1998 - Loft Project

Most homeowner remodel projects don't have strict construction schedules, and this one is no exception. We started the dormer project and second floor hallway project to make access to the 1930's bedrooms easier. Then we realized that if we were to complete this area we would be tearing out plaster and wall studs, creating a huge mess, and then hauling the construction debris through the finished upstairs hall.

Our goal is to remove the center walls making this one room, 12' X 28'. Neither bedroom was big enough to make furniture placement anything but cramped. The other rub is that the county assesses for every bedroom regardless of size. We also feel that since access to this room is non-conventional (up three stairs from the new second floor hallway) it would be better served as a loft, bonus room, or a multi-purpose room. Our plans are to use it for display of collectibles that don't fit in any other room in the house.

So we stopped in our tracks, ordered a dumpster, and got out the dust mask. After removing the furniture and a 1970's gold shag carpet we started tearing out the walls. Here are a few before pictures:

The hall as viewed from new door installed during dormer project. The door on the left leads to the North bedroom. Not seen in this picture is a door directly opposite that leads to the South bedroom.

This is a picture of the South bedroom wall that is to be removed. The door on the right is a large closet, not quite large enough for a walk-in closet, but bigger than is usually found in a house this size.

This is the North bedroom looking towards the North. I have removed the double window and opened the wall to accommodate a 3'-0" door to an attic storage room. You can see the garage trusses in the background.

This is the South wall of the North bedroom showing the closet on the left and the hall door on the right. Not visible at this point is the brick chimney that runs from the basement through the kitchen and between the two doors in this bedroom. Our original plans were to remove this chimney that is no longer used. Upon investigation we have decided not to disturb it, it is as solid as the day it was laid and would require a jackhammer for removal.

Now that you have an idea of what we were trying to accomplish and have seen what we started with we will move onto the mess. Demolition is never easy nor is it enjoyable. Our project is somewhat easier than some plaster removal projects because the plaster is applied over rock lath. This is a sheet rock type product that breaks far easier than the old wood lath. I suspected that we would not get into the ceiling insulation because carpenters of this era were notoriously stingy when it comes to framing.

They would typically lath all the ceilings and outside walls before framing the non-load bearing walls. This saved them the extra framing members needed where walls were parallel to the ceiling joist. Likewise, outside and inside corners would be framed after one wall had lath applied, saving an extra stud. In many cases inside corners were constructed with one stud and a 3/4 strip of sheathing applied after the lath was applied. (See drawings below)

Enough on the history of framing and on with the tear out. I started on the South wall of the North bedroom, I knew where the chimney was and wanted to get it exposed first. The framing was as I suspected, minimal making it much easier to remove the plaster and then the framing. The pictures below show the mess after the demolition.

Clean up took most of the next day. We loaded the broken plaster in 5-gallon buckets and lowered them from the bedroom window on the West side of the house. We filled a 4 yard dumpster by the time we were done. Next comes the removal of the rest of the studs and then I need to start the plaster repair.

This picture was taken from the same position as the picture on the top left. As a frame of reference note the wires hanging down where the old hall fixture was located.

I titled the photo above as "mess" because that is just what it was. I am standing in the corner of the South bedroom looking North (see top center picture for a frame of reference). Note that you can now see the window opening in the North bedroom.

The last photo in this series was taken from the attic space looking South, my demolition starting place. I still need to remove a few studs and some minor patching and the plaster patching can begin. My plans are to use base coat plaster directly over the existing insulated sheathing that the original builders used. I will follow-up with sheet rock joint cement to blend the patches into the existing walls. I will also tape all the stress cracks in the remaining plaster.

Enough time has gone by since my last update that this project has been put on hold and moves to the past project status, at least until fall. All the mess is cleaned up and here are a few photos to show some of the work that has gone on since the last update.

Following the brown coat of plaster to fill the voids I needed to tape over the plaster to prevent cracking between the old and new plaster. Since this would require quite a bit of tape I tried something new.

The material you see here is a liner paper designed to be used over rough surfaces in preparation for hanging paper or painting. It is very heavy and can be used on concrete block walls to hide the mortar joints.

I cut the double roll of liner on the radial arm saw into three equal pieces and then applied it like normal tape. I coated the wall with joint cement and then smoothed the liner over it.

The picture on the right shows the finished product and another brown coat joint ready to get the liner. Following this treatment I went back to the standard smoothing techniques used on my other projects.

The plaster in these two rooms was in fairly decent shape, I started taping the hairline stress cracks and of course had to apply a layer of joint cement over the paint line where the baseboard was removed.

The picture above shows the entrance to the room where extensive smoothing will be required to blend the new sheet rock into the plaster. The corners now have a metal corner bead to make them smooth and crisp.

We have cleaned the room completely and will move some furniture back in so we have a spare bedroom in the event we get overnight company. No other work is planned in here until the siding is completed this fall.