Our Great Wall: Bringing it Down and Sealing the Gap

This project is one that has made the biggest and best difference in our home. We took out an interior wall from the main floor of our house and I wish there was a photo that could encapsulate just how obtrusive this wall was, but it was one of those things you just had to experience.

Tri-level vs. Split level

However, to help you understand what it was like I made up this very crude and not to scale image. The style of our house is called a tri-level. This is not to be confused with a “split level”. In a split level, you walk in and there is a little entryway area and then stairs going up or down. In a “tri-level” like ours, the entry level has rooms and not JUST an entry area. We have three floors, this one is the middle or main level, upstairs is 3 bedrooms and a full bath (the one we recently remodeled), and downstairs is a bonus room (or our manwo cave), and a half bath/laundry room. The back door and a door to the garage are also downstairs.

Main floor of tri-level

Before

Bringing it down!

For this project, we took out the middle wall of this room and the “very stupid mini counter”. It wasn’t a terrible design, but it made the already small kitchen seem even smaller, closed off and even isolating in social settings….

After conferring with our architect to make sure the wall wasn’t load bearing, we had our electrician come out and removed two outlets, move two light switches and take out two thermostats that we no longer needed after having a whole new heating and cooling system installed a few years earlier. I do miss the outlets sometimes, but the thing I miss most after taking out this wall: the wall space I lost. I knew I would miss it, but sometimes it really bugs me! Oh well!

I should also note that we removed this wall at about the same time we took out the walls in the entryway. It was cost effective to have the architect and electrician come out and just take care of both at once.

So this was our main level on demo day, Hubby even had the plastic up, ready to tear it down:

Taking out interior wall

Two hours and the help of one big strong friend later and Hubby had our main level looking like this:

Taking out interior wall

That photo was taken from about the same spot as the previous one. What a difference!!

Then there was some more demo and some clean up:

Taking out interior wall

Taking out interior wall

floor gap after removing interior wall

floor gap after removing interior wall

Closing up the gaps

Once it was all clean and all the drywall and such hauled out, it was time to close up those gaps. We took some careful measurements and cut subflooring to fit the lower gap and new pieces of drywall to fit into the ceiling.

New subfloor after removing interior wallNew drywall after removing interior wall

closing up ceiling after removing interior wall

About half way done closing up the ceiling

The ceiling wasn’t too much more work (though, I still haven’t finished painting it yet. I HATE painting ceilings…). It took a lot of drywall putty, but we were able to imitate the texture on the ceiling well enough and it looks almost perfect.

The flooring was a different story…. We have nailed down, tongue and groove (on the sides AND on the ends) red oak hardwood floors. We installed these floors when we first moved in so we were familiar with how to work with it and still had plenty of boards to fill the gap, but the boards need to be staggered in order to look and lay right. A few hours with my tape measure and a roll of tape and I had a puzzle that looked something like this:

Repairing existing hardwood floors

Good thing I am a Tetris Master! ;)

Just thinking about this part of the project makes my stomach hurt. It was, by far, the most mentally and physically challenging project I’ve taken on and I repaired this floor gap ALL by myself. I have scars from this project … but we will get to that. Bear with me while I attempt to recall the process of how I did this (Uhg…)

The first thing I had to do was remove and/or cut some boards so that the new boards I layed in were staggered like the rest of the room. For this I used a miter saw and/or a saws-all. This was INCREDIBLY difficult as it was IMPERATIVE that I not harm the surrounding boards and 1. These are not exactly fine precision tools. 2. I am not that experienced with them, and 3. I am not that strong either and that matters when you are wielding a high powered blade against a tough surface! (It bounces all over the place!!)

I did it though and with minimal damage to the surrounding boards :/

Making the boards stagger

Note: Like most projects we do/will do, I have plans and budgets already drawn up for them. One project still in the cue is a kitchen remodel (I’ll get on that as soon as we have about $15,000 to throw around and that is CHEAP for a kitchen remodel….), and because I already have the plans drawn up, I knew about where we are, someday, going to put a kitchen island. This made redoing this section of flooring a bit easier as I didn’t have to stagger the boards where the island will someday be as this area will be covered over. 

Getting the new boards to fit into this gap was a NIGHTMARE!! Each board had to be cut to EXACTLY the right length to fill the gap, but not so tight that I couldn’t work into the groove. Not to mention that, while this looks like a nice straight line, it is NOT! Somewhere in the middle there, these rows become off by about an 1/8″. So, for that last long row on the right, I had to trim that 1/8″ off the width of every board and it wasn’t a straight cut either, it was a full board at one end and an 1/8″ off at the other GAH!!!!!

In order to make these boards fit the gap, I also had to remove all the tongues from them. This is fairly easy with a hammer and chisel, but time consuming… and to make sure the edges were perfectly flush, I had to use my Dremel with a sanding bit to make sure I got every last little bit off. I had to do this for the boards already on the floor and the new boards I installed. I also used the dremel to make sure all the existing boards I to cut (to make sure they staggered correctly) had perfectly straight ends for the new boards to set against. This is why this project was SO mentally AND physically challenging. I, literally, spent WEEKS sitting on the floor in this room, bent over this gap with a dremel, shop vac, chisel, hammer, and soft hammer making all these boards fit as perfectly as possible!!!

Here is where the blood came in (always gotta pay the “blood tax”)

About 3/4 of the way into repairing these floors, I was bent over this gap with the Dremel in one hand and the shop vac in the other, sanding out some spot and I reached over to adjust the shop vac while I still had the RUNNING Dremel in my hand. I had a sanding bit on the Dremel and it was running at about 20-25? That means it was going between 20,000 and 25,000 revolutions per minute? Well … I, accidentally, touched the running Dremel to my hand that was holding the shop vac hose (Epic, Face. Palm.). Needless to say, it only touched me for a half second, but I took a sizable chunk of flesh of out of two of my fingers….

Dremel injury blood tax

This photo was taken the day I did it. Over the next few days it formed into a VERY dark and much larger scab that took MONTHS to heal over. It has been about a year since and there are still quite noticeable scars. BE CAREFUL WITH YOUR POWER TOOLS!!

Once I fit in all the boards and used a face nailer to tack them all down, I filled in the nail holes (and a few small gaps with putty, gave the floors a good scrub, and I was finished (sort of).

Before and after taking out interior wall repairing hardwood floors

Finishing ALL the floors!!

Now that the wood flooring was all repaired I got to put some of our beautiful Pergo down in the kitchen! I also cut, finished and installed some lovely red oak T-moulding for transitions and FINALLY had an open kitchen with real, level flooring!! Happiest day!! This project combined with all the work we did on the entryway and its flooring made for an amazing new main level for our house!

1459101_717025191640994_351738084_n

When all was said and done, this was the view out from my kitchen! Before we took down the wall, all I would have seen from this spot was the wall above that stupid mini counter. SO MUCH BETTER!! (I took this photo during a major snow storm we had last year. I’ve since painted this room a latte type color which is much warmer and pleasant.

Things to be grateful for an open tri level

Oh the HAPPINESS!!!

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