Deconstruction Day


When someone had asked Dad how we were going to go about removing the walls and ceiling, his answer had been “Get out of the way and let them finish what they’ve started.” In the end, we were only slightly more sophisticated.

On the morning of D-Day, we were fooling around in the boys’ room. All the furniture had already been stripped out of all of the rooms. Little kids gleaned endless amusement from being able to hear voices echo. The older boys amused themselves in a more deconstructive manner: punching holes in the wall with their bare hands. Several patch jobs in the plasterboard walls had already proved that the walls were easily breakable, and now that the walls were coming down anyway, it was an amusing cheap thrill.

Rundy suited up in his bug-mask and went up to the “attic” (only truly a crawl space). The rest of us stayed downstairs or outside while he unceremoniously stomped the ceiling down. When he had been shoveling the previously blown-in insulation out of the attic a few days before, he had bumped a sagging ceiling piece, which had fallen in and dumped insulation all over several beds.

Though we were, of course, not allowed to watch the ceilings coming down, we could certainly hear it crashing and splintering down, with the occasional muffled “Woo-hooo!” from Rundy after a particularly loud crash. Evan, who was outside, said sometimes the plaster dust pouring out of the windows was so thick it almost looked like the house was on fire.

Once the ceilings were down, Collin and I were drafted to begin moving debris. The first thing we did was to set up 3 huge box fans in various windows to help remove the dust. I played the role of embedded reporter while Rundy continued to take down the walls. I used Cadie’s compact and very sturdy Nikon CoolPix 5900. (Cadie was busying making supper outside, or she’d probably have been the one snapping photos.)

The walls upstairs were a complete hodge-podge: plaster board in the boys’ room, lath and plaster in most others, and in a few of the girls’ room walls, plaster board over lath. Apparently the plaster must have fallen off the walls, and the previous owners decided to just put plaster board over the still remaining lath.

As long as Rundy was breaking down walls connected to the boys’ room, he used no tools. He wore a pair of heavy leather gloves and punched or kicked the walls down (leaving behind what had been used as studs). The lath and plaster easily gave way, exploding out all over the place.

But when he moved on to walls that had lath on either side, he switched to using a sledge hammer. It still required only small amounts of force–a quick swing to cause the hammer head to pierce the lath and then a raking movement to tear the lath off.

By late afternoon, the upstairs appeared to be a smoky skeleton house. The plaster dust was still thick, and the piles of rubble were still huge. As more and more of us joined in to clear the junk away, the “rooms” began to empty quickly, and the pile of debris outside grew just as quickly. By dinner, the upstairs was completely barren.

P.S. While clearing the junk away, we found a live bat, which Owen declared to be very cute. The bat, with its aversion to light–and thus, all the windows, which were wide open–couldn’t find its way out. So Rundy scooped it up with his gloved hands, and let it free outside.


We also discovered a huge wasp colony–abandoned–in one of the boys’ room walls. There were also many other smaller, but live, wasp nests. Through out the duration of the project, they snuck up on several different people.