A Lesson in Wall Disassembly

Dismantled Wall

Dismantled Wall

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Yesterday was one of those days where it seemed to take a lot of effort to get very little done on the tiny house. In the 10 hours that I worked, I basically got three kitchen cabinets screwed to the wall. Although I did not get very much done on the tiny house yesterday, I did learn a few things. One thing I learned was how to disassemble a wall covered with tongue and groove interior siding.

The need to open up my wall was due to an unfortunate mistake. When I was drilling half-inch holes in my wall to install the wall anchors that I planned to use to secure my cabinets to the wall, I accidentally drilled into a couple of electrical wires inside the wall. On the positive side, the circuit breaker for those wires just happened to be off when I made this blunder. So luckily, I didn’t get electrocuted and am still here to write this blog entry today. I was also kind of lucky to even discover what I had done. I wouldn’t have noticed it except that when I tried to put the wall anchor in the wall, the anchor hit the wires and wouldn’t go all the way in. It was only when I looked inside the hole with a flashlight to see what was blocking the bolt that I realized my mistake.

Wall Anchors

Wall Anchors

1/2" Holes for Wall Anchors

1/2″ Holes for Wall Anchors   (Note outlet above – could there be wires nearby?)

It’s amazing how much work you can create for yourself in just a matter of seconds. To recover from my mistake, I first had to pull a large section of the wall apart to get at the wires. Luckily, I had built a removable panel that allowed me to get to the wires without having to pry too many additional boards off the wall. When I found out that I couldn’t repair the wires, I then had to cut the wires in half, run new wires from there to the electrical outlet they were leading to and then install a new electrical box in the wall to tie all the wires back together. Doing all of that took me about 5 hours.

The Wires I Hit

The Wires I Hit

New Electrical Box Joining Spiced Wires

New Electrical Box Joining Spiced Wires

I can’t say too much else for my day yesterday except that I now know how to disassemble and reassemble part of my wall if I need to. I had always wondered how I would do that. It turns out it’s not that bad. If you ever have to pull apart tongue and groove interior siding on your wall, here’s how you do it:

  • First, locate the studs on either side of the section you need to remove. To get the wall apart, you will need to remove at least two of the boards between the studs, one of which will have to be sacrificed and replaced.
  • Figure out exactly which boards you want to remove. Then, use a razor blade to split those boards vertically on each side along the stud. Although it will take several passes and a little bit of effort to cut through the boards this way, it will also create a nice clean cut.
    After you have the boards cut on each side, figure out which one you want to sacrifice and split that one horizontally down the middle with a circular saw set to a depth of just over 1/4″. Pry that board off the wall and throw it away.
  • Carefully use a chisel and a hammer to pry off the rest of the boards one at a time. If you’re lucky, you may be able to get these boards off in one piece so you can reuse them if you want. It may be helpful to use an awl to pound the finish nails holding these boards all the way into the wall before you try to pry the boards off.
  • Do whatever maintenance work needs to be done inside the wall.
  • Cut a new board to replace the one that you sacrificed.
  • Reinstall all but two of the boards that were pulled out.
  • You should be able to install the final two boards at the same time, provided you angle them in opposite directions. Loosely fit the two pieces together. Then, angle the top board so that the tongue fits into the piece above it, but the groove side is angled out (and still loosely connected to the other piece you’re trying to install). Angle the bottom board oppositely so that the groove side fits into the piece below it, but the tongue side is angled out a little bit. After that, you should be able to just press on the middle of the two boards and pop the whole thing into the wall.

I am grateful to Sheila for combining a search on Google with a little bit of ingenuity to figure out how to do all of that.

Once I had the electrical circuit repaired and the wall back together, I could finally return to the task at hand for the day: installing my kitchen cabinets. The rest of the process went pretty quickly. Sheila was smart enough to suggest that where I had the wall a part anyway, I go ahead and install a two by four horizontally between the studs at the same height where the cabinets needed to be screwed to the wall. Doing that meant I could then use cabinet hanger screws instead of wall anchors for at least two of the attachment points. Now, each of my cabinets on that wall is attached with one wall anchor and one cabinet hanger screw, which I think will hold them both pretty securely.

And that’s pretty much all I did yesterday. Like I said, it’s not much to show for my 10 hours, but at least I learned a couple of things. First, I learned that when you are drilling holes into your wall, it’s probably best to turn off the power to your house. That is a lesson I will definitely use again. Second, I learned how to remove and reinstall tongue and groove interior siding. I have to admit that is information I hope I never have to use again.

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