Friday, February 1, 2008

THE ANATOMY OF DEMOLISHING AN OLD HOUSE

LAST DECEMBER 2004, WE decided to transfer residence to a new, yet, unfinished house on the same place and on the same address. What used to be an airy space infront of the old house is now occupied by this two-storey steel-and-concrete structure which we now proudly call home.

Said house was started construction last May 2003 and occupies a 40-odd square meters of space, which was then serving as our frontyard and was planted then with acacia, eucalyptus and caimito trees that all gave a cool shade and whose topmost branch and twigs towered that of the old two-storey house.

The old house, which was constructed in 1974, served as a house for rent for many years and a source of income to our family until that great conflagration in our neighborhood at Barangay Tinago on January 1988 did our family utilized it as a temporary home. My family left the place after a new house was constructed in Lahug and I moved in here with my wife on December of that year. Both of my boys were born and reared there.

As we abandon the old place, I decided to demolish it by myself to give us free space which we surrendered many months ago due to the construction of that new house. Only there were no available time for me back then to actively pursue that objective until, only last August 24, 2005, when I was waylaid from work that I did find that very slippery opportunity to do that hard manual task.

9:00 AM, Friday, September 9, 2005. First day of my demolition job. After a short prayer invoking the Lord for strength and wisdom and for my safety, I started for the roof.

There were 25 corrugated G.I. roof sheets of 4-feet by 8-feet dimension attached in a north to south axis on the wooden roof beams by mushroom nails having an east to west arrangement. Most of these nails adhered to the grain of the beams due to time and rust, and the removal of these might need great amounts of pressure which I don’t have the luxury to exert freely at that elevation which is a very precarious one.

There are also sheets of corrugated aluminum roofing that line the edges of the overhanging roof eaves and overlapping the edgemost part the G.I. sheets.

Slowly, I removed each nail by a steel crowbar on every sheet of roofing. Then I removed one sheet at a time. It was slow and painstaking work hampered by heat from the sun which bounced off the metal sheets stinging into your skin and hurting your eyes by its glare.

By dusk I was able to remove 23 of these iron sheets and let it fall to the ground, save for two and those aluminum sheets that are attached at the outer fringes of the roof frame.

Day 2. I removed the last of the G.I. sheets and detached the wooden eaves, letting it fall, along with the aluminum sheets, to the ground. Then I removed the wooden roof beams one by one after which, I pushed down the plywood ceilings and letting it fall to the floor. Then I started to remove the much bigger, longer and heavier wooden (6”x½”x12’) cross-beams; that were placed on a north-south orientation. I was only able to remove two of those before I say it quits when dusk came.

Sunday was a day of obligation to hear Holy Mass at the church and to observe the day of rest.

Monday and Tuesday were raining and on Wednesday it was sunny enough to start the third day. I began by removing away an old cabinet and two wooden double-deck beds for giveaways for my neighbors. My old and tattered big mattress I discarded and disposed of by burning the fabric and its inner foam while giving joy to a passing scavenger with the twisted coils which he converted into cash in a junk shop.

Then I started repealing the inner and outer walls of the upper part of the house. These were made of ¼-inch thick marine and ordinary plywood and removing it were never a problem and as was done with the other debris, I let it fall down. By 11 AM it rained and I stopped work.

Day 4. It was raining on Thursday morning and, at around 2:00 PM, it stopped. I continued removing all the plywood walls as well as detaching the doors of the two rooms occupying the upper part of the old house.

Day 5. Friday morning was raining, after lunch it stopped. I started removing the six wooden jalousie replacement windows which I planned to give and recycle its use. Removing it whole and intact was quite difficult and I was only able to remove three of those when dusk fell.

Saturday, September 17. It was the sixth day of my demolition job and I began on a sunny morning by climbing to the roofless top. There I continued removing the heavy cross-beams where I successfully removed the remaining five and let it fall on the upper flooring. Ditto with the wooden cross-beam supports which are almost of the same dimensions with the former.

In the middle of afternoon I began to remove the wall frames one by one and by dusk I was able to remove 80% of them, as well as the last three jalousie replacement windows intact.

Monday came and so was the seventh day of my task. Removed all the upper structures except the six standing posts and the wooden floor and I call it a day.

September 20, 2005 I left for Manila on some important business and came back on the 23rd.

By the 26th, Monday, I began day 8 of the demolition. I pried easily all the 3/8-inch thick wooden slats which served as flooring for the upper level of the house and once removed I started for the wooden flooring beams which I removed all in the morning.

By afternoon I went for the floor cross-beams which were seven in all where its dimensions are just like those located on the roof. Prying it took considerable amount of pressure and strength which I generously applied for it was not that high from the ground unlike that of the roof. I removed five except the two, which were attached to the wooden stairway, as well as the front door.

Day 9. Tuesday. September 27, 2005. Morning started just fine and I started to remove the cross-beam supports after which I removed the lawanit board double walling and its wooden frames on the ground level. I detached a steel canopy structure that was attached above the front door.

By afternoon, I was armed with a sledgehammer and targetted in demolishing the concrete component of the house like the 3-foot high walls and its decorative features installed three feet above it. I was also able to detach four of the six posts from its steel anchors. By dusk only 10 percent of the structure remained.

Day 10 came and I took the sledgehammer on the remaining concrete structures. I took very care not to let the concrete debris to fall in the creek running beside my place. I succeeded there, except for one big block of concrete that used to be the other half of the 1.5 square meter-sized toilet/bath floor. It fell and splashed on the river bed. Actually, there was already a big crack separating the other half of the floor and, as I was breaking up the walls, it suddenly gave way. Luckily, a water pipe that ran at the back of the toilet’s wall, held fast and gave me time to extract myself there or else I might have gotten hurt.

Thursday and it was the 11th day. The area was now exposed to sunlight and very hot especially from 9 AM to 3 PM. Slowly, I removed the whole wooden staircase by myself by prying the upper part from its landing. It was very very heavy but I managed to remove it after which I detached the beams that supported the stair. The place now looked very level except for the discarded lumber, iron sheets and other debris.

The first phase done, now the second phase -- clearing the area and figuring what to do with all those discarded lumber! Those that were totally unusable for recycling became firewood and for more than a year it became fuel for the cooking fires in my household. Those that were recycled I used it to construct a “dirty kitchen”, chicken coops and benches.

Today the place is used to dry our laundry and underneath the laundry lines is a backyard plot planted with all sort of vegetables. I planted a grafted mango tree, a tambis tree, a jackfruit tree, papayas and an anahaw palm to replace the trees which I have cut before. My place is green again.

In 11 days I was able to demolish the old house by my lone self. It was my first time to undergo that kind of task. It was hard and demanded great strength and stamina. It was also a good therapy for me to get rid of the hurt after I was laid off from my job. It made me stronger physically and emotionally. Surely, God knows how to take care of you and afford you other distractions to overcome the things and events that you have no control and power to prevail over with. But, in His own good time, I know, He will give back to me what He has taken away.


Document done in RoughDraft 3.0, Trebuchet MS font. size 12.

1 comment:

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