Be brave, be cautious – tearing stuff down

Last week, I extolled the virtues of ripping out the thing you are replacing before putting in your shiny new handiwork. This week, I’ll talk through a project we’re in the middle of, where we’re doing exactly that.

When you enter our house, it’s the usual story of a straight corridor leading to the stairs, with doors leading off to the living and dining rooms. The stairs are narrow – even by Victorian terrace standards, and so the door to the living room is on an angle, turning in from a wider passage to a more narrow one between corridor and stairway. The wall is brick (plastered) up to the turn, and becomes wooden panelling from there, all the way up the stairs.

…Until we ripped all the wooden panelling out, that is. Including the door to the dining room and its frame. We’re replacing it with a bannister, hoping to match upstairs’ existing bannister in look. So there will be a half-height barrier between stairs & room, with visual space in the form of the gaps between the spindles, too. It will really open up the space in the stairwell, making it lighter and feel less claustrophobic… and also help with getting large items upstairs, as the gap above the handrail will give room to manoeuvre.

So, first job first: ripping out the existing material.

Be cautious: we checked it wasn’t load-bearing. For us, this was easy – the pillars of the doorframe wobbled. If it was load-bearing, we were screwed already! We called my F-I-L a couple of times to check things as we went through.

Be brave: once we decided it was happening, we went at it with jigsaws, crowbars and lots of elbow grease. Halfway through the job it became apparent that we’d need to pull away a side panel from the stairs to fully remove the panels. After checking that, too, wasn’t load-bearing, we just went for it: because of those panels being trapped in, we knew we wouldn’t be able to use it in the final “product”. So out it came, no hesitation.

Right now we have a gaping hole between dining room and stairs – the cats love it, always jumping up and down higher steps and the floor. Phase 2 begins next weekend, cutting spindles on the diagonal and preparing the handrail.

The other good thing about being bold: once it’s all ripped out and looks rough, you can’t back away from the plan you’ve made. There’s no way we can sell this house with a bare-edfed open sided staircase!

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