I recently wrote that the first step in planning our renovation was to hang out in the space and dream. That’s not quite true. That step ran concurrently with friends coming over to give their 2-cents and help us explore how exactly the place was made. By explore I mean busting holes in ceiling and walls I thought about demolishing to actually see what lay hidden in them  — elecrical wiring, support columns, pipes — in order to plot possibilities.

The first thing several friends noticed was how low the ceiling felt at 8’2″. (This proved to be largely due to the way the place was painted and the height of the doors). My friend Holton Rower decided that it was imperative that we see if there was any space above them hoping it might be possible to raise them. In lieu of a ladder, Holton rigged a platform with what was around: a plastic garbage can turned upside-down and precariously balanced on the stool. (We do NOT recommend trying this yourself. It is a totally Holton-esque thing to do…)

Then he climbed up and and started pounding the cheap drywall with a rubber mallet I’d brought with me, an odd and utterly useful gift from my sister. It’s not the easiest way to bust through sheetrock, but it works.

It was incredibly thrilling watching Holton smash a hole in the ceiling and wall. He made a hole big enough to just climb through…

…and started to look around at the space above the ceiling. Hey, there 19 inches to the roof’s concrete slab!

That started big fantasies about raising the ceiling or removing it all together.

-What about taking the ceiling down and just having the concrete roof slab show? The space would look twice the size!
-Beautiful, but it would be cold in the winter and impossible to cool in summer…

…And that lead to many hours spent researching innovative forms of insulation, and the possibilities of just letting it show and not sheetrocking over it, and the realities of cost and energy efficiency…endless considerations.

Over the coming months, my friends and I would slam through a number of walls….

…to see the inner workings of the place that would be home and laboratory. It’s one of the keys to improvising: take things apart to see how they are made…then see where that info leads you.

Related posts: harlem reno: first hang out in the raw space + dream
introducing ‘the improvised life’s new ‘laboratory’
sneak peek: improvised life’s new space + our cool optical illusion design solution
project + reno lesson: embrace the unexpected……… things won’t go as planned
…24 hours after ‘all hell broke loose’
home planners and other ways to envision a space
harlem lab renovation: ‘before’ photos
inspiration journals: walls, books, software…

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3 replies on “reno planning: bust holes in walls to find out what’s there!

  1. Hi Sally!
    Having spent 30 years in the construction industry where safety is a primary consideration I felt I had to comment on this post. As much as anyone I live to improvise and use what I can to accomplish any task. However, the rigged ladder your friend Holton used is an accident waiting to happen. I would strongly encourage people to NOT sacrifice safety for expediency.
    Just saying…..

  2. Hi Nina, Thanks for your Comment. I just added a Do NOT Try This Yourself note on the post. It is something Holton routinely pulls off with impunity, for various reasons, but certainly not for us mortals. I’m glad you drew attention to it.

  3. My dad’s rubber mallet came into my kitchen, well scrubbed, as a garlic masher. My older fists don’t like hitting a flat knife, hense a great tool takes their place. A slightly forward impact gives the desired smash

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