What I Learned From Ripping Out Our Basement Ceiling

To say our house needed a lot of work on our first day of ownership would be an understatement. It smelled of mold and mildew, the roof was half gone and the tarp that was placed over the rough patches was gradually ripping apart. The sub floor was exposed in the kitchen and the parquet floor in the edition was bowing from moisture, not to mention the electrical, plumbing and water damage issues in the rest of the house. Still, we are the type of people who can see potential and we knew that we had a gem if we could just put in some hard work.

The moldiest and smelliest areas of the house were in the basement, or what I liked to call “the murder basement” for obvious reasons. The green board that was used as a ceiling was completely spotted with mold and mildew. It had to come down.

What I learned from ripping out our basement ceiling.

What I learned from ripping out our basement ceiling.

Plan Ahead and Dress Accordingly

At first, we thought we were well prepared for this endeavor. I wore loose goggles, a dust mask, and gloves as well as coveralls. I didn’t, however cover my hair and my sweatshirt hood was hanging out from the coveralls.

As we started to tear down the ceiling piece by piece it wasn’t too bad, but I did start to feel like I was getting little pieces of dust in my eyes. Excited, and not wanting to stop our progress, I kept going. We kept pulling down parts of ceiling and filling up copious amounts of black contractor bags.

I noticed, after a while though that dust was accumulating in my hair and in the hood of my sweatshirt, as well as some getting in my eyes and irritating them. What made matters worse is the fact that our plumbing issues hadn’t been addressed yet so we had no running water, only some Lysol wipes that I used to wipe off my hands.

As we kept pulling down pieces, we started to notice more dust and then we found an animal skeleton (cat?) in the rafters. It looked like Morris didn’t make it out of the murder basement alive. This is where I decided I needed to stop. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting any organic waste material in my eyes or on my body. I felt like I had already been contaminated and my eyes were puffy, red and sore.

What I learned from ripping out our basement ceiling.

What I learned from ripping out our basement ceiling.

Reflecting Back on Some Bad Decisions

Now, a couple of days after the experience, my eyes have gone back to normal and I feel fine but I would have approached that whole experience differently knowing what I know now.

What did we do wrong? Well, we didn’t have air-tight goggles and head covers. As small of a matter as that seems, it could have made a HUGE difference in protecting my eyes and not irritating my skin. We also didn’t have face and hand wipes, in absence of water. This would have also helped to clean the dust and gunk off of our exposed skin.

We did do a few very important things right though. We tested the green board for asbestos before we started ripping it down. We also wore protective clothing and masks, but that is kind of a no-brainer when tearing down a ceiling.

The lesson I learned from the experience is that you just can’t be too careful when it comes to protecting your eyes and your lungs. If there is any question, always wear air-tight goggles and a mask and cover hair with shower caps or a painter’s hood that you can get at the hardware store.

Home rehab can be fun, especially during demo, but safety always has to come first. Don’t skimp on the things that can keep you safe in the long run. I know that we will definitely be thinking even more about protecting ourselves after our time tackling the basement.

Want to see us in action? Check out some of our roof-razing debacle in this time-lapse video.