Removing a Pocket Door & Partition Wall

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Alternative title: How NOT to Remove a Pocket Door & Partition Wall

Let me paint a picture for you: it was a mid-October day in 2016. The ink was still drying on the deed to our new home, and R and I — riding the high of first-time home ownership and months of binging HGTV — were ready to get our hands dirty with some DIY projects. The weather was fair, excitement was literally in the air, and the ground was blanketed in crisp orange leaves. Actually, there were a lot of leaves. So, we drove to Home Depot to buy a rake.

There I am, sipping a PSL and inspecting the selection of rakes and thinking naive little thoughts (“leaves are sooo dreamy! raking is going to be sooo fun! I can make a pile of leaves and jump in it! hashtag fall!”) I turn to ask R if he’s excited about raking, and that’s when I notice that he’s no longer by my side. He has wandered further down the aisle, and as I push our orange shopping cart towards him apprehensively, I notice that all-too familiar gleam in his eye; the gleam of a bad, bad idea.

He glances up at me. In his hands, he’s gripping the handle of a 20 lb sledgehammer.

“Hey,” he says eagerly, “I think we should tear down that stupid wall in the guest bathroom.”

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That ‘stupid wall‘ had been a source of contention since the very first time we toured our house with our realtor. It was an odd little partition wall with a pocket door that had been added to one of our upstairs guest bathrooms during an ill-advised post-construction remodel, separating the double-sink vanity from the cramped toilet and shower cubicle.

The reason R had branded it a ‘stupid‘ wall was because it wasn’t actually a wall at all: it only extended about 3/4 of the way up, leaving a gap at the top. Worse: the top of the wall had been left unfinished, so the metal and 2×4 were still visible!

Truth be told, I still probably would have just left the damn thing alone. But R hated that wall, and when he tossed the sledgehammer into our shopping cart, I knew it was coming down.

R didn’t waste any time. After removing the pocket door that was encased inside the wall, he got right to work smashing shit up:

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Now, if you’ve ever watched anything on HGTV, you’ve probably heard the Golden Rule of Tearing Shit Down: you can’t just start ripping out walls without first ensuring that they aren’t load-bearing. We were pretty confident that our wall wasn’t load-bearing (it was built post-construction, and it was only 3/4 tall, meaning it had no load to bear…) but we still consulted with a contractor before we even bought our house to get the all-clear on tearing this sucker down.

Even if a wall isn’t load-bearing, it can still be secret-keeping — it can be housing wires or plumbing or dead bodies (a la Haunting in Connecticut). The kosher thing to do is to cut away some sheet rock and sneak a peak inside before you go ham with the sledgehammer. But I’ll level with ya: we didn’t do that.

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Luckily, the only thing hiding inside our partition wall was the metal framework for the pocket door.

Smashing out the dry wall was mostly easy work. The stuff crumbles like cardboard and breaks off in large chunks. When R got to the corners, where fake wall met real wall in a right angle, he used a blade to cut the corner seam, then tore the drywall away from the join.

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R spent a solid few hours attacking the wall with various tools that night. Then something funny happened. We had to paint. We had to tile our kitchen backsplash. We had to plumb a new toilet and sink in our downstairs bathroom. We had to hook up our gas range. We had to install new light fixtures and assemble flat-packed furniture and paint a deck. We had to rake (ugh).

With all these other projects taking precedence, removing the fake partition wall fell to the bottom of the to-do list. And it stayed there for nearly an entire calendar year. Untouched, incomplete, half demolished (and completely unusable).

Then, a few weekends ago, R cracked the bathroom door open and decided to give it another go. He brushed the dust off of his sledgehammer, found a pair of sneakers that were slightly more protective than his Toms, and he went for it.

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With most of the dry wall out of the way, R was down to disassembling the framework. First he removed the metal framing that had been installed for the pocket door…

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Once that was out of the way, he moved on to attacking the wooden framing that had been built for the partition wall. This was tricky, because the framing for the fake wall had been attached to the studs in the real wall with nails, so R had to use a combination of crowbar, sledgehammer and saw to remove it.

…ten minutes later, R sheepishly padded down the stairs to inform me that there had been an incident involving the sledgehammer and the toilet tank.

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Rookie mistake: we hadn’t removed the toilet before starting our wall demolition project.

I don’t know why we hadn’t thought to remove the toilet. We had no intention of keeping it, and it was massively inconvenient to work around. I guess watching water trickle from the cracked toilet cistern was our lesson learned.

We took a moment to remove all the other breakable shit (I tackled toilet removal while R brought down the wall mirrors and glass shower doors), and then the purge commenced.

When all was said and done, he’s what we were left with:

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To fill the gap left by the faux wall, we’ll need to fit new drywall and baseboards. Luckily we’ve done this before: when we repaired sections of wall during our kitchen backsplash removal.

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There had also been a metal brace installed in the floor and attached to the wall:

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No big deal, since (as you can see) we were tearing out the tile flooring anyway. But that’s another post for another time…

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About Accidental Suburbanites

Just a couple of kids turning a house into a home, one Pinterest fail at a time.
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