Demo Day…Days..Weeks….Monthsss

For weeks before this day I had closed my eyes each night anticipating ripping this house apart.  As per usual, things were more simple in my mind.  We closed on the house, picked up fast food (I don’t know WHY we thought we could eat there).  Anyways, I walked straight into the house and took a hammer straight to the “drywall”.  SURPRISE…it wasn’t drywall…it was basically cardboard.  A thin fiber board that was barely nailed to the wall.

The good news was it wasn’t crumbling plaster behind it (worst case scenario) but it was “shiplap” …it wasn’t HGTV pretty (and it’s actually tongue and groove…more on that some other time) but it would do and the price tag on creating that character from scratch would have been out of our budget.  We were thrilled to have found it on every.single.wall and ceiling.  The bad news was that it a) had some intense gaps in places and b) was covered in soot from the old stoves/fireplaces.

Probably the most rewarding part of demo was to look above the drop ceiling in the bedroom!

We took out nearly every wall covering, carpet, layers of linoleum flooring…it just kept going and going and going and going!

This is essentially what was left in the 4 rooms when we finished demo.

We severely underestimated the size of dumpster we would need.  If you ever reno a house, just get the biggest dumpster they will bring you…trust me, you’ll fill it.  We also found some issues that the inspector failed to identify in the inspection which was very frustrating…was it things that would have kept us from buying the house?  Probably not.  Was it stuff that would have been great to know on the front end? Obviously.  A foundation issue (isn’t there always one??) put us about 3 weeks behind schedule as we just stared at a giant hole in the floor wondering who we would pay to fix it.  Below is a picture after we took out all flooring…a rotten floor joist was here where the washing machine used to sit.

This hole really did sit here like this for at least two weeks….

We can’t say enough positive things about Cantey Foundation Specialists!!! Reasonably priced and they treated us like we were their #1 customer even though it’s likely we were their smallest.

The demo honestly seemed to go on forever as we took out walls, parts of walls, and kept deciding to expose more and more tongue and groove siding.  On the exterior we were paying a neighborhood guy $15/hour to clear the brush…that alone about put me in the grave as we started straight out the gate REALLY over budget on weed clearing (if you’ll remember, I personally didn’t think it was an eyesore….which is laughable).

During that first week we had to get a roof put on (we of course knew and planned for this) and they suggested taking out the chimney all together because the fire places had been cemented in and would never be used. We also have great things to say about Consumer First Roofing Company…we got several quotes and they were by far the NICEST and also most reasonable.

This demo hit everything….truly nothing was safe.  Next post I’ll show you a couple of ways we rearranged the layout to be more functional!

Like I mentioned in the last post our sweet Finley died 3 days into this project and things just felt so dark for a while…   He wasn’t new to the demo and renovation world, often keeping us company through various projects.   I resented this project for having me so distracted during the month leading up to his death that I felt like I didn’t play with him or talk to him enough.   I know in my heart that dogs don’t keep score like that but Blake and I both felt an enormous guilt for the way Fin had taken a back seat often to our kids and our projects…

This before and after of these same walls feels like a pretty accurate depiction of the transformation the house and our hearts went through together! 🙂

Demo is messy for sure and it’s easy to get carried away! When it comes time to actually pull out tiny little carpet staples and nails you realize just how big 850 sq feet is! Besides the obvious of gloves, glasses, and hammers, our favorite tools for demo are:

3M respirators






This saw






This nail puller

The BEFORE before…

As you know if you read our last post or follow us on Instagram we have been renovating a little house to use as a rental.  The original game plan is to do very short term rental like AirBNB but we’ll have to see how it plays out and shift to long term if we need to.  We’re actually about to round 3rd on the whole project so this is quite overdue but I’ve got to start somewhere, and sometime 🙂

The MORNING this house went on the market I called our agent and asked if we could schedule a showing.  We went to see it during lunch time and were quite surprised to find what was a revolving door of potential buyers already at the property when we pulled up.  I (Katie) look at a house with my heart….I could probably do it blindfolded.  Blake looks at a house with his brain only.  My Dad also joined us as my parents are investing with us and I like to think he falls in between head and heart when it comes to assessing real estate.

There were no pictures associated with the listing so we were prepared for the worst.  When we pulled up to the house this is what we saw.

The house sat between two other houses (one of which is abandoned) and the other which is occupied by a very sweet lady.  Across the street is a new Catholic school.  The abandoned house on the left was torn down the day we went under contract and is now a nice grassy lot.

Upon entering the house we walked straight into this:

All my heart could see was the height of the ceilings!! At the time we thought that was just wallpaper on drywall we would steam off.  It turned out NOT to be drywall but more on that later…

So to me, the living room was doable.  Walking around the house you would go into the kitchen.  At the time of the showing we didn’t know there was a window that had been boarded up behind the massive china cabinet.

My initial thought for the kitchen was that we would just have to put an IKEA kitchen in (that’s not what we did).  The ceilings are low in the back of the house but it’s just the way the roof line goes and I was ok with that.  We definitely HAD to replace the back door to let more light in!

At the time the washing machine was also in the kitchen and we ended up moving it to the laundry room.  From the kitchen you walked into a small back bedroom and on the left there was a bathroom.  I’m going to do a post on the initial floor plan and what we reworked…because previously a renter would have had to walk into the second bedroom to get to the only bathroom.

The bathroom needed A LOT of work.  It’s tiny but the wallpaper and black curtains weren’t helping anything!

The laundry is off the second bedroom and this room was already small but we actually made it SMALLER.

From that bedroom, if you’re walking around in a circle in the house you would enter the first bedroom.  It had a fireplace (which was covered up) so we’ve deemed it the “master”.

The drop ceiling intrigued us because we knew these ceilings should be just as tall as the living room ceilings.  We peeked above them during the showing and saw MORE tiled ceiling above but that’s all we looked at during the tour. Also, all the floor except for the kitchen and bath were carpeted.

I think we were all overwhelmed for different reasons.

  • Me-I was overwhelmed at the other potential buyers swarming the place trying to buy MY house.
  • Blake-He was overwhelmed at the amount of work this old house would need.
  • Dad-Probably overwhelmed at what the heck we were thinking.

The outside was terribly overgrown:

It’s funny…because I saw a lush green garden and my Dad and Blake saw a JUNGLE that would need to be tamed.

I obviously tour houses with rose colored glasses and blinders on.

So the story goes, we closed on the house and started work on September 22nd.  It was a day of the highest highs (we found great bones in the house!) and the lowest lows (that same day we discovered our sweet Finley boy had cancer…he died 3 days later).  We spent a week demoing the project and shedding tears into the mess over our dog.  We’re coming up on 3 months and I’m happy to say the house looks NOTHING like these pictures and our spirits are higher for sure.

Next post I’ll share about demo and finding our new footprint!