was another matter. I stripped the linoleum only to find a layer of Terra-cotta and underneath that was another layer of thick concrete.  I’m saving this for Rick to do…thank goodness for super heroes! He may very well hate this title by the end of the job.

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The bathroom floor had a layer of concrete which had been colorfully painted, over the existing small pink tiles. Just seeing this place took me back to my hippie days! Did I say the kitchen walls were the worst? Take that back…the bathroom walls completely topped them. More on that in a minute.


We had a good laugh over the shower, Rick calls it the trough. There was a wood frame covering the bricks and you can see the height is such that one might take a bath…but I can’t imagine that it was water tight. Take a look at the shower head…it really was that low. I’m beginning to wonder if it was used to wash the dogs.

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Here is some of the bathroom rubble. The bathroom walls were layered as such: concrete block wall, lath and plaster, pink tile, three inches of mortar, a skim coat of plaster and then white tiles. When Rick went to chip away at the wall, the whole thing came crashing down in one big giant piece. As it came down Rick jumped back trying to avoid getting hit but part of it landed on his leg. Then it hit the sink with a POP, causing it to explode – with shards of porcelain flying all over. Rick was irritated over losing the sink and took a break to survey the damage to his leg which had a deep gash (deeper and longer than the one on his arm) and was beginning to swell.

By the time I found out about it, he had a lump as well. He’d applied first aide and had been icing it and felt he would be fine. I monitored it like a mother hen. Mind you, I was NOT freaking out but after two days sent him to the doctors as it looked infected. He came back after receiving a tetanus shot and it has since healed completely but now leaves a scar…forever proof of his war wounds in creating a house for his Princess.


Even though the bathroom was demolished we were able to salvage the toilet and Rick created a little privacy corner around it.


The place is starting to open up with all the bedroom paneling torn down. Any wood that can be salvaged is set aside.


We are getting ready to do the prep work on the rotted rafter tails…all of them need replacing. And there is still that last wall – concrete block!


Tear down that wall…


Can you see the light? I said, “Can you see the light?” I just couldn’t resist…it’s one of my all time favorite movies.

Suddenly things started getting brighter as the wall became less and less. We had originally planned a two bedroom split plan but Rick started thinking we might want to have this open airy space for the kitchen, dining and living rooms. My biggest concern was that I wanted the bedrooms to feel private, meaning that there could not be any adjoining walls. But after looking it all over…I agreed.  With all of this in mind we both set out to find different ways to accomplish this and we began to make new floor plans to see if this would work…and it does!


Here’s a shot of the place now with it’s simulated rooms. Despite the clutter of materials from various jobs being scattered around…the place looks so much better than when we started.


And another shot from the other end. I am standing in the future kitchen which will end up being bigger that the one in our three bedroom house.


A final note, I skipped around a bit on the sequence of work. We actually had the roof done before Rick tore down the wall but it seemed more appropriate to address this in the demolition section as that pretty much wraps up demolition with the exception of a few minor things like the kitchen and bathroom floor.

At this point we (Rick) have submitted a general plan for construction and are awaiting permit approval before we begin. Meanwhile, my next installment will be discussing roofing and insects…and more insects! EEEK!

A request was made for the floor plans…what a fabulous thought, indeed overlooked. These are the two sets. The first one, with color, was the split plan and the second was the one we chose to go with when submitting our plans to the city. Our greatest challenge in the design was the location of the windows. We were trying to work with what we had in the first plan. In the second, we went for broke and made a few window modifications. And, with the help of our wonderful “old school” mason, this should be no problem at all…more on him later.

map 1

map 2

To see more of our project click here.