I was going to have a new office, so I needed a new desk. On the way home from work I swung into a local thrift store and there, smack dab in the middle was a heavy, solid wood desk with great proportions and classic style. I snatched it up for $20 and D brought it home for me.
It was cold outside and I really wanted to make this beauty shine RIGHT NOW. So I started sanding in the house. I do not recommend this. The finish was very, very flaky and it came off more easy than not. A few hours a day over a few days and it was sanded down. I picked a not-too-gold and a not-too-red stain and gave it two applications. I followed with two coats of matte varnish, sanding with steel wool in between to keep it smooth.
New drywall makes everything brand new. However, I have two pieces of advice for those hiring out drywall work. #1. Be crystal clear about your expectations for clean up. The drywaller had asked me if they should do anything special to “protect” the floors. I said no, that they floors were cheap and were going to go. When they loaded up and split, they left the biggest damn mess you ever saw. They did not vaccuum. They did not sweep. Nothing. They left all that cleaning to a 8-month pregnant woman. I NEVER said, “Oh, shit no! Don’t clean up the floor!” I’m actually still mad. They were not invited back to do the basement kitchen, nor will they be invited back to do any other work. Ok, I’m done kvetching.
Where was I? Ah, yes. #2. Make double sure that you put all your outlet and switch boxes at the correct depth. If you don’t, a few unsightly and annoying results – idiot contractors won’t say anything, but they will dremel all around them so the drywall fits… and then just try to put on a switch or outlet cover. Impossible.
And #3. I know I said two, but I thought of another one. Ask to see their work in a house somewhere. If you can clearly see their seams, you might as well do it yourself. Find another contractor. Do not look too closely in my basement, please. I have strategically placed art and furniture…
Anyway, here are some dreamy pictures of new drywall.
Before the drywall went up in the family room, Don took down the bulky and inefficient fluorescent T-12 fixtures and put up recessed can fixtures. This dramatically improved the visual height of the 7-ft ceilings.
Splitting the closet actually happened after we took both rooms mostly down to studs. We did this for a few reasons. First, we suspected that parts of the basement’s concrete walls weren’t insulated. Second, we wanted to inspect a crack in the basement wall we knew was there, make sure it was sealed up right, and look for anything else that might be amiss before we incorporate the basement as part of our regular living quarters. Taking down all the [poorly installed] drywall turned out to be a great move, as we were able to fully insulate the walls, inspect wiring, repair cracks, go foam-crazy on every opening and get the place sealed up tight.
Behind the new laundry room was a [non-conforming, but huge] spare bedroom. The hidden, mirrored disco door was it’s entrance. And, no shocker, most of the insulation was missing from the north and west walls. The insulation you see on the west wall (to your left) we installed. We also replaced the old, stuck, metal window with a new fancy-action window. We didn’t go full egress at this point because that seemed like too much to handle at the time. We had Baby #1 on the way, did I mention that?
Don adjusted the closet walls, so that they were properly tied in and sturdy and to accommodate the new closet doorways.
The office had a huge closet, but the bedroom had none. It was deep and long and awkward. It needed to stay closet space because most of the ceiling was low and contained a run of HVAC ductwork. And we have lots of crap to store. So we split it in two to give both the office and bedroom each a decent closet.
This is the office/bedroom in the southwest corner of the downstairs that formerly served as the Great Rollie-Poly Portal and boat stuff/misc. crap storage area. The room was dirty and the tens of thousands of rollie-polys and a slight musty scent told us that we had a moisture problem on our hands, we just had to figure out where it was and what was causing it.
We emptied the room and pulled up the carpet and carpet pad and yanked down the paneling. Sometimes we yanked down paneling, removed the, um, outer wall, and then yanked down a second layer of paneling to reveal the original wall. See photo at left of paneling-under-wall action. Please do note the fancy nail work. This sort of craftsmanship was uncovered all over the basement (use screws and use the right screws, people). And in the final, original wall? NO INSULATION. So we added R-13 batts. If you are adding insulation to concrete basement walls, go ahead and add in insulation foam board and batts or cellulose. Rip that gypsum board down or blow the insulation in. Do it right. in March 2010, when we tore up this room, we were going after what was necessary – finding the source of the water issue. We were only thinking about protecting the house structure from wetness, dirt, termites. We were not yet smart enough to realize we were going to be tackling the overall energy efficiency of our house. Now, in January 2015, we can tell you that the time to tackle energy efficiency is any time you take anything apart. Insulate it, seal it, protect it from the elements. Do it. Because once you seal up that wall with pretty, new gyp board, it’s a real kick in the crotch to have to take it down again to get in there to insulate and seal. And if you are concerned at all about the cost of heating and cooling your house, you will want to get in there to insulate and seal. More about that in later posts.
The wettest part of the room was the southwest corner. After we tore out the paneling and carpet, we left everything open for a few months to watch and try to detect the cause of the water infiltration and during those months it rained. And it rained. And sometimes it poured. And the concrete floor got wet from the corner and out along the south wall. Don cut into the corner of the wall and removed a hunk of gyp board, sheet foam (meh) and insullation so we could get a better idea of where the water was coming from. You can see in the photo above where the darker layers of painted floor are showing – that is where it was perpetually wet, as the carpet and pad held the moisture in. Yuck, yuck, yuck.
The problem? Well, there were a couple. First, we looked at the concrete patio just outside of the wall. It was still well placed and sloped away from the foundation. Next we looked at the siding… Ah-HA! There was no flashing under the siding and water could splash up under the siding and wet the concrete foundation, the wood sill of the wall, the insulation, and the drywall. Additionally, the slope on the west side of the house had slumped southward, covering the southwest corner of the house, siding and all with dirt.
Solution? We bought some flashing and had Don’s father (creative genius and keeper of all types of tools) bend it to an appropriate angle on his sheet metal bending brake. Have I mentioned before how all sorts of projects are able to be done with less stress and headache when you have a person with tools and know-how in your corner? You will hear this fact repeated ad nauseum in this blog. The flashing was attached under the siding. Then we waited. It rained and stormed and poured and the wind blew and the floor dried out and stayed dry. Voila! Problem solved!
[Picture of flashing should go here, but I can’t find one.]
The laundry facilities were originally installed in a deep closet underneath the stairs. While that seemed a good place for the actual laundry machines, our problems lay in where to put all the laundry, dirty and clean. Not pictured here is the table on which large piles of clean laundry took extended vacations, lounging in heaps, getting dirty and tickled by spiders. I was(am) not a fan of piles of clean laundry, so when Don offered up the pseudo-solution of hiding it all in a room of its own, I took the chance to make the whole laundry situation better.
The long room was divided to make a place for the laundry room. The front wall, being framed in the picture below, was an extension of the wall that existed to the left in the picture.
It looks as if we (Don) built the wall on top of the existing flooring. Nope. Don cut slots in the flooring down to the concrete and anchored the walls to the floor properly. I was in favor of renting a dumpster and gutting the place down to the studs completely and immediately, but that gave Don heart palpitations, so I conceded to his odd and sometimes complex-seeming methods if only to keep him working.
The wall in the foreground was framed up in line with an existing wall to the left to extend that wall across the room. The back wall, furthest away in the next picture, was framed in place of the former Disco wall. The former Disco wall was not tied into the ceiling, and as we continued to find that many things in the basement were apparently cobbled together in questionable fashion, Don framed up a new wall in its place. Doing it right!
There is an optical illusion happening in this photo I now see. If you moved the red crate, you would see the wall is straight across, not bumped out towards you. If you could move the boxed-in HVAC that looks like ceiling in the upper left corner of the picture, that would help, too. Pictures in future posts will clear that up for you. Promise.
We installed the dryer vent and set up the machines. Just enough room on the left for dirty laundry. More about the supercharged blower we used to overcome the long vent run will be in another post.
Don realized that the upstairs linen closet, which sits opposite the main bathroom up there, was positioned over the corner of the new laundry room, just left where the laundry machines sit. So he used all the saws he had access to, including a chainsaw, to cut a hole in the closet floor for a laundry chute. Now we just kick laundry out of the bathroom, across the hall and down the hole. Nice!
The rest of the main area of the downstairs looked like this:
The cabinets along the east wall were solid and in really good condition. They were just arranged oddly, to make a desk of sorts. Under the desk part is where we were stashing some laundry baskets. Except for when we weren’t, like, at least most of the time, as pictured above. The cabinet along the south wall (to the right) was total crap. It was made of balsa wood, or something very similar to, and the drawers were thin molded plastic. It had also had some water damage from the pipes inside, so to the end of the driveway it went. Someone picked it up to reclaim the sink. Nothing lasts at the end of our driveway for long. Folks on our road are quick to pick up reclaimable stuff, which I totally appreciate.
Here you can see where the dog kennels sat near the door that opens to the back patio and yards. This door had a dog door permanently installed in it and the gate installed to the left of the brown door meant that we could close off a space for the dogs to get in from the elements and keep them from having the run of the house when we weren’t home. Behind the brown door is a hallway with a full bath on the left, the mechanical room to the right, and an office/bedroom straight ahead.
And here are the steep and narrow stairs to the basement. See the stuff at the bottom, on the bottom step, and on the fourth step from the top? We just threw our dirty laundry down the stairs. It got it out of our way upstairs and halfway to the laundry, that’s why.
See the little wall jutting out on the right? Even after removing it, we were never clear why it was there. It wasn’t structural; however it may have been used to build suspense when approaching the Disco or in finding out who was coming down to Disco… I dunno. I do know that it was awkward, so we took it down.
The brown door to the left goes out to the basement garage. For all those folks out there to whom this is not a common house feature, yes, I said “basement garage.” Where we live, many of the houses are built so that they have walkout basement levels and many of those houses have a second garage under the regular garage. You just enter from the back, walkout side of the house. Jealous yet? What if I told you that this one also has a garage door opener on it? How about now? I knew it!
Under the influence of some sort of insanity, the basement had been previously converted to a disco, complete with 12″ x 12″ mirrored tiles on one full wall and mirrored tile on the top half and shag carpet on the bottom half of another (very long) wall. This is what the short wall looked like. You may not notice there is a pocket door on the right, also mirrored so that the doorway is “hidden” when the door is closed. Sneaky!
Two weeks after we were married, I waited for Don to go to work… he wasn’t out of the driveway before I was downstairs popping these suckers off the walls. This was one of the very few pictures I took. I was too excited to demo to take more. And I should have. I got the long wall done first, then Don came home and caught me in the act. Without a really thought-out plan for fixing the walls (much less a full basement overhaul), he helped me start deconstructing things. Because he loves me, that’s why! In the picture on the right you can see the mirrored pocket door in its full glory. Looking back (this was 2009), I’m sort of impressed with that door…
See the circles on the blue wall in the photo above? Those are construction adhesive scars from where the mirrors once lived. These photos are taken from the northeast corner of the basement looking west. The photo below is taken in front of the wall pictured above, looking east. This is what became our family room in 2014.
You can also see, to the right in the photo above, where a smallish wall was removed. That was the first of many, many walls to go!
Once upon a time, a handsome man lived in a house in the countryside. He was quite happy to have a house that had not one, but TWO garages, a shed, a covered porch in the back, a basement, and two extra bedrooms in which to store all of his junks. The man thought the house was just fine for him, but that a woman might be a nice addition to his ranchette, so he went about finding one on the interwebs, which he did. Six months later, both the man and the woman came down with a bad case of the crazies and got married in the backyard.
The woman moved into the house and thought, “Oh, what fun this will be to fix up!” The man thought, “Fix up? What?”