A Shed Removal

Jas is building an external apartment, for rental or long-term occupation, with the help of a class at Yestermorrow Design/Build School. Before they could site the apartment and build foundations, Jas needed to get rid of a shed on the site. Jas elected to demolish the shed piece by piece with the hope of salvaging as much building material as possible.

I helped him plan and execute the first stages of demolition. We quickly discovered the shed was built in two stages. The original building had insulated walls and a chimney, and an uninsulated L-shaped addition was built around it.


Removing the first few siding panels.

We started by removing wall coverings on the addition, which consisted of drywall on the interior and siding panels on the exterior. We made quick work of the drywall with a pry bar (to break the sheets into pieces and pry them from the studs) and a drill (to remove the screws), and then we used a sledge to hammer the siding free. Next we proceeded original building and removed some lovely tongue-and-groove paneling inside and lathe boards outside. Once Jas cleared the shed of everything he values, we proceeded to the roof, unscrewing the corrugated metal panels and tossing them down.

With the walls and roof removed, we did some experimental disassembly of the structural frame. I salvaged most of a rafter by cutting the top and bottom with a sawzall, but I felt uncomfortable removing cross-braces in the roof because it destabilized the remaining rafters. That’s when Jas decided to avoid the danger, and save a WHOLE lot of time, with the help of heavy machinery. He invited over his neighbor Francis, who stretched a ratchet strap around the whole building, attached the ends to his backhoe, and… it came crashing down in seconds.

A few hours of cleanup, nail removal, and sorting followed. We may have lost some salvageable material in the controlled collapse, but it was worth it to avoid many days of labor and peril. Time to break ground on the new construction!


R.I.P.: Rest In Pieces

Hit the Deck

Jas’s dining room ceiling remains a work in progress. To make my latest visit worth my time, Jas also asked me to disassemble a couple of decks he salvaged from another house.

The decks had pretty simple construction, treads on top of stringers fastened with a variety of nails and screws. A drill was not sufficient to dislodge the screws – the pressure-treated lumber had strangled the threads. Jas wanted to keep the treads and repurpose them, so cutting them was not an option. I resorted to an extremely high-tech strategy known as “brute force” – whacking the stringers with a sledgehammer until they came loose.


A deck, before destruction.

Jas suggested I cut the stringers into pieces to make the job easier, so I used a circular saw to slice one piece per tread. That way, when I hit the deck, I only had to dislodge one or two fasteners at a time. The work was physically demanding but satisfying.


Sawcut closeup.

To catch my breath, I switched gears periodically to clean up the mess I was making. We spread tarps under the decks to catch sawdust, keeping the pressure treatment chemicals away from the soil. I used a hammer and a prybar (and sometimes the good old sledge) to remove as many screws and nails from the treads as I could reach. Finally, I stacked the treads and collected the scrap stringer pieces in a pile for disposal.

Fit and Trim

David’s dogs did a number on the trim pieces around some doorways in his old house. The scratch marks were unsightly and he wanted to get rid of them before renters move in for the winter. I agreed to help him replace the trim.


The damage.

Step 1 was to assess the damage. Determined they may be, but the dogs can only reach about three feet off the floor. I proposed to cut out just the lower, damaged portion of the trim, and then to spackle and paint over the joint after I installed a new piece. The partial replacement won’t be aesthetically perfect, but it saves a lot of time and material cost compared with replacing an entire length.

Step 2 was to remove the damaged trim. It looks like a single part, but the trim for one doorway actually consists of NINE pieces of wood! There are three lengths (left side, top, right side) with three faces each (facing outside the room, across the threshold, facing inside the room). The pieces are typically held to the wall’s structural frame using tiny finish nails, which are nearly invisible once a painter covers over them. I worked a cat’s paw behind the wood and pried the damaged areas out from the wall. Then I took a sawzall and cut out the damaged areas, careful not to nick the wall or the undamaged areas.


Damaged trim removed from the doorway. I had to take the door off, too, for access.

Step 3 was to cut and install new trim. David brought the cut-out pieces to Allen Lumber and came home with stock lengths of trim having the same shape. Then I performed that familiar sequence: measure, cut, install. For each doorway I had to install the threshold piece first, since the outside and inside pieces sandwich the threshold piece in. I also needed to shim out each threshold piece from the jack stud anywhere from ½ inch to 1½ inches to match the width of the doorway.

One threshold piece presented an additional challenge: the door itself. I unscrewed the hinges from the trim and set the door aside. When I replaced the portion where the bottom hinge fits in, I needed to carve out a new niche for the hinge. There’s probably a tool out there that cuts perfect hinge niches, but I don’t have one, so I did the best I could with a hammer and chisel. The result was an indentation one sixteenth of an inch deep in the rounded-rectangle shape of the hinge.

But I haven’t reinstalled the door yet. I want to paint the new trim first, and before I paint it I need to spackle it smooth. That is a tale for another time.