My New Studio Build (perhaps overly detailed)

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by silky smoove, Aug 4, 2015.

  1. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Inspired by @peterpalmieri and his excellent studio build thread ( I’ve decided to do my own thread for a build that’s been several years in the making; more on that in a moment. I do want to point out that this is an ongoing project and will likely take many months to pan out. I’ll update this thread as things develop. These posts will likely be long-winded at first as this is as much for fun as it is to document the whole process for both my own benefit as well as to serve as a reference for other folks looking at similar projects. I’ll be as detailed as possible when it comes to outlining why certain design and construction decisions were made to serve as much value to folks taking the time to read my ramblings as possible

    I’ve made a conscious decision to avoid talking much about gear choices until the very end unless they influence design and construction decisions. Monitors are a big one in this regard so I’ll touch on them earlier than other gear. This thread is less about gear, and more about the biggest area where people setting up small studios tend to skimp, which is in the basis of design, construction methods, isolation, and proper treatment. None of that stuff is as sexy as talking about this great U67 you scored on eBay for a steal. I can absolutely appreciate that, and have certainly been guilty of that sort of thing myself, but the fact remains: All the cool preamps and vintage microphones that money can buy won’t sound great in a crappy room. That’s what I’m trying to avoid with this build, and hopefully anyone reading will find it educational, entertaining, or possibly/hopefully both.

    Jump ahead if you want to skip the backstory and get right to the meat and potatoes of the design.
  2. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA

    I bought a house back in April of 2011 in West Seattle with the intent of adding a small structure in the backyard to serve as a studio. It’s what we call a “flagpole” lot here in Washington, and maybe elsewhere too. Effectively it’s a small lot with a house that sits behind another house (this becomes the flag portion) and a long skinny access walkway down one side (this becomes the pole portion). As such, it was a small house on a small lot and I needed permission from the neighbors (legally binding permission in the form of a contract mind you) to build the structure closer to the property line than building codes would normally allow. They would not give me this permission.

    The red lines are the property boundaries, and the yellow is the approximate size and location of the proposed studio building.

    That fact coupled with a few other growing pains forced us to sell the house. Very fortunately, I bought the home at the bottom of Seattle’s market and sold near the top. I made a killing. I nearly doubled the original purchase price at closing in only four years of ownership. That also meant that I had to buy in a very hot market, so my massive gains would largely be neutralized by a considerably larger mortgage in an equally hotter market. C’est la vie! My wife and I battled it out in the market and in June of 2015, we finally ended up with a new house after losing out on three others. This new place has ample space for my new studio (that statement comes with a host of caveats that I’ll explain in detail later).

    With the backstory out of the way, let the fun begin!
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2015
  3. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA

    My studio needs are relatively simple but I also feel like they encompass a lot of what people are using studios for these days. I fancy myself a session bassist, session drummer, composer, producer, mixer, master-er (that’s a clunky term huh?), etc. I serve this role for my own projects, bands I’m associated with, and even make a few sheckles when people hire me to do work on their albums or in some cases do everything on their album from start to finish.

    I need a space with dedicated live and control rooms. I need a live room that is lively and has a good room sound, and I’m okay with the fact that my space will not be massive enough to truly compete with the big studios and their grand spaces. I need a control room for running sessions and mixing that is sonically as accurate as possible without being completely dead as I hate mixing in those types of environments. The “get it as close to anechoic as possible” environments of the 80s are completely lost on me as are the live-end/dead-end rooms of the 90s. I want dedicated rooms for dedicated purposes.
    ThePresident777 and TheEmptyCell like this.
  4. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA

    The first step in this process was getting an idea of how big I could make my new studio. As a general rule when it comes to studio building, more space is always better. Our new house sits on a lot that’s just over 10,000 square feet, which is positively massive for Seattle. Great news right? Not quite. A large portion of that area is on an unbuildable steep slope, part of which was terraced into lovely gardens by the previous owner.

    Plenty of room to grow veggies, but not much in the way of studio space down here.

    With that space hindrance factored in let’s look at the top of the slope where it’s flat. There’s an existing garage built in 1946 sitting too close to the newly expanded house. Earlier I said “flat” but really I should have included the word “relatively.” The ground slopes to the north resulting in a roughly 3’ tall foundation wall to take out the elevation. The decision was made to demolish the garage along with the slab and build the new studio structure in its place but shifted towards the flatter ground to the north. As a bonus, this will leave more room between the house and the new structure.

    Sandwiching a building in between the alley (and its legal setback), the northern edge of the house, and the top of the steep slope to the north and east leaves a pretty specific amount of space. Until I get the existing garage demolished I won’t know the exact size that will fit, but for now I’m planning everything based around a very conservative (i.e. it’ll probably be bigger) space of 14’ wide by 24’ long. Not huge, but big enough for my needs. I’m optimistic that I will be able to make the structure longer, but probably not wider. Time will tell!

    The red lines are the property boundaries, the yellow is the approximate size and location of the proposed studio building, and the green is the top of the steep slope.
    ThePresident777 and TheEmptyCell like this.
  5. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Construction Plan:

    I’m by no means a master builder, but I’m handy. I have an engineering background (environmental and civil engineering by day), and I worked in construction while I was in college. That said building something from the ground up was simply not in the cards. I’ve opted instead for bringing in a prefabricated structure and retrofitting it for my needs. There’s a company here called Tuff Shed that builds structures to your specifications within the bounds of a few standard models. They’ll do fully custom stuff, but just like with an instrument, if you go fully custom, you’re going to pay for it. Their Premier Pro Garage was selected for the structure. I decided to build it as a garage rather than just an accessory structure so that if I decide to sell the house in the future I’ll be able to convert it back into a garage and increase my potential resale value. The reason for going with Tuff Shed is that the structures are prefabricated off-site, panelized, and then brought out on a truck. They’re assembled on a concrete slab that will be constructed prior to their arrival. The installation is fast, the cost is low compared to a custom structure, the construction methods are largely the same, and oh did I mention that the cost is low? They’re quality structures, and because of the high degree of retrofitting taking place, more than adequate for my needs.

    As I mentioned previously, I’m designing around a 14’x24’ structure. The model I’ve selected has vaulted ceilings which provide a sonic benefit in terms of fewer 90-degree corners, higher ceilings, increased internal volume, etc. This will help mitigate some of the small horizontal room dimension issues I’ll be faced with moving forward. A small room will always be a small room, but things can be done to help it along and I’ll be utilizing as many as possible.

    I’ll be building with Rod Gervais’ book “Home Recording Studio: Build it Like the Pros” as a reference. I’m not affiliated with Rod, I just love his practical approach to studio design and the fact that even with a minimal construction background you can understand the points he makes in the book.


    Additionally, large parts of the design have been provided by Tom Stevens at GIK Acoustics. It’s worth mentioning that GIK offers studio design consultation for $100/hr. I utilized five hours of this consultation time and it was worth every penny as the design changed considerably from my initial scribbles into something that should sound great and be highly functional for my needs when finished. I am in no way associated with GIK, I just found the service to be a helpful one without breaking the bank.

  6. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Basic Design:

    The proceeding sections make use of images from Google’s SketchUp. If you’re considering a build, do yourself a favor and learn how to use SketchUp. It’s free (for non-commercial purposes), and you can build highly accurate models that take a lot of the guesswork out of these types of things.

    The first step is to convert the garage door to a man-door. A 10’ wide garage door can be converted into a door for people in a number of ways. I’m opting to use a pair of French doors which are roughly a combined 6’ wide. That will leave 2’ on each side that will need to be framed, drywalled, sheathed, sided, trimmed, etc. To maximize space these doors will swing out and feature NRP hinges for security purposes. I have the same setup on the daylight basement of my house and will be trying to match the full-lite doors as closely as possible except that the studio will have frosted/translucent glass rather than clear/transparent to keep thieves from peering inside to see a treasure trove of gear for them to loot. The end result should look quite nice and will not have any sonic impact as you will see later.

    This rendering is a little out of date. It was before I decided on full-lite doors and had a better idea of how the trimmed out garage door opening will look when finished.

    The second step is to add a wall 2-3’ inside of the exterior wall. This will serve two purposes. The most apparent will be that it creates a space for a sort of gear “closet.” Instrument cases, drums, mic stands, cables, etc. will all be placed in this space which will keep them clear from the live and control rooms to minimize clutter. The less obvious reason for this wall is to establish the outer perimeter of sound isolation. Since this facility will be in a residential neighborhood and will need to have live drums as part of the equation, sound isolation is paramount. I don’t have the space to build with proper room-inside-a-room construction via staggered wall studs on separated walls with an air gap in between. Instead I will be using a combination of a sound isolating door, Whisper Clips, resilient channel, doubled-up type X drywall and Green Glue. The last piece of the puzzle here is that the “closet” wall will not go all the way up to the vaulted ceiling. Instead it will be capped off to create a sort of “shelf” at the back of the live room. This will not be used for storage, but rather to form a giant bass trap and create a more irregular shape to the room. If there’s anything I’ve learned about acoustics it’s that more space and more irregularity are almost always a good thing.

    Upper/ceiling shelf not pictured for clarity.

    The third step is to construct the dividing wall between the live and control rooms. Since there’s a single entrance into the space I decided to have it enter into the live room. There were trade-offs either way, but this made the most sense to me. Rather than having people load in gear through the control room I’ve placed the live room just off of the “closet” area for easy access and lack of clutter. The downside to this is that if someone walks into the studio during a take, it’s ruined which wouldn’t be the case if they came into the control room instead. The dividing wall was a suggestion of Tom at GIK. Rather than building a conventional wall with lumber and drywall, he spec’d out a thick wall built out of staggered open framing and filled with Rockwool. Total wall thickness is 11.75” when finished. Both sides are capped off with 3/4” wood strips and Guilfords of Maine “Anchorage” fabric. This creates a wall with little to no reflections that also acts as a gigantic bass trap. Win-win! The only weak link in this part of the design is access. I have to be able to get through the wall from the live room to the control room and vice versa. A door will be located along the side of the wall to allow passage. I’ll be using a full-lite door here to remove the need for a separate window between the spaces. Outside of the door, there are no front wall reflections in the live room, and no rear wall reflections in the control room. The wall will offer isolation between the spaces while acoustically creating rooms that behave like they’re much larger than their dimensions would suggest specifically due to the lack of reflections.

    All the division, none of the reflection!

    The fourth step is deciding on an aesthetic. I wanted a space with a vibe to it, not some clinical compound where you come and make music as prescribed by a guy in a lab coat. I’m going with a deep red paint on the exposed drywall surfaces, a light colored laminate wood flooring to keep it from being too dark, a tan/beige fabric (Guilford’s of Maine “Anchorage”) on the dividing wall and all bass traps and absorption panels, and lastly I’ll be clear coating any of the exposed wood diffusion devices (more on that later). White doors and base trim will button things up nicely and give it a little bright pop to accent everything in a clean/modern way. I’m admittedly a little torn on the ceiling. My first thought was to go with a tongue and groove wood product on the ceiling, but I’m worried about having potentially three different shades of wood throughout the space (floor, diffusers, ceiling). I don’t want it looking like a disjointed cabin. On top of that, between installing clouds, bass trapping, etc. on top of the doubled up drywall and Green Glue; Adding lumber to the Whisper Clips and resilient channel on the ceiling of all places is likely a bad idea from a weight perspective. I’ll likely just paint the ceiling drywall and call it good. Color to be determined later. More on that as construction develops.

    Upper/ceiling shelf shown above the closet area here unpainted since it will be filled with insulation and covered by a large straddling bass trap. Large straddling bass trap… Good band name…
  7. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Control Room Layout and Treatment:

    Here’s where it gets interesting, and simultaneously where my wallet run screaming into the night. The control room has the listening position located 38% of the way across the room measured from the front wall. This is a general rule of thumb for studio construction that will be tweaked once everything is setup to find the optimal position.

    The monitor speakers are placed on DIY stands similar to ones that I built for my last studio space. They’re essentially large sand-filled cylinders. They elevate the high frequency drivers to be right at ear level. Due to being filled with sand they are very high mass. They’re also detached completely from the mixing desk. All told this means that as the monitor speakers vibrate, as little energy as possible is lost through sympathetic vibrations. They are set wide enough to form an equilateral triangle between the drivers and the listening position. They are then angled such that the center of each driver is facing directly at the listening position. I’m utilizing Equator Audio D5s for this, and they’re sitting on Equator Audio’s take on Auralex’s MoPads. These put the monitors on an angled surface. These have the benefit of creating yet another angle for the monitors which allows them to fire in a non-parallel direction to all walls in the studio. The downside is that as you move back and forth in the listening position, your ear height relative to the beaming direction of the high frequency driver changes. This creates a specific spot where you need to sit in order to hear the most accurate mix. Pros and cons… This is a small enough space that I think the pros outweigh the cons in this case. If it were a bigger space and I had multiple listening positions I would likely not put the monitors on a vertically angled pad.

    Lastly with regards to monitors, and this was one of the things that Tom at GIK helped me sort out, the speakers get placed as close to the front wall without actually touching it as possible. You can read more about the rationale behind that placement here: - Acoustic. The basic idea is that sound reflected off the front wall (i.e. from the back of the speakers) hits the listening position in a delayed condition making it out of phase with the non-reflected direct sound from the front of the speakers. This causes a notch in frequency response that’s typically about 2/3s of an octave wide. The closer to the wall you are, the higher the notch frequency. That leaves you with two options. The first and best option is to move your speakers far enough away from the front wall that the notch frequency is lower than the response of your speakers, thus becoming a non-issue. This requires more floor space than I have, and is therefore not possible. To even get 3db down at 80hz, you need nearly 5’ from the front wall to the front of your speakers. This is a small space and I simply don’t have that much room to work with. This leaves us with the second option, which is to move the speakers right up against the wall without them actually touching it, which in turn raises the notch frequency considerably. At these frequencies the speaker has far less omnidirectional energy and the notch effect is significantly reduced. My monitors have a built in high pass for placement up against a wall to account for the additional boundary loading of putting them into a half-space condition, so I’ll be utilizing that in this situation. To further offset the notch frequency you can pack the space between the monitors with absorbing material like rock wool. I’ll touch on that more later. Ultimately I’ll be looking at notch frequencies of 430hz (quarter wavelength) and 215hz (half wavelength), both of which are much more easily handled through treatment than the more omnidirectional frequencies that would become problematic with more spacing from the wall in a room this size.

    I will be implementing a subwoofer, but I have not yet decided on the model. Equator was going to be coming out with a matching sub for the D5s, but they’ve since scrubbed that mission. Whatever model it ends up being, the subwoofer gets located slightly off to the side (haven’t decided which) and as close to the corresponding side’s monitor as possible to minimize differences in phase. Since the frequencies it produces are largely omnidirectional, if it’s placed in the center of the room the reflected sound from the side walls occurs in the same place which will cause the cancellation frequency to be doubled up. In this case, asymmetry is a good thing for coherency.

    Bass traps, bass traps, bass traps! I’ve always been an advocate of cramming as much bass trapping into a space as you can while still maintaining a working amount of floor space. This design will be no different. In my previous studio space I build a large number of bass traps using doubled-up Owens-Corning 703. This was for an incredibly small space (a 7’ x 11’ bedroom to be exact), but I still managed to cram 15 of them in there. Since the space was small, I simply skinned them with burlap and hung them up on heavy gauge wire. In this new space I’ll be taking a more professional approach. In addition to building new traps, I’ll also be rebuilding my current ones using nominal 1” lumber and Guilford’s of Maine “Anchorage” fabric. Bass traps need to be skinned with breathable fabric to not reflect the sound that hits them. As a rule: If it can’t pass air, it can’t effectively do its job. I’ll be placing these in every vertical corner, and will cram as many on the horizontal corners where the walls meet the ceiling as I can. I’ll be building these as “superchunks” which is basically to say that I’ll be filling the triangular void behind the traps with pink fluffy type insulation. This extends the usable frequency response of the traps a bit for a minimal increase in cost and effort. Also remember that the dividing wall acts as a massive bass trap due to its construction type. All told there will be a lot of handling of low frequency energy in this space which should help boost its accuracy considerably.

    The rest of the broadband absorption has not yet been designed. I’m still working with Tom at GIK on that part and will update this thread accordingly when I get to that point in the construction process.

    Where the magic happens. Well… One half of the magic at least.
    bbh, Fudbutter, Rattman and 3 others like this.
  8. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Live Room Layout and Treatment:

    The isolation perimeter that I described in a previous post is what gives this room its magic. In my last space I relied on a small set of Roland V-Drums and Toontrack’s Superior Drummer 2.0 to generate drum sounds for albums where I was drumming and one where the drummer was cool enough to use an electronic kit for tracking. To be fair, the SD2.0 sounds are so good that with some tweaking to the MIDI performances in post, lifelike drums are well within the grasp of even the most modest home studio. I was very happy with the results in a number of applications. That said, in this new space, I want to be able to play my acoustic drums. I want to play them as hard as I want (even though I’m not much of a basher) at all hours of the night without the neighbors being disturbed. Since drums will easily be the loudest part of the equation, getting that isolation perimeter constructed correctly will be critical. More on that as things develop, but for now I wanted to point it out because of its incredible importance.

    I’ve already described the massive bass trap that will be formed above the closet area. I’ve also described the bass trapping generated by the dividing wall between the live room and the control room. I’m also going to copy the control room by placing superchunks in each vertical corner, as well as straddling every horizontal corner where the wall meets the ceiling and where the angles of the vaulted ceiling connect. Just like the control room, I want as much bass trapping as possible. Small spaces simply cannot have too much bass trapping to help control the low end. What good is a big beefy kick drum or floor tom if its sound scatters around the room in an uncontrolled manner screwing up the sound of the rest of the kit?

    I’ll be placing stepped diffusers on the walls to help spread out the upper midrange and higher frequencies. This space isn’t quite big enough to get massive benefits from diffusion, but it is big enough to realize some helpful spreading of the typically more directional frequency ranges. You can learn more about these types of diffusers here: Sound Diffusers 101: Free Designs for DIY Diffuser Panels. As per the other products mentioned in this thread, I have no affiliation with the manufacturers or in this case the inventor as they are DIY. I might upgrade these from the stepped diffusers to the fractal variety for more effective diffusion at the expense of a couple extra tools and construction time.

    The goal here is a live room with excellent control in the low end, as even diffusion of sound as possible given the small size, and not an overly “choked” or dead feel. This room will be used to track drums, percussion, vocals, amps (guitar, bass, keys, etc.) and anything else that happens to roll into the studio where a microphone is preferred over a DI.

    Behold the live room. IT’S ALIVE!!! (i.e. not totally dead, haha)

    That wraps up everything from the basic design perspective. From here on out I’ll be focusing on construction and answering any questions that come up along the way.
  9. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Demolition Day One:

    I would have liked to begin building my studio the day I took possession of the house, but way back in 1946, someone had built a pesky garage near where I wanted a studio. How thoroughly inconsiderate of them! I rented a demolition container from a local company that recycles the materials. This is a two-step process because the mixed demolition goes out at $90 per ton, and concrete/asphalt/masonry goes out at $20 per ton. There are separate containers for each.

    I was simultaneously excited and terrified by the size of this thing.

    With sledgehammer and wrecking bar in hand (along with safety glasses, gloves and steel-toed boots) I took to tearing down the garage. I started by removing the garage door, which was being held in place by a little skinny wheel rolling along a piece of heavy aluminum that was no more than 1/2” wide. It was an absolute head smashing accident just waiting to happen. A slight jerk to the side and the whole thing came crashing down.

    Well THERE’S your problem!

    Next the window needed to come out. On the off chance that it was to be dropped during removal, I used painter’s tape and made a large X across both sides of each pane of glass. If it broke, at least it would stay together. A couple whacks and a little prying with the wrecking bar and the entire frame slid right out.

    There was an internal table/workbench made out of an old door inside the garage. When I broke it loose I noticed something written in Sharpie on the downward facing side. Someone had paid homage to both Madonna and Duran Duran before the door was skinned with OSB and relegated to service as a work bench. I’m guessing this was the door to some young girl’s bedroom in the 80s. Nothing of monetary value here, but a fun time capsule to discover that was good for a laugh in the middle of a backbreaking day.

    The door got autographed by Madonna and BOTH of the Durans. Wow… Such prestige.

    Here’s where things went south on me. With all of the prep work done I could begin the real fun part of the demolition. The roof decking was in rough shape and I wasn’t confident in its ability to support my 215lbs frame, so doing the internet-approved demolition method of starting at the top and working down while leaving as much of the structure intact as possible was out of the question. I instead opted to just bring the building down and start dismantling everything at ground level before schlepping it into the recycling container.

    The garage was parallel to an alley. I wanted the building to fall away from the alley and into my backyard. It would create a big mess for me, but at least it would be contained on my property. I left all of the structural support on the alley side in place, and systematically broke loose, via sledgehammer, the base plates and load-bearing wall studs on the backyard side of the structure. When that didn’t do the trick, I did the same thing on both sides running perpendicular to the alley. Magically, with only one load bearing wall still functioning, the garage showed no signs of coming down.

    I decided that breaking the base plates and wall studs loose wasn’t enough. I needed to completely remove them on the backyard side of the building, and then it would have no choice but to fall. And fall it did… In the wrong direction!

    I tried to play it cool in the video, but really my internal monologue was screaming “WHY DID IT FALL THAT WAY?!”

    In defiance of physics, or at least my perception of it, the garage decided not to fall in the direction with zero structural support, but rather towards the only remaining supporting wall. I’m still baffled as to how that happened. It would be as if you cut a large notch into a tree and it fell away from said notch rather than into it. The alley was now blocked and any of my neighbors that wanted to come in or out of the alley were screwed. My wife and I spent the next hour furiously dismantling the section of the roof that was now sitting in the alley. Fortunately we got everything clear before anyone came home or left so all was well.

    Another couple of hours later and we had the recycling container filled. It took roughly 3/4 of a 35 cubic yard container to handle the small 12’ x 20’ single car garage.

    I was beyond ecstatic to see the container full and ready for the door to close.
  10. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Demolition Day Two:

    The following week the mixed debris recycling container was picked up and the concrete container was dropped off in its place. When the weekend arrived I still had cuts and scrapes from the first round of demo, but knew I had to get rid of all the concrete the thing was sitting on. I rented a jackhammer from Home Depot along with some new safety glasses, heavier duty gloves to handle the concrete once it was turned into rubble, and some construction ear plugs as I didn’t want to use my fancy musician’s ear plugs for this type of task.

    The start of the day when things still looked peaceful.

    Near the end of the prior demolition day, one of my tasks was to determine what I’d gotten myself into in terms of the concrete demolition. The perimeter of the foundation was all 8” CMU blocks. Typically these are stacked in an offset pattern like bricks, rebar is run through the holes, and then they’re backfilled with sand. I took the sledgehammer, then the wrecking bar and quickly pried the block on the northeast corner of the slab loose. A quick kick and I was able to see the exposed edge of the poured slab. What I was researching was whether or not the blocks were containing dirt backfill with a slab floating on top, or if the whole thing was filled with concrete. In modern days it would be absurd to use that much concrete when dirt is so much cheaper, but remember that this was built in 1946 when concrete was super cheap, or so I’m told by the construction engineers in my office. This was going to have a major impact on the cost of the job, as well as my ability to do it without hiring a contractor. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered not only that it was dirt backfilled, but also that the slab was a mere 2-3” thick and appeared to have no reinforcing bars or mesh installed. Things were looking up!

    This? This is doable.

    Fast forward to concrete demo day. I was a little nervous about operating the jackhammer, having never done it before. There’s a bit of a learning curve with that particular tool. I was also surprised, although in retrospect I shouldn’t have been, at how taxing it is to your hands and wrist to operate one. By the end of the process my fingers were stiff and everything ached from my fingertips to halfway down forearms. It was really quite a miserable experience.

    My research suggested that the most efficient way of jackhammering concrete was to start on a corner and work out from there while utilizing any angular breaks in the surface of the concrete. Once you had one “course” busted up you go back through and clear it out so that the subsequent course has room to move out from the larger, still intact piece. Made sense to me, and I didn’t have the experience to argue. I took to breaking loose the entire top row of blocks. This was a breeze. It took ten minutes to remove the entire top row. To say that my spirits were high would be an understatement. I proceeded on as described from the corners of the slab. It was considerably more difficult than the blocks, but it wasn’t bad. I was making great progress, but I knew that my initial plan of having it done in one day was simply not possible. The jackhammer wore me out rapidly. I had planned on hammering until 5:00pm when the noise to the surrounding neighbors would be rude considering the evening was beginning. By 2:30pm I was cooked. The sun was blazing for Seattle, I was tired, everything ached, and my wife was basically pleading with me to stop for the day. As per usual, she’s quite a bit smarter than me and I finally acquiesced to her. I should have stopped about an hour before because my last 5-10 courses saw me get both greedy and lazy. I was too tired to take the time to properly clear a finished course and just kept hammering. What happens when there isn’t room for the concrete to move is that the pieces that break loose get progressively smaller and smaller. The end of the day was spent picking up handfuls of these continuously reducing in size pieces that were a pain in the butt. They weren’t as heavy, but when you have to make three trips to cover the space of one done correctly (i.e. clear the area from the previous course before starting a new one) it makes the cleanup take a whole heck of a lot longer.

    When your wife is telling you that there’s no point in killing yourself to get something done that can be finished tomorrow… Listen to her.

    We cleaned up everything for the night and proceeded to pass out a little earlier than normal. The next day I was determined to not have the process take the entire afternoon. I got to hammering and in no time had the slab finished off. A few loads and the whole thing was in the concrete container. It was certainly happy times.

    Getting close to finished now!

    Remember that block wall I mentioned previously? I was excited to go at this thing. My plan? Take my mattock, which is a tool that has a pick axe on one side and a… ahem… hoe on the other, and using that I would dig a small trench on the inside face of the wall. That would free up enough room for me to give it a good whack or two with the sledge. That should loosen up the sand and the joints enough to be able to remove the rebar tying everything together. Once that was gone a few more obligatory thumps with Mr. Sledge and the whole thing should come crashing down in a very satisfying display. This amount of preamble should be your cue to start giggling. I took one smack with the sledge and all it did was make me hurt. The wall smiled back and I swear I heard it snickering. I gave it another whack, then a smack, then one last crack and said “Oh screw this!” My wife walks over and (remember the part where I said she’s smarter than me?) brushes away the dirt on top of the blocks. She asks me what the holes were supposed to be filled with. I told her that it was commonly sand. She does some more clearing to reveal that these had no less than two #4 bars in each hole of the blocks (three holes per block) and all of them were filled with concrete. Full stop. This level of demo now exceeds the capability of my sledgehammer, wrecking bar and jackhammer. I was also running out of time as the week was about to start anew and I had to go back to my pesky day job. I had won the battle, but lost the war. I decided that rather than killing myself to bring the walls down I would instead hire someone to do the final demolition and haul away the approximately 13.3 cubic yards of dirt encased within.
  11. CatSquare


    Mar 7, 2014
    Whoa! Now this is a build thread. Interesting stuff!
    PauFerro and P-oddz like this.
  12. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Thanks! I'm working on getting a demo contractor out to do the next part of the work. In the meantime I'm getting the permits rolling for bringing in the new structure, building the slab, doing the electrical, etc.

    I'll keep things up to date as it all develops. My guess is that I won't have the doors open for business until late winter or early spring 2016.
    daltontomlinson and spaz21387 like this.
  13. Carl Hillman

    Carl Hillman Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2010
    You, my friend, are living the dream.

  14. Joshua Pickenpaugh

    Joshua Pickenpaugh

    Apr 16, 2001
    Wow. Subscribed!
  15. pnchad


    Nov 3, 2005
    Nice - this is a challenge, squeezing everything in. But you're doing it right. Can't plan too much.

  16. Photobassist


    Dec 18, 2010
    Excellent thread!!! I'll definitely be watching this one!
  17. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Thanks everyone. I'm excited to keep updating things. Obviously I did a major write up before posting, but things will be in real time from here on out.

    Project update: Demo contractor is booked for tomorrow to give me an estimate and I have calls into a couple others.
  18. peterpalmieri

    peterpalmieri Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Babylon, NY
    Great detailed posts and looks like a lot of fun. Even more fun as I watch from a comfy chair.

    Best of luck!
  19. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    In your functioning music space no less!
    peterpalmieri likes this.
  20. whitelines

    whitelines Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2014
    Salt Lake City
    This is awesome.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jun 23, 2021

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