The Great Coat Closet Remodel Project! – Phase 1, Part 1

The Great Coat Closet Remodel Project! – Phase 1, Part 1

This weekend, I kicked off The Great Coat Closet Remodel Project!

In order to allow me to focus on one aspect of the remodel at a time and not become overwhelmed, I have defined several “phases” for this project, which will be spaced out over two months.

  • Phase 1: Demolition of front portion of closet
  • Phase 2: Run new wiring for light and power bank
  • Phase 3: Install new insulation on outer wall of front portion of closet
  • Phase 4: Install new drywall in front portion of closet
  • Phase 5: Remove water heater; demolition of back portion of closet
  • Phase 6: New insulation on outer wall of back portion; install new drywall in back portion; sand and refinish floor in back portion of closet
  • Phase 7: Paint entire closet
  • Phase 8: Reinstall water heater
  • Phase 9: Install hang bar, shelves, remount door and trim

The closet has a “front portion” of usable space, slightly wider than the entrance door, and a “back portion” of space dedicated to the water heater. In order to get to the back portion for demo and remodeling, we will have to remove the water heater. Steve had the great idea to complete the front portion of the closet first as a separate mini-project, spacing out the tasks in order to get a better feel for how long each would take, and then tackling the back portion all at once. This will allow us to familiarize ourselves with the tasks involved, such as insulation installation, drywall, spackling, etc., before we start the back portion of the closet. So once it becomes necessary to remove the water heater, we will be able to minimize the time needed to complete those tasks in the back portion, thereby minimizing the time that we will be without hot water. And of course, since the space is so small, only one of us at a time can actually get in there to work, which slows the whole process.

Since the back portion will need to be completed in a timely manner, I will be taking a week off work during Steve’s school break at the end of May. However, this weekend, I concerned myself with Phase 1: Demolition of front portion of closet. First, we had to move everything out of the closet and put it somewhere that we won’t be tripping over it for the next two months. But before we could do that, we had to move everything from in front of the closet.

Here is everything that was actually blocking the closet. It looks kind of like a tide just washed all that stuff up and piled it there! This includes stuff that I am planning to sell on eBay or donate, a basket full of old wires to stereos and telephones that we no longer own, some stuff that needs to be shredded, and some things that just need to go in the attic.


Here is a view where you can the closet itself.


Not sure why these pictures are all slightly blurry, but you get the gist. Steve removed the large shelf from the closet, and we went through everything on it and got rid of about 40% of it. This included worn out or damaged paint brushes, parts to things that we don’t need or don’t have any more, a bucket of dried up drywall compound, a bunch of rusty scrapers, used up sandpaper, other random junk, and a few things that we couldn’t even identify! The shelf is modular, so we took the top two sections off and put them in the attic, and left the lower three to hold the “keep” items, for now. We will be getting a less bulky shelf for storage in the closet. But we are keeping this one, perhaps for use in the attic, as it is a really nice utility shelf.

With all the stuff out of the way, we prepped the area for work by sectioning it off with some plastic. You can see the shortened shelf full of “keeps” on the wall outside the closet entrance.


At this point, Steve went off to study, and I began to assess the closet. The closet is finished really oddly. The walls look kind of papery, and all the corners are finish with quarter rounds rather than tape and spackle. See the quarter round along the upper seam? And notice how it doesn’t extend all the way over?


Some of the seams between wall pieces, and well as several damage holes, were “finished” with duct tape. Yep, duct tape, people! Which was then painted over. Nothing says quality work like painted over duct tape.


So I suited up in my PPE (safety goggles, mask, and gloves), took a hammer and crowbar, and waded it to smash up some drywall, Property Brothers style! First, I had to remove some old supports on the back wall, left over from long-forgotten shelves. See what I mean about the “papery” look to the wall?


When I began to remove the supports, I found that there was wallpaper underneath! Who would wallpaper inside a closet?


With the supports removed, it was time for smashing! I must say that smashing the walls was extremely enjoyable. However, I quickly determined that it was not drywall that I was smashing, but something that resembled compressed cardboard. Almost like paneling made out of paper. (In talking with my neighbor later, she suggested that the walls might be made of beaverboard. I did a little online reading, and I’m pretty sure that she is right.) The “papery-ness” made the walls much harder to remove. Additionally, the stuff was nailed down about every two inches, which meant removed dozens of little rusty nails.

The back wall was the one that received the most damage from the water heater leak that we had several years ago. I could see in removing the panels that there had been mold at one time, but it was long gone. Thank goodness for our mold-induced over-reaction of soaking the walls with bleach! I am not a huge chlorine bleach fan, but it does have it’s uses.

I removed all the quarter rounds, many of them snapping in the process. Grr! I had to enlist Steve’s help to remove the baseboards. They were secured with about a billion nails and I just physically couldn’t pull them out, even after loosening them with the crowbar. When I moved on to the side wall, which had not been soaked with water, I found that it got easier. I was able to slide the crowbar under one edge of the wall panel and get it started. Then, when I rocked the panel back and forth, the rest of the nails began to back out of the wall, and I could just pop them out. Then, I would rock a little more, and get more nails. In this way, I was able to remove the remaining panels mostly in one piece.

With the panels removed, I could better see the condition of the closet. I had expected some cleanup, perhaps even treatment for mold. But the wall cavity was in great condition, clean and undamaged! Here is the back wall. See? No exterior insulation, just as I suspected, but pretty well sealed in spite of that.


Here is where the wall meets the floor. Pretty dusty from the demo, but other than that in good condition.


Here is the wall that backs on the kitchen, also in good condition.


And here is a section next to the water heater that I was able to go ahead and demo. Notice the knob and tube remnants.


And here is a SAW BLADE that fell out of the wall.


When I demoed the wall that backs on the kitchen, there were some pieces of rope hanging along the wall. Steve pulled on them and they didn’t seem to be attached to anything. They came loose and fell down, bringing the saw blade with them! Yikes!

I still have to remove the ceiling, and I am going to try to remove the panel on the other side of the water heater as well, since that other one came off so easily. That will allow me to see the wiring, and see what I have to work with for running any new fixtures. That’s why I called this post “Part 1”. But overall, I am really encouraged. Even though the first section of wall took a while to get down, there weren’t really any surprises. Every other project that we have ever done in this house has uncovered nasty surprises that always send us back to the drawing board, or at least back to Home Depot. I am really confident that we will be able to get this done with the minimal amount of hassle.

If all goes well, we will be able to complete Phases 2 and 3 next weekend!

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