Digging Holes and Playing in the Dirt...In the Basement

As I mentioned last time, Mike promised, (or threatened?) to cut the basement floor up over the long weekend.  I knew it wasn't going to be pretty, but boy did I underestimate the general dirtiness that would ensue. 

First I have to say I got sick this weekend.  Mike says it was because I went Black Friday Shopping (for the first time, my opinion - eh, my sister got some good deals and I was along for the ride), but the weather turned and everyone I work with is sick as well, so it could have been a lot of things.  The moral of the story is that I pretty much slept all weekend.  While poor Mike was literally knee deep in dirt and sewage pipe.  That's why I love that guy.

The weekend started on Saturday morning after I woke up to gas fumes and loud saw cutting.  We borrowed both a gas-powered and electric partner saw to cut the concrete and even with a lot of friends commenting that the gas-powered was going to create a lot of fumes, Mike had to try it.  He said he used it to cut maybe a 12 inch section of concrete.  The house smelled for about 6 hours.  I could have handled the gas fumes, (I stayed upstairs and opened a window), and the massive amounts of dust that created a cloud on the first floor, but what eventually made me leave was the no water usage rule.  Mike was working on all the drainage pipes so while he kept the water on, it didn't have anywhere to go.  Obviously that included the toilets as well. Benelli and I lasted about an hour and then went to my dad's house, who was conveniently out of town for the weekend, (deer season - need I say more).  I didn't do much more than sleep and blow my nose, while Benelli slept and did perimeter checks of the new place.

Mike knew it was going to be a dirty job, obviously cutting up the concrete basement floor to dig out the pipes was going to create some sort of mess, but he didn't estimate quite the amount of dust and dirt that was created.  He did section off the basement using some plastic sheeting and some zipwall thingies like he did when he removed the rest of the chimney:

But, the dust still made it's way upstairs and coated everything.  I tried explaining the cloud that I had to hold my breath through to Mike, but he couldn't understand since he was wetting everything down as he was cutting, but that dust is tricky.

After the cutting was done, Mike was left with the hard part.  While the first picture shows the general area he thought the old pipe was, he was wrong.  The pipe went under walls and through different rooms, but this didn't really matter in the long run because we realized we didn't have to remove all the old pipe, just the parts that we needed to tie into, and anything that was in the way of the new pipe path.  He thought it would be simple to dig out the dirt to place the new pipe, but the ground was hard packed clay with large, (2"-4") rocks.  And, he hand dug out the whole trench.

The reason this post is so wordy is because I obviously wasn't there to take pictures along the way.  I came back the next day after Mike was done with the tie-ins and the okay was given to use the water again.  I only have pictures of the aftermath.

As you can see, Mike cut the concrete, which is a couple inches thick, hand dug out the dirt, (which is piled along the trench), cutting out any of the existing pipe along the way and then installed shiny new PVC piping.

To show you all he did, we'll start in the bathroom.

 Remember when this was considered clean?

Mike had to install a lot in this room.  Makes us feel silly for complaining about having to take out the flooring like the upstairs bathroom.

Instead, mike cut out a branch-like design for all the new pipe for the shower, toilet, sink and replacing the vent stack.

To the right is the new placement for the toilet and the vanity.  After the flooring is patched back up and leveled, the water lines will get moved as well.

To the left, the old clay vent stack was replaced with PVC and the new shower drain was put it.  We plan to buy a 48" shower base, (which will seem giant compared to the 36" we had before), therefore the drain pipe had to be centered to the new size.

Since we replaced the vent stack when we renovated the bathroom upstairs, I haven't specifically asked Mike about his plans for the middle section which sits behind the kitchen walls.  I'm assuming when the kitchen demo starts, (which could be next week for all I know seeing as how we plan a project then usually get antsy and start months before we plan to), he'll replace that cast iron section as well and we'll have all new PVC.

Moving out of the bathroom into the future family room, it's a little more straight forward with the main pipe traveling through the room to the new clean out valve Mike installed.

The one thing that required extra attention was the slop required for the piping.  We definitely don't want anything that comes down the drain to stop anywhere because it hits a spot that's level!

Mike maintained a 1/8" slop by using sand under the joints to support them when he pours the concrete.


Since Mike had already framed and drywalled this years ago when we took out the old paneling when we moved in, you can see when I zoom out that he just unscrewed the whole sheet and put it off to the side to have access into the wall.  That's why he's in charge of the heavy stuff, my idea was to cut out a bigger whole and patch it, I blame the cold for the brain fart.

The other spot that got the PVC treatment was the laundry room where the utility sink sits.  There's an old floor drain that tied into the main pipe and wasn't very big.  It sometimes overflowed and before we bought our high efficiency washer, would always fill up with soap suds.  Benelli could always be found sitting in front of the suds watching them come out on laundry days.  To help/prevent this he added a drain pipe for the washer to bypass the floor drain.

Mike didn't find many surprises, (except for the concrete-like clay and giant rocks he had to dig through), except for one that really pissed him off.  See if you can spot it in this picture below, think waterproofing:

See that cut pipe with the slotted cap, well that's part of the "waterproofing system" the previous owner had installed.  Our neighbors said that our basement used to have a really bad water problem before we moved in.  We never gave water a chance to cause any problems by tying all the downspouts drains and sump pump drains into one underground drain that went to a dry well we built when we excavated for the garage.  We also replaced that concrete that was sloping toward the house with a new slab.

We've never had a water problem, (and we've definitely had some flooding conditions), but it's a good thing because this stupid pipe wouldn't have helped at all!  You can't see from the picture, but the perforations in the pipe face down, which isn't really helpful in hard compacted clay.  It should have been installed with stone around it.  So, essentially, the pipe is useless.  That's good because as you can see, they didn't even dig that deep and there's less than a half an inch of concrete on top.  Mike said in one spot, they actually heated the pipe to deform it a little so they didn't have to dig any deeper.  All that needed was one heavy piece of furniture to land in the right spot to crack the concrete and pipe.  Agh!

Mike wants to look in our records to see if the previous owner left the name of the company who did it to give them a piece of his mind.  He may not have to bother since they're probably out of business doing shoddy work like that.

We don't have to worry too much about it anymore since we'll be adding more concrete when we re-level everything next.  Mike just gets annoyed when people take shortcuts.

Even with all the dirt, there was one good thing that came out of the weekend.  Mike definitely didn't want to walk up and down the ladder/stairs the whole weekend, so he built the rest of the stairs and covered them with plywood.

He even built out the bottom step so that when it's complete it looks and flows a little better into the room.

As you can see from the bottom step framing, the floor is significantly uneven throughout the entire room.  The next step to this project is filling in the spots that Mike cut to replace the pipes, and then after that has cured, re-leveling the floor so that we have a flat surface to install our flooring.

Some might ask why the filling and leveling can't be done in one step, but concrete comes in many different types, (or in industry terms, mix designs), and the type of concrete used to get the required strength of the patches Mike cut out is different than the low viscosity, self-leveling concrete used to level the floor.  And, you thought all I did was take the pretty pictures! 

Basement Bathroom Breakdown

I'm working my way through the basement.  Last time I talked about the giant decisions in the little nook and the plans for making our stairs work double time as built-in storage.  Now we're heading into the bathroom to show you the demo and drawing out layouts.

Looks a little different than last time.

We've torn everything out of the bathroom and created a "blank slate" for the new fixtures.  Besides the tile that was throughout, on the right side is where the vanity and mirror was taken out.  Mike has to move the sink plumbing further to the right, and add all the plumbing for the new toilet in the corner.

A couple days earlier.

The left side was where the toilet and shower was.  Mike tore everything out and has to layout the new larger shower stall and build a cabinet behind that for some extra storage (where the stack pipe is now).  The shower plumbing will most likely be against the wall (in the left hand side of the photo) so that we can have an access panel hidden in the closet.

Here's the view through the mirror of the shower side before demo.

Mike is insisting on jack-hammering the floor from the bathroom all the way through the family room to replace the old clay pipe to PVC.  We don't know for sure where it is, but we're assuming it follows a path like this:

We won't know until we start cutting the bathroom floor up. Mike's stance is, if we spend all this time and money to renovate the basement we have to do it right.  It would also totally suck if the pipe decided to crack and leak after we put the new flooring down.  I guess a little bit of extra time and money is the best insurance of that not happening.  Also, he has to cut up the floor to move the toilet, (my insistence), so I'm technically the reason for all the concrete cutting in the first place so I'm not complaining too much.

We have the toilet, vanity, and shower picked out, so once Mike's ordered them and has exact measurements he can start cutting everything up.  We're probably looking at the long weekend ahead.  Since cutting concrete and plumbing are our ideas of a good time I'll take plenty of pictures to share soon!

Stair Storage Spaces

Say that 5 times fast.

Earlier this week I showed you the nook progress and plans.  Now I'm back with the plans for the built-in storage spaces we're incorporating.

Before we demo'd anything, the space underneath the stairs was a large closet.  It had a door across from the nook and went under the stairs to a little space only about 2' tall.

In the first part of the closet it was great, Mike used it for his fermenting beer, (which needs to be maintained at constant temperatures and away from light), and we had all of our winter coats and boots there.  The space that got smaller as the steps came down was used for seasonal storage, (our tree was shoved way in the back), and a hodge podge of other things we were storing.  Honestly I couldn't tell you what was in there.  The amount of space was great, but the usage wasn't.  If we wanted something in the back we would have to take everything out to get to it.  That's why one of the important projects during this basement renovation was to tackle this storage space.

We came up with a plan to separate the space into two spaces.  One would be a coat closet, (that would have room for fermenting beer, because that's what all coat closets should double as - at least in our house), and the other would be general storage that would have access in the main room through little doors.

To start this project Mike needed to demo everything to see how everything needed to be framed.  During the demoing of the closet he noticed that the stairs were built a little weird.  As in they didn't use stringers.  They built little framed out boxes for each step.  So, of course, instead of dealing with that headache, Mike just tore them all up.  Then put a ladder in the middle.  As if that would make everything better for the time being.  

I told you it was an obstacle course just to do my laundry.  I'm surprised I even made it down to take these pictures.  I'm not afraid of heights, (I helped roof our garage for goodness sakes), but put me on a ladder and I literally start shaking. 

The steps that came out were like the steps you can see from the wonky steps, (that's what we call the diagonal ones at the bottom).

After the stairs were out, Mike started framing.  He began by tearing out the old door frame and moving it so that it was centered.  About 6"-8" to the right.  It was also made bigger, since the door was not a standard size anyways, we figured we had the space, so we might as well go big.

He then framed out the wall between the two spaces.

To show you how each space is going to look I shaded each space a different color.

Since we're going to have multiple doors on this wall, I've decided to add paneling to camouflage them a little.  Here's a few examples of paneling under stairs that I've pinned:



The second photo doesn't have storage, but it's more of the style of paneling I'm looking at.  Since the stair wall is so disjointed, it may make more since to panel the entire wall, including the wall behind the stairs.  We'll see how Mike likes the idea and how it looks once walls are put on.  

We have to finalize our plans for the flooring so that the stairs can match, or we're also talking about painting them to compliment the flooring in some way.  Once we've done that Mike can finish the stairs and move on the plumbing replacement.

Next up we'll look at the bathroom demo progress and I'll get a mood board together for the plans for the family room.

A Look at the Nook

Since we have so much going on in the basement, (a new family room, homebrew corner, storage space, bathroom renovation), I thought it would be easier to break up the posts, so it's easier to pay attention, (and keep me from rambling, sorry, probably not).

First, I'll focus on the nook area.  Which turned out to be one of the hardest decisions we had to make for this whole project.  Picking out bathroom fixtures and paint colors...easy, making decisions for built-in storage spaces...paralyzing.  Maybe because all the decisions made were permanent.  Well as permanent as a wall can be, (obviously in our house that's not that permanent), but it would be something that Mike built in and finished.
Last time I took you downstairs, Mike had torn out the walls to remove the chimney.

Since we moved in we always knew we would add some sort of bar area here since it would be the perfect spot for entertaining.  After Mike started homebrewing and acquired this beauty, (and did all the retrofitting himself), we figured this nook would be perfect.

Except, with most hobbies, you don't stop acquiring more equipment.  And, 6 taps are better than 2.

So, now we had two kegerators to fit in the nook, and no matter how we configured it, they did not both fit.  Although there were talks of moving the corner of the wall and having one stick into the room.  The fact that the corner of the nook is one of the structural columns to support the house made that decision an easy one to dismiss, (well for me, Mike fought a little harder since he really wanted both of his kegerators here, and he has the skills to move a structural column).  It took 2 weeks, many arguments, a lot of crazy ideas, and many outside opinions, before Mike and our friend Dave finally came up with the easiest solution ever.  Sell both units and get one big one.  Duh!  With a larger unit it will still fit 6 kegs, but have a smaller footprint, and use less energy than the 2 units together!

So, with this plan in place, (Mike will have to build everything, buy the new unit, move his beer, then sell the old units), Mike set out to frame out the nook.

His first task was to move the duct vent seen in the picture from after removing the chimney.

We decided the best use of this vent would be to move it out into the family room, (a heating vent wouldn't be very efficient if we left it to sit behind a chest freezer).  Since we already have one on the wall adjacent to this one, we decided to put it in the ceiling.  After a trip to Home Depot, this task was a quick job for Mike.

While we don't really like the idea of adding holes to the ceiling, especially in a room where the height of the ceiling is low, our concern for adequate heat in the basement won out.  We're hoping with the extra vent, insulation in the walls, and flooring, we'll be okay in the winter months.

Back to the nook.  Mike utilized all the space he could and framed everything out to prepare for drywall.  The soffit is framed around the duct work that goes to the bathroom to the left and the new vent out to the room to the right.  He added the plastic to prevent dust from getting into the laundry where we are storing all of our things, not to mention our actual laundry.

It's a small space so I couldn't get the entire thing in one photo, but here is the right side.  You can also see the furnace behind the plastic, Mike used all the space he could and the walls sit a couple inches from the furnace.  Before, there was about 3 feet behind the furnace, (when the chimney was there, we used the other space for storage of things we rarely used - snowboards and skis in the off seasons, things like that). 

I tried to get a picture of the space from the laundry room, to show how much more efficient use of the dead space back there was, but this picture doesn't really do it justice.  Before, the wall was flush with the wall behind the water heater and booze, (#dontjudge). 

Next for the nook, Mike will fill in the hole left by the chimney and finish out the walls and soffit with insulation and drywall.  We're insulating the laundry room from the rest of the rooms to reduce the sound from the furnace/water heater and laundry since the TV will hang on the wall connecting the two rooms.

Later this week I'll share our storage plans and the crazy obstacle course Mike's making me go through to do our laundry.  I hope he doesn't mind dirty socks, because I don't do ladders!

Beauty is in the Eye of the Bee-holder.

So many bee puns, I just can't help myself.

Last week was surprisingly awesome for Northeast Ohio autumn.  It was 60's and even some sun.  Of course we were forced to do all our fall yardwork and rake all our leaves the week before, (during little Sandy's visit), since we only have one city pick-up, so we didn't have anything to do but enjoy the weather! 

We decided to take a little peek at our bees to see how they were faring and if they were enjoying the weather as well.  We will start to officially winterize soon, (it's been getting cooler and cooler at night), but I just wanted to check them out to see what they were up to.  I brought my camera back and was happy to see that they were still really active and buzzing away.

Since last year we had a weaker hive, (and a mild winter), and sadly they didn't make it, we were happy to see such a huge difference in the comb production this year.

We haven't taken any honey from the hive so that they have enough supplies for the winter, but we're hoping come spring time we'll have the first batch of honey to finally enjoy!

Mike's come up with a pretty cool winterizing set-up for the bees, so when it's time I'll be sure to tag along and get some pictures of his crazy methods.