DIY: Home Improvement Projects for Buyers of Older Homes

You just purchased a new home, and it needs some work because it is an older home. There are numerous projects that can be accomplished with the right tools and a little ingenuity. If done carefully, you can salvage most if not all of the materials for future projects that arise.

I recently moved back to a mobile home after being in an apartment for two years. Before we could even move into the new house, we had to perform some deconstruction. The previous owners of the home tried to cut down on the amount of space to heat by building a room in the kitchen and dining room area. If any of you are familiar with mobile homes, there is not a lot of room to begin with in the dining area, and this room was approximately 9ft by 9ft, built directly in front of the front door. This left us with a three foot space to bring all the furniture into the house, not to mention the kitchen had less than three feet at the widest cross-section.

Whenever you start a project, there are certain items that you must think of. Here is a list of tools that need to be in your demolition kit:

1. A pair of safety glasses with side shields. The safety goggles that I remember were made of rubber and an elastic band to keep them plastered to your head. Although they are still available, there are some new types out there that are made of hardened plastic and fit on your face like a pair of sunglasses. But the important thing is to protect your eyes from flying plaster particles.

2. Hepa filter mask. These are your basic white fiber particulate masks. You can get a pack of these inexpensively at your home improvement or hardware store. This keeps the dust and fiberglass particles out of your lungs. Rest be assured, there will be dust, lots of dust.

3. Leather gloves or rubber sealed cloth. Fiberglass insulation is made from microscopic pieces of blown glass, and is a skin irritant. The fiberglass will find its way through cloth gloves and into your skin and you will feel every sliver of it. Wear a long sleeve shirt while you work. It may be uncomfortable if the weather is warm, but it will keep the dust and fiberglass from irritating your skin as much. If you don’t have rubber coated gloves you can put latex gloves on under you cloth gloves.

4. A plasterboard saw, or a plaster saw bit if you want to use a saber saw. This large toothed straight line blade is easy to remove large pieces of drywall from the walls without using a hammer. But be warned, make sure that there is no wiring in the wall where you are cutting. It can be very bad for you and your tools if you hit live wiring while cutting.

5. A 24″ Iron crowbar or demo bar. There are many different sizes and shapes to demo bars. Choose one that has a large bend on one end with a claw tip that can be used to pull large screws or nails from the studs.

6. A 12, 14, or 16 oz. hammer and a flat head screwdriver, or a 8″ or 6″ pry-bar. This is good for areas where there is not enough room to use the crowbar. Use the heaviest screwdriver you can find in your toolbox. You will also use these two tools to remove trim-work and baseboard from the walls with destroying it.

7. A saber saw. This really comes in handy if you are pressed for time. It has many interchangeable blades from rough cutting studs, to drywall saw blades. It is also very useful for other projects. It is a relatively inexpensive investment but it is worth having one.

8. A power drill with a Phillips-head bit. If the walls are constructed with wood screw and not nails, you want the drill rather than manually turn the screws. Yikes, talk about carpal tunnel!
Now that you have the proper tools, let’s discuss how to go about executing a clean demolition project.

Now, when most people see demolition projects on television, they see sledge hammers and axes swinging, a great deal of grunting and groaning and kicking and screaming. If you would like to take your aggression out on your project, you can work this way, but one thing will be glaringly clear when you are finished. You will have an enormous mess and the stress you just relieved will come back when you try to clean it up. Also, the chances of having any material to recycle will be next to nothing.

What you don’t see on TV, is all the planning that goes into safely removing a wall or room. You must look at where the load bearing walls are placed. You must also look at where the electrical is placed and how to reroute wiring. If you are unsure of how to do this, then many DIY books explain how to rewire small projects. Unfortunately, a contractor may need to be contacted to help with placing braces, if you plan to completely remove a wall.

My project, fortunately, did not have these obstacles. The room had no wiring in the walls that I wanted to take apart, and this room was placed after the building of the mobile home, so it contained no load bearing walls.

I began very carefully and slowly, looking for problems along the way. I began by taking off all of the trim-work, molding, and baseboard off the walls. This gave me access to the edges of the drywall.

Using my hammer and flat headed screw driver, I began to pry off the drywall where I could take off as much of a sheet intact with minimal damage. Some came off very easy, some I had to cut out sections between the studs and then scrap what was still attached to the stud.

To begin, I only removed one side of the wall so I could take the insulation off with minimal damage. The insulation has been bagged up and is waiting for another project should the need arise. Once all of the insulation was taken care of, I had complete access to the opposite wall where I did not have to cut anymore drywall from the walls. I retrieved in total of 4 complete sheets of drywall, to be used for other projects.

Once the drywall was taken off the walls, I then could see how the studding was constructed. Again thinking of recycling, I removed the screws with my power drill, and was able to take apart the walls without damaging the 2×4’s. These were set to the side, and all drywall screws were removed so that I could later use these for other project around the house. There were hiccups along the way that I did not know how I would continue. As with most construction projects, I found that some of the heads had been stripped and were unable to be moved. In these cases, if there was room enough, I used the saber saw with a steel cutting bit to cut the screws free from the stud, or I would use the 24″ crowbar with leverage to pry the 2×4 from its footing.

When I finished this project, I had been able to salvage most of the construction and drywall screws, the 2x4s, most of the drywall, and all of the insulation, from this room. Not to mention all of the space that this room had occupied. The whole project was complete in about three days.

The next time you want to start a project, always think of safety first. Try to imagine ways to go about the project using materials you already have, or if you are deconstructing, then think of how you can do it to save as much material as you can, for use in future projects.

In the near future, I will be writing more articles, with the DIY projects that I have completed or saved money because I used the materials from this deconstruction project, or from materials that I already had laying around.

Until next time, happy project hunting.

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