The one thing I was actually hoping had been done poorly (unlike some of the plumbing and wiring)? Nope. Exploratory surgery reveals the walls that need to come down are properly framed out 14″ on center, and with a superabundance of nails.
In the front hallway wall, the sheathing on one side is 1/4″-thick LDF or Masonite with a mesh adhered to it, with a thin, rock-hard plaster-like coat on top. It is damn near impossible to cut through this stuff with a utility knife, never mind a drywall knife. And my 14 ounce hammer bounces right off it, barely making a dent. (Why did they stop using this stuff?!)
Time to order a Sawzall.
On the other side of the framing is some foil-backed drywall-like something or other that I can’t yet properly investigate – I can’t start punching holes on the first-floor sides of things until August 1 (a couple folks rent the first floor through July 31 on an hourly basis for holistic healing and massage sessions – not what you’re thinking; all perfectly legal).
The very sad news is: there is no balustrade tucked between the two sides of the wall. Ah well. I’ll have to turn new ones to match the existing spindles that are on the second floor (which, thankfully, aren’t too complex). The stair project just got more time-consuming.
Time to order a lathe.