A kitchen transformation, 2 of 8: demolition

April Dykman | Improvement Center Columnist | March 2, 2015

Just days after closing on our home, the wrecking crew arrived. (The wrecking crew looked a lot like my dad, my husband, and me, but with gloves and goggles.)

The game plan was to remove everything, floors to ceilings, including the island and the half-walls that closed off the space from the living area. We also wanted to move the location of the refrigerator, which would allow us to tear down more of the wall that separated the kitchen from the living room.

Mid-renovation kitchen

Popcorn (not the good kind)

The first thing we did was tackle the popcorn ceilings throughout the house, including the kitchen. Popcorn ceilings, also called acoustic ceilings, were apparently all the rage in the '50s when they hit the home-building scene, and builders loved them because they're easy to apply and cover up imperfections.

I, on the other hand, am not a fan. So we donned white jumpsuits, respirators, goggles, and gloves, and got to work.

Here's the thing that no one tells you about popcorn removal: it doesn't take a great level of skill, but it's physically demanding and very messy. Also it's a great way to lose five pounds in one weekend.

Tip: If you want to remove a popcorn ceiling yourself, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strongly recommends that you first have it tested for asbestos, which was banned in 1978 after it was linked to cancer and respiratory disease. Do a quick Google search to find a lab that tests for asbestos. If your ceiling does contain asbestos, the EPA recommends hiring a certified asbestos-abatement company to remove the popcorn material.

Tearing down those walls

Next, we tore out the cabinets and the dividing walls, pulling everything apart with hammers and crowbars. We went down to the studs! Dad also shortened the wall that separates the kitchen from the living room, and installed a supporting beam.

walls being renovated

Tip: We consulted a carpenter just to be certain that we could shorten the wall without the entire house crashing down. Okay, that probably wouldn't have happened, but if you're thinking of removing a wall yourself, you do need to determine whether it's a "bearing" wall or a "partition" wall. You probably know this already because this is the one and only thing everyone seems to know about demolition. "You better make sure that's not a load-bearing wall," they all say. You can tell those well-meaning people that if it is load-bearing, you'll just add a structural beam. So there.

Once the walls were out, we removed the tile floors. This turned out to be much easier than anticipated; the tiles were just popping up! We soon learned that whoever laid the tile decided to lay it right over the linoleum floors. So after removing the tile, we then removed the linoleum.

Finally, the room was gutted. The once-cramped kitchen now had a feeling of spaciousness.

Two issues come to light

We did discover a couple of issues during demolition. First, half of the popcorn ceiling had been painted, making it impossible to fully remove. Dad even took an electric sander to it, and the ceiling was still rough. It also wasn't level. This was a problem because our plan was just to tape, float, and paint.

The other issue was that the floor wasn't level. There was a significant slope upward from the center of the kitchen to the wall behind the range. That would cause a few problems as we started to build, especially when we hit the next step, installing the cabinets.

Next: kitchen transformation part 3, cabinets

Previous: kitchen transformation part 1, planning and budgeting

About the Author

April Dykman is a writer who specializes in real estate, personal finance, and entrepreneurship. Her work has been featured on MSNBC, Fox Business, Forbes MoneyBuilder, and Yahoo! Finance.