I have (mostly) made my peace with the fact that our ugly little wall cannot be removed. But I refuse to let this wall totally win. When I’m done with it, it will be the best semi-structural wall that anyone has ever seen. Ok, maybe not, but it will be less ugly than what currently exists.
Let’s take a moment and reflect on just how ugly it is.
Before we could figure out how to rebuild the thing, we had to figure out how the current wall was constructed. So we removed the drywall.
How many guys in plaid shirts does it take to remove a wall? Answer: 2.
Look! There’s a duct in the wall after all! It’s in rough shape (and we kind of sawed through it by accident), but it’s there! Also, it’s not an optical illusion. The stud to the right of the duct is very much on an angle.
Another reason to replace the duct: a giant opening that once fed a wall vent now leaks air into the inside of the wall. No wonder we freeze upstairs.
Once all the drywall was removed, we could see the wall in all its glory. Gus was even checking it out.
Originally, my plan was to turn our load-bearing wall into a wall/bookshelf that would look nice and serve a purpose. This was my inspiration:
We would simply remove some of the studs to make way for this beautiful custom bookshelf and drywall the rest to cover the duct work. It was going to be glorious.
But like everything else with this house, our plans got derailed right before demolition day.
The night before we were supposed to rebuild the wall, another structural engineer came to take a look. As soon as he came in the house, he confirmed that it was load-bearing and is apparently the same layout as his first Toronto house – so he knows it well.
We spent a good hour looking around – in the basement, upstairs – and he told us that he couldn’t explain why or how the wall worked, but that it was definitely load-bearing and removing any part of it could create significant problems for us.
We learned one interesting thing though. We always thought that load-bearing meant that the wall was holding up the second floor. Apparently not. Our load-bearing wall is apparently hold up the floor beneath it as well as the floor above it. There is tension between the two floors and this wall is keeping everything in place. Imagine that both floors are trying to move away from each other and this wall is keeping them in place. Without it, the first floor would sag and the second floor might rise. I think that’s how it works, anyways.
He even showed up some signs upstairs of how the house has settled over time and how this wall should eventually be strengthened (although not necessarily now).
I was pretty devastated after the visit. I had finally found something that we thought could work and would look nice. I spent most of Friday night sulking and making angry faces at my Pinterest board full of built-in bookshelf ideas.
Once my grief had subsided, I spent the weekend considering other options while Alex and my dad worked on replacing the duct. I think I’ve come up with some decent options. Still not exactly what I wanted, but it will have to do.
My idea is to put horizontal strips of wood around the wall, with enough spacing in between the strips to allow natural light to hit the staircase. It will still be possible to see the joists underneath, so these will be painted black or white (still under discussion), depending on the look we want to achieve.
The good thing about this option is that we can proceed with installing our floor. For now, we will leave the studs as-is and build the wall once we’re done with the rest of the room. This will also help us choose the right stain for the wood wall to make sure it works with the hardwood floor, the wall colour and the brick wall.