So, many moons ago we tore down the old early 1970s paneling, insulation, and drop ceiling in our basement in order to have cracks in our foundation repaired and get the space waterproofed. Then we had what we thought was a fairly do-able goal of laying down some floating vinyl flooring, slapping some paint on the walls, putting up some track lighting and creating a useable unfinished basement hang-out space. I blogged about these plans way back in fall of 2013. Memories!
But then, after successfully having the cracks fixed and the brick repaired, we attempted to put our plans into motion and, after one seriously frustrating Thanksgiving weekend that depressed me so much I didn’t even document it, we realized that we were in way past our skill level. I won’t go into the boring details, but we came to the conclusion that, whatever we decided to do with this space, it was going to have to be hired out to professionals.
We got some quotes to have handyman folks do what we were originally planning. The quotes were fairly reasonable, but it was still a chunk of money and, since our long-term goal has always been to have the basement properly finished at some point anyway, we came to the decision that it would be best to wait and save up and just do what we really wanted in one big go. Two years later, we’ve finally squirreled away enough cash, have hired a contractor, and are officially having our full basement renovation started this week.
Here now begins my documentation of our biggest house project yet.
As a reminder, this is what the basement originally looked like shortly after we bought our house:
Things We’ve Already Done Down Here Since Moving In:
- Replaced the last 1940s window with new glass block
- Replaced the original exterior walk-out door (new one is pictured)
- Replaced the electrical panel and brought all wiring up to code
- Replaced the 40 year old furnace with high efficiency model
- Removed moldy insulation and faux-wood paneling from 1972
- Removed drop ceiling and florescent lighting
- Repaired brick damaged from decades of seepage
- Patched cracks in foundation
- Added waterproofing membrane along exterior of foundation
What this has left us with is an empty and ugly but waterproof and up-to-code box of a basement:
This is great as we’re no longer stressed out every time it rains, but it’s also just this giant space that, aside from storage and laundry, we do nothing with. The goal of this renovation project is make that space a lot more useable and enjoyable for us.
With this renovation, we’ll be dividing our little empty box into three main spaces: the rec room, the bathroom, and the utility area.
The Rec Room
The rec room is where we’re putting the most attention (and $) in this project. In addition to having a good space for parties (our initial main goal), we’re really hoping to make this space work as a true family room for us. We spend the bulk of our time in our living room/dining room right now. That’s where we do all our tv/movie watching, entertaining, playing with the dog, and where we both do most of our work as well. However, despite the fact that this room is gorgeous during the day (I never get tired of the sunlight streaming in through our bay window), it’s also kind of a frustrating space. It’s small, for one thing, but it’s also a miserably cold place to spend so much time during the winter. What ends up happening is that we run electric space heaters in there constantly just to try and make it more tolerable (also: blankets!), or one or the both of us ends up holing up in the much warmer bedroom. As our only all-purpose year-round gathering space, the living room/dining room kinda sucks.
So, with that in mind, we decided to go for broke (within budgetary reason) and make the rec room more than just a party space but also a genuine family room where we can be cozy and hang out together comfortably all year round.
Our plans for our new rec room include:
- Insulated walls (the only ones in our house!)
- Fully finished walls and ceiling with drywall, recessed lighting, and trim
- New faux-wood vinyl resilient floating floors
- An awesome tv/movie watching space (we’re moving our beloved sectional sofa down there and will be upgrading to a substantially bigger tv and wiring in properly for our sound system)
- A gas fireplace (!!!)
- A space for a table and chairs to eat at/work at/sit around and shoot the shit at
- A wet bar for serving drinks/food and to basically act as the hub of all our parties
- Space to move around (This room will essentially be the same size as our current dining room, living room, master bedroom, and front hall combined! Party time!)
One of my main long term goals for finishing the basement was to give us a second bathroom in this house. Since there’s only two of us, having just one bathroom in the house hasn’t really been that big a deal. It is a small bathroom, though, and when we do throw parties, it’s been a bit of an annoyance to only have the one. So a half-bath in the basement was high on my list of plans. In talking to the various contractors, though, it turns out that the price difference to have them do a half bath versus having them do a 3/4 or full bath was really not much in the grand scheme of things. Since I think adding the second bath is the main part of this project we’re likely to see any return on, I jumped for the idea of a 3/4 or full bath.
Aside from the convenience factor, I’m really just thrilled to actually get to plan a bathroom from scratch. While I’m fond of our small, pink and maroon 1947 bathroom, I’m really hoping to use this opportunity to design a bath that makes up for some of the frustrating limitations of the existing bathroom (like the lack of storage, lack of counter space for putting on make-up, etc.)
I’m going to go into more detail about this in a later post, but for now our plans for the new bathroom include:
- Fully finished (insulated) walls and ceiling with recessed lighting and trim
- New faux wood vinyl resilient floating floors
- An exhaust fan! (first bathroom in our house to have one!!!!)
- Vanity, toilet, shower (nothing crazy fancy but some nice middle-of-the-road options)
- Room for good counter space
- Spacious walk-in shower
- A recessed light in the shower (this is so stupidly important to me–no more shaving my legs in dim lighting)
- A decent linen closet
The Utility Area
The last space in the project is what we’re calling “the utility area” but is really going to perform a number of functions. First of all, as our super-creative name for it implies, this space will contain all of our utility items like the furnace, the water heater, the electrical box, etc. Not glamorous, but certainly necessary. This space also contains our laundry area and utility sink. It also contains our work bench and tool area. It also contains our treadmill and treadmill-viewing TV. It’s also the space where we store a ton of stuff, from paint cans to all our extra paper towels and toilet paper. Last but not least, this space has also been serving for the last two winters as our mud room. Since our main door opens directly into our tiny kitchen, this leaves us no space for boots our coats or wet things in the winter. As a solution, we’ve been coming into the house through the basement walk-in where we’ve set up coat and shoe racks and a little bench to sit on. This has actually been working out surprisingly well, so we definitely want to keep this function of the space and, hopefully, make it work even better. Clearly, though, this space is going to be the true workhorse area of our house.
Despite so many important functions, though, we’ve decided (for a number of reasons) not to fully finish this space. We are, however, going to be doing some reconfiguring and sprucing up to make the space a lot nicer and even more functional for our needs. The main things that are going to happen to this space include:
- New flooring
- New lighting
- Cleaned up and freshly painted walls (down the road we may put up beadboard paneling to make it feel more finished)
- Reconfiguring the laundry set-up so that the washer and dryer are now side by side (the current set-up on opposite walls is not the end of the world, but it’s annoying and a terrible use of space)
- Demolishing the gross (and gigantic) leaky/moldy/stained/crumbly old concrete utility sink and replacing it with an unexciting but clean and functional (and more proportionally-sized) laundry sink
- Building in a proper coat closet for our “mud room” area
- Replacing the sagging and water-damaged wood storage shelves with a combination of enclosed closet storage and steel open shelving
So there we go: an overview of what we’re hoping to accomplish with this project. Over the next six weeks, I hope to document the process as well as to talk through some of our decision-making and design process. Let’s hope it goes better than the last time we set out to improve the basement!