Part 5 Of Our Real Life Remodeling Journey
The following story is part of a series of articles about my family's experience with our home's remodel. Links to the other stories are found at the bottom of the page.
The day of demolition arrived and the family was up early, following the regular routine. The family room, its demise now hours away, sat in semi-darkness with all of it's lighting gone, save for the one overhead spotlight above the fireplace.
Steel Beasts Await Their Prey
I have to admit that as I sat there and looked at the room, stripped of everything except the carpet and windows, the sentimental thoughts once again began to flow. In the seventeen years we've lived in this house that room has seen a lot of action. Probably most cherished are the memories of family movie nights every Friday with the boys.
They've grown up in this room, first learning to crawl, then walk, then ultimately play basketball in this room (don't ask where the parents were...). But they're getting bigger now and the couch doesn't seat all five of us like it used to when they were a lot smaller. Then again at their current ages it's not like they'd necessarily want to sit with us now, even if we did have a sofa big enough to accommodate us all.
Perhaps it makes me feel better to think that this room won't really go away. It'll change and evolve into a room with more space, ready for new memories. (But I can guarantee there won't be any more basketball.)
Demolition started with the removal of the windows and the doors. The windows weren't worth salvaging because they were basically worn out. The french patio doors were still in good condition so those were removed and put aside for donation to a local reuse center. You can read more about that in Part 4 about recycled building materials.
After that it was time for the heavy machinery. The first victim was the old patio concrete slab. It sat in the location of the future mudroom. A Bobcat skid steer made short work of the slab, breaking it in multiple pieces to be recycled at some concrete reclamation center somewhere.
Once the patio was gone it was time for the main event. With a small but able backhoe equipped with a thumb-like projection opposite the bucket, the operator proceeded to gnaw away at the family room.
The First Bite
The structure was no match for this onslaught of iron and hydraulics as the machine chewed chunks of wood, insulation and metal. This is when you step back and question whether you're actually insane for allowing someone to do this to your home (remember -- it was still attached to the rest of the house). Imagery of a T-Rex chomping on some hapless Duckbill (aka, the family room) quickly came to mind.
Once again the old emotions tugged at me as I watched this place that had kept us warm and sheltered was cleared to make room for our growing family.
Last to fall was the ceiling-height brick fireplace, standing amidst the surrounding carnage that looked like the aftermath of the London Blitz.
What probably took a few days to build was down in a matter of 20 minutes.
Any hope I had of salvaging the rest of those fireplace bricks was quickly lost as the backhoe created a scrambled-egg mash out of the structure. After pulling the materials free it quickly picked up the debris, crunched it in its jaws and regurgitated it into the nearby dumpster.
I've never personally witnessed the destruction of a tornado or hurricane but after the room was torn down I felt like I had.
The debris field rivaled that of the Titanic's and it was amazing to see how much 'stuff' actually comprised the structure of what we once called our family room.
Then with nimble dexterity, the backhoe operator scraped and plucked whatever was in reach and efficiently packed it away in the dumpster. With a few other workers quickly raking and picking up scraps that were too small for the backhoe to grasp, the area quickly became neat and clean with only the foundation remaining.
It was hard to believe that earlier that morning there had been a room standing there. Amazing what the right tools can accomplish!
After The Cleanup
If you plan a remodel where there's going to be some excavation, plan on losing your lawn. All the twisting and turning that these machines make to negotiate around your house make mincemeat of the grass in no time flat.
Here are a few recommendations to consider to protect some of your landscape assets. Most contractors and municipalities should require them but if they don't, you can ask for them up front.
Silt Fences - these ugly but handy devices prevent what was your lawn and the surrounding dirt piles from becoming a mudslide and ending up in your neighbor's yard. Without the root structure of the turf holding the soil in place any rain will tend to wash the soil away. The silt fence helps keep the dirt contained.
Tree Fence Under The White Oak
Tree Fences - These uglier, but useful fences protect your trees' root zone from compaction and destruction from the heavy equipment that will tromp across your property.
Large trees are irreplaceable when you consider the time it takes for them to mature to a size that provides generous shade and aesthetic value. My own municipality required these fences as well as an inspection by the city arborist as a stipulation for obtaining the building permit.
If your city doesn't require this, you may want to consult the services of an arborist and tell them what you plan on doing. They can help you layout the forbidden zones on your property so that your trees will survive the building process.
Driveway Watch - Some of those behemoths on wheels that'll be servicing your remodel can crack a driveway, particularly on the edges where asphalt is the weakest. Dumpster, concrete and roofing material delivery trucks are some of the major culprits. Some occurrences may be unavoidable depending on work site access but it doesn't have to be a given. Talk it over with the contractor and/or the driver of the vehicle. There may be work-arounds that are possible to avoid subjecting your driveway to oversize loads.