To celebrate Thanksgiving in typical Weezie and Reid fashion, she worked and I worked on the house. In one uninterrupted ten hour span, I pulled down not one, but two existing ceilings. The first layer was drywall and came down quickly. The second layer was bead board wood. Since tongue and groove planks are nearly impossible to salvage intact, I hesitated to pull it down. But they had to go for a number of reasons:
- We’re having the plumbing for the upstairs bathrooms, both situated above the kitchen-to-be, replaced with modern pipes that will (hopefully) ensure that we never have to think about them again. We’ve been informed that the existing pipes leaked at least once in the past. I’d prefer no repeat performances above our new kitchen.
- While we’re at it, we’re going to pitch those new drain pipes to the other side of the room, where we can conceal a new waste line behind the refrigerator. The beam at the top of the walls is about 8 inches tall and 4 inches thick. When the Ordinary House got its first bathroom, the plumbers were wise enough not to run their pipes through this beam, hence the cast iron drain that snakes down the outside of the house. I couldn’t live with myself if I renovated this house and allowed it to stay.
- The wood ceiling had already been butchered in several places in order to gain access to leaky plumbing.
- Past plumbing leaks resulted in a few rotten patches in the wood planks.
- The ceiling framing is lumpy and droopy and this can’t be corrected without access to the framing.
If you’ve never demolished an old house ceiling, you can’t begin to appreciate the level of filth that lies above it. Of course there’s dust – not normal household dust, mind you, but a fine dark dust with the same consistency and tendency to float as talcum powder. In addition there’s mouse poo, mouse nests, dead insects, paint chips, nails, old wires, chunks of wood, piles of insulation…you get the picture. When you’re pulling these things down from above, there’s no way to avoid them falling directly on top of you.
The ceiling(s) concealed a mishmash of components typical of a very old house: abandoned knob & tube wiring, new Romex wiring, copper water pipes, PEX water pipes, galvanized water pipes, cast iron waste pipes, PVC waste pipes, lead waste pipes, galvanized waste pipes, new plywood subfloor, original tongue and groove wood floors without subfloor, hand hewn beams, sawn beams, and engineered wood beams. It reflects the history of construction for the period that this portion of the house has been standing. The great news is that the structure is sound and should last another hundred years with no trouble.
It was a lousy way to spend the holiday, but I’m very thankful to have one of the kitchen project’s dirtiest and longest days behind me.