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!

The Basement: Before

Warning: If you’re looking for pretty home improvement/design photos this is not the post. Please come back in 2 months and I’ll try and help you out with that.

The basement renovations are set to begin any day now and that means: Before photos! Yay! So get ready for a bunch of poorly lit (basement’s fault), and poorly photographed (my fault) pictures of a sad 1920s basement updated at some point in the 1960s.

Here’s the layout plans to help you get a better idea of the tour:

before and after basement plans

First stop on our basement tour is the current basement bedroom. When you come down the stairs the bedroom is immediately on your right. When we moved in a couple years ago, we removed disgusting carpet only to reveal disgusting concrete and linoleum. Our quick fix was to paint the floor with some porch paint and put an area rug down. We also painted the super shiny super dark wood paneling white.

basement bedroom before1

This room will see lots-o-changes. All the paneling will be removed. As will the ceiling which appears to be press board that is slowly decomposing. I will be glad to see it go.

The small window will be enlarged to an egress window, which will let more light in and be great for safety.

On the other side of the room: the closet will be removed and that area will become a large hallway leading to the new bathroom.

basement bedroom before2So now let’s step through the door. (It’s a tight squeeze as the door is blocked from opening by the large asbestos duct). Here we are in the current furnace room. Since the bedroom closet will be gone and this will be a hallway the window will now be exposed and not hidden and in dark closet.

basement furnace room beforeThe old cast iron stack will be at the edge of the new bedroom. The arm of the stack is really low and leaks so that will all be replaced.

On the other side of the furnace room…The current heating set up takes up a ton of space. The layout is made for a gravity furnace with large ducts covered in asbestos wrap and even larger cold air returns.

ducts beforeAn asbestos remediation company will remove the duct work and then the system will be updated with modern smaller ducts and returns. The furnace will be moved, allowing it to be tucked away with the water heater in its own closet. This will help us to gain a lot of space allowing for a bigger bathroom and the aforementioned bedroom hallway area.

Now let’s go back through the bedroom to the hallway.

basementhallbefore1There are currently no lights in the hallway area so it’s a little dark. The 1960s vinyl tiles are missing in a large spot and the old cold air return is taking up a lot of space. We are planning on carpeting the entire basement over the existing tile. So it will be interesting to see what we do to fill in some of these low spots where the tile is missing.

If you turn around to face the stairs, there is a space under the stairs that we plan to add a door and use as a small closet.


Now turn back around and let’s go into the current family room.

basementfamilyroom before1Removing the old ducts and cold air returns will make a big difference in here. Along with carpet, new walls and windows that actually open! I can hardly wait.

On the other side of the room.

basementfamroombefore2The “fireplace” structure will be removed. I say “fireplace” because it is a fireplace shaped thing made of stucco(?) with a capped gas pipe sticking out at the bottom. It will soon be gone replaced with a new smooth wall.

The wall between the current room and hall will be removed making a larger more open room.

basementfamroombefore3Now if we walk through the family room we arrive at the basement bathroom. The previous owner remodeled the bathroom and it looks really nice.

basementbathbeforeIt’s not functional for us and as long as were remodeling we might as well create a nice large bathroom, that will have access from the front bedroom and the family room.

Now let’s go back towards the stairs and end this thing on a somewhat pretty note.

The laundry room.

laundry room ashandorange.wordpress.comThis room will see the smallest amount of work. The huge cold air return will be removed. New drywall ceiling will go up. Dryer will be properly vented. Trim will be installed. Wha bam finished basement!

So that’s the current basement. Hope you enjoyed the tour. I’ll be blogging the renovation in real time so everyone can see our progress.

Basement Bathroom Ideas

Our basement renovation is set to begin in February. That gives me almost 4 months to obsess over all the details and the room I am currently obsessing over the most: the bathroom.

First we needed a layout. We knew we wanted access to the bathroom from the front bedroom but also liked the access from the family room so we decided on a Jack and Jill type bathroom with two entrances. This made the layout a little more tricky but we came up with something we think will work great.

basementbathroom layout blog

The shower will be on the exterior wall with the window in it. Directly across from the shower will be the vanity. I think the vanity mirror being directly across from the window will reflect light nicely. The toilet will be on the same wall as the shower. There will be a full length wall in between the two; giving the toilet its own private space.

For the design of the basement we are thinking simple and modern with rustic touches: white walls and pale floors with dark metals and warm wood. I want the bathroom to blend nicely with that design but also be pretty timeless.

Basement Bathroom

rejuvenation thurman wall sconce / west elm modern towel rack / ikea gray linen curtain / schoolhouse electric cast iron wall hook / ikea godmorgon vanity with odensvik sink / ikea dalskar faucet / serena and lily stool / white subway tile / ikea stabekk mirror / schoolhouse electric restroom sign / lowes leonia silver glazed porcelian floor tile

The tiles we chose set a nice neutral base for the bathroom. The shower wall tile will be classic 3×6 white subway tile. Simple white ceramic subway tile fits with the 1920s house and our budget. For the floor we are going with large 12×24 porcelain tiles in a striated gray pattern from Lowes. They are also a great price and the pale gray should give a little contrast to the white wall tiles while still being light (this is a basement after all). I plan to use pale gray grout for both the floor and the walls.

We already bought the vanity thanks to an Ikea sale. It provides a ton of storage and the high gloss white finish should reflect light and blend with the rest of the bathroom. The Odensvik sink is nice white ceramic and the 48″ vanity gives of the option of one sink or two. Right now we think we will stick with one sink but that is not set in stone.

I like the simple and clean base we set for the bathroom with the tile and vanity but I want to add some wood and dark metal elements to keep the bathroom from looking too sterile. These are also things that we can easily switch out if our style changes.

This wood mirror from Ikea is a good size and the round shape is a nice change with all the squares in the bathroom.

I think we might splurge a little on the lights and get some from Rejuvenation or Schoolhouse Electric. Whatever we choose it will be a dark bronze with a nice light filtering opal shade.

I like using hooks for towels and these cast iron hooks from Schoolhouse Electric would give some nice contrast all the white.

The teak stool could be used in the shower and gives some warmth and character. The wood and white towel rack from West Elm would be a great place to put clothes or extra towels.

I like the idea of using a linen curtain for the shower curtain. The Aina curtains from Ikea come in a nice pale gray linen and might be a great option.

As far as fixtures go: we plan to use this enameled cast iron shower pan from Kohler. We love our cast iron sink in the kitchen, and this shower base is simple and solid. No grout to clean!

For the toilet I am very fond of skirted toilets. So much easier to clean and they look nicer to me. I really like this American Standard model at Lowes.

Clean High Efficiency Elongated 1.28 gpf Toilet Shown In 020

That’s the basic plan for the bathroom. I am so excited to see all these ideas come to life. Only four more months…

August and September Garden

This post is a little late. August and September seemed to fly by and I can’t believe it’s almost Halloween. We’re still having 80 degree days so I think my mind still believes it’s early September. Despite the balmy late fall temps, I know winter is fast approaching and before the garden has gone to sleep I wanted to do a recap of August and September and some plans for next year.

Here’s the sketch I did of the garden at the start of the growing season.

garden sketch ashandorange.wordpress.comBed 1 was a late bloomer but turned out to be pretty great. The sweet peas I planted never did a whole lot, but a bunch of other things came up. We had a random tomato grow (maybe out of seeds from the compost?). It produced large tomatoes and they were delicious. It still has a couple more green fruit on the plant. I plan to leave them out there until the first frost.

large tomato

Some beautiful white and coral snap dragons also popped up.

Bed 2 has been very productive. Both the Indigo Rose and Grape Tami G tomato plants produced tons of tomatoes (we are still picking them daily). The grape tomatoes are delicious: really sweet and tangy. The Indigo Rose is more of a traditional tomato flavor, in my mind, but also delicious and really pretty.

grape tomato

Grape Tomato

Indigo Rose Tomato

Indigo Rose Tomato

The jalapeno plant produced some delicious and very hot peppers.

And last but not least the zucchini plant has given us more than a dozen great squash.

zucchini plant

Bed 3 has been the herb bed. The basil plants grew like weeds. At some point in September I stopped cutting the flowers off and just let them grow like crazy. They are about 2.5 feet tall right now and still growing. The leaves get bitter when the plant flowers so they have been more ornamental than edible this year.

The thyme also grew really well. The lavender and rosemary didn’t grow much, but also didn’t die, so I’m counting it as a win. I’m going to dig up the rosemary and plant it in a pot inside so I can enjoy it all winter.

Bed 4 was a hodge podge of perennials and volunteers. The sweet peas took off in September and had some gorgeous purple blooms. They looked great with the orangey pink and white snap dragons, blue delphinium, and bright orange marigolds and cosmos.

bed 4 ashandorange.wordpress.comBed 5 has given us tons of kale all summer. The parsley did great in this bed as well. The zucchini never grew. I think too much shade for it.

Bed 6 has a delphinium that bloomed in early July. It has some small shoots blooming again right now. I also transplanted a pink dianthus and it has had some pretty pale pink blooms.

Plans for next year:

This past summer was the most success we have had with the garden, and I learned a lot that I will use planning things out for my 2015 garden.

I want to combine beds 1 and 2 into one large bed. Tomatoes and zucchini do great here and need some more room. I plan on doing 3 tomato plants and one zucchini along the back with pepper plants in front. I also hope to have a better trellis system next year for both the tomatoes and zucchini. The plants got so large this year that the traditional tomato cages were falling over.

I also hope to plant a variety of greens in bed 5 where the kale did so well.

Hope everyone enjoyed following along as the garden grew. Can’t wait till next year!

Here are the links to the previous garden posts: June Garden and July Garden