Lifting the House A Chronicle of Mayhem and Plunder

Demolishing the Main Stairway

This week we are replacing our main stairway with a new one slanting in the opposite direction. The existing stairway is steep, it makes a 90-degree turn and goes through a low-headroom opening, making it hard to carry large furniture and other large objects up and down. We want to replace it with a safe, roomy, straight stairway. The only place available for it is a room we call the Library, which adjoins the living room. The doorway between the living room and library has to move, because the new stairs will run right across it. So we decided to open up the whole wall and join the two rooms together. We also have to remove an elaborate set of cupboards and bookshelves that I built in 1990 (take note of that date, it's important later).

The photo at the right shows some of the shelves that got taken out. Mouse over the picture to see what the corner looked like before demolition. It pained me to remove those shelves, since they were my first real attempt at fine woodworking. All the parts have been carefully labeled, and some will probably be reassembled in the new office to be built downstairs.

Hey, look what we found on the floor under the bottom shelf: a Post-It from the past! Documented proof that these shelves were, in fact, constructed in 1990.

The next victim was the wall between the living room and the library (picture at right). This shot is looking from the living room into the library, toward the same place shown above. This is the wall we are going to remove, but since it is a load-bearing wall it will have to be replaced with an overhead beam of some sort. So for now we left the studs standing.

The plastic sheeting, pulled aside for photography, is meant to keep the dust from coating everything in the rest of the house. Although plastic sheeting can be an effective dust barrier, it proved to be no match for chunks of plaster flying at high speeds.

I am the dashing guy in the shorts. Notice the rock-hard abs and dazed, thirsty look. If I turned my head to my right (your left) I would be looking at the exposed underside of the main stairway, shown here. If you look behind the three studs supporting the stairs, you can sort of see the lower stairs turning left into the living room. This little cavity below the stairs was hidden behind a wall. I was sort of hoping to find some treasure here, maybe a dead body or some sacks of money from a 1937 bank job. But no luck.

Looking from upstairs, you can see that the stairs themselves are about all that's left in the stairwell. Tomorrow the professional carpenter will come in, rip out the old stairway and build us a nice new one.

Main stairs Upstairs hall