My Flipping Condo - Part Four: Demolition

The outside of the condo building.

For parts one, two, and three of this series about a firsthand account in renovating a rental property, look here:, ,

Let the games begin. That’s what it feels like after you give your contractor the green light with the keys to the castle and he tells you his demolition crew will be there in the morning. What fun. What anticipation. This is the part I was looking forward to. In fact, I wanted to pick up the sledgehammer and start knocking down walls and cabinets and even bathroom sinks. But I decided to let the crew have all the fun—that’s just the sort of guy I am. I will have plenty of fun when I rent this place out for top dollar. So, demolition concerned three primary sectors: the flooring, the cottage cheese ceilings, and bathroom shower and possibly tub. Let’s look at them one at a time.

Removing Carpet

The flooring is the easy part. Since most of the condo is covered in carpet, the work required a lot of tugging and slashing of the carpet and pad, followed by the removal of carpet tacks and the wood strips that hold them in place. The first step in this process is removing the baseboards around the room. It’s always a good idea to start with an X-Acto carpet knife, cutting through the paint that bonds the baseboard to the wall. Then you can use a putty knife, screwdriver, or back end of a hammer to pry the baseboards away from the wall. (Often, the baseboards are as old if not older than the carpet and depending on what you are planning to drop on the floor next, you may prefer to replace the baseboards with a more modern look.)

Flooring removal on a staircase.

The best starting point is generally at the corner and you want to grab the carpet with a pair of sturdy pliers and pull. After gathering a few feet of carpet, cut them off with a carpet knife for easier handling. Thick-soled shoes or boots are recommended for this work as the tacks are surprisingly sharp and if you’re not careful, you’re going to be wearing one. Next, remove the carpet pad. It will be either glued or stapled to the subflooring. Grab an end and pull. If the pad has been stapled, you will need to remove staples that do not come up with the pad. You can use a flathead screwdriver to get these staples out of the subflooring. If you are going to get down on your hands and knees, watch where you put your knees—these staples can be painful. Once the pad is out of your way and the tacks pulled out, you will want to remove the tack strips around the perimeter of the room. This can be accomplished with the flathead screwdriver. Just pry the strips off the subflooring. Be careful because the nails are sharp and often rusty. Once you’ve cleaned up the space, you're ready to install your new flooring.

Removing Cottage Cheese Ceilings

This is a project I have not done in the past, but I’ve had it done in my own house. It’s dirty, messy, and will render the AQI (air quality index) in your home to very harmful, especially if there is any asbestos (a known carcinogen) in your cottage cheese or “popcorn” ceiling. Asbestos-containing ceiling material was banned in 1979, although manufacturers were permitted to use up their existing stocks after that date. But not all popcorn ceilings contain asbestos. To know for sure, you need to send a sample of your ceiling to a laboratory for analysis. You can find an asbestos laboratory online or in the good ol' Yellow Pages.

Cottage cheese removal.

Assuming you do not have asbestos in your ceiling, you will want to isolate the room from the rest of your house using plastic sheeting to cover doorways to other rooms. You will also need to move your furniture and belongings out of the room or cover them securely so particles and dust do not get into them. Wear a mask or respirator, eye goggles, and gloves. If your ceiling has not been painted, you will need to “water” it with a spray bottle to soften the material. If it’s been painted, water won’t work and in that case, you will need to use a chemical paint stripper such as Lemon Peel. Use a floor scraper or other wide-bladed tool to gently remove the cottage cheese texture from the ceiling. Be careful not to tear the drywall joint tape under the cottage cheese or you will be buying new joint tape and doing extra work to repair the damage. Once the cottage cheese is removed, it’s a good idea to sand the ceiling until it’s smooth.

Removing Showers, Tubs, and Sinks

When most people think of demotion, they think of themselves raising a sledgehammer and slamming it into a row of cabinets, a tiled wall, or a porcelain tub. That’s pretty much what we did at the condo. We knew the shower was coming out because of the hairline crack in the drain. The shower unit was old and stained and there was a hairline crack in the drain that was causing a rather severe leak into the living room downstairs. We also knew that the tiling around the tub was coming out because of some plumbing issues and mold around the edges. The enamel coated steel sinks were also corroded down to the steel. These sinks would either have to be replaced or refinished with a new layer of enamel coating. We decided to keep them intact for the time being and decide later what is a more practical and economical option.

A tub in a demo'd bathroom.

As it turns out, demolition in the master bathroom unearthed two rather disturbing issues. The first involves the tub, which was so rusty that we decided to remove it altogether and find a new tub to install. Removing the rust and reinstalling the same tub might save money in the short term, but the rusting was so deep that it wouldn’t take long before the tub would start springing leaks. The second issue involves the plumbing underneath the shower. As it turned out, the hairline crack in the drain created a real plumbing issue between the floor and the living room ceiling beneath it. The pipes were covered in a thick layer of rust and some sort of living growth. They would have to be removed and replaced before the new shower unit could be installed.

The Rest of It

The removed tub.

Demo didn’t end there. We also had to remove laminate flooring in the bathrooms and kitchen, old light fixtures, broken window treatments, and the carpet on the stairs. Once this work was completed, we had a new slate to work with. It was time to pick new materials and prep the condo for their arrival.

Next Up: Part Five - Prepping for New Installations