A do-it-yourself adventure

DIY demolition

By Geri Dreiling

“Sledgehammer? Check. Crowbar? Check. It would be either me or the tool shed. Vegas bookies were reportedly taking bets on my demolition project. Odds favored the tool shed.”

That was the declaration of war against the tool shed that I posted — just like any other modern nation launching an attack – on social media. In this instance, I used my personal Facebook page as the platform.  Once former high school classmates, friends, work friends, relatives and the parents of my children’s friend had seen my declaration, I knew I had to see it through.

The project was six months in the making. Every morning, I’d go to the kitchen and, while I was waiting for the coffee to brew, I’d gaze out the kitchen window that faced the backyard.  The tool shed had come with the house when I bought it with my husband. Over the course of 10 years, the marriage and the tool shed deteriorated.

Perhaps I was too preoccupied with concerns about my family to pay much heed to the tree weed that had grown in between the back of the shed and a fence. I had ignored the weed. It grew and turned into a tree – hence the name. By the time I recognized the problem, it was too late to save the shed.   

And so, now divorced and soon-to-be the sole owner of the family home, it was up to me to deal with the problem. I’d never demolished anything. I’d certainly never done it alone. But I didn’t want to hire someone to do it. In October, after watching my father and my son remove fiberglass panels from a porch during a visit to my parents’ house, I decided to take the plunge. Other than the combined $30 cost of two crowbars and a sledgehammer, I had nothing to lose. It wasn’t like I could wreck the tool shed. The biggest worry I had was that a wall would fall on top of me.

Or a brown recluse spider would bite me.

Or my tetanus shot was no longer protecting me from lockjaw.

Or I would fail.

Date with Destruction

My kids would be going out of town with their father for Thanksgiving. Instead of taking my parents up on the offer to join them for the holiday, I made a date with destruction. 

However, I started removing the asphalt shingles the weekend before Thanksgiving. I meant to just clean out the shed but the new tools were so shiny, I couldn’t resist giving them a try.

“I’ll just remove a shingle,” I told myself. It was slow at first, but I figured out how to use the crowbar to pry up a corner and slide its long neck under the shingle to pop it up. Like eating potato chips, I couldn’t just stop at just one. The small pile of black debris and nails grew.  I was hooked on demolition. A destruction junkie, I wanted more. I removed the doors. At that point I stopped. But I was excited for Thanksgiving.

When my neighbors were putting a turkey in the oven, I was pulling out a sledgehammer. I thought it would make the job easy. It didn’t. I lacked the upper body strength to splinter boards. Instead, I would need to take a methodical, slow approach. My crowbars worked great for prying away siding. Wielding a Phillips head screwdriver, I unwound the screws that had held plywood to studs. When the screws wouldn’t budge, my crowbars gave me the leverage I needed after several minutes of applying pressure to rip the boards away from their moorings.

The long wall next to the fence posed a problem. I needed to pull it down in order to remove the siding. But I had concerns that it might collapse. The local TV news story played in my head: “Woman alone on Thanksgiving dies when shed falls on her.”

Despite my concerns over a bad ending, I pushed forward. I removed supports carefully. I pulled on the wall gingerly. Then more forcefully, then more forcefully still. The wall’s resistance was actually a blessing because it allowed me to control its descent.

After several hours of work, I was down to the shed floor. It was time to call it quits. I’d return for more on Friday. Or so I thought.

tool shed wall

Screw the Screws

The next day, my arms, back and legs ached. I delayed a day. And I delayed another day. Finally, on Sunday, I had to finish. Little did I know that the screws attached to the flooring would be the so stubborn. The plywood for the floor, and the studs underneath, were longer, heavier and thicker than all of the others. Getting them pried apart and dragging the debris into the garage was a massive undertaking.

“Mustard!” I exclaimed repeatedly. Although it wasn’t mustard but a curse word that sounds somewhat similar.  But the cursing seemed to strengthen my resolve – and ultimately it was my resolve that proved to be the indispensable tool for the successfully completed project.

The space where the tool shed stood is now barren – except for the trunk of the tree that needs to be cut down. My chainsaw is too small for the job, perhaps a bigger chainsaw purchase is on the horizon.

That’s a project for another day.

For now, when I gaze out of the kitchen window in the morning, I no longer see a sad shed. I see an empty space waiting for something beautiful to transform it.

Clearing space