We’ve been busy in the basement! So busy, in fact, that I haven’t been doing a good job of posting about it, nor even taking all the photos that keep the posts from simply being my long-winded explanations of why everything takes so damn long. So, in the interest of getting everyone caught up to where things are, I’m doing a catch-all post on the flurry of basement activity. My last update was August 5th, but the work it described took place in mid-July, so we’re actually a quite a bit behind. Let me jump to current though, and say we met our deadline of August 20th, and we are living in the basement. I’m actually typing this while sitting in the living room of the basement at an actual desk.

So, a lot has happened since we mudded the permanent basement walls. We got the permanent walls painted, the tub tiled, grouted, and caulked, and the bathroom and kitchen cabinets installed. That let us call back our plumbers, who got the finish plumbing done and reconnected the water heater in the basement. With that goal met, we framed and drywalled the temporary walls. These walls create bedrooms in the basement while we’re living down here, but once the rest of the house is done we can take them down and the main area of the basement can be finished as an entertaining space. We didn’t bother mudding this drywall, but we did paint it. I installed the interior doors, which included three doors in the permanent walls (bathroom, mechanical room, and between the front and back rooms), and two bedroom doors in the temporary walls. We cased the doors as well as the window in the kitchen.

I installed the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, along with the additional bathroom lighting. When we tiled, we installed a metal track at the top of the tub wall and ran a strip of adhesive LEDs along it. These are connected to an additional strip above the mirror and hooked up to a power supply inside the top of the medicine cabinet, which is switched on the same circuit as the overhead light. The tracks are covered by a snap on plastic diffuser. We’re pretty pleased with how this turned out. All of it is either waterproof or wet-rated, so the shower shouldn’t cause any issues.

In the kitchen we installed a butcher block counter with a single basin sink (Amazon literally sold us the kitchen sink). The sink was originally going to be under-mounted, but there wasn’t enough room for the clips inside the base cabinet. Since the sink can be mounted either way, I opted for top mount, but routed the top of the counter so that it sits flush, making it easier to wipe the counter into the sink. My measurements didn’t properly account for the curb when I bought the cabinets, so we built a wooden frame for them to sit on top off. This puts them about 4″ taller than typical, but we’re tall and it works for us. I also didn’t properly account for the dishwasher height being greater than the cabinets minus their feet, and had to retrofit the frame with reciprocating saw, oscillating tool, planer, socket wrenches, and additional 2x6s. The dishwasher is installed, and I never want to think about it again.

 

We painted the curb and the bottom foot of the wall with Drylok waterproofing paint. I’ve read a lot about building science and don’t want to seal brick, but despite our exterior water management efforts and interior weeping system, we’re still getting water coming through the walls on heavy rain. By only painting the concrete and the brick below the frost line, my hope is that water will be forced down into the weeping system, but won’t freeze within the brick and damage it. Having a radiant-heated slab should also prevent freezing. It’s been raining enough that the Drylok wasn’t able to dry fully. I bought some additional waterproofing putty for active leaks that I still need to install.

I put up privacy film on the window along our neighbors walkway, put pipe insulation on the incoming water line to prevent condensation, added a light switch in the mechanical room, ran a gas line for the stove, put up shelves, moved the phone line for our Internet connection, put up a shower curtain rod, swapped our mud rings for metal electrical box covers, painted the old part of the gas line before the meter and mounted it to the wall. Sarah hung shades, scrubbed, mopped, and scraped the floor, and watched our two rambunctious children while I spent countless nights either in the basement or running to Home Depot and Menards. Sarah’s parents, her brother-in-law, and her brother all pitched in with assistance on trim, painting, the cabinets, the door handles, and brushing down the walls. My mom came up multiple times to watch the kids so Sarah and I could both do tiling and painting. Dean and Matt B came to help us move last weekend, and while there’s still a ton of stuff upstairs to be sorted and packed into storage, we’re moved. We couldn’t have made the deadline without all their help and we’re very grateful for it. Without the deadline fixed in our minds, this easily would have taken an additional month or two, and I’m so glad it didn’t. We lived in the second floor for five years (exactly). Considering we wanted this to be a five-year project, considering we shifted to the basement plan in November of 2014 (21 months ago) and planned for it to take about a year, and especially considering how very far we still have to go to finish this crazy house, I’m relieved.

Living room, before furniture

Living room, before furniture

We’re planning to relax a bit, but we still have a lot to do, just to get the basement situated (and not leaking) and to get the second floor ready to demo. The next couple weekends are relaxing (going to the beach and going camping), but hopefully after that we can get settled and start on the next exciting, exhausting, and endless phase of this project.

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