What makes me willing (even excited) about spending a Saturday demo-ing lath and plaster in a old farmhouse, one might ask? The opportunity to make a difference and make something all-around better. I was raised in a house that was being renovated for a solid 15 years, so that’s maybe why I became a home-renovating-DIY fanatic. When I was offered the chance to help update a bedroom at Pete’s parent’s house, I jumped right in.
Why does it need updates? It’s an 1880’s structure with a bedroom lacking proper insulation, making it inefficient to heat, and thus is closed off and unused for half of the year (see the photo? Yep, it really was only 40 degrees up there). The electrical work and one of the windows had been updated more recently, but we understood that some of the walls were lazily replaced by previous owners after a chimney fire in the early ’70’s.
Our/Pete’s progress will be shown in a series of posts because, let’s face it, it’s going to take a while to do this project and I still want to share his progress along the way.
Step 1? The Demo. (Stay tuned for future posts on drywalling and finishing.)
First off, little investments to make the job easier:
- Plastic sheeting to protect the carpeting
- Masks and goggles to protect the faces
- Gloves for the fingers
- Hammers, Prybars, and circular saw for the more troublesome lath
- Small garbage can, plenty of construction-grade garbage bags, and a Blanket (see below)
He’s well on his way to saving some dough by taking advantage of the coupons we found over at One Project Closer’s always handy coupon page; between the plastic, extra pair of gloves, second pry bar, and garbage bags, he saved $15 on his first (of many) trips. Can’t wait to calculate how much he saves on insulation and drywall in the next few weeks (I’m a saving fiend).
On Day 1 “the crew” set modest but aggressive goals. Pete, his dad, and handy girl made great strides to get the room sealed off; plastic barriers were secured to the carpet, and the doorway was secured off (no strange dust was going to get out of that room), and they even began tapping away some of the plaster on one wall. The dumpster had arrived, and it was placed conveniently close to the house so we could launch stuff right out one of the windows instead of traipsing through the living room.
Two of the 4 walls (and the ceiling) were lath and plaster; the other two walls had been insulated (poorly) and covered with thin faux-wood paneling (not even drywall) in 1973. We found some writing on the old insulation from the previous owners which let us know that’s when they had done the project.
Pete fashioned a DIY disposal system using a blanket (to hold fallen plaster) and a rope (to pull the blanket back up the side of the house after tossing it into the dumpster). Easy and practical, if your throws were accurate. Worked well for awhile until we got into dustier material, for which we eventually relied on a small garbage can.
By Day 2, he was ready for some real demolition, which obviously was enough to get me out of bed at 7AM and out to their house, Starbucks in hand. Sealed away so not to let dust get into the rest of the house, we let loose on the remaining walls and had them cleared in record time. Because we alternated between sledge hammering our brains out (figuratively, of course) and cleaning up our mess, we kept things reasonably tidy.
Just before our required union lunch break (P+B[+J if we accepted], with sides of cantaloupe and doritos), I was able to get started on the ceiling lath + plaster. In an effort to keep things nice and neat, Pete suggested I start from the corner and work my way into the open room. It really did help to keep things under control and limit the amount of plaster that was falling directly on our heads. (Note: the 3rd photo here is a macro on some pretty detail we found when we removed the duct tape off the vent you see in the first picture. It’s lace, with dots, and meticulous ribbon. Yes, hand-painted for real.)
And hello, is it just me, or is this beautiful? Such handiwork was applied in these old homes:
And then after lunch, things got interesting.
Once upon a time, there were bats in the belfry. I mean, attic.
And while they’ve long abandoned their post (forced out by a new roof and chimney), they left presents. 50 gallons of presents (as precisely calculated by the volume held by Pete’s now filthy-nasty-gross shop vac). It was a pleasant surprise to find in the middle of the room; survival instincts kicked in and once we had been dumped on (literally, this time) we thought to do a little poop-suck with the shop vac by extending it into the full ceiling between each and every joist before there was a (again, literal) blowout on top of us. This helped immensely. I made lots of liposuction jokes in between gagging loudly, because that’s what it felt like I was doing (vacuum sucking blindly by feel).
Once we shop vac’ed as much as we could reach (still maybe only about 1/2 of what was up there, come to find) we went manic on the remaining ceiling, getting it down as fast as possible. Like pulling off a plaster band-aid and standing back. The dust began to settle and after I removed the larger pieces of lath, the shop vac (tough guy) handled the bigger job of removing the mess on the floor. The larger pieces of plaster made it directly into the dumpster but the smaller pieces of plaster and guano were carefully bagged and disposed of. I won’t even get into this gross detail, but it was lining the walls that had been paneled in the 70’s too. Quite the Saturday. Sidenote… Ladybugs thrive in bat poop:
Remember that nice happy picture of us? Cut to dirty, gross, miffed Pete & Emily. And there are captions when you click on these photos, btw:
Hi, Pete here. See that little white bucket I’m holding? That was the new trash system after my blanket system got wrecked. I’d fill it up and chuck the debris out the window into the dumpster (most of it anyway). I must have chucked about 500 mini-trashcan loads out the window. And the dust/debris is BLACK from bat poo.
Needless to say, long showers ensued.