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Yes, it’s a foundation project, but …

… it begins with tearing out the ceilings. Because once this monster project is done, I want only building, creating type work to remain in the bedroom. No more giant trash heaps.

So the Monk has been tearing out the old, water-damaged fiber ceiling.

First, down came the 12×12″ tiles. He pried. I scurried at the bottom of the ladder, bagging up the remains. Then he went back for a second pass, prying off the larger sheets of fiber that were behind the tiles. These sheets were covered with paper that had become brittle and fragile over the decades. Messy job. More bags of rubble. Good thing I buy trash bags by the eleventy-dozen.

The Monk said the photo below should be titled “Moment of Triumph” because it was the first time he managed to get the old material down in one solid sheet.

Otherwise it’s been a scrap here, a scrap there.

In the process we’ve confirmed the truth of something long suspected. Although this house was obviously built by incompetent drunks (or perhaps they were very competent at drinking, just lousy at construction), they obviously did have one cardinal rule guiding them. And that rule is: “If something’s completely non-structural and unimportant, fasten it down with hundreds and hundreds of nails, some only two inches apart. If something’s structural and absolutely crucial to make sturdy, solid, and stable … a handful of 8d nails will do.”

I’m absolutely serious about this. Where major wings of the house were attached … eight penny nails. Always. And only a few of them. But apply some 1/4-inch siding or ceiling material or trim? Then it’s invariably hundreds — thousands — of nails only a few inches apart. Usually those nails are fairly small, but the Monk and I have both also pulled giant 16d nails out of trim boards and other non-structural bits we’ve torn out.

The Monk — who says he’s on the verge of cussing even though I’ve never heard him utter a strong word — has taken to calling the original builders Jim Beam and Jack Daniels.

Although the ceiling teardown is the first stage of the actual labor, before that we spent an hour inspecting the foundation beams.

I had a pretty good idea of their condition already, having had an earlier handyman take photos under the house. But my oh my. It’s worse than I knew. I do believe that even the Monk might break his anti-cussing vows long before this Big, Scary Project is ever done.


  1. R. L. Wurdack
    R. L. Wurdack May 1, 2017 1:03 pm

    On bottlejacks:

    Take care to provide support for the structure other than the jacks as one failure mode for hydraulic jacks is catastrophic letdown. i.e. Never crawl under your car when it is only supported by an hydraulic jack. Use jackstands. else you may be squished.


  2. Claire
    Claire May 1, 2017 1:36 pm

    Squished is definitely not on our agenda! Just before lunch break we were discussing that. Couldn’t remember whether it was the Wicked Witch of the East or her sister of the West who went out that way. But we surely don’t want to!

    Again, the Monk’s very deliberate and thoughtful approach to construction is a godsend here.

  3. StevefromMA
    StevefromMA May 1, 2017 1:39 pm

    Pretty funny but it’s not. My house had previously been rented for several years by a consultant civil engineer and his family who did $&& to the house and left it very non-engineered. We learned he had been responsible for hooking up sewage lines in one part of town and mistakenly hooked it up to pump sewage into houses instead of from houses. He then terminated his rental here and left.

    Maybe he is related to your home builders.

  4. UnReconstructed
    UnReconstructed May 1, 2017 3:09 pm

    the fellow who owned my house before me was a ‘sort of’ handyman. Sort of, in that he apparently knew something about how to use power tools. He ‘finished’ the basement. Everything, EVERYTHING was fastened with drywall screws.

    Either the 1 1/2 or 3 inch.

    Wall outlets ? Drywall screws.

    Baseboard moulding ? Drywall screws.

    Ceiling fixtures? Drywall screws.

    He built cabinets in the garage.
    OSB chipboard fastened with? drywall screws.

    Now mind you, I really have nothing against Drywall screws and a drill motor with screwdriver bit. Fast, cheap and handy.

    But Sheesh.

  5. Tahn
    Tahn May 1, 2017 4:18 pm

    Ah, not to be sexist or anything but it sounds like maybe the “important” structural stuff was put up by the guys who thought “this will hold it fine, lets have a beer”. If it was non structural and therefore “unimportant” they probably had the ladies do it, who having never done it before, wanted to make sure it was right. While the guys went for more beer. Or not. Good luck to you both Claire!

  6. Arthur Murray
    Arthur Murray May 2, 2017 2:15 am

    Probably too late to be of any value, but RE: ceiling stripping. Try a “shingle shovel” – they’re made to quickly and easily remove shingles but work very well for separating panels (of nearly any kind) from structure, especially when used longitudenally with the studs. Pro tip: longer handles are much more betterer.

  7. Claire
    Claire May 2, 2017 6:44 am

    Thanks, Arthur Murray. The Monk did bring one of those, but apparently it wasn’t the right tool for this particular job. Despite the cuss-worthy difficulties, we did get the ceiling teardown done and moved on to the first stage of pulling up the floor.

    There we found both good news and bad news. It turns out that, due to the usual problem — rot — the back wall is basically no longer attached to the floor. So it’s one more thing to deal with. But of course that was no surprise. Rot is such an expected problem that neither the Monk nor I were tempted toward cussing.

  8. Laird
    Laird May 2, 2017 8:17 am

    I thought the Monk was going off to live on a boat somewhere in the Pacific? Have his plans changed, or is that going to happen sometime in the future?

  9. Claire
    Claire May 2, 2017 8:41 am

    Good memory, Laird. I think the Monk sometimes presents casual dreams as being more serious than they really are.

    Since then, he has bought his own house and is renovating it, so I think he’s around for at least a couple more years. Thank heaven!

  10. larryarnold
    larryarnold May 2, 2017 10:24 am

    A bit late, I know, but eye protection works better when it covers your eyes, and cheap dust masks work much better than bandannas.

  11. Claire
    Claire May 2, 2017 10:44 am

    The Monk usually does wear a proper mask, but rarely dons his eye protection. Even just assisting him, I wore a surgical mask, large glasses, and a hat with a brim.

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