Second-Floor Plans, Door Demolition, and Staircase Disassembly

Bob goes over plans for the second floor with architect Gregory Rochlin and then joins carpenter Bob Ryley for meticulous demolition and disassembly work.

Clip Summary

Bob goes over plans for the second floor with architect Gregory Rochlin and then joins carpenter Bob Ryley as he takes apart a 19th-century door casing and disassembles the stairway banister and balusters for refinishing.
The staircase in this house is one of its really best features. And over the course of a hundred years, it has gotten a lot of paint, so that all these spindles have lost their crispness of the turning. We're going to take them all out, send them out to be stripped and then reassemble this.

So Riley is gonna give us a tip on how to do that in a minute. Let's check in with Greg again so that we can talk about changes to the floor plan here. Some added baths...

Gonna add two baths here for each bedroom and then we are producing a large master bedroom suite.
Moving this wall back so we now have bedroom that's almost sixteen feet wide, and then two, his and hers baths here. And then right here in the hall we're gonna take this little closet, enlarge it and turn it into an upstairs laundry room.

So we'll have a small upstairs laundry room with a stacked washer/dryer.

That's right.

And you're in the process of doing all the marking right.

I'm gonna actually mark these walls out for the demolition.

what color is that?

This is red, to remove.

So red means to remove all the plaster, right?


Okay and you're going to do that on the inside wall, because the inside wall will also come down, right?

That's correct.

Well, while you're doing that I want to check in with Riley on the appropriate way of taking apart these casings. They're kind of complicated, aren't they?

That was really an interesting way they put these doors together.
Here's all of the applied trim right here. What they did first was they installed the jams first in rough stock, and then they apply the trim after. This is the first piece they put on, and that's just a half inch stock.

Half inch stock, like that.

With the casing, they took this trim here.

They overlapped it. So it's pretty elaborate.

Right, then they put a stop, on the inside. You bring it over here and it looks like that.

And it goes like that.

Its all half inch stock.

Right. And this is a jam and then the stock went over that. They put a two piece jam on Yeah, and it's a pretty complicated way of doing it, but you got to remember it's 1897.

A lot of work.

A very well trained carpenter probably made a dollar a day. And the cost of dressed lumber was pretty high.


So this gets taken apart basically the same as you showed us downstairs earlier, right?

Same, exactly the same. What you want to do is the first piece you want to take off is the last piece they put on, and then just back your way, right back into it.

Back out, like getting undressed at night.

But use that knife to score away all the paint before you try to use your chisel.


Let's talk about something that's a little bit more difficult.


How do you approach taking apart a staircase?

This one here, we've already taken part of it apart, and what we've found is it's bolted together on either end and also nailed. So, what we're gonna do is just get these newel posts away from the rail enough to get a metal cutting blade in there. We're gonna cut the nails and the bolts out and then we'll tap this up and slip it out.

So you can actually do that. You can actually, separate them a little bit.


Right. You just take a...

Just with a block? protect that wood. They've been here for so long, they'll separate pretty easily. That should be enough right there.

I just want to get this blade in here.

That a boy.

And now you tap it at the opposite end.

Yeah, same thing.

Actually, can you hold on to that right there?

Yeah, that's what I was going to say.

Yeah, that's got it.

All you need is about a sixteenth of an inch gap.
I don't want the.

Yes. Be careful not to lose any of those balusters.


Of course most of the staircase is made out of poplar, which was not and still is not an

expensive wood.


But was meant to be painted.

That's right.

So they boarded this down at the floor.

Right, they drilled the hole and there should be a dowel down here.

There you go.


There's the bottom.

Yes. So the bottom is doweled out like that, right into the floor and then it was toe

The top is just square. If you look at how they fit in, you'll understand that

all of this was done by hand.
First they drilled a hole and then they squared it off so

that they could fit that in.
Today would be done differently. Today they'd plow out the whole bottom of the rail and then fit in all the balusters, or the spindles. And fit in with little blocks in between.

Now, the neat thing about this is that there's over a hundred different balusters in the staircase, and we're going to have to have a number assigned to each and every one of them.
Which means we'll use a little engraver or a wood burning tool, right?


OK. We've got to break for some messages. Don't go away.

Well that's going to wrap thingsup for this time.
I hope you can come home again with me next time when we'll be finishing up all of the demolition work, taking out all of the last of the plaster. But none of the walls come down until we've had a visit from the structural engineer who's going to determine exactly which ones are load-bearing and which ones can be taken down.

Also, I'm going to take you on another little tour of another fabulous site here in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

'Till then, I'm Bob Vila. Its good to have you home again.