Basement Reno: Week 8

Tile and paint went in last week and things are really starting to come together, which is good because we’re at the two month mark!

Day 40: No work. We decide on a paint color: Popcorn by Martha Stewart. Same color we used in the laundry room. It’s basically white with a touch of gray and brown to soften it. Go to Home Depot and get 6 gallons color matched to the chip I still have since Martha’s paints are no longer available at the depot. Get all 6 gallons home and realize that the color is not even close, more like a pale khaki color.

Day 41: Contractor replaces super crappy cement board job. Takes him all day but now we have nice plumb and square walls for the shower!

cementboardwk8We go to Home Depot to try and return the paint. They agree it’s not a good color match and will refund our money. Super awesome paint guy mixes us new paint using the proper formula.

Day 42: Contractor starts putting up 3×6 subway tile on the shower surround. Pours a layer of self leveler on floor.

Day 43: Contractor finishes shower surround tile. Pours another layer of self leveler. Installs decoupling membrane for heated floor.


*Shower tile is stock Daltile subway tile from Home Depot.

membranewk8Day 44: Contractor installs heated floor (this Ditra heat system by Schluter Ditra). Starts installing floor tile.


*Floor tile is these Style Selections Leonia Silver 6×24 planks from Lowes.

Day 45: After painting every night, we finish the first coat of paint. Build Ikea Godmorgon vanity (happy to report we’re still married).

Tile should be finished and grouted this week and the vanity installed. Hopefully the contractor has enough time to squeeze door and window install in there as well!


Basement Reno: Week 7

Week 7 has been the week of drywall finishing. Everything is covered in an amazing amount of white dust. I’m not even sure where it comes from. As you can tell it’s fascinating.

Day 33: Drywall finishers come back and do a second coat of mud. It looks way worse than the first coat and I start to have a minor freak out. Another guy comes to finish installing laundry room ceiling. He hangs one sheet and then everyone leaves: ceiling still not finished.

Day 34: Drywall finishers come at 7 a.m. and tell me they will be spraying the drywall texture. Keep in mind the walls look like total crap. Cue major freak out. Call the contractor and let him know he has to get here immediately. Turns out drywall guys were not doing any texture, just sanding and doing a third coat of mud. So I look like a bit of a jackass and my contractor now fully believes I’m insane. Also get a long lecture from contractor about “trusting the process” and that everyone is really busy and life as a contractor is very hard in such a great construction boom. My heart aches for him.

Day 35: Decide the walls look really good already and that I don’t want orange peel texture sprayed. Drywall guy says it will be another $2500 for smooth walls. We find a middle ground: one more coat of mud over any imperfections and no extra charge. We take on the liability of it not looking perfect after we get paint up. Cross fingers.

Drywall in laundry was not hung because they figured we want our electrical run through the exterior wall to the box before they hang drywall over it. What a novel idea! I brought this up to the contractor last week and nothing as done about it but this week after I asked, he called the electrician. Electrician comes over first thing and spends 15 minutes running wires to the outside.

Finish guys come back and do another coat of mud. Patch guy comes and finishes hanging laundry ceiling and drywall under stairs. Patches any holes created by electrician in stairwell.

Clean up guy comes and takes any scrap as well as cleaning all the joint compound drips and puddles off the floor.

Day 36: No work.

Day 37: Contractor comes to check out drywall job. Agrees that it needs a good sanding and calls drywall guy. Drywall guy sends the project manager over with a 4 inch sanding sponge. He sands for 20 minutes and leaves. Looks as it did before he got there.

I’m so sick of dealing with these guys that I decide I’ll just sand myself. One of the poorer choices Ive made in my life. After 6 hours of sanding it looks pretty good and is ready for paint.

Day 38: We prime the hallway and ceilings with Kilz PRO-X PVA primer for new drywall. It goes on pale gray and dries chalky white. Color change =Tons-o-fun!

Day 39: Finish priming the rest of basement. Test out 3 colors: Benjamin Moore China White, Moonlight White and Glacier White. China white is too beige, and the other two are too yellow. So we are back to the drawing board or paint chip board. White paint is harddddd.

And some pics:

The hallway before primer:


And view back at the hall from the great room:


Great room with primer:


Great room after a coat of primer:


It’s really starting to look like a finished basement! Next up: deciding on a paint color and painting and the contractor is going to start on the bathroom tile.

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.