The pitfalls of a cathedral ceiling

Our story so far: We purchased a 126-year-old Methodist church to turn into our home, and all through the demolition process we found a lot to love in the literal corners of the building and encountered supporters in various metaphorical corners.

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Chapter 15

The final 10 percent of a project is the hardest, and this was true of the demolition phase of ours.

The first 90 percent was no cakewalk. Sure, we revealed some beautiful architectural elements of the church, and that was rewarding, but it required back-aching work. And then there was the suspended ceilings, plaster and lathe, old carpeting, basement pass-through, walls, doorways. Well, it amounted to two thirty-yard dumpsters worth of debris.

ceiling prior to demo
Tyler demolished the choir loft side of the sanctuary ceiling, but that left the other side. And those decorative beams.

But that still left the ceiling of the sanctuary. The twenty-foot ceiling of the sanctuary.

Shortly after we’d closed on the church and realized we’d thrown out the remote controls for the ceiling fans in the sanctuary, Tyler climbed on top of a six-foot rolling baker’s scaffold in order to install pull-chains to the fans to get them to operate. It didn’t work. But Tyler did learn something: His baker’s scaffold shook something awful as he stood there fiddling with his arms above his head, and he didn’t like it. And besides, a six-foot-three man standing on a six-foot scaffold was still eight feet short of the top of the ceiling. (This is probably why most standard family homes don’t have such high ceilings, but I didn’t think of that when I fell in love with the open space.)

As he demoed the rest of the church from a safe altitude, Tyler pondered how he might safely take apart the sanctuary ceiling and put it back together again. Despite what people might have assumed about the recklessness of a pair of 50-somethings in purchasing a 126-year-old building to turn into a home, Tyler was also a businessman who’d heard too many horrific insurance claims to pursue a daredevil approach to construction.

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Tomorrow: We take action to combat potential dangers. Read about it here.

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