Eleven HouseThe "Eleven" : The Fixer Upper 

Eleven House: Out of the Dust! Old House Deconstruction

When you start to work on an old house, interesting things begin to happen.

From the moment we repaired the locked front door and began using it as our entrance instead of the steep back stairway to the second floor, we could feel a change. It was as if Eleven House picked its head up and took a deep breath, and started living again.

This past week, the local waste management company brought in a huge dumpster. I thought it might be a bit too big for our demolition. I now realize that we’ll have to schedule Dumpster Part Deux before it’s all over. Walls take up a lot of space when they are reduced to plaster dust.

The dumpster is big enough to house the Waltons. Good night Elizabeth.

We rented the dumpster for only five days – it meant that Bill Spaid and I had to find a few more hands to undo the plaster. We contacted a local high school and hired a few of their vocational students to help with deconstruction. Three young men came to meet us and take a look at the project. I smiled they saw the house the way I see it – a beauty just waiting to be loved again. They commented on the plaster and lath walls, the tall ceilings, original hardwood floors and curved walls, and they immediately said they wanted to be a part of its makeover.

By the end of the week, we had five students helping us; all of them dedicated workers, polite and respectful of each other and of the house. We are so grateful to have their help – and to know them. We raised a lot of dust this week! Today we continue – the dumpster has to go back on Monday after a few days of extra rent.

A tip: when deconstructing a plaster wall, it is much more efficient to focus on pulling the plaster away from the lath, then taking off the lath, instead of trying to pull off both at once. We used a square edging shovel to crack an opening in the wall, then slid the shovel between the plaster and lath. Plaster slips off in large sheets, and you can drop most of it into a waste can placed underneath the work area. This is easier if you have a man to handle the can – a can man. He moves the container along the wall underneath the shovel man – it reminds me of the life nets of cartoon firemen, shuffling back and forth with the life net.

A Lath a Minute

two of our amazing student helpers!
two of our amazing student helpers!

Originally we wanted to save the old lath and offer it for sale. But we quickly realized that if we slowed down to pull the nails and stack the lath, we would eat up any sales with the added rental time on the dumpster. We have no storage unit at this property and we aren’t able to hold on to it until we can put it to use.  So we decided to pull and dump it along with the plaster. This is a very tough decision for me, as there is so much potential in this wood, and I cringe to think it is going to the landfill.

The plan was to begin on the second floor and move downstairs. However, the dumpster sat a bit too far from the house to allow dumping from the second floor porch. That meant we would be toting cans of heavy plaster down the front staircase and across the lawn. That’s a lot of energy, and it makes for a long work day. So I called the waste management company, thinking they would have a debris chute available for rent.

Nope. The contact person had to google the term and make several calls before she could inform me that they did not carry that item.


When in Doubt


Plan B – make one. Only two homemade types came up in my internet search. One was a chute made of bottomless trash cans. A good idea but expensive, and throwing all those cans into a landfill made me queasy. The second idea was a concrete tube – a fiberglass tube that is used by concrete companies to form footings. They come in different lengths, and a tube long enough for our purposes would take a few hundred dollars out of the budget. I put out an ad on the local community forum, asking if someone had a debris chute we could borrow.  Crickets.

“You may trod me in the very dirt, but still, like dust, I rise” – Maya Angelou.

In the meantime we switched plans, starting on the bottom level first. One afternoon, Bill Spaid and I were alone, taking apart the lower level kitchen area.

Bill pulled the wide drawers out of the frame, and came up with a brilliant idea. It was so brilliant I had to shade my eyes.

He took off one side of the drawers and screwed them together, then he secured the entire 18-foot contraption to an aluminum ladder. Voila! A makeshift (but sturdy) debris chute! A low cost solution made from materials that would have ended up in the dumpster anyway.

Here is the debris chute in action :

I will create a separate DIY post later to show you how Bill built this very cool tool!

Ingenuity has moved into Eleven House. So has Friendship, Teamwork, Honor, and Accomplishment. And this is just the beginning!

Off to work we go! Please leave your comments and suggestions below, and stay tuned for more posts and pictures!

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6 Thoughts to “Eleven House: Out of the Dust! Old House Deconstruction”

  1. Sweezie

    What an adventure! This is so much fun to follow!

    1. Thanks, Susan!! I hope to see you at the front door once it is done!

  2. Sam

    Guess I pushed the wrong button. Wrote a long response that’s gone, now. The shorter version: Exciting to follow your progress. I’m so happy you got some of the high school people involved. They will respect old houses when they are finished.
    Blessings to you and Bill.

  3. Nancee

    I was riveted to this article! Home made chute! That is so exciting. Way to go and thanks for the video.

    The addition of the students was a fantastic idea. My heart smiled about their reaction to the house, as it did about your use of the front door.

    Eleven you inspire us all … even from miles away. I hope to meet you one day.

  4. frank deutsch

    I rented a roll off when I was building my house and filled it with cactus. When they came to get it,
    they said it was too full and that they couldn’t pick it up. I had to take almost half of the cactus out and I was furious that they didn’t tell me in the first place that there was a weight limit. Beware!

    1. Ouch! Thanks, Frank, for the tip! The dumpster has a 3-ton weight limit. We are probably close to that. Plaster is ridiculously heavy. Hopefully we won’t be overweight!

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