Mrs. Mecomber, Tear Down This Wall

June 28, 2007

framing, house history

Well, the heat and humidity eased a bit today, enabling us to take down more of the wall surrounding the chimney. We’d already taken down a good portion of the plaster and lathe in the kitchen that surrounds the chimney. We’d removed plaster and lathe from one wall in the living room, but more had to come down, since some previous remodelers had laid the chimney on top of a wall with wallpaper and then built another short wall on on side. It’s very difficult to explain… it’s difficult to view… I’ve drawn a primitive diagram that I hope will explain how things look.


This is a bird’s eye view of the center if the house. You can see the different rooms (Living Room, Breakfast Room, Kitchen). The central chimney is tucked inbetween these three rooms. Water damage and mildew growth is labeled. The blue lines along the walls show where plaster and lathe needs to be removed. There is a false wall, too. After the chimney was put in, the owners built a false wall on top of the original wall between the LR and Kitchen.The only reason I can think of why they did this was to widen the space to insert a furnace heater duct in the wall between the chimney and the stairwell.

The problem is that they built the chimney and this false wall on top of a plaster wall that had old wallpaper on it (as shown by the blue lines in the above diagram). The wallpaper is so water damaged from the leaky chimney that the mildew has eaten the wallpaper away in spots.

So we’d already torn down some of the plaster and lathe in the Living Room that surrounds the chimney. We’d torn down the false wall and the plaster and lathe on the Kitchen side. Today we finished the Living Room side, by removing two studs from the wall on the other side of the chimney. We then removed the plaster and lathe and wallpaper from this section. In other words, we’ve now got three out of four sides of the plaster/lathe surrounding the chimney down.

Here’s the section before:

Here’s the section after:

Below are photos of the sections of wall we took down. You can see how old the wallpaper is and see the extensive water damage from the chimney. This side of the wall faced the chimney– they built the chimney on top of this wall with the wallpaper left intact. It was doomed to fail, not to mention a great fire hazard.

We still have a small portion of plaster/lathe to remove (the part of the wall toward the Breakfast Room). That will be our most difficult job, because the walls are in total disarray in that area. Originally, there was a full wall there, not a half-wall with doorway. Originally, this was not a Breakfast Room, nor was the Kitchen the Kitchen. Whenever this area was redone, the owners chopped only half of the wall (the bottom half) to open up the space to make a Kitchen and a Breakfast Room. The upper part of the wall is still intact, covered with paneling. Under the paneling are busted sections of old gypsum board, shims of scrap wood, and loads of joint compound.

Once we get this figured out, the rest won’t be as bad. We just have to figure out how to cover the chimney.

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