Is it worth it to demo yourself?

nancitaMarch 12, 2012

Hi all,

We just hired an architect to help us with our second floor remodel. While we are waiting for the plans, we are tearing down paneling and attempting some wallpaper removal, taking up carpet, pad and some linolium, removing staples and nails all over.

Is it worth it? When we hire a contractor, will we get any kind of break? We are cutting up and bagging everything. Not much else we can do at this point.

Thank you for any advice.

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If you're young and healthy, it will sound silly. But taking every safety precaution will pay off down the line.

At the least, you should follow the same rules required of renovation contractors since 2010, who must be certified under EPA regulations.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 8:34PM
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yes if you do it all.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 10:01PM
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"At the least, you should follow the same rules required of renovation contractors since 2010, who must be certified under EPA regulations. "

Mostly a method to increase costs and let contractors charge more by restraining trade.

"I'm certified" means a higher bill, every time.

The EPA specializes in exaggerating risks.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 10:24AM
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That certification is in two specific areas, lead and asbestos removal. It is important for DIYers to be aware of conditions where lead or asbestos can be present. Because, working with either improperly can cause life long situations.

I was an independent remodeler. I was self taught about asbestos/lead and how to determine if I could do the work or needed a professional company.

Most of the time, with proper protection---and by permit from the city---I could safely remove or abate the lead paint and asbestos shingles/flooring I found.

Now, asbestos wraps around pipes and in ceilings and attics were beyond my level of work---so I did not attempt those.

Now, as far as what you are doing.Removing carpet/pad/tack strips should save some money. Wall paper removal can actually make for more cost---depending on how those walls turn out and what will done to them. The paste remnants are difficult to remove well enough for paint to be applied. It is often faster to simply remove the dry wall, install new and finish.

What you need to make sure happens is the bids are made with what you have done to start the job. Otherwise, most contractors figure normal demo costs.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 12:54PM
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That is all very interesting. Thanks.
The house is an 1880 gem and the paneling on the walls also had glue gobs on the wallpaper. The wall are plaster on the second floor and aren't in the best shape. No doubt the paneling was put up.
Can the walls be preserved? Does the plaster come off if it can't?
We currently have around 30+ black garbage bags of wall and floo with more paneling to come. Just figured it might save a little when the construction begins?

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 1:23PM
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The older the house, the better the possibilities of wall treatments and paint containing both lead and asbestos.

The upstairs walls are probably lath and plaster---and extremely difficult and expensive to repair. Plus, if there is both lead paint and asbestos in the plaster, the best step is to have it removed.

And that is a job for the pros. Here's why: both lead in paint and asbestos in material are safe if left undisturbed. Painting over lead bearing paint is an acceptable repair.

The problems with either material happen when the particles become friable---airborn---or ingested---eaten. Lead is not flushed from the human body and asbestos fibers are easily breathed into the lungs when present. There are links to cancer---according to 'experts'.

Things like scraping or sanding cause those particles to become airborn in huge amounts. The professional companies go to great lengths to isolate, clean, and test to make sure all contaminents are removed. And that is expensive.

If you have children, it is probably worth the expense. If it were me, and I was 65 years old, I might be willing to do some myself(since I have an idea of the procedure) and save that money since the effects would be a long time in becoming noticeable.

The determining factor, however, is going to be the local building codes. To get a permit, there should be a requirement to test for lead/asbestos. If found, the local laws will probably require professional removal.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 3:30PM
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Instead of guessing, just get some quotes and have them itemize demo. It's a lot easier to make decisions with real numbers.

re: plaster walls. Plaster is a lost art and far superior to drywall. If you can salvage it, go for it. If it is too far gone, you'll have to demo it as well. There will be wood slats nailed to the studs and the plaster is put on over those. It isn't rocket science to get it down, but it will kick up a LOT of dust and the stuff weighs a ton.

If the plaster is structurally sound but a mess, you can either have a pro skim coat over it or drywall right over it.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 3:42PM
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Well, the floors are so-so. Oak planks. One room is the best. The walls are overall pretty bad; cracked walls that were patched an an attempt and the poor plaster got wet from a probable roof thing in one room on one wall.
Haven't even started to uncover the paneling that goes up the stariway and in the short hallway. I love this house eventhough the poor thing has had some horrible facelift work done. There is very little left to the original. That's why I'd like to save what I can.
The first floor has already been re-floored and the walls are covered over. I still love the old girl.
Thank you everyone. Maybe it's a good idea to stop the demo. We were curious as to what was behind that hideous paneling and pink carpeting. Now we know!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 6:52PM
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You need to look at old plaster walls very carefully.

'Spider cracks' (not open, no gap, but just surface cracks) do not mean much of anything.

Cracks that show a gap can indicate a problem, or just the likely settling in an older house.

Actual plaster installation (2 coat or 3 coat plaster) is pretty much dead.

modern 'plaster' is veneer plaster.
A thin coat over a drywall type substrate (AKA 'blue-board').

It has the general appearance of a real plaster wall (finish layer is only about 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick) but lacks the sound dampening mass.
It is better than just drywall, but not by very much compared to a real built up plaster wall (normally around 3/4 inch thick and HEAVY).

Preserving old plaster is well worth the effort if it is not horribly damaged.

A few areas of major damage are not a good reason to tear out an entire plaster installation.

Plaster is not that hard to fix.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 10:54AM
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You made my day! I certainly want to preserve the walls, if at all possible.
How about the oak floors? How bad do they have to be before they can't be salvaged? I love them, but some are far better than others.
Thanks for your encouragement. I am psyched!

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 1:40PM
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Whether the floors can be resanded depends on a couple of things. The amount of dirt ground into the wood and how deep it is embedded. And how much wood is available to be sanded away. Most hardwood floors can be sanded three times if done sooner than later and not too much is removed in one sanding.

You can try sanding the floors yourself.

Find a rental place that has U-Sand sanding machines. It is a big heavy square tall machine with a chrome handle and a dust bag on the back. You can buy 40 grit pads(starting) and up to 150 grit (What I use to finish sand with).

It is virtually impossible for a complete newby to ruin a floor with this sander---very unlike the drum type which requires a fair bit of practice and experience to use successfully. It will take longer, but you can DIY the job.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2012 at 11:37PM
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The biggest driver is how much wood is available over the groves in the edges of the boards.

A complete refinish must be sanded down to clean wood, and usually takes a minimum of 1/16 inch and sometimes up to around 1/8 inch.

If there is localized staining after most of the floor has been cleaned up by sanding you can consider replacing just the stained or damaged boards.

Closets are often a good source of matching age and type boards that can be woven in for a repair.
The closet floor does not normally show so newer material is not as important.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 3:57PM
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In a 120 year old house, you don't necessarily want a "like new" floor finish anyway. Some imperfections are expected and provide character. A perfectly smooth, flat, high-gloss floor would just look odd in a historic home.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 8:35AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Go down to your local hardware store and ask them for the lead testing kit and the asbestos testing kit. Buy several and test the various room's materials yourself. It is far better to know what kind of devil you're dealing with yourself than to depend on the contractor to do it---even though he is required to also test. Knowledge is power. After you know what you're dealing with, then and only then can you develop a plan to deal with it. It's possible that you could decide that spraying down the ruined plaster walls with water and then demolishing them would be within your skill set. Or it's possible that you decide that you want a pro to deal with it after you read up on how to DIY. But, unless you know for sure, you won't even be able to set up a bid properly from the contractors that you would be interviewing.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 1:47PM
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I thought I had read that asbestos wasn't used in the US until the 1900's. Not true?
I absolutely agree with you on the floor. The previous owners ruined the first floor of our house by putting down new floors over the old and taking down the plaster walls, insulating, then up went the sheet rock. Makes the window jambs look terrible.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 11:36PM
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You need to think ahead a bit. If the house was built in 1880 it had gas lighting and when it was converted to electricity it would have been knob & tube. Subsequently metallic sheathed wiring cable might have been substituted/added without a ground. You probably have both unless someone renovated in the last 20 years. So, carefully check out the electrical wiring before deciding on the scope of the demolition. If you are not gong to wallpaper old horsehair plaster is rarely worth saving but you might want to save the baseboard and other molding & trim.

This is not only a good opportunity to upgrade the wiring it is a good time to insulate the exterior walls. Your concern should not be to avoid doing the work incompletely or in the wrong order so you don't have to do it again later.

Try the Old House forum.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2012 at 2:50PM
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