Demo is a multi-day process and reveals a lot of information. Here is what we look for after demo and how we know what to fix next.
A Look Behind the Plaster
From double-rain to hefty nails, falling filth to mental breakdowns, it seriously killed our mojo!
But we were not to be deterred! We’ve done hard things before, and frankly, I flat out refused to be put us behind schedule so early in this project.
And so, we pulled up our big girl and big boy panties, and got the drywall demo done.
Which brings us to today: the after demo (and the rest of the demo too, technically).
There’s still some demo that needs to be finished. And we’re just the mad cap team to get it done.
Up first: the plaster.
Down to the Plaster
We can’t move on to after demo until we figure out what to do with this plaster. We have a few small blessings to be grateful for in this room.
The ceiling plaster is in pretty good shape, so she gets to stay (sans her peeling wallpaper).
And one of the most common questions I get is, “How do you know you have to tear the plaster out?”
Typically, I’m all about saving everything that’s old. But, for most of our house, the plaster is not in good enough condition to be repaired and restored. Let me tell you why.
Anatomy of Plaster (and How it Dies)
First, let’s consider what plaster is and how it’s attached.
Plaster is, well, plaster — a putty-like substance that, when dried, becomes basically hard as a rock. And to attach this wet putty to the wall, you need lath strips. Lath is the thin wooden strips that run horizontally across the wall underneath the plaster.
When the wet plaster is applied, it’s squished against the lath and between each strip. It fills the gaps to make a smooth surface on the front side, and then hooks over and around the lath creating a key.
The key is what gives the plaster some grip so it holds onto the lath after it cures. The first thing to check for is if the plaster is still holding to the lath. If the plaster is detaching from the lath, it needs a bit more help to restore.
Will You Stay or Will You Go?
Now, our plaster is actually pretty well attached — which is a very, very small miracle. But we’re still getting rid of it.
Why? Because of the next thing we look for in good plaster: if the plaster itself is holding together.
In our case, I think this may have been a bad plastering job.
(I am by no means a plastering expert. But I don’t think this was a particularly good plastering job.)
I have good reason to believe that this was not a great job. When you put up plaster, there is the “scratch” coat or first coat of plaster, then there’s a finish coat. While the first coat is all about getting the plaster on the wall, the finish coat is where the look and quality really matter.
What we see all throughout this room (and this whole house) is the finish coat easily chipping away from the scratch coat.
That just shouldn’t happen. And I literally can’t do anything about it. That is indicator number one that the plaster is on the chopping block.
But the even bigger and more serious reason why we DEFINITELY we want to remove this plaster is because of what lies behind it.
Sealed Inside the Walls…
It’s a horror show, but not THAT kind of horror show.
Behind the plaster on these exterior walls is urea formaldehyde foam insulation (UFFI). Otherwise known as my personal ticket to the underworld. I HATE this stuff.
At some point in the past, they filled the cavities between studs with this foam insulation. This sounds great because it expanded to fill the gaps, right?
Well, yes and no.
The foam expanded to fill the gap initially. But as the years have gone by, this stuff has shrunk. This leaves inches wide gaps that are impossible to refill.
To make matters worse, this stuff literally crumbles into dust when you remove it. There’s also no way to get it out without taking down the plaster. This toxic old stuff has got to go.
So…sorry plaster. You’re outta here. (my heart breaks just a little bit.)
Cleaning Up and Next Steps
After demo we have to do a quick assessment on what we do next. Fortunately we’ve done this a few times so we’re pretty familiar with the house’s requirements.
First, we’ll assess the evenness of the studs. We have a system of shimming and sistering studs to make sure they are all in-plane, which will help the drywall hang flat later.
Next, we also look for any evidence of water damage. We found some on the first floor, but this upstairs corner looks pretty good. The damage below was probably from a leaky gutter, which we’ve since fixed.
We’ll have to rebuild the corners. Part of the way lath is installed means there is no actual corner of the room — it’s just lath nailed to itself on a nailing strip.
This means today there is actually no corner stud into which we can screw the drywall. So we’ll definitely be rebuilding studs into the corners of this room as we have for all the others in this house.
Now that we are down to the studs, we can see the outlines and headers where the original windows once were. The current windows are in the same locations but are much smaller than when they were first installed.
We’ve ordered windows to restore these to their original floor-to-ceiling size. Oh yes. They go all the way to the floor. That’s original.
Since we’re splitting this room into a bedroom and bathroom, restoring the original windows will leave us with a windowless bathroom. To remedy that, we have plans to add a small window to the long exterior wall in the bathroom.
However, that’s a load-bearing wall. Which will make it tricky — we don’t want the house to collapse! (Happily, Brandon is certainly up to that engineering task.)
After Demo – The Fun Begins
Demo itself is a big, messy, ugly job. And we finally finished it. Now comes the challenging part after demo where we have to start putting things back. We will start by laying out where we think the walls, plumbing, and electrical should be. You’ll have to come back next time to see what that looks like!
Talk to you soon!