We’re doing our project backwards and wrong. We’ve known this from the outset, but plowed ahead anyway. Basically, the right way to gut-remodel a house is to demo everything, rip up the basement floor and put in the new below grade plumbing, get that inspected, pour the floor, do the framing, install rough plumbing and electrical, get both of those inspected, then go on to insulation and drywall, and finish work. This is not how we’re doing things.

For starters, we’re living in the house on the second floor while we remodel. Because the house is a two flat we have a fairly comfortable apartment, if a bit cozy. We have a kitchen, a full bathroom, and heat. Second, we’re trying to remodel the first floor before we redo the basement. That means all the plumbing below the basement floor hasn’t been done yet, but we want to install all the above ground rough plumbing not just for the first floor, but to service the current and future second floor as well. At the same time, we’re trying to go by the book with permits and inspections.

This morning I met with a plumber, and he wasn’t excited about our plan. He suggested we dig up the basement floor, do all the below grade plumbing (new cast iron sewer to replace the existing clay pipe, new copper  service line to replace the existing lead one), then to pour the floor we have to also do the interior weeping system, the under-slab insulation and the in-slab radiant tubing. Once all that’s done, then he could do the rough in for the first and second floor. You know: the right way. There’s a few problems with doing things the right way. For one thing, our basement is full of stuff. Sure we’ll have to move it eventually, but we’re hoping that would be after we had the floors above done, so we’d have places to put it. Next, the most practical way to dig down the basement involves us tearing down our existing garage so we can get a dumpster and cement truck into the back yard. We’re planning to replace the garage anyway, but doing that now is also less than ideal. Beyond that, it may even prompt the removal of the back porch, depending on how we do it. During this process we’d most likely have to move out of the house for weeks.

The biggest reason against doing the basement first is the money: redoing the basement floor is a very expensive project, and if we do it now it will mean other projects like the first floor will have to wait. When the basement is done, we’ll have an unfinished basement. It’s not a bad thing to have, but for the money we’d rather have a new living room, new kitchen, and new family room. We need to finish the basement eventually, but doing it now just for the sake of doing things the “right way” isn’t an attractive prospect. Unfortunately, there’s a good possibility that if we don’t do it the right way we won’t pass inspection, since none of the basement work would be done when we want to close up the walls in the first floor.

We’re going to talk to some other plumbers, contemplate some other options and possible compromises, and figure this out. One possibility may be doing the underground plumbing now but not the rest of the basement floor, though even that is a pricey way to go. There may be others we haven’t considered. Hopefully we’ll come to a solution in time to get spray foam in before winter, but if not, it won’t be the first time we’ve missed that goal.

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