Basement Reno: Week 6

Day 27: Monday-Contractor makes mistake scheduling insulation inspection for a second time. No work.

Day 28: Insulation inspection finally happens. Contractor plays plumber for the day and moves a pipe into the ceiling in preparation for drywall. Also installs blocking to support floating vanity in bathroom. Doesn’t turn water back on to check for leaks. I notice one leak in the newly replaced pipe.

Day 29: Drywall is installed. Installers can not finish because of another leak in the newly replaced pipe.

Day 30: Contractor comes in the afternoon to fix his “handywork” on the pipes. He replaces all the leaky joints with compression (no solder) fittings. Everyone collectively cross your fingers that they hold. Another guy comes from the drywall company. He and his kid haul off the scrap from the installers. He also installs corner bead and Hardibacker cement board for the shower (some in mosaic pieces). No one comes to finish installing drywall ceiling.

Day 31: Drywall screw inspection happens despite the drywall not fully installed. Inspector takes no note of the laundry room ceiling being 3/4 exposed and happily signs off the inspection. (Permits are a total joke and I will never permit a project again).

Day 32: Saturday- Drywall finishers show up at 7 am. Tape and mud drywall. It looks terrible and I’m hoping things get better after this first coat. I also notice that finishers tape the cement board in the shower with paper tape and joint compound. And drywall ceiling in laundry is still not up.

Drywall in bedroom/office 2:


View from bottom of stairs looking towards living room:


Living room and wide doorway to office:


Looking back at the living room from the office:

doorwk6You can really see where the soffit goes up a little to not block the doorway in this pic.

And last but not least…the wonderfully crappy cement board installation:

cementboardNote how the cement board doesn’t even continue to the shower pan (bottom right corner). Nor does it cover the lip of the shower pan like it should. Contractor promises to fix this. I feel like I’ve heard that before…

So onto week 7 we move. I think we’re in for a lot of drywall finishing which means lots-o-dust, but one step closer to a finished space!

Basement Reno: Week 5

All the inspections for the different systems (electrical, plumbing, and HVAC) as well as framing and fireproofing inspections had to be done this past week and it was thrilling.

Day 22: We have a meeting with our contractor about the issues we have with the project (mainly the HVAC trunk soffit I mentioned in my last post). He is very understanding and promises to fix those problems. Plumber installs cast iron shower pan. Pretty sure both he and contractor were cursing the day of my birth. Plumbing passes rough inspection. Electrical passes rough inspection.

Day 23: Mechanical inspection. Everything passes except the inspector wants us to vent our hot water heater to the exterior since it is next to a “bedroom”. Problem is 1. I don’t want to pay $2000 to replace a perfectly good water heater with a new high efficiency direct vent model. and 2. We are not planning on using that as a bedroom…ever. We didn’t even put in a closet. Our contractor hopes that they can change the plans to say that it will be an office and all will be well in the world.

Day 24: Framing inspection. Inspector wants everything spray foamed before he will approve. Inspection is rescheduled for the next day. Contractor spray foams all penetrations in framing. Builds a huge square soffit. This guy loves huge square soffits.

Day 25: Framing passes inspection. Approach contractor about making huge square soffit into an angled soffit. He’s not happy. I wish these guys would just ask “Is this how you want it?” before building a bunch of stuff and then being pissed when we tell them we don’t like a soffit with 5’8″ head clearance. End rant. He changed it to an angled soffit and it looks great and functions great. Happy ending. HVAC guys come back and fix trunk line with low head clearance. Big lesson of the reno: Don’t be afraid to ask. The worse thing they can say is no. R-19 fiberglass bat insulation is installed.

Day 26: Contractors finish installing insulation. The insulation inspection gets screwed up and is delayed till the next business day (Monday). Contractors clean up mess and remove any remaining plaster and lathe. Plumber comes to finish shower drain. Drywall is delivered and it is quite the process. They come in a huge boom truck with a crane and magically get it into the house without destroying any trees or garages in the process.

Photographic proof of progress follows:

The great room from the hallway:


The fixed and 3″ higher (in the door way) HVAC trunk line:


The bathroom from the “office” looking into what used to be “bedroom” but will now be “office 2″.


The new enameled cast iron shower pan. Oooooh shiny!


Looking back towards the bath from office 2:

bedbath2wk5You can see my favorite new angled soffit in the upper right.

Hopefully insulation will pass inspection tomorrow and drywall will start on Tuesday! It’s about to look a whole lot different down there.

Basement Reno: Week 4

Closing in on a month of renovation and lots has happened. All the rough systems are in, which is a lot, being that we completely replumbed, rewired, and reducted the basement space.

Day 16: Heating ducts are installed.

Day 17: Dryer is vented to the exterior. Bathroom vent fan is installed. Plumber refuses to work because of huge mess in basement.

Day 18: More HVAC ducting and venting. Contractor comes to clean up huge mess created by framers and other trades. Contractor grinds out hole for new heating duct in upstairs bath, and removes wall behind sink to allow plumbers access to upstairs bath sink drain. Plumber reruns gas line to furnace, hot water heater, and upstairs stove.

Day 19: Plumber runs new PEX piping to basement bathroom. Framers frame out soffits and my dreams of a basement with decent ceiling height die a painful death. After plumber leaves, we notice the wonderful smell of natural gas.

Day 20: Electrician finishes wiring new circuits and removes sketchy old electrical. Plumber finds and “fixes” leak in the gas pipe they ran on Day 18. Plumber finishes plumbing for the downstairs bathroom and installs vents for the drains. Replaces old galvanized piping with PEX and new frost proof outdoor faucets. Plumber leaves around 1 p.m. and the wonderful smell of gas is back again.

Day 21: Electrician returns to wire some floor outlets upstairs than will run off the basement circuits and runs power to the furnace. Plumber returns and hopefully fixes the gas leak for sure this time. Blames it on paint caught in the threads of the pipe. Plumber also replaces old lead drains for the upstairs bath with PVC.

Progress pics for you viewing pleasure:

utilityroomFurnace and hot water heater in new utility room. Hopefully the water heater will move back about a foot to give us a bit more useable space. This room will be behind two bypass closet doors.

NewdrainWe had an old cast iron stack (the vertical part) and multiple lead drains. Everything was replaced with PVC to meet modern code. It also allows the drains to get up much closer to the ceiling.

Rough-ins for the new shower

Rough-ins for the new shower

hallwayLooking into the basement from the stairs. The soffit to the right ended up being about 6 inches wider than we wanted but we can live with it.

And now the soffit we can not live with…

doorsoffitWe have a wide door way (72″) separating two large rooms. The heating trunk line dips 3″ below the doorway where one would walk through the doors (look in the doorway above the window). Once drywall goes up the ceiling height is down to 6’1″ at that soffit. Not great when a 6’1″ person lives here. We are going to try and talk with our contractor to see if anything can be done to remove the obstruction at least in the doorway. Fingers crossed.

ventfoamI also learned the HVAC guys are not much for masonry. They stuffed the exterior bricks back in the hole and spray foamed them to “secure”. The bricks are loose and spray foam doesn’t hold up great when exposed to UV light.

And if spray foam mortar isn’t your thing…

siliconeductSilicone sealant also works. I have asked for this to be fixed with real honest to goodness mortar.

And lastly our upstairs bathroom became a casualty of the reno.

upstairs bathThe back wall had to be cut out for the plumbers to access the drains, and a new hole had to be cut for a new heat duct. We are planning on replacing the pedestal sink with a vanity from Ikea so there won’t be too much patchwork going on in here.

That’s it for week 4. Sounds like not much will happen this coming week besides inspections (rough electrical, plumbing, HVAC and framing and insulation). But if all the stars align drywall will be going up on Friday. Fingers crossed as always.


Basement Renovation: Weeks 1-3

Our long awaited basement renovation has finally started. Things have been a little spotty the past couple of weeks but there is a lot of progress. I thought I would blog in a journal type format (recovering scientist here).

We had the asbestos ducts removed by a remediation company at the beginning of May. It took about a day and a half. The renovation got delayed a few weeks and started in the middle of June.

Day 1: Demolition. All the wood paneling was removed. Demolished old fireplace. The fireplace turned out to be an original brick fireplace under all that plaster. We were sad to see it go once we found out it was an original, but it will open up the room and it would have been a real bugger to remove all that plaster from the bricks.

basement fireplace

Day 2: More demo. Plaster and lathe ceilings and walls are removed. Concrete floor is jack hammered to expose under ground plumbing.

Day 3: More demo. Wall between living room and hallway is removed. Dumpster is full.

Day 4: Cut foundation for egress window. Dig outside window well.

Day 5: Egress window gets installed. Contractor installed wrong window and it will need to be changed out. (No window well installed yet, just a 4 ft. deep hole next to the foundation for the past 3 weeks).

Day 6-7: No Work.

Day 8: Plumber lays out underground plumbing and removes old basement bathroom plumbing. Severe storm hits dropping 2.5 inches of rain in 40 minutes. Unfinished egress window well fills with water and starts to enter house. Luckily concrete and dirt from egress removal prevent water from getting deeper into the basement.

Day 9: No work.

Day 10: Framers begin to frame out exterior walls. Plumber installs new PVC underground plumbing for the new bathroom and floor drain for utility room. Also replaces part of old cast iron stack with PVC.

Day 11: Underground plumbing is inspected and approved.

Day 12: New concrete floor poured in bathroom and utility room. Plumber works on getting existing copper pipes for upstairs bathroom into the joist space. One and only upstairs shower stops working.

Day 13: Interior walls are framed. Plumber fixes upstairs shower faucet. Apparently when turning water off and on in houses with old galvanized pipe sometimes some debris from the pipe gets kicked up and wreaks havoc on shower cartridges.

Day 14: No work.

Day 15: HVAC guys start running trunk lines for furnace. Electrician puts up boxes and can lights. Electrician also comes back and works all day Saturday wiring the new circuits.


Framing for the new bathroom (right) and utility room (left).

Egress window and bedroom

Egress window and bedroom


Bathroom framing

This newspaper was stuffed in the ceiling.

This newspaper was stuffed in the ceiling.

Our contractor hopes that all the rough-ins will be completed by the end of next week and ready for inspections. We’re crossing our fingers around here.

June Garden 2015

I haven’t posted in a while. I was meaning to post regularly about my basement renovation that was set to begin in February. That reno never started and we parted ways with the contractor we were using. We found a new contractor and demo started this week so hopefully I will have some basement posts soon.

Meanwhile, the garden has been attempting to grow through abnormally cold temps and flooding rain storms.

We changed the layout of the garden this year. We built one large bed (12′ x 3′) on the north side of the garden to replace the three small beds. Pretty much everything, from tomatoes to herbs, love this part of the garden, so I figured one large bed would best utilize the garden space.

On the south side of the garden we also went down to one larger (3′ x 4′) bed, with a potting bench next to the compost bin. We built the potting bench out of scrap cedar (left over from our fence) and the remnants of the old smaller raised beds.

The new beds are also built out of 5.5″ fence pickets like we did in the past.

In the large bed I planted three tomato varieties (Sun Sugar yellow, Black Cherry, and Tami G), one jalapeno plant, two zucchini plants (from seed), cilantro (from seed), rosemary and basil. I added some marigolds and sweet alyssum for pest protection and ground cover.

raised garden bed

On the east edge of the bed I planted Kentucky Wonder green beans from seed. I used a branch that fell from our huge maple as a trellis.


We have perennial flowers along the garden fence. The delphinium is really putting on a show this year.


In the smaller beds I planted kale from seed and the seedlings appeared but cold temps and flooding rains ruined them. I just sowed another 2 rows so I’ll cross my fingers I have some kale this summer.


The potting bench has been really nice to have and I love that we built it all from scrap.

The temperatures are finally getting really hot, so the tomatoes, zucchini, and beans are taking off. We should have quite the harvest this year!