Surprises in the walls

Today I tackled a project I had been dreading. As part of our office renovation, we're closing off the opening the PPOs made that leads into the hall closet. We're also re-opening the doorway of the original closet, which I found when I tore down some paneling. That was a good surprise, since I had been considering putting a closet there anyways. I couldn't have been happier when I found out that was how the house had been originally. Today was a bad surprise.

In order to make the "new"-original closet more functional, we wanted to expand the doorway so that it opens on the full width of the closet. The original opening was 24" wide. To use that closet with a 24" door, we'd either have to use it as a tiny walk-in closet with the rod hanging perpendicular to the doorway na dhave a 2.5' long rod, or hang it parallel and only be able to reach half of our clothes. Neither idea sounded very good, which is how the dreaded project came about.

The plan was to knock out 3' of the wall next to the closet doorway, allowing the full width of the closet to be accessed. We'd then hang some nice frame-and-panel bifolds or two 24" pine doors that match the house. Even though the ieda of knocking out the original plaster made me cringe, I comforted myself with the idea that we'd be making the house more functional, not screwing it up like the PPOs had.

I grabbed a crowbar and spent a few minutes looking at the wall to be demolished. In the entire office, this was one of the few areas of completely good plaster. No cracks, no nail holes, no real damage of any kind. I felt terribly guilty for whacking my crowbar into it, but that's exactly what I did. I hoped that as I went, I would be able to gleefully tear down the lath and bash my crowbar into the plaster. Isn't that how most folks feel? I see all these pictures on the internet of demolition parties, and I should have been happy to finally take out some of my stress on the house.

But no, not me. I cried as I pulled down the plaster and lath, bit by careful bit. I'm glad nobody was there to see me, as I must have looked absoloutely crazy. I felt like I was butchering my house. I was taking something created almost 100 years ago and wrecking it. This plaster could never be replaced. I could cover up the hole I was making with drywall, or even hire a plasterer to replaster, but the original wavy horsehair-lime-and-sand plaster would be gone forever. Ugh.

It took me about 45 minutes to remove 18 square feet of plaster and lath. I spent about half that time in tears. Seriously. I'm all sniffly again just thinking about it. I don't know how people can stand to gut their houses. Unless my plaster was ruined beyond all repair, it woud probably kill me. Thankfully, this is the only plaster in the house we have plans to remove.

After the first few pieces of lath were off, I noticed this at the floor:

"How cool," I thought. "They left the old knob and tube in the wall when they updated the electrical." The PPOs were kind of lazy, and they'd left the old sash weights in the windows, as well as unused ductwork and other oddities.

The work progressed to this:

And then this:

Oh, but do you notice something a little odd? Yep, right near the top, the old K & T is connected to a new wire that runs into the attic, servicing God-alone-knows-what.

Freaking awesome. The lazy PPOs had upgraded to a circuit breaker and a few GFCI outlets (probably not even actually grounded), but they'd obviously left at least some of the old wiring in the walls and spliced it to the new stuff. Who knows how much of this is hidden in the walls? I don't know much about electrical, but I know it's expensive, and I know that if I find something that's a code violation or safety hazard, I'm obligated to fix it. If for no other reason than if my house burns down, I want my insurance company to cover it.

Some folks find money in their walls. Other people find nifty little antiques. I find a swirling vortex of doom that magically sucks the money out of my bank account.

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