Pierre figuring out how to take apart the soffit of doom.
Name: Christine & PierreType of Project:
Montreal, QuebecType of building:
Ground floor apartment of a triplex, 1,100 square feet
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Thank goodness for long weekends.
This weekend was the final demo weekend, where we finally pulled out the rest of the functioning kitchen in preparation for the contractors to start the following week. We'd done most of the demo and prep in the extension, but the original kitchen still needed to go, including the ceiling and the plaster and lath walls. We hoped to finish it up in two days, but ended up taking the entire three days to get everything completely finished.
The plumber and his assistant removing the radiator.
Friday morning, the plumber came by before I went to work to remove the old radiator, so we could demo and properly refinish the walls behind before putting it back. The thing is huge and weighs a ton, so we were glad to have them deal with it. He also capped the sink and unhooked the dishwasher.
Saturday morning we jumped straight in. The base cabinets came up without too much trouble, but getting the upper shelves down took ages. All the screws were puttied over and the structure was solid wood. We basically had to slice sections using the reciprocating saw and pry them down with crowbars. For people that lament the loss of a potentially useful shelving unit, know that this thing was only coming down in pieces. The soffit in particular probably took Pierre a good two hours to disassemble — we realized we probably could have safely used the upper shelves as a climbing gym.
Massive, insane nail action. This thing wasn't coming down without a fight.
Sunday we carried on, moving on to stripping the walls of plaster. We also got started on the ceiling, which I was dreading — mountains of ancient insulation which is harmless but super messy. We were wearing goggles, gloves and masks (and a big respirator for me) but you still feel gross and filthy at the end of the day. We had hoped to finish up Sunday but we still had half the ceiling, part of a plaster wall and a small bit of drywall left to remove in the extension on Monday.
The end of day two. Half the ceiling still to go.
We had dinner plans on Sunday and we were happily saying to friends that we hadn't had any bad surprises. Clearly this angered the renovation gods, because on Monday we found a nasty surprise — an ant colony had made its home underneath the window frame in the extension. Upon further inspection, we discovered that the ants had simply followed a trail of rotten wood — the framing under the window was rotten and eaten through.
Nasty, nasty surprise.
Our contractor Terry came by to assess the damage and make a repair plan. The old aluminum sill was to blame. Old caulking and rust had created plenty of small holes for water (and later, ants) to sneak in. Terry recommended replacing the aluminum with a more durable concrete sill, and assured us they would be able to reframe the window with new wood and properly seal the gaps to prevent against any further infiltrations or insects.
The window sill after we had killed the ants, scraped out the chewed up insulation, and removed the rotted wood. What I thought were just little rust spots on the sill were actually small holes.
I was simultaneously frustrated and relieved. We almost didn't even remove the drywall from this section, thinking we could reuse it, in which case we never would have even discovered this little infestation. And if the ants hadn't been there, we might not have known the window wasn't properly sealed. So — thank you ants??
We generated an epic amount of trash!! Not pictured: another 20 bags. Sorry environment.
We managed to finish up not too late on Monday — early enough to veg out for a few hours and do laundry before prepping to go back to work the next morning. The pros were starting the next day and we could not have been more relieved to pass off the job for a few weeks.
Estimated time for project: 13 weeks
Time remaining: 8 weeks
(Images and diary text: Christine Zoltok)