Prepping the Area



Before you begin: Always wear steel-toed boots, gloves, goggles, and a respirator (rated against lead-paint dust if your house was built before 1978). If you suspect you might have asbestos in pipe insulation or floor tiles, do not go near it. Contact an abatement specialist instead.

1. Isolate the work area using 6-mil plastic sheeting sealed with blue painter's tape.

2. Protect floors against falling debris with particleboard over builder's paper.

3. Order a Dumpster in advance. Make sure you clear an area close by for it. 4. Shut down water and gas lines and turn off the power to the room. Try to turn on the stove and faucets to check them. Use a voltage tester on outlets and switches.

5. Remove door trim and baseboards. If you're reusing trim, carefully pull it off the wall with a painter's pry bar. Start at the ends for the best leverage. Remove nails by pulling them from the back. Store in a dry location.

6. Remove doors and hardware. Store doors in a dry place if reusing.

7. Remove windows. Pry off the stops along the jamb. Take out the sash. Pry out the framing members.

Taking down the Walls

1. Determine if a wall is load-bearing. All exterior walls are. Interior ones typically run perpendicular to joists (parallel to floorboards). Or look in the basement for support posts. When in doubt, consult a professional home builder or engineer.

2. Erect shoring around load-bearing walls. Build a pair of 2x4 stud walls four feet to either side of the existing wall. (This is not necessary if you plan to remove the roof or floor above, which should come first.) Build the shoring walls on the floor and tilt them up. Or you can build them in place, first nailing the top plates to the joists, then using a plumb bob to locate the bottom plates and nailing them down. Make each wall 1/4 inch too tall, forcing it into position with a sledgehammer to relieve the load on the existing wall.

3. Cut plaster-and-wire-lath walls with a circular saw. Fit it with a diamond or carbide blade. (The stone plaster used with wire lath ruins reciprocating-saw blades.) Set the depth to 3?4 inch and cut out rectangular sections. To reduce debris, try to keep the plaster attached or "keyed" to the lath. Watch out for sharp wire edges.

4. Cut through plaster-and-wood-lath walls with a reciprocating saw fitted with a 7-inch blade. Hold the saw at a very acute angle. When you feel the blade penetrate through the lath, do not go any deeper as you may hit pipes, vents, or wires.

5. Pull drywall down with a wrecking adze or pry bar. This will also work for plaster and lath if you're not comfortable using a saw.

6. Cut copper pipes with a pipe cutter if they will remain in the walls. Cap or reroute them. If the pipes will be pulled out altogether or are PVC, cut them with a hacksaw or a reciprocating saw fitted with a bimetal blade. Recycle the copper.

7. Do not leave electrical wires hanging, even if they're dead. This violates the National Electrical Code (NEC). Either remove them back to the closest junction box or circuit breaker, or reroute them to a different location and terminate them at a new junction box. It's best to consult a licensed electrician if you plan to keep the wires in use.

8. Knock studs out from the lower end with a sledgehammer. Or for a more delicate removal, cut through nails at the ends of studs with a reciprocating saw.

9. Pry off top and bottom plates. For the best leverage, start at the ends and work toward the middle.

Tearing off the Roof

1. Pull up shingles (or tar) and roofing paper with a shingle remover or adze.

2. Drop roofing onto tarps or, better yet, directly into the Dumpster. Use a tarp to make a slide from the roof.

3. Dig out nails in plywood sheathing with a cat's paw, then lift up the sheets. Pry up board sheathing. Consider reusing boards.

4. Remove rafters on either side of the ridge beam, chopping off the ridge as you go. On flat roofs, cut away and remove joists.

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