The first thing I did upon walking into a newly purchased home was buy a handy little yellow crow-bar and go on a drywall rampage! “Break first, ask questions later” was my motto and no wall stood in my way.
A few theraputic hours later, as I stood in a pile of settling white dust as fine as powdered sugar, I realized that we (myself, and my unsuspecting but ultimately very supportive partner) just dove head first into our first, surprisenly large, renovation project!
Below is a photo documentary of what followed; A very informal guide on how to update a house into a contemporary, open-concept living space – i.e. by the frantic removal of every load bearing wall imaginable.
A pro tip I overlooked:
Before breaking any drywall – cover all the floor vents to avoid extra junk in your ducts! Otherwise, just go for it. Honestly, it was easier to price the project out once I knew where all the pipes and electrical was hiding.
- order bin ahead of time
- don’t break the windows out, the window people do that
- don’t remove any studs until you have an engineer’s OK
- get permit from city (I have to say this, legally speaking)
Once the drywall was stripped off, our suspicions were confirmed! The main wall running along the hallway was load bearing. (This means that the majority of the weight of the second floor was sitting on these bare studs.)
We scheduled an engineer, and he suggested a column in the living room AND basement to help with weight distribution. Are you kidding? This house is as wide as a carton of eggs!
After some debate with senior staff at the firm, I got my way sans any columns. Turns out that in narrow homes the weight can be redistributed to the outside walls instead. The lesson here is – don’t believe everything people tell you right off the bat. Sometimes they might just be avoiding some additional work.
Double-joisting our entire ceiling made the house rock solid. After a final blessing from a second pair of engineering-eyes, the last studs make way for total open concept. Good thing we removed that nasty old kitchen last minute!
Fun fact: Old homes from the 70’s don’t typically have extra joists in sleeping areas, so we actually doubled the strength of our home! Bonus.
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: Our soon-after fired demolition guys decided to brutally cut through every wire that stood in their way, turning three floors into an electrical jigsaw puzzle. Spoiler alert – we had to rewire everything & get a new panel.
Pro tip prior to drywalling
- Plan out your living space i.e. think of all the appliances & plugs
- Don’t forget the cable wire – even if you don’t watch TV! (guilty)
- add an extra empty heating pipe if you have space in a wall running up between floors = this will help fish wires in finished walls in the future!
- add foam seal literally everywhere you see a crack to prevent cold drafts
Unless your kitchen is a perfect square, ikea might not fit as you please. Our lovely custom kitchen on the other hand was cheap, took only three weeks from design to finish, and has a few tricks built into it because it’s totally custom.
- floors are engineered bamboo
- LED pot lights are the way to go
- the fridge of my dreams – worth every penny!
(I will post about the kitchen design later)
Behold – we have officially moved. Trims, wall colours and the finishing touches. Nest is running, no water is leaking. What a transformation!
Pro Tip: The house will need time to resettle into its new structure and weight distribution. Cracks will appear here and there – don’t panic.
(Ten months later our ceiling drywall is still showing new signs of settling!)
Alas after project managing from start to finish, I am now a specialist in renovating a home. My friends have started calling me #renobarbie. Sure, I’ll wear it as a badge of honour!