Dust continues to float and settle

Published 8:31 pm Friday, September 13, 2019


Coffee with Mimi

Sometimes, you have to make a really big mess before you build a better mousetrap. I’m speaking metaphorically, of course. I don’t have need of a mousetrap. We have wanted to enlarge a doorway from our dining room to our kitchen. This project isn’t driven by the trendy “open concept” floor plans, but simple practicality.

Email newsletter signup

When you buy a home for a young family, your priorities are different. We needed a kitchen bigger than a bread box, and we got it. Done. Children move away and many families pass into a new phase. My mother-in-law came to live with us and as her illness progressed, she was mostly confined to a wheelchair. This is where the doorway became an issue. Though the wheelchair was a fairly streamlined design, it barely fit through the door opening to the kitchen. 

Following her death, we didn’t give much thought to the narrow doorway for several years, but the idea of maneuvering around in our future began to creep into planning. Our old house is quirky, but it has its plusses. It is a single floor plan and is conveniently situated in town near necessities. It is the house where we raised our family and I am emotionally attached. What modifications are needed to allow us to stay where we are?

That doorway, for one.

I would like to report, that we thought about the project and laid out the design — with much discussion and research — taking all options into consideration, and then hired a professional to do the job.

No. I received a text message at work this week with a photo of a hole in the wall.  So, here we are. No going back. What is in the wall, how it is constructed, how it will be finished off, are all questions to be discovered depending on what is revealed with each whack of the hammer and cut of the sawzall.

Day one work was relatively uneventful. However, as there had been no forewarning, nothing was covered. A dreadful layer of plaster dust was immediately pervasive. Cleanup efforts made a dent, and furniture was draped with all manner of sheets and tablecloths. Doors were closed and rugs shoved under. But, as everyone knows, none of those precautions will do anything to hold off the spread of dust and bits onto, into and under any crevice, or surface, in the entire house. If the dust doesn’t drift of its own accord, we carry it on our feet, clothes and hair. Grit is everywhere. I’m sure we have ingested a fair amount.

Day three destruction was halted by a construction discovery. Or, rather, a construction question.  As with many older homes which have been altered over their years, what were they thinking?

As the history of this house goes, the kitchen, our wonderful, huge kitchen, was an addition in the 1960s. The original house floor plan had a tiny kitchen tucked around the corner and down a hallway from the dining room. That worked fine in a bygone era, maybe. So when a family with several children moved in the kitchen addition occurred.

In dissecting the process, we have determined that the room was attached incorporating the original single car garage. While there was an existing door from the dining room to the back of the house and the garage, apparently, it was undesirable to retain the brick back wall of the house, so it was removed and replaced with new drywall and stud construction and a pocket door. Pocket doors are another story. We won’t be utilizing a new version in our plan.

The whole addition, nearly 50 years ago, would defy commonly accepted and approved construction techniques used today.  But, guess what, the house is still standing. We won’t be tempting fate and will finish the opening. When we get to the bottom, actually top, of it with a comforting header — even though one does not appear to be in use currently.

We think we have a plan and another layer is removed, revealing curiosities and puzzles. Each day’s work ends with lengthy discussion to sort out the possibilities and next steps. If we do this, will the house collapse? If we don’t do that, will we regret the end result?  What were WE thinking when we punched the first irreversible hole? 

Meanwhile, the dust continues to float and settle. I cringe thinking of where it all is and how long it will take to get rid of it. I try to reason the best technique to corral it. It’s nearly mid September, will plaster dust evidence be present at Thanksgiving? Probably. 

The doorway project can no longer be considered a doorway. We have a modified open concept floor plan. Aren’t we trendy? 

However, the end is nowhere in sight.  The electric outlets have to be repositioned. Where?  The draperies and paint and flooring have to be redone. What colors? Furniture must be adjusted for new uses and relationships.

Gosh, the living room really needs a facelift. We did find those original French doors, which need to be installed…