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Expenses for June 2023: Wall Removal and More

Before: weird arched wall separating kitchen & dining room from living room
After: The kitchen and dining room were separated from the living room by an unusual arched wall.

Before: A menace wall in our home is gone! Longtime readers may recall that we’ve embarked on a slow, years-long renovation process, which we kicked off with a wall removal. This erstwhile wall awkwardly divided the kitchen and dining room from the rest of the downstairs and, to make matters worse, had a weird, low archway door for egressing. Not great. Everyone who came into our home said, “why do you think they put a wall there?” I will tell you why.

When our house was built–circa 1991–the builders utilized this wall for the following fairly crucial items: Load-bearing. It supports both the floor of the second story and also, a large amount of the roof load at intersecting roof angles (which means it takes a lot of snow load). They put the archway in to conceal the triple-ply 2×12 header Plumbing. The entire upstairs hallway bathroom plumbing stack (and vent) ran through this wall. Electrical. Electrical things also ran through this wall.

During Essentially, we selected the most challenging, most expensive, most intricate wall possible in our entire home to remove. And it finally happened in June! This was no simple knock-down-the-drywall and call it done project. First, yes, we did the easiest thing: the demo. Then, we hired a plumber to re-route the plumbing stack in an amazing zig-zag through the ceiling (as well as down one corner of our pantry). Then, Nate built a little wall around the plumbing in the pantry using leftover siding from the chicken coop. This was my idea and I am very proud of myself. It’s basically the biggest contribution I’ve made to this project… other than demo, which was FUN.

Next, we hired an electrician to re-route all the electrical and the box. He also added a recessed light over our dining room table, which has greatly improved our game nights–we can actually see our cards now!!! For some reason, the builders didn’t put any overhead lighting in the living room, so this one new light is doing a lot of work.

Next came the most challenging aspect: recessing a support beam. Since this wall was load bearing, the solution was a work of art (and genius) created and executed by my husband. The man of my dreams first built a temporary bracing wall so that the house wouldn’t fall down–a real priority, let me tell you. Next, he removed the existing wall by holding a sawzall OVER his head for hours on end. He now has the shoulder muscles to prove it. Then, he removed alllllllll the pointy nails coming through the ceiling, which had been hammered in there with reckless abandon. These builders were NOT trying to save money on nails.

AFTER! He cut the existing ceiling joists very accurately and removed the double top plate of the wall being removed from below. This was challenging since it’d been nailed in with 1M nails. It was also tough to extricate from its narrow space. Finally, he devised a contraption to lever the new several-hundred-pound three-ply LVL beam into place. He build a ladder system out of lumber on which he raised the beam one side at a time, resting it on each rung of the “ladder” as we went. When the beam reached the subfloor above it, he added posts on either side to support it. And then secured the floor joists to the new beam with the appropriate brackets. This recessed the beam, making the ceiling one flush, clean line! He took down the temporary wall and ladder system and…. voila! We have a totally open space now!!!!! And the house has not fallen down. He’s waiting to do the final drywalling (and flooring) until we decide if we want to have the electrician come back and put in the wiring for the kitchen. We plan to redo the kitchen in the near-ish future and it would make a lot of sense to do the lighting now (while part of the ceiling is open) so that we don’t have to hack into the drywall again in the future. Nate with the temporary support wall he built, as well as the new beam going up its “ladder”

Per our usual renovation style, we did everything we could ourselves, which was mostly the grunt work and the carpentry. We hired an architect to do the beam calculations (again: priority #1 was for the house not to fall down). And the plumbing and electrical were both beyond Nate’s capabilities. He can totally do basic plumbing and electrical, but this plumbing was INTENSE and I’m really glad we hired a professional. Doing the demo, cutting out the drywall, disassembling the chair rail–that’s all stuff we did ourselves. It’s not technical or complicated, it’s just grunt work that takes time. The carpentry to build the temporary wall and recess the beam was advanced, but it was all stuff Nate was able to teach himself how to do. He’ll also do the final drywalling, the little section of flooring, and then we’ll paint together. I’m always happy to pay people to do stuff I can’t, or don’t know how, to do. I’m equally happy to do stuff myself that I feel safe and confident in my ability to do. This turned out to be a pretty massive project–and rather expensive–but, it dramatically improves the flow and openness of the main floor of the house. All in all, 100% worth it! Stay tuned for my next renovation update, which at this pace will be in five years.

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