With the drainage project finally wrapped up, we’re getting ready to demo the second floor! As in the past, we’re having a demo party where friends come over to smash the hell out of the walls and tear everything down. To make sure this process goes smoothly, safely, and makes as little mess as possible, we have some work to do up front. First, we need to clean up the first floor. With us living in the basement, and the second floor empty, we’re using the first floor as storage. Between all of our projects, moving to the basement, and life in general, it has a tendency to get away from us and turn into a cluttered, disorganized mess. When we demo the floor above, dust and debris are going to rain down between the floorboards, so everything needs to be as contained and protected as we can make it.

Empty kitchen

Empty kitchen awaiting destruction

I tackled the back (everything behind the wet wall) since this is my de facto workshop where all the tools are kept. After we rushed to finish the basement, I wound up bringing them back up in boxes and not putting them away. I re-organized and cleared out the worst of it, but honestly, I still have a lot more cleanup to do. However, the critical part was I made a space big enough to put all of the kitchen cabinets from upstairs. When we bought the house, we got a bunch of free kitchen cabinets from Sarah’s grandmother (who in turn had gotten them from a friend of Sarah’s parents when they remodeled their kitchen). We’re done with them now, so we’re giving them to Sarah’s parents, since they’ve bought rental property in Florida and want to redo a kitchen down there. Until they pick them up, we needed them off the walls and in the first floor. Sarah cleared up the front of the first floor, which was a bigger process since it involved not just organizing, but throwing away what we don’t want, donating what we don’t use, moving some of what we want into the basement (and finding homes for it all down there), organizing the rest of it into bins and boxes, and finally, covering it all with tarps and drop cloths.

I disconnected the water, which was complicated by the fact we still have the washer and dryer on the first floor and by the way the plumbers replaced a perfectly good dielectric union with a brass female adapter and my side-drain valve with a regular valve (both for no apparent reason other than to piss me off). That meant to disconnect the hot water I had to cut the copper pipe past the valve (which was full of water) and drain it that way. I still need to solder a cap on the pipe. For the cold water (which is all we have for the washer) I was able to reconfigure my press-fit PEX fittings (so easy!). I also disconnected the gas line that went to the stove upstairs. That was made more difficult by the fact it was one 12′ pipe going from the basement to the second floor. Disconnecting it was easy, getting it out of the wet wall was a bit more difficult. We had Lester, our radiant contractor, disconnect and drain the radiators a couple of months ago, so I was able to just lift those off the wall and move them downstairs. I unscrewed the thermostatic valves and fancy stainless steel fittings and saved them in a bag. These radiators will eventually be in the attic bedrooms, since the other stories will have radiant floor heating.

I turned off the electrical circuits for the second floor and took down the ceiling fans and light fixtures, but I still need to remove the actual BX wire cables strewn through the attic. I reclaimed the outlets (few that there were), which we’d installed new when we bought the house. The whole upstairs only had one light switch (in the bathroom) since everything else was on pull chains and a couple of fan remotes. Honestly, one of the nicest parts of the basement is the normal complement of outlets and switches, since they were in short supply upstairs.

Debris chute

Debris chute

Sarah ordered a big dumpster and it was dropped off in the back yard on Friday. Monday I built a chute out of the extension ladder and some 2x4s and plywood to go from the back door of the second floor down to the dumpster that will make the demo process go much faster. We discovered when we demoed the first floor that balloon frame houses lend themselves to a particular order of deconstruction if you want to contain all the plaster dust and mess. By demoing the ceiling first, all the debris falls into the still-enclosed rooms rather than into the wall cavities and into the floor below. By saving the flooring for last, we prevent (some of) the mess raining down between the subfloor boards. Also, by demoing the ceiling before the demo party, we prevent some of the more dangerous aspects of wanton destruction with large groups of people.

Chute close-up

Chute close-up

I got underway with ceiling demo, starting in the back bedroom and kitchen and working forward. We insulated the attic with blown-in cellulose a few years ago, so there was a lot of fluff shoveling, but the chute is working as hoped. The top of the chute is slightly higher than I’d planned, so I need to lower it a bit, but otherwise it’s a vast time saver over hauling everything down by hand. When we prepped for demo of the first floor we took down all the trim, but in the second floor, at least for the windows, I’m concerned the trim is actually holding the windows in place. They’re all cheap replacement windows and they’re less than professionally installed. We may take it easy on those until we’re ready to replace them. The weather is getting cooler and we don’t want any gaping holes in the exterior walls, let alone the possibility of broken glass and injured people.

I expect to finish ceiling demo tonight, the kids will be out of the house with grandparents for the whole weekend to avoid any noxious dust contamination, and we’ll get this, quite literally, knocked out!

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