Removing an Interior Wall – Dining Room Transformation

This post is dedicated to my sister who’s thinking of opening up a wall in her home. Even though I love her house just the way it is, if she’s determined to do it she might as well know what she’s getting herself into, right?

For us, removing an interior wall was the best investment in time and effort we’ve ever undertaken. Because our house faces north and there are no windows in the front of the house, our dining room was dark and uninviting. Opening up the shared wall to our family room let in a flood of southern light and has changed the whole flow, look and feel of our main level.

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However, it’s not as easy as just knocking through to the other side. There are things to consider such as whether the wall is load bearing, how to transition the flooring where the wall is removed and whether there are there any utilities such as plumbing or electricity in the wall cavity that may have to be moved. Most importantly, if you don’t know whether a wall is load bearing or not, call in a professional. Don’t be tempted to mess around with a wall that could potentially be holding up your second story! Bryan Baeumler has some good insight on load bearing walls in this video clip:

As hubs used to build custom homes, he knew our wall wasn’t load bearing so we went ahead with opening it up. Once we determined the size of our opening, hubs cut some exploratory holes into the bottom of the drywall to see what obstructions we would need to deal with. We only found an electrical outlet on the other side of the wall. Whenever you’re cutting into drywall, ALWAYS TURN THE ELECTRICITY OFF AS A PRECAUTION!  I learned that the hard way on my very first house reno when I was shocked by a loose wire.

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If you’re able to, it helps to open up to the studs on either side of the opening so you won’t have to add additional studs to finish it off.

Before you start, don’t forget to don a mask, safety goggles and gloves. This is messy, dusty work so don’t overlook these safety precautions:) Speaking of dusty, cover up any furniture pieces you’re not able to move to another room. Have a wet/dry vac on hand to vacuum up any debris as you go to keep the work site as clean as possible (or you’ll just trek the dust through the rest of the house).

First remove the baseboard on either side of the wall (you’ll be using it again to trim out once you’re done). Hubs used a stud finder to determine where the studs were. It’s helpful to mark the opening with  painters tape so you can clearly see where you’re cutting, but we used pencil to draw out the opening on the wall.

We decided to remove our drywall right up to the ceiling so hubs scored and cut along the lines with a utility knife. If you have crown moulding that you want to keep, as in my sister’s case, you’ll want to match the height of your opening to other doorways in your home. In that case, remove the drywall up to the height of the doorway, then cut the studs with a reciprocating saw and leave them hanging from the ceiling so you can add in a header. If your crown is plaster, be careful as you nail in the header or the force of hammering may crack it. The video at this link gives some good general tips for framing out an opening in a non-load bearing wall and framing out for a pass-through.

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We worked on one side of the wall at a time and used brute force to break off the drywall in sections (it’s actually not very hard once the perimeter is cut). We pulled the drywall off the studs as we went.

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Once the first side was done, hubs drilled through the corners to the other side so we could accurately transfer our cutting lines. He cut through the drywall on the other side with the utility knife as he did before. I couldn’t wait to kick through the lower parts of the wall, which was way more fun than just pulling it off! There’s a reason that demo day is a favourite among many HGTV personalities!

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Once the drywall is removed, you can start pulling out the studs within the opening.

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You can cut the nails with a reciprocating saw first along the top and bottom plates or just hammer the studs outwards until the bottom is released and then pull out the upper part.

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Once the studs are removed, you can cut the bottom plate through to the floor and the top plate against the ceiling and remove those too if you are taking the opening full height. As you’ll see later we were going to be installing sliding doors (designed by me and built by hubs and a friend).

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I’ve had the crow bar shown below since I renovated my first house and it’s an absolute must for any renovation (I can almost hear my sister asking me to borrow it now!) It will help pull the bottom plate away from the floor.

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Hubs took care of mudding and sanding the opening. You can now re-cut the baseboard you removed to size and re-use it (in our case, we took the opportunity to replace our baseboards on the entire main level).

We painted our previously red walls with a colour called ‘muslin’ from Benjamin Moore; it’s a lot easier on the eyes! Hubs then mocked up my vision for our sliding doors in cardboard so we could visualize how it would look. You’ll see more about those in our next post!

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We replaced the carpeting with hardwood floors, installed the sliding doors and, as you’ll see in the final reveal, we also replaced our light fixture.

Here’s how our dining room looked before we took down the wall…

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And here’s how it looks now.

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The light just floods in from the back of the house and illuminates the space. It’s fresh and modern; it even looks bigger. We couldn’t be happier with the result!

Next up, I’ll be posting some tips on how we did the shoji screen sliding doors. In the meantime, if you’re interested in other DIY reno’s, check out our laundry room tiled backsplash:

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And how to make the most of your staircase and landing:

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If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share. Follow us either on Bloglovin’ or right here at Birdz of Feather and you’ll get an e-mail whenever we post.

In case you haven’t heard, I’ve just started a new craft blog. Click on this link which will take you to my new site where you can find craft projects such as the blue jean planter and dog bone basket shown below. Some people think these blue jean planters are creepy; others think they’re fun, but we can all agree that they’re definitely unique 🙂

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This dog bone basket is the perfect gift for any dog lover in your life – or make it for yourself to corral all your dog toys!

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Maximizing Bathroom Space

Today, I’m showing you a renovation we recently completed in my Mom’s house. As I showed you in a previous bathroom transformation, renovating a bathroom gives you the ideal opportunity to maximize the space you already have. Mom’s bathroom had never been updated in the 30 years she’s owned the house so it was high time for a reno. For us, it was just as important to make the sure the space was as functional for Mom as it was beautiful.

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Mom didn’t want another beige coloured bathroom yet she was insistent on keeping the old beige bathtub which gave us a narrow focus on our tile selections.

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I was happy with her decision: if something is still functional, I always try to keep it and work around it because it’s the sustainable thing to do!  Keeping the beige tub in mind, I managed to pull together a nice palette to make the bathroom look fresh.

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I was able to make the beige bathtub work by by finding a neutral floor tile in an off white with a slight streak of beige running through it. Although it reads more like a white, the slight streak of beige really ties in the old beige tub and pulls it all together.

Below you can see the floor tile against the field and accent tile we used for the tile surround. We’ll use the colour of the blue accent tile to paint the existing vanity, which was the only other original element of the bathroom, besides the tub, that we kept.

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Two inch tile for the shower floor is an ideal size to accommodate the curve of the floor toward the drain, but can I tell you how hard it was to find a decent variety of tiles in that size? At the 11th hour, we finally found a dark grey hexagon pattern which helps to ground the starkness of the white tile on the floor and shower walls.

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You can see the grey shower floor in the picture below and the original vanity base – which we kept because it was sized to fit perfectly into the alcove and was in good condition.

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One thing to note is that we have started to replace all the light bulbs in Mom’s house with LEDs and the bathroom is no exception. It will save her a substantial amount of money on energy costs!

Here’s a before and after of the vanity area with updated with new mirror, lighting, quartz countertop, sink and faucet. The vanity is still a work in progress; it will be painted blue to pull in the tile surround on the bathtub and the hardware will be replaced with a more modern silver metal pull. The holidays have a habit of putting finishing touches like that on hold!

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A tip that I gave you in my last bathroom makeover that I’ll give you again is to get rid of any bulkheads above the bathtub and shower areas. You can see how removing them really opens up the space!

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Here’s another before and after comparison of the bath area that demonstrates how much more expansive it looks without the bulkhead:

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The lighter colour scheme also helps make the bathroom appear larger:

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Another useful tip to open up the space if you have one of those ‘corner’ showers, is to knock down the back wall and go deep. Originally there was a tiny little cubicle of a shower stall; Mom was in real trouble if she dropped the soap! Below you can see that we removed the original back wall and made it flush to the wall of the tub. We also opened up a ‘window’ between the shower and tub to let the light flood in (which will be fitted out with glass when the shower door gets installed).

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Increasing the size of the shower allowed us to add a bench seat for Mom (and of course a grab bar to help her get up!)

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It also allowed us to fit in a rain shower head as well as a hand held sprayer too.

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A nice finishing detail is a shower niche to hold soap and shampoo. Its a huge improvement over the metal soap dish that was originally there! Which would you rather have?

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Happily, Mom wasn’t as attached to the beige toilet as she was to the bathtub. Both technology and looks have come a long way in the last 30 years and a one-piece low flow toilet is the way to go!

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Here’s how the new finishes look now. It’s a calm relaxing space!

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Once the glass for the shower surround went in, Mom was finally able to enjoy the new space to its fullest.

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If this new bathroom space has inspired you, please pin and post on Facebook. You might also want to check out some of our previous bathroom renos:

Reclaim and Maximize Space in Your Bathroom:

Colour Scheme

Powder Room Makeover – Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

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A DIY Gift of Decor: Staircase Niche Picture Ledge

This year’s reno project has been finishing off the basement. We completed my craft studio and have been working on the mancave to finish that off too. A few months ago, hubs surprised me with a gift he made for the stairway leading into the basement. Although the basement stairs have yet to be finished, he made me a picture ledge so I could display some of my photography and have something pretty to look at in the meantime!

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Hubs tore off all the old drywall to start fresh and gain every inch of space he could. Here is the stairwell in progress:

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On one side of the stairway, hubs built up the depth of the ledge. Below, you can see two views looking up and down the stairs. Most people would just keep the drywall flush all the way up the wall, but this way we’d gain some display space with less chance of accidentally knocking down our decor as we brush by.

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Once the drywall was complete and the walls primed, we thought it would be nice to add a picture ledge so we went to browse at Ikea in anticipation of when it would be painted. Ikea had two different picture ledge configurations we liked; one with a smooth base and the other with a routed groove to hold smaller items (both examples are shown below).

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However, because of the length of our wall, we would’ve had to piece together two ledges. I didn’t like the idea of having a seam in the middle and a leftover space at the end. That’s when hubs decided to surprise me with a custom-made picture ledge.

When you’re making this project, the rail can be cut to whatever length you want. Keep in mind though as you determine the depth of your rail that there will be 1/2″ of material on either side when it’s sandwiched together, so you have to take that into account when you’re determining your final measurements.

Because it was a surprise, I don’t have step-by-step pictures, but you can follow the plan shown below for inspiration. All hubs did was take 1/2″ MDF (but you could also use wood) and cut three pieces to the length of our ledge. He didn’t miter the corners like the Ikea example; he simply used butt joints. He cut the front piece about 1 1/8″ high, the bottom 2 1/2″ wide and the back about 2″ high.

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I didn’t show the groove in the diagram above because that step is optional, but hubs ran a router along the bottom piece through the centre, then primed all the pieces. The base was sandwiched between the front and back (with the router notch face-up) and joined together by gluing and using a pin nailer to attach the pieces. Once everything was nailed, he filled and sanded all the nail holes then painted with the same colour as our wall paint so it would all blend in seamlessly.

Hubs promised me a mock-up so I’ll update this post with a picture as soon as I have it.

UPDATE: here is the mock-up as promised; hubs outdid himself and provided more than one!.   The following mock-ups show 1) the v-groove routed into the MDF, 2) how the piece will look once it’s pin-holed together and finally, 3) a shot of the painted mock-up:

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In a little over a month, hubs took the stairway space from this….

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Don’t you just love the masking tapes shoes to protect from drywall dust?

…. to this after it was painted. It’s already a huge improvement for such a small area, don’t you think? There’s still more transformation to come when we tackle the stairs. We’re going to work with what we have and see what we can come up with. We’ll entertain any and all suggestions in the comment area. The stairs should be a fun project!

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Hubs could have made the ledge the same depth as the drywall but I like that it was set back because drywall is never perfect (even with Hub’s level 5 finish!) and any discrepancies are not noticeable this way!

The beauty of this project is that it’s cheap and you can make it any length and depth your heart desires! You also have the choice of any paint, finish or substrate you want. Whatever you can imagine is possible and it will be a unique piece in your home by the time you’re done. It’s so satisfying to  make something with your own two hands; it really doesn’t get any easier than this!

You can velcro the picture ledge in place for added security if you wish, but we just left it sitting on the drywall; the weight will keep it in place. If you don’t have a niche, like we do, you could also screw it into the wall in the traditional way.

For more inspirational decor projects check out our Bridge Lamp Makeovers:

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and Pheonix Rising:

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Our most recent renovation post shows you how we knocked down a wall and opened up our space in our dining room, taking it from this…

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…to this:

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If you liked this project, please pin and share on Facebook. Follow us right here on Birdz of a Feather or Bloglovin’ if you’re interested in upcoming home renovation or decor posts.

And if you’re interested in crafts, be sure to follow my sister site, Birdz of a Feather craft. I’ll have a ton of fun and interesting ideas in the new year, starting with this Blue Jean Planter:

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Turning the Tides on the Laundry Room

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I’ve always hated doing laundry in the basement – or as I call it, the dungeon. In fact, I hated it so much that my husband ended up taking over the majority of laundry duty – even before I became chronically ill and he took that, and other household chores, over completely. When your husband is doing all the chores it’s not a bad problem to have, but it was time that we leave the laundry list of excuses behind and renovate the space. With me being ill, my husband bravely took on the challenge of doing the entire basement project by himself – without his “partner in grime” to lend a hand. I’m so proud of the progress he’s made and I’m even looking forward to doing laundry there once I’m better!

Our laundry machines are 25+ years old and still going strong – thanks to a little technical intervention from my husband every once in a while. We’ll probably never be able to completely solve the mystery of what happens to our lost socks, but we have what it takes to do something about spiffing up the space!

We have about 700 sq. ft of unfinished usable space in our basement (minus the tiny furnace room and cold room). We started with the laundry room first because we weren’t sure how we would ultimately use the space. When we finally decided that we would split the rest of the basement between a craft studio for me and a man cave for my husband, we could finally move forward with planning.

I’ll be getting into the transformation of the rest of the basement in future blogs – and even provide a tutorial on how to lay engineered floating hardwood floors – but for now I wanted to show you the progress of the laundry room to-date.

Here’s the raw space we started with:

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Tackling the renovation in stages is a great idea when you’re doing all the work yourself and have limited time on the weekends and after work, however things should ideally be done in a certain order to save both time and money. Although our first step should have been to plan the entire basement and map out all the walls, lighting and electrical, a few years ago the government was running a rebate program and my husband jumped on the opportunity to complete the insulation and moisture barrier first. We reaped the benefit of getting money back, however once our plan was finalized my husband had to go back and take down half of the insulation around the perimeter in order to run the electrical wiring for plugs and light fixtures.

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In our area, a homeowner can apply for an electrical permit and my husband was able to do all the work himself and get the necessary inspections. With taxes, the permit cost $328.83 – which may seem like a lot, but I think it is priceless for the peace-of-mind that comes with getting a stamp of approval on something as important as electrical work. I wouldn’t suggest you take on electrical work yourself unless you know what you’re doing and get a permit for the work so you can have it inspected by the City. There’s no sense in messing around with fire – figuratively or literally speaking!

My husband found the sink, counter and lower cabinets at the Habitat for Humanity Restore so he could complete his rough in plumbing. Like bringing home a stray dog, I didn’t warm up to it at first but after my husband explained that the sink alone would have cost us $300 new, it began to grow on me. It was actually only supposed to be an interim measure, but I like that there’s a pull out garbage on the right side of the cabinet and tons of drawer space for fabric softener sheets and detergent etc. The size is perfect, the storage is useful, it’s well-planned and the sink is a big and deep, so we’ll likely keep most of it and reface the door and drawer fronts to match the upper cabinets.

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Cabinet is a Habitat for Humanity Re Store Find

The upper cabinets are Ikea boxes. We used Akurum – the predecessor to Ikea’s new Sektion line of cabinets (these uppers were only 12” deep vs. 15” now, but I actually prefer having 3” less depth on the uppers so things don’t get piled behind and out of reach). Installation is a breeze because the cabinets come with a rail system that each box attaches to and it can easily be done with only one person. My husband built the door frames out of left over wood from another project and routed them out around the edges so I can insert a decorative glass panel in the future.

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Installing uppers

The backsplash was our next decision. I originally thought we should install a simple plain 12” x 4” white subway tile in a herringbone pattern, but when we went looking for tiles both of us spotted this 6″ x 6″ patterned tile and immediately fell in love with it:

Patterned tiles are hot right now.  I absolutely love the real encaustic cement ones that are hand made, but this porcelain one is a great compromise: you get the look without the cost – or weight!

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Patterned Porcelain Tiles (6″x6″)

I was still torn about which direction we should go with the tile so I thought in order to visualize how each option would look, I would bring all the elements into Photoshop and “mock it up”. Mocking it up was one of the best ideas I’ve ever had (it also makes me feel like I’ve contributed something to the renovation as it will save us from potentially making a costly mistake by choosing the wrong finishes). Somehow looking at a picture of the finished product makes a huge difference over just looking at a single piece of tile propped up against the wall and then guessing what it might look like in its finished state!

Here’s a picture of what the laundry room looks like to-date (before flooring, glass inserts and refacing of lower cabinets):

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Here’s the comparison of how each tile backsplash MIGHT look – with the hardwood flooring done, glass inserts in place and the lowers refaced in a dark wood to match:

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Patterned porcelain and classic herringbone mock-ups

I think hands down, we both prefer the first option; I like the subtle colours and the pattern brings a lot of interest to the space. We’re just waiting to get a real sample of the tile in hand to make our final decision.

What do you think? Do you have a preference? If so, leave your comments below!

Once we get the tiling done, I can’t wait to reface the lower cabinets so it looks more cohesive with the uppers. I’d also love to replace the laminate counter top with something like quartz; maybe one day when the budget allows. You’ll see the final transformation once we’re done so stay tuned for the big reveal!

Update 03/05/16:

We ended up purchasing the grey porcelain patterned tile and my husband installed it today! Here’s a sneak peak of it in progress while it’s drying and waiting for grout. I think we made the right choice!!

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