Before starting a demolition project, you must first determine if what you are removing is doing anything important – like say holding up the side of your house. Having to hire a contractor to reconstruct a wall which should not have been removed can be an expensive, not to say embarrassing proposition. In my case I am (OK, make that was) a trained and experienced engineer. During my career I had designed nuclear powerplants; surely I could manage something as simple as figuring out if a wall was holding up my house. Thus before starting this particular job, I stood back and carefully examined the wall in question from all angles. I then stepped outside the house to get the “bigger picture” of the roof line. I even tried to put myself into the mind of the original house
builder – “what was his motivation in putting this particular wall in this particular location?”
After about 30 minutes of this intense concentration, Roxanne walked by and asked what the hold-up was. As I began to explain the detailed intricacies of architectural design, she suddenly reached out and “thwacked”the wall with her hand. “Nope,” she said.
“This baby isn’t holding up anything,” and continued on her way. (In my above explanation of load bearing walls I had forgotten to mention the old reliable “thwack” test.)
With this major decision behind me, I was ready to begin the actual demolition. On TV “how-to” shows people destroy walls with sledge hammers. Now this may make for good imagery – lots of noise and action –but as I have aged, I have discovered the importance of the first law of Thermodynamics: otherwise known as the Conservation of Energy; specifically myenergy. With every passing year this law has become more important to my stiffening muscles, and imparting energy to a wall with a ten pound sledge hammer is not my idea of conserving energy. Rather my tool of choice for demo projects is the ever-popular Sawzall. I don’t know who invented this amazing device, but his or her name should forever be enshrined in the Inventor’s Hall of Fame.
So what is this fantastic tool all about? A Sawzall is a wicked-looking device with a long body which contains the motor and gives the user a place to hold it. The business end of the tool is a nasty looking saw blade that sticks out of one end. The amazing (and dangerous) thing about a Sawzall is this blade is completely unprotected. Unlike your typical circular saw where the manufacturer and Big Brother government have spent millions of dollars trying to make their product idiot-proof, the Sawzall makes no such pretensions. If you are an idiot (or just plain careless), a Sawzall can do serious damage to your body and any stray bodies near-by. But it is this very fact which makes the Sawzall so effective. This vicious, stabbing blade is ideal for cutting through drywall, studs, nails, metal and just about anything else that gets in its way– including human tissue.
Usually a Sawzall will make short work of your typical stud and drywall construction, but in my case the wall in question was covered with window screen; so before I could do anything else, I had to get rid of this screen. Now I grew up in the age of sissy fiberglass screen which will tear if you look at it wrong, so I pulled out my trusty box cutter to make short work of this obstacle. But to my surprise the knife simply bounced off this material without making so much as a mark. I leaned in closer to examine this strange stuff and made an astounding discovery: this was real, honest to goodness metal screen. And not just any metal, but some type of super-hard material manufactured in an age when “plastics” was just a gleam in the eye of The Graduate.
But this is where the Sawzall shines, so I limbered up my machine, switched to a metal cutting blade and went to work. It was tough stuff all right, but no match for my Sawzall. As I chopped through it, I visualized images of big, sweaty men with names ending in ‘ski’ toiling in a broiling factory where huge pounding machines spit out this screen in a forgotten age. (How’s that for
imagery? Who says that I am not a real writer?) Anyway, this stuff came off in long narrow chunks which Roxanne and I then rolled up into neat packages and taped with another great invention, duct tape. We later carefully hauled this stuff to our local landfill where we paid to dispose of it. (Only afterwards did we learn this screen was made of brass and worth a small fortune.)
The rest of the demolition was an anticlimax, as my trusty Sawzall made short work of the remaining studs, drywall, wires, nails and anything else that was dumb enough to get close to it. However, a word of caution is needed: when using a Sawzall one should also be aware of another law of physics, called the law of equal and opposite reaction. (It is good to realize that my expensive
education is finally proving its value.) This law is what allows spaceships to fly through the vacuum of space and is also what will cause a Sawzall to throw you to the floor if it happens to meet an immovable object while you are using it. I learned about this the hard way when I was half way through my demolition project. Fortunately, nothing other than my pride was hurt as I got up and dusted myself off. But despite this hands-on demonstration of Newtonian Physics, I was soon the proud owner of a wide open space, having successfully removed the wall. And just as important, my house was still standing tall!