Labor Day Progress

In honor of the three-day labor day weekend, we labored. Actually, mostly my husband and son labored, and I “assisted.” Like tearing off the paper from the sheetrock while they carried almost 30 sheets downstairs kind of assisting.
But we are finally seeing the progress as the basement went from looking like this:

Basement after looking like this:

The basement is now wired, lights are in, insulation is in, and most of the sheetrock is up. Some of you may notice the green sheetrock, which is designed to be mold/mildew resistant. We decided to put that in around the bottom of the room, just to be safe. By the time we put the first sheet on the bottom, however, we were so tired that we put regular up by mistake – hence the lonely sheet of white on the bottom left. Oh well. That better be a dry spot.

Pretty soon, we’ll get to the fun stuff like painting, tiling the fireplace, and putting in the floor, and I can graduate from assistant to ring leader. Watch out.


Unexpected Perks

It’s easy to look around at the piles of rubble in our basement and think, maybe we should have just replaced the flooring. Big projects seem to drag on forever, and that’s when you don’t have to pause for major surgery! However, there were several unexpected perks that came from our over-zealous demolition weekend:

  • Finally, A Bathroom Plug-in Before, we had a tiny downstairs bathroom without a single plug-in. Because that bathroom shares half its wall with the basement, having that wall wide-open allowed us easy access to wiring. With a teenage boy who just discovered the hair dryer, the ability to have him two floors away from my bedroom at 6:30 in the morning is very, very important.
  • Let There Be Light Perhaps not surprisingly, the flippers opted to put 2 recessed lights in the entire family room. We now have 7 that are on separate switches, allowing us to leave only the light directed at the stairs on during movies (as opposed to stumbling around in the cave-like dark when someone shuts off the TV). My toes are grateful.
  • Squeak Exterminator Another major perk of tearing down the sheetrock was the ability to fix the main floor squeaks. Since our house was built in the 1960s, there were a few ceiling joists that were cracked. So we jacked it up, and my husband glued and nailed plywood “crutches” on them. Buh-bye squeaks.
  • Full Frontal Access – To the closet, of course. Our closet in the family room had a regular size door on it and a partial wall, which resulted in awkward deep shelves and an empty space behind the door. This, in turn, encouraged the cram-it-in method of storage. Now that we are rebuilding it, it will have two bi-fold doors to allow access to the full storage space. In a small house, storage is king.

There you have it, all the lovely perks that wouldn’t have been possible with a simpler patch job.

The Basement Plan

Now that you’ve seen the shambled mess of our basement, I thought it was time to share the vision for the space!

First, I chose the tile, which is a gorgeous tumbled quartz. The 4×4 squares will go on the hearth. Of course I only ordered a sample – a year ago. Hopefully it’s still available online!

Tile for fireplace, board sample, and colors.Picking paint colors always takes me a long time, but we decided on two: one for the family room and one for the small playroom/office. It’s Winter Lake for the family room, the second blue from the top. The playroom/office will be Tiny Fawn, the first brownish color at the top. Although deciding on the type of flooring took a long time (tile, laminate, tile, laminate, laminate), choosing the laminate for the family room was easy. I fell in love with the Sonoma Cherry immediately. We snatched up some sale tile for the playroom/office. It’s not pictured here because, honestly, it’s boring… and buried under building supplies somewhere in our garage.

Next up was sketching the space. Truth be told, I compulsively produce drawings despite my nonexistent art skills. Imagine my irritation when my ever-practical husband demands dimensions. “Well look!” I tell him, holding my thumb and index finger in the classic measurement pose, “It’s about this much higher than it is wide.” When I wasn’t looking, he smuggled my masterpiece drawing of our fireplace mantle into AutoCad to create precise measurements. Snore.

Here’s what we came up with:

Drawings of the fireplace.I’m really happy with what we have planned. I’m just crossing my fingers that the finished space will somewhat resemble the one I have in my head.

The Proverbial Straw

One weekend last summer, we started demo on our basement. It seemed to be a remarkably quick and easy task. At the end of our last day of cleanup, I was perched on a ladder in the middle of the now barren family room, congratulating myself and my family on our hard labor and looking forward to rebuilding. My husband was across the room, removing the final piece of decorative crown molding at the top of the fireplace so he could take out the remaining studs on that wall. At first, I thought it was a product of tired eyes. Surely the brick fireplace couldn’t be swaying.

Fireplace before demo.

I rubbed my eyes and looked again – at the still swaying fireplace. Apparently, the only thing holding the floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace facade up was this:


DIY Rule #1: It always turns out to be a bigger project than you planned. Always.

Clearly, the existing fireplace was a safety hazard. So instead of being finished with demo, my husband started tearing down the old fireplace, brick by stinkin’ brick. Then he began making a new hearth with cement block. It was like a puzzle, only with really heavy pieces and much bending over.

Well yes, you may be thinking, that is a big job, but why on earth would it take a full year? That fireplace, my friends, was the straw. My husband wound up with two herniated discs in his back, which ultimately required back surgery. After a lengthy, do not lift more than 5 pounds or bend over recovery, his doctor gave him the green light to return to his old nemesis.

Here’s the fireplace now, ready to be tiled:

Fireplace ready to be tiled

Out With the Old

Like any self-respecting DIY television junkie, I reacted to the mildewy smell of the basement carpet by advocating for a complete gutting of our basement. When my husband suggested simply removing the carpet and putting down new flooring, I stuttered. “But what about the black mold that is probably spreading inside the walls slowly,” cough, “destroying our health.”

F-i-n-e, he agreed. We could remove the bottom of the sheetrock. Just to see.

Partial removal of sheetrock in basement.

“But think of the foundation,” I urged him (after several more internet searches). “What if there is a giant crack? What if water is gushing in, right now, as we speak?”

Basement after demo.

My husband has become very good at sighing. And demolition.

The good news is we did not find black mold, and there were only a couple teensie-weensie cracks in an otherwise fantabulous foundation. However, we would have never discovered the real mildew-spawning culprit had we not pulled all the sheetrock and framing down, which gave us a clear view of the waterfall originating from the basement window. You know, the one previously inside the wall.

How To Flood A Basement in 4 Easy Steps

Okay, perhaps flood is too strong a word. But these four simple steps will ensure a soggy, musty basement for posterity!

Step 1: Build Concrete poured in window well.a two-story deck and set the support posts on top of the existing concrete patio. This way, the patio will sink on the side next to the basement window, channeling rainfall into your basement window well.

Step 2: Fill said basement window well with concrete. Yup, concrete. In fact, do it twice to make sure the concrete prevents water from entering the drainage tile and instead funnels it through the window, thus creating a trickling indoor water feature. Throw in a few treasures to reward the poor saps who have to rent a jackhammer to get the concrete out!

Step 3: To ensure that the water is only discovered by the musty carpet smell rather than, oh, by sight, sheetrock over the half oPicture of wall over basement window.f the basement window that is held together with packing tape. This way, the rainwater will flow, uninterrupted down the INSIDE of the wall and around the low spots beneath the carpet.

Step 4: Wall-to-wall carpeting. In the basement.

Disclaimer: In all fairness to the flippers who sold us this house, I’m pretty sure only Steps 3 and 4 were their doing. Still…