I’ve had a hate-hate relationship with the wall in our dining room since we moved in. Even though we managed to make it slightly less ugly, my issue was with its very existence.
We wanted to remove it during our first floor renovation, but were overwhelmed by the idea of removing a structural wall. We figured it would be really expensive and way beyond what we could handle. We were probably right at the time, but removing it then would have been so much easier.
Now that we’re just months away from our kitchen renovation and have a great contractor that we trust, we decided to bite the bullet and remove the wall. The impact on the room would be more than worth the cost and hassle of tearing up the ceiling and having to deal with a hole in the flooring.
We cleared out the room, moved things around in the kitchen and emotionally prepared ourselves for the destruction that was to come.
To save a bit of money and limit the mess in the house, we decided (well, I decided and Alex reluctantly agreed) to do the demo ourselves.
The demo was awful. Really, really awful. We had to remove the dropped drywall ceiling as well as the original plaster ceiling underneath. The ceilings weren’t even the worst part. The strapping they used to attach the dropped drywall to took forever to remove.
The dining room side of the back wall took about an hour, so we were pretty hopeful that we’d finish our demo on time.
But the kitchen side of the wall was a bizarre and unnecessary combination of plaster and cement that made it impossible to remove. It took us an entire extra day to remove the kitchen side and was extremely frustrating.
The dust was unreal. We had closed off the upstairs pretty well, but the dust was everywhere downstairs.
When all the plaster was off and cleaned up, we could finally see how the space was going to look.
This time we ordered a bin. For just $250 we had the bin delivered and removed from our front lawn. And all of our construction garbage fit. Barely!
In total, the demo took us 3 days and a couple of years off our lives.
Our contractor then came and started removing the studs of the walls. We didn’t do this part of the demo because the dining room wall needed to be supported as it came down, so we left this to the professionals.
Within 2 days, all the walls were completely down and the new beams and joists were in.
Because our house has sagged a bit, our contractor had to jack up part of the house, which created a huge crack on the second floor. He at least called me to let me know that he would have to raise the house and what the risk was. We didn’t really have a choice, but I’m glad that it was only the wall and not the floor that buckled.
To add to the stress of living in construction, our house was broken into. AGAIN. This makes it the second time in 12 months. Because the contractors were moving garbage out to the bin through the front door, we totally missed that we hadn’t locked the door when we went to bed (since we normally just keep it locked and use the back door). Alex is borderline OCD about making sure that all of our doors are locked and we’ve forgotten to lock the doors maybe 3 times in the last 4 years (all my fault, by the way), so we feel particularly frustrated with ourselves. The guy just walked right in, grabbed Adam’s backpack and Alex’s workbag. All while we were sleeping upstairs.
Nothing overly valuable was taken, but Alex’s bag was pretty nice and he had his prescription sunglasses in the bag. So we maybe lost $300 worth of stuff (replacement value, not what this jerk-off is going to get for it). So we bought a ring alarm system. Sigh.
Electrical and Insulation
It was then up to us to run the electrical in the ceiling and add insulation (to help with noise). The insulation was so big that we needed to buy it in 2 trips. Also, insulation isn’t cheap. We didn’t need very much (4 bags total) but each bag was $50.
The electrical work wasn’t hard, but we had to awkwardly connect to a wire that was in the part of the ceiling that wasn’t removed. We made sure to leave a lot of slack so that it would be easy to install the pot lights once the ceiling was in. We also ran a new wire for the dining room table light and made sure that everything was centred – on the front window, the living room light and the side windows.
We were also super clever and took a bunch of measurements to know exactly where things were in the ceiling. You know, just in case we needed to access something in the future.
The insulation was easy to install, as long as the pieces were wide enough to have a tight fit.
The contractor then came back to put up all the drywall. Hanging drywall isn’t particularly hard, but given that it’s a ceiling (which is hard) and we don’t have a truck, it was easiest to get someone else to deal with it for us. Also, they spent a lot of time making sure that the new ceiling was level but also transitioned to the existing plaster ceiling (which was far from level).
Taping, Mudding and Sanding
There’s nothing I hate more than mudding and sanding. It’s a ridiculously messy endeavor and simply takes forever. Because we had to transition to an existing plaster ceiling, this job was far from easy. It took us more than a week of adding mudding and sanding it off again because the ceiling was ready to paint.
Did I mention how much I hate it?
Making Holes for the Lights
Once the ceiling was completely sanded, we had to make holes for the pot lights and dining room light. It was stressful making holes in the new drywall, but it went very well and we ended up with perfect circles. I was there to supervise and make sure that the holes were in the exact right location.
After a full week of mudding and sanding, it was finally time to paint the room. I personally get a lot of satisfaction out of painting. It usually means that the most messy part of the work is finally done and things are starting to come together.
I used our usual primer and paint and went to work.
I started by applying the first coat of paint on the entire ceiling – even the part that we didn’t remove. We had a few scuff marks and there was some cracking, so I took this as an opportunity to freshen it up and apply a fresh coat. The one coat did the trick, so I only applied a second coat to the new ceiling. As soon as the ceiling was done, I set the living room back up so we could have a decent place to sit again.
The walls were a mix of original wall and new wall, so I painted 2 coats just to have full coverage.
When everything was painted it looked fantastic!
One of the final steps was installing our new pot lights. The last time we installed pot lights was super annoying. The old style potlights are really big and don’t fit in old plaster ceilings. They never really looked right and I was happy to remove them.
New pot lights are designed differently, where the main electrical piece isn’t above the pot light, which requires far less room in the ceiling.
They looked super sleek!
Alex then worked on the dining room light (which we upgraded from our previous chandelier). The new light fixture is more modern and will work really well with our kitchen design.
One fun setback was when we were installing our nest thermostat. Because it’s low voltage, we didn’t cut power. Well, as I was running the wires through the wall, they touched and shorted the power part of our boiler system. $200 and a 6am run to hydronics supply store, we replaced the part and had heat again. Sigh.
It took us about a month from demolition to setting up the dining room again. It was dusty and annoying (especially since we should have just done this before we installed the floor), but c’est la vie.
Because we’re hosting Christmas this year, we have to fill in the hardwood floor gap where the wall used to be (more on that here). We’ll just apply a patch until we install new floors in the kitchen.