Removing cinder blocks is not a cakewalk. Or quiet.
Name: Christine & PierreType of Project:
Montreal, QuebecType of building:
Ground floor apartment of a triplex, 1,100 square feet
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We started our renovation with the most dramatic and (hopefully) most traumatic part of the whole process – the removal of the load-bearing pantry and the installation of three beams in its place.
This is the pantry stripped down to the cinder blocks. Gives a pretty good idea of what was removed.
Due to a scheduling conflict, the work for this got pushed back, and the guys ended up starting work on the weekend – and then working from 4:30 – 9pm every evening during the week. This meant we were home for practically every part of this insane ordeal. This was sort of good, as I was super curious and excited to see all the details as they happened, but not so great for our sanity. Cooking was impossible as it was right next to the construction zone, and we both had crazy weeks at work, which meant our stress levels were at maximum by the end of the week.
I should mention here that this is a little more complicated than a regular load-bearing beam installation. The amount of load that these beams are carrying is huge. There are two floors above us and they all have this cinder-block pantry. Even the structural engineer said that it was one of his more complicated jobs (which, quite frankly, I wish I didn't know).
This is more or less their technique for installing the beams – putting up temporary supports that support the weight of the floors above, then removing the wall/beam, then sliding in the new one underneath.
To install the beams, they would first notch holes in the existing structure to thread metal beams across the weight load, and then support those beams with metal columns. Once the load was distributed, they could remove the wall underneath, and then put the new beam in place. Lastly, they would slide the support columns underneath the new beam, bolt the whole affair together and remove the temporary supports. To prepare for this process, they also added additional supports in the basement to better distribute the weight.
The installation of the first beam was the most complicated, as it was the biggest and spanned what was once the end of the building. It took three full days to get the first one in place, with the team installing temporary supports and removing bits in stages. The two other beams went up relatively quickly.
Beams 1 and 2 have been installed here, 3 is still to go. The temporary supports are still there.
We had a couple incidents with the neighbours upstairs, as their hot water lines and a few power lines run through this part of our apartment. A couple of wires got cut during demo, but got repaired pretty quickly. The neighbour just above us kept finding she had no hot water, which we couldn't figure out – we checked and double checked all the wires and couldn't find the problem. It turns out that the constant vibration from the drills and hammers had jiggled the fuse in her hot water heater breaker just a bit, and it was connecting only intermittently. Luckily the guys here figured out the problem and we were able to avoid a service call.
The evening before the first beam was set to be installed, I had a small panic attack seeing it sitting on the floor. The beams are much bigger than we expected – 20", and they're installed 4" down from the ceiling. I had been concentrating so much on how much the columns near the walls would affect layout that it hadn't even occurred to me to double check the height of the beams. It's not to say they could have been changed, but I could have mentally prepared for this if I'd read the plans a little more carefully.
For a day, I felt the dread that is common at the beginning of renovation projects – "I have broken my home irrevocably." This big beam was going up and embarking on this change seemed like a stupid mistake. But as soon as the walls of the pantry started to come down, I relaxed. Even with the huge beams, the space is completely transformed. The flow is much better and the existing kitchen gets so much more light than before. Plus, this actually enables us to make a layout that makes sense.
No more pantry!
Once the guys had finally packed up and went home, we spent an entire Saturday morning doing a mega-clean of the apartment. The dust had made its way to every surface, despite the plastic barrier. The apartment is far from *clean*, and we still have much more demo to go, but at least my eye doesn't twitch when walking around the apartment.
Estimated time for project: 12 weeks
Time remaining: 11 weeks
(Images and diary text: Christine Zoltok)