Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Historic Garage Disassembly

Recently, I've acquired a lot of architectural salvage. A neighbor a few houses away from me, who owned 3 waterfront houses, sold his property to a developer who's building condos there. The 3 historic houses, around 110+ yrs old, are being demolished this week. I approached the neighbor several months ago and purchased a lot of the architectural pieces for my house. One of the things purchased were the carriage doors on his historic garage. These are huge, heavy wooden carriage doors with 6 panes of glass on top. They had the original steel tracks and hardware. The method for removal of these was quite comical. Each one weighs a TON! We carefully pulled them down and then put them on a furniture dolly and rolled them down the street, one at a time, at night, in the dark. Most of the neighborhood was watching, trying to figure out what that noise was (furniture dollies are quite loud when traveling down the street).

My garage is a POS built in the 90s from the cheapest materials available. It's total garbage. I've been wanting to rebuild my garage and use the historically accurate siding that garages in my area have. So the more I looked at my neighbor's historic garage, the more I fell in love with it. It was in very good condition, still standing up straight, and solid. I decided to not only take the carriage doors, but the entire garage. Beats paying $5k+ to build a similar one.

But this was no walk in the park. I had less than 5 days to get the entire thing disassembled and relocated before the demo crew showed up. I had just spent 5 days straight working on my house to the point of complete exhaustion. Then I had a 2 day break, and by "break" I mean I went to my normal full time job. Then I started the 5 days of taking more architectural salvage, including this garage, 2 claw foot tubs (one from a 3rd story, one from a 2nd story), and a ton of other stuff.

If you want to know who your real friends are, disassemble a garage. You'll find out real fast. My "friends" who promised to help must be in a coma somewhere because I haven't heard from them since they were supposed to show up on day 1. Fortunately I had real friends that I didn't even know about and they stepped up to the plate. And, as I've stated before, I have the awesomist neighbors on earth and they pitched in and the one next door to the garage let me use his power for the tools. And my 80 year old grandpa helped every day.

I started by cutting large chunks of the roof off. This consisted of the asphalt shingles, plywood sheathing, and original wood slat roof sheathing. I used a circular saw for this and I think I may have ruined the motor. It did not want to cut through all that crap, even with a carbide blade. Once we removed all the roofing by cutting and prying and beating with a hammer to get it off, we pulled off the fascia boards. We also removed all the brown cedar fish scales off the front. Neither the roof, nor fish scales were saved. When I rebuild the garage, I will replace the fish scales with cedar shake to match the front of my house. I ended up cutting the A-frame 2x4 roof joists to get them off. These are the ones that overhang the sides of the garage leaving the exposed rafters on the exterior. They were not coming off and I did not have time to play games, so they were cut and won't be re-usable as roof joists again (the 2x4s can be re-purposed for something else though). I will probably use 2x6s in their place when I rebuild. After that, I cut the nails holding the rear wall at the top, tied a rope to the middle, and pulled it down. Once down, I pried the siding away from the framing slightly from the inside, just enough to fit a sawzall blade between and cut the nails all the way down. I originally thought I'd be able to pound the siding out, away from the framing, from the inside. But because this garage siding is tongue and groove, as soon as you pry or hit it, the wood will split. So I could only pry it the slightest bit away from the framing and even that was iffy. Once the nails are all cut, you can slide each piece of siding out from the one above, starting at the bottom row. Then the framing was pried apart enough for the  nails to be cut and was disassembled. There were a few 2x4s that broke during disassembly and a few that were rotted, but overall I'd say over 90% of framing, siding, and trim was salvageable. Truckloads of the lumber was driven by my neighbor and unloaded in my backyard throughout the process.

I literally spent 15 hours a day doing this. Climbing, sawing, prying, pounding, hauling, etc. I don't know if there is a word to describe the exhaustion experienced at the end of the day. And I'm certain (although I have never had children) that the amount of body pain experienced by day 5 was at least equal to child birth. I worked from morning till dark every day. Spent the first day working in the pouring rain, soaked and covered in sawdust (which sticks to you when you're soaked). By the end of day 5 I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to walk upright again. Thank god for Vicodin and Icy Hot. I have nail holes in my hands, scrapes and scratches all over my arms, bruises all over my legs, my finger muscles hurt so bad that I can barely grip anything and even clapping is extremely painful. The bottoms of my feet are bruised from wearing steel toe boots the whole time and it's excruciating to walk. I'm not sure there is a word to adequately describe the pain. But by 10pm on night 5, I had everything piled in my backyard.

One day in the distant future, when I'm done with the serious stuff on my house restoration, I will strip the paint off this garage siding, cut off the bad ends, demo my current POS garage, build this one back up, probably make it deeper and maybe wider, and have a historically accurate garage to match my house. In the meantime, I will pull all the exposed nails from the lumber and stack it neatly, wrapped it in plastic.


  1. Wow, you are so lucky!! What a nice garage.

  2. God love your heart...Sweety you must be a young woman, otherwise you couldn't do all this "manly" work. Be careful and and not hurt your back...you'll pay for it later in life. I know, because I use to be a lot like you.

  3. I take it that moving it in one piece wasn't an option-- no room in your backyard, too expensive, no time to pour a new foundation, etc. You are a hero(ine)!

    1. No, it was not an option because there is only a driveway's width of space between houses here. Therefore there was no way to get it to the backyard in one piece. Plus my garage is still standing and it was sort of a last minute thing to go take this one. Also, when I rebuild it, I'd like to replace the rotted 2x4s and make the garage a bit bigger.

  4. It’s great that you were able to get the hard parts done for now. It would definitely be great if you can get the garage done and match it to the house, but since you still have other projects, it may have to take a backseat to the others. One project at a time, I always say. Anyways, Good luck and have fun!

    Pleasance @ Shelton Roofing