- Remove wallpaper throughout (Hey guess what? All the walls in the front half of the house were covered with 7+ layers of wallpaper, then multiple coats of paint. It all had to go.)
- Remove fireplace + patch floor, walls, ceiling
- Remove wall separating living/dining room and front bedroom. Install support beam.
- Remove floor vent + ducting next to west (removed) wall
- Patch floors where wall/vent had been previously; refinish throughout
- Paint walls, trim, built-in shelves, front door
- Change lock on front door
- Replace thermostat with new programmable model
- Remove window treatments (duh) and patch holes made in 100-year-old trim (AGH!)
Let's back up a little bit and talk about what Joel and I got ourselves into with this little gem, shall we? Here is the room-by-room plan we came up with even before we closed on the house. Four weeks 'til move-in!
Before I bought a house, my idea of 'being handy' meant putting up a gallery wall without making 100 superfluous holes in the wall, or painting a room with multiple doors and windows. I'd probably never even heard the words 'joist' or 'shoring wall,' and I definitely would have just smiled and nodded at any mention of '16 on center.' Turns out, when you give yourself 30 days to gut and rebuild a bathroom, remove a load bearing wall, steam off seven layers of ancient wallpaper, remove a fireplace, refinish hardwood floors, and paint every damn surface, you are forced to learn a ton of basics super quickly. Here's the short version of how we turned a gaping hole that dropped straight to the basement into a real live floor, with some basic builder terms explained:
JOISTS are the long spans of wood that support floors and ceilings. Looking up at the ceiling from the unfinished basement, you can see a system of joists, small pieces of diagonal bridging to help support the joists, then a layer of subloor. The hardwood on the first floor sits right on top of the subfloor.
[Pro tip: unfinished basements and attics are the bee's knees for DIYers. We passed over tons of houses that had finished basements because we knew we wanted to see where the plumbing and electrical ran, and to have the flexibility to make changes to the main floor systems without having to rip out a ceiling. Someday we might finish our basement, but since we always wanted our below-ground space to be hang-out, TV-watching and laundry-doing space, we probably won't do anything major down here.]
SISTERING your joists has to happen when you have a significant hole in your floor that you need to patch. Let's just say you have a fireplace-sized hole. You're basically cozying up a new joist - one longer than the original joist, since it also has to span the length of the hole - right next to the old joist. We attached the new joist to the mid-span support with a joist hanger and used a bunch of beefy nails to attach the old and new joists. [BTW - this was all done based on plans from our structural engineer. We definitely weren't just winging this portion.]
Here's a partial view from up top, before we put the subfloor in (we worked around this treacherous hole for probably two weeks because we're idiots and we were doing a million other things at the same time, as you can see). Plus, figuring out the angles for the plywood to cover this wonky-sized hole required enough math that we put it off for a while.
Once your joists are sistered and your subfloor is in, you need to make it look pretty. We hired the floor patching and refinishing out, which was a fantastic decision. (Seattle peeps, email me if you need a floor guy.) FEATHERING IN is the beautiful technique that makes your floors be all, 'hole? what hole?' You basically remove whole boards surrounding the holes and re-install new lengths to cover up the hole and line up with the old wood. (Check out this picture for a great visual.)
One major thing to keep in mind when you're setting up your hardwood timeline is that your wood needs a few days to ACCLIMATE to your house before it can be installed. It has to get used to the humidity level in your house before it's nailed down, so it doesn't shrink or expand too much once it's installed. This photo is after our wood had been delivered but before the feathering in and refinishing had happened.
So that's how we went from this:
Thanks for following along! xo
The first big project we tackled in the house was removing the non-functional, painted-red brick fireplace. It was awkwardly big, taking up a whole corner in our very small living/dining room, and the chimney had at some point been removed above the first floor level, which meant the roof was patched and the bricks just straight up ended in the attic. Not so safe for fire-building. The bricks had probably been beautiful at some point, but over the years some idiot painted them RED, so it looked really fake and garish. We knew the fireplace was nonstructural, basically a big shaft in the middle of the house, so we watched some YouTube videos, checked our Rainier supplies, borrowed some tools from Joel's parents, and got to work.
[Sidenote: we did end up removing some structural elements in the house, which we definitely did after we consulted with an engineer. I've heard of some fireplaces being structural, but since our attic and basement are both unfinished, we could see that no joists tied into the main brick shaft. Basically, don't tear your chimney out until you're positive nothing else in your house is being supported by it.]
Our chimney removal took two long days and was really straightforward. This is MESSY work, so we specifically undertook it before we moved anything into the house, and even then, we taped off the room to minimize the dust. This is do-able if you already live in your house, but you're going to want to move everything out of the room and tape the doorways off like whoa.
First off - since the fireplace was angled in a corner, we had an idea that the bricks didn't extend solidly back to the wall all the way to the ceiling. See the size of the firebox in this photo? That gave us an idea of the size of the chimney flue, the opening that allows the smoke to rise through the chimney and to the great outdoors. We could also see the top of the flue in the attic, so we guessed that the extra brick on both sides of the firebox ended at mantel height, aka that there was dead space back in that corner. So we sledged through the lathe and plaster and thankgod we were right.
See the broken-up flue right near Joel's left hand, where the interior is all black and sooty? That's all of the chimney that extended up past the mantel height. (Ugh also - please excuse how bad some of these photos are.) From then on, it was a simple but exhausting top/down removal. One of us would work on chipping the mortar and removing the bricks, and the other would carry bucket after bucket of bricks out to the garage (where they sat for two damn years - after this weekend, I never wanted to touch a brick again).
Sometimes we used a hammer drill to break up the mortar, which was my first real foray into big-girl tools.
PS don't wear Toms while you're demoing your house. I am an idiot and did so long enough to sustain two nail-in-the-foot injuries + a call to the doctor to check on my tetanus shot status, so don't be dumb like me. Also, maybe wear your safety googles over your eyes instead of on top of your head? Just a suggestion.
By the end of Day One, we had removed the bricks through the first floor and sledged out the existing tile hearth. Heyyyy basement! We think the house's original kitchen stove was on the other side of this wall, hence the pipe you can see near the ceiling that tied into the flue. Fun fact: that 'pipe' was actually an extremely old coffee can with its bottom punched out (which we kept, duh).
The chimney structure that extends to the basement floor is basically just there to support the bricks above it, so that was next to go. About 100 years of old ash and roofing materials were hiding in that shaft, so the basement-level removal was especially messy. Two days after we'd gotten the keys to the house, our chimney was gonzo:
So then we were left with gaping holes in our ceiling and floor. We got a plan to patch the ceiling and floor joists (the 'ribs' that hold up your ceiling drywall and subloor) from our structural engineer. That involved sistering the joists above and below according to the professional specs and then doing some pythagorean theorizing to cover up the wonky-sized hole in the floor with plywood. We hired a drywall guy to clean up the walls and patch the ceiling and we ultimately went from this:
Spoiler alert! We also removed the wall that separated the main living/dining room from the front bedroom and gutted the bathroom.
Because I know pretty pictures are the best part of every before/after, this is what that former fireplace corner looked like later in the summer of 2013, after we'd moved in.
And this is what it looks like today (more spoilers - we remodeled the kitchen and swapped out some furniture).
So that was project one! List-lover that I am, my next post will tour the 'before' house step by step to show what projects I knew we needed to complete before move-in, four weeks after we closed. One more spoiler alert: hilarity at our ignorance ensues. Thanks for following along! xo
A little over two years ago, right before my 30th birthday, I turned into a real live adult and bought a house with my main squeeze Joel. We house hunted for nine torturous months and I fell madly in love with everything that had at least 100 years under its lathe-and-plaster belt. We live in Seattle, so you know where this is going - we put in offer after offer and got outbid time and time again. We finally struck gold in spring 2013 with our little two bed/one bath 1914 old gal. When I first stepped foot in her, I had your classic 'It's perfect. I'm changing everything' moment. We got the house. We bought a ladder. We took before pics:
We had the keys for about an hour before we started ripping shit out. Feeling even halfway confident to do so had a direct correlation to the insane amount of home renovation and decoration blogs I've read for years, so I'm hoping my blog can lend a hand in the same way. No square inch has been left untouched since these photos were taken, so buckle up, kids - we've learned a lot in the past two years and I'm here to share. Talk soon, friends! xo