One of the first odd things we noticed about this house was the laundry/utility room. This room measured about 9 feet by 12 feet, was constructed of cinderblock and was obviously added on to the house long after the main house was built (we are guessing sometime in the 1970’s.) The room was beyond ugly (I consider cinderblock to be one of the ugliest building materials ever made…it always reminds me of a state prison or my high school) and looks like instead of being built it somehow just congealed on the side of the house:
The oddest part of the room was that it was built within about 30 inches of the house next door. A person could barely walk between the two houses without turning sideways, and getting a wheelbarrow or any other useful item through here was out of the question:
The laundry room contained (not surprisingly) a washer and dryer, the water heater, a utility sink, a metal storage cabinet, and an old refrigerator and had a concrete floor:
Our long term plan is to move the water heater and washer/dryer into the rear part of the house, so we gave away everything in this room except for the water heater (it was all pretty old) and went to find my trusty sledgehammer. After clearing everything out we were left with this:
Destruction is always fun, so I was looking forward to this project. Although I was expecting this project to go pretty fast, it actually took about a year and a half from start and finish (I worked on other projects in between, so that wasn’t a continuous year and a half, but the 3 or 4 weeks I had originally envisioned for the removal was quickly proven wrong. We cleared the room in March of 2018 and didn’t finish removal until July of 2019.)
I started out by taking down the ceiling drywall, insulation, and wood:
I then decided to start on the concrete slab. I have a relatively small demolition hammer, so getting through the concrete was a bit slow but it worked acceptably well (the below section took me about 20 minutes to break apart):
I got busy with a couple of other small projects in between, so a month or so later I got back to removing the floor. The void underneath the water heater was a little worrisome, but there wasn’t much I could do about it now:
I again got busy with a couple of other projects, and by the time I thought about this room again winter was getting close. I didn’t want to take a chance on getting stuck with a bunch of exposed water pipes (not to mention the water heater) in December, so I decided to wait until the following spring to complete this. Fast-forward to a warm day in April of 2019…
I finished demoing the concrete floor, so it was time to start removing the roof. The roof had a layer of nailed corrugated steel, which came off pretty easily:
Under the corrugated steel was a severely-worn layer of roof shingles:
These were slightly harder to remove (the installer used way more nails than was really necessary) but eventually came off in about 2 hours. Underneath was a standard layer of felt paper and plywood:
There was then a cold snap that lasted about a month and a half, so I didn’t get back to this until the beginning of July, 2019. I was getting tired of seeing this half-deconstructed room, so I dropped the other little projects I was working on to focus solely on this one. I hauled the remainder of the concrete floor pieces out by wheelbarrow so that I had room to work, and then started removing the roof plywood and framing with a sledgehammer and a sawzall. It was both a little strange and a lot gratifying to see open sky from inside the room:
Taking down the cinderblock walls was slightly tricky. Our septic tank is buried near the back door of this room and I didn’t want to risk crushing it, so using a backhoe or some other piece of machinery was impossible. So, sledgehammer time. However, the neighbor’s house is so close to one wall that I couldn’t just swing away with the reckless abandon that I so enjoyed. I also didn’t want to risk taking down the front and back walls and having the unsupported side wall fall over against (or through) my neighbor’s house. My solution was to stand on top of the wall, using the sledge to knock down one row of cinderblocks at a time into the room. I can’t say that standing on a narrow wall 8 feet up swinging a heavy sledgehammer at the blocks that were supporting me was the smartest or safest thing I’ve ever done, but it got the job done with no damage to myself or the house next door. To save my wife the worry of watching me doing this, I just worked on it when she wasn’t looking. 🙂
Removing the blocks got easier (or at least safer) as the wall got lower, but several times I ran out of space in the room as it filled up with blocks. Every few rows I had to wheelbarrow the pieces of block out of the room and into the back yard to make more space. I worked on this a few hours per day, and getting the walls down to ground level and clearing the rubble took a little over a week:
Looks like I somehow neglected to remove the recycling from the utility room before I dropped a couple thousand pounds of block on top of it. I’d like to say that this kind of impatience is uncommon to me when working on a project…but I can’t honestly say that.
The view of our new side-yard from the front of the house. The plywood is covering up the water heater in an effort to keep it from getting damaged during the destruction, and the now-outdoor sink is especially classy:
And here’s the broken up cinderblock I moved one painstaking wheelbarrow at a time into the backyard. It created a larger pile than I originally expected:
After I cleared out the majority of the remaining rubble, my dog was digging around a bit and unearthed a slightly unpleasant surprise. Underneath the poured concrete floor that I had just removed was another small concrete stoop. This was only about 4 feet by 5 feet, and my demolition hammer will take care of it, but I was hoping to get down to clear dirt today. Oh, well.
Our dog looks inordinately pleased about her find:
There is still a small amount of cinderblock footer to dig out and we have to clean up all of the tiny concrete pieces, but I’m going to call those things part of “cleaning up the backyard” and declare this project done. Finally.
Sometime before winter I’ll have to either move the water heater or build a temporary insulated enclosure around it, and one of these days I’ll get around to removing that sink mounted to the outside wall.
One final note: yesterday a very nice gentleman here in town offered to use his Bobcat to help me remove the cinderblock pieces that were taking up a large portion of my backyard. A couple of the ranchers in the area will sometimes take concrete rubble to fill in old wells, slow erosion near creeks, etc. The gentleman with the Bobcat knew a rancher that needed some fill, so he not only loaded the rubble for me but also hauled it away in his dump-trailer. My sincere thanks go out to both of them for saving me hours of work and hundreds of dollars disposing of the rubble at the nearest landfill, which is about 35 miles away. Friendly neighbors are one of the things that drew us to this town, and I’m sure I’ll be able to return the favor somehow in the future.
The backyard looks much better now, and this project is