Basement Update

Tonight a quick update on the basement project. We actually have not done much since I last wrote about the electrical in June. Everything passed inspection so far – electrical, framing, insulation. Next up is drywall.

I decided that I would just hire a drywall contractor to do the basement drywall. My time is better spent working, and a contractor is going to do a better job than me anyway.

Because the house is done, there’s no way to get really long 12′ sheets of drywall into the basement so we’re using 4’x8′ sheets. We’re using USB Ultralight weight 1/2″ sheets. 58 regular white ones, and 8 green mold resistant green ones for our 900′ square foot basement. Cost was around $700 for materials and truck rental.

Our ceilings in the basement are 9′, but we’ll lose some height with the drop ceiling. To make up the rest of the difference between the ceiling height and the 8′ tall sheets, we’re going to install 10″ tall baseboard trim.

We are worried about flooding in the basement, if the sump pump ever failed during a storm. We were originally going to install cement board on the lower foot so that if the basement flooded, we wouldn’t have to rip out the drywall. Well our drywall contractor came up with a better idea. We’ll paint the baseboard all around, front and back, to create a water-resistant seal. The baseboard will then cover up the bottom 8″ below the where the drywall ends. We’ll fir it out a 1/2″ so the baseboard overlaps the drywall. Then if it ever gets wet down there we can simply unscrew the baseboard and throw it out if it’s ruined, or remove it before it gets too wet. I need to talk to my trim carpenter to see if using MDF or hardwood is preferred for the baseboard.

Detail of how I'll finish the basement walls

Detail of how I’ll finish the basement walls

It should be a pretty neat trick. And the tall baseboard will fit in with the contemporary feel of the rest of the house.

I went to Home Depot and picked up the drywall material. I was able to rent their truck and get it unloaded in an hour.

Next week we start installing drywall so I’ll share more updates then.

My rental truck with all our drywall loaded and ready to go home.

My rental truck with all our drywall loaded and ready to go home.

Trailer Happenings

No, we haven’t bought a trailer. We’re holding true to our game plan. But I continue to learn more and more about trailers, their prices and the best places to hunt for them. The last week has found me on eBay, which is turning out to be a good hunting spot. The site seems to get a steady stream of trailers, especially on Saturday and Sunday.

Other good sites include Tin Can Tourists, which has a decent classified section, that features a few new trailers every week or so. For Airstreams, the best site is Airstream Classifieds. 

The problem with Airstreams are two-fold. One, they are way too expensive. There was a damaged one on eBay that was a steal at $12,000 which, given the means, I would have rolled the dice on. Otherwise though you’re spending $10K minimum for anything in our 16′ range. The longer ones are actually less expensive. Which leads us to the second problem with Airstreams, they weigh too much. We could only pull a 16′ with our RAV4, and even so it’d have to be a vintage one. The newer ones are outfitted like Cadillacs with all sorts of heavy furniture and gear. This doesn’t keep me from looking, but you know how it goes. Wishful thinking.

Here are just of few of this week’s crop of new and used trailers I’ve been spying.



Basement Project – Insulation

In the past basement insulation was often overlooked. Typically basement walls were cinder blocks and that was it. Now there are so many options from a construction standpoint, you really need to do your homework to see what suits your home building situation. Layer on top of that all the options there are for insulating your basement, and you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Insulating your basement goes a long way to reducing your energy bills, and increasing the comfort of the occupants living inside the home. Even if your basement is a storage catch-all, or a place to sequester unruly family members, there is great value in making your basement warm through the use of insulation.

The main advantage basements have, compared to the rest of the house, is it’s surrounded by soil. And the deeper you go, the more the temperature of the soil levels off around 50-60 degrees. Even at 4′, the temperature starts to hold its own verses air temperature above.

Here is a cross-section of our basement, provided by the wonderful peeps at Ferut Architecture:

Basement wall section courtesy of Ferut Architects. copyright 2014

Basement wall section courtesy of Ferut Architects. copyright 2014

So, taking a look at the diagram, you can see our awesome Superior walls make up our foundation. They’re awesome because they are prefabricated cement and include R-15 of rigid insulation right from the factory. Check out  this post to see how they were installed. It was amazing.

The plan was to add 3″ of sprayed 2 pound insulation to the inside of the Superior walls; adding R-20 to our R-15 walls for a phenomenal R-35 insulation rating to our basement walls. Also note we already have R-20 (4″ of rigid) under the cement floor. The basement would be warm snuggly nest once we were done.

Basement before insulation.

Basement before insulation.

Well turns out due to cost restraints we needed to dial it back a bit. What we did was in all of the areas that were getting drywalled, we had our friends at R-Tek Insulation in sunny Barberton, Ohio, spray 1.5 inches of insulation on just the top 4′ of the 10′ walls. This gives that area an added R-10 of insulation, for a total of R-25. This is better than most foundations, and worlds apart from traditional uninsulated cinder block walls.

The spray foam provides an air tight and presumably water tight, or at least water-resistant seal on the walls. Once the drywall is on, our basement should prove to be more air tight. The combination of air tightness and increased insulation should lower our HERS rating from its current level at 41. I’m not sure if I’ll get the house tested again. Maybe down the road after I do a few other things (to be determined).

By the way, spray insulation must be covered with sheet rock (drywall) as I do think there are fire concerns with the material when it’s simply exposed. We limited our spray only to those areas where there would be drywall. The storage rooms did not get any additional insulation at this time.

For reference on a scale from 0-150 the average home has a HERS rating of 130. New homes have to have a 100 rating. A zero energy house (which we hope to be someday) is 0. Our house is about 59% more efficient than your typical new house.

The cost for our additional insulation was $2,000. To do the entire top to bottom at R-20 would have likely been $8,000 or more.

Basement after insulation.

Basement after insulation.

The white colored spray foam expands as it dries. It also creates a air tight, water tight barrier.

The white colored spray foam expands as it dries. It also creates a air tight, water tight barrier.

The top 4' are insulated with 1.5" of 2lb. spray insulation (R-10).

The top 4′ are insulated with 1.5″ of 2lb. spray insulation (R-10).

Another option instead of spray insulation would be adding more polystyrene rigid insulation. Check out the Superior website here, for more information. You simply cut and install the rigid, bonding it to the existing rigid in the walls using liquid nails or other non-foam attacking adhesive. In fact this is what I will do for the storage rooms where we won’t have drywall. Because the spray insulation needs to be covered, per code, putting rigid in the storage rooms is my only option really. So strangely enough we will likely get a full R-20 floor to ceiling in the storage rooms because I just have to pay for material. It’s a super simple DIY job that I can do myself – free labor! Actually in hind sight, I should have likely done this everywhere from the get go, but I already had the insulation guys lined up. No worries, I like the spray insulation. And down the road if we really want to I’m sure we can go back in to the exterior walls and spray more (would have to replace drywall though).

One other note, I don’t think you ever want spray paper based insulation in your basement. With all the potential natural moisture issues, like the potential for flooding, in a basement, paper based insulation (like we have upstairs) is a bad idea.

There you have it. Now onto finishing framing and building some storage shelves.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments below.

Basement Planning and Pricing

Before we jump into all the “fun” work I’ve been doing in the basement for the last six weeks, let’s do a post to go over our game plan.

Budget is the biggest driver for the project. We have zero money frankly, but as I said in the last post: we feel strongly that we need the space to be useful, otherwise what’s the point. Before the project the basement was full, no exaggeration, of “stuff”. Furniture, half filled boxes, years worth of stuff that had just been moved from house to house. For example, in our old house we had a library filled with books. There’s nothing like that in the new house, so there are just box after box of books. My wife collects board games and we’ve never once had a place to store and display her very extensive collection. I have every car magazine from 1986 to the early 2000’s. Yes, those can be recycled but I’d like to go through them first. Point is we have more crap than most of you combined.

The basement has to stop being a big catch-all.

Okay, back to design and our plans. Here are the main project areas. I’ll go over them in detail in subsequent posts.

Exterior Walls

When we built the house, you may recall we used Superior Walls for our foundation. The basement walls are prefabricated out of cement and steel, and stand nine feet tall (9′). The walls feature metal stud facings so we can apply drywall directly to the face of them. No need to fir out the walls which saves a lot of time and money. I just need to frame in a few of the corners with drywall nailers. Note, we would also have to frame in for any shelf or cabinet supports ahead of time. Superior walls cannot support a vertical load so don’t go screwing in cabinets into the studs. More info, and to see nailer diagrams, click here.


The foundation walls are insulated to R12.5 from that factory with blue rigid insulation. When we installed them I speculated that we would insulate them with another R-20 worth of insulation, which I think is the maximum if we fill the rest of each cavity with sprayed insulation. Well to keep costs down we did two things 1) only insulated the top 4′ of the exterior walls and 2) went to a depth of 1.5″ (R-10). Why? The top half of the wall has the most exposure to outside temperature changes. Once you get beyond 4-5 feet the earth’s temperature is pretty stagnate, something like a constant 50 degrees or something (I’ll let you look it up). By the way, cost to insulate the top 4′ with 1.5″ of 2 lb. spray insulation (R-10): $2,164. Three inches (R-20) would have been $4,040.


The floors in the basement are cement (over 4″ of rigid foam insulation by the way). Our basement is prone to flooding if the sump pump ever fails, so that drives many of the design decisions we’ve made in regards to our basement project. Long term our plan would be to cover the entire 950 sq. ft. of living space with ceramic or porcelain tile. Short term though we’ll leave it cement. I’ll rent a floor cleaner from Home Depot and clean the cement myself. Not sure if I’ll seal it at this point. I’ll decide when the time comes. We could stain the floor like we did in my studio. That is always an option, in lieu of putting tile down. For now though regular concrete will suffice everywhere, though the bathroom will likely get tile right out of the gate. Cost should just be a few hundred dollars for cleaning and any tile.


There is some debate whether to put in a drywall ceiling or suspended ceiling. Drywall is cleaner and more finished. Suspended ceilings give you access to HVAC, water and electrical. If you think about it, the other floors of the house are covered in drywall with no utility access. So I think drywall is a fine choice. The problem with our ceiling is there are a lot of pipes, ducts and other obstacles that I don’t want to, or can’t, soffit around. We’ll be putting a drop ceiling in all the living areas except the bathroom. Armstrong has a wide selection of ceiling tiles and a lot of inspiration shots on their website. I got a quote for installing a generic Armstrong system: $3,500. I’ll do it myself. Hopefully the material cost will be closer to $1,000-$2,000. We may hold off and do this next year if we can’t afford it.

The yellow areas will likely be drop ceiling.

The yellow areas will likely be drop ceiling.

Interior Wall Framing

Because of the potential for water flooding should the sump pump fail, I was hesitant to use wood framing. If the basement flooded there’s potential for mold to grow in water-logged studs and walls. Regardless always put down pressure treated sole plates, but I didn’t feel like using treated studs. I was curious about metal framing so that’s what I went with. I still used wood for soffits, blocking and ceiling areas. Look for my thoughts on metal framing in a future post. Cost wise we got an estimate for $1,791 to have someone else do the framing. I did it myself, learned a new skill and spent about $750 on materials to partition the basement. By the way, this includes material for desperately needed storage shelves in the storage room.


I don’t do electrical so we’ll have to hire a pro. We’re doing the bare minimum. With the drop ceiling and good access from the storage room we can add-on later. For now it’s all switches, outlets, and ceiling cans. I’d like to swing for 4″ cans but may just default to 6″ to save money. Would like to populate them all with LED bulbs though. Cost estimate for electrical parts and labor is at $4,000. Yikes!


We’ll drywall everything. I may put 12″ of cement board at the bottom of every wall because of the aforementioned water damage potential. Or not. Estimate we got was $3,757. Doing it myself will hopefully save some money. But I don’t have the patience or craftsmanship (or desire) to mud it all so I may have to source that.

$4K electric, $2K insulation, $1K framing, $3K drywall = $10K, then do the ceiling next year or down the road maybe. We’ll see. I just hand over receipts and the wife keeps track and cuts checks.

Stay tuned for future posts on each step of the way. As of this writing I’m wrapping up framing and the insulation is done.




Our Fall 2014 Project

Things have been quiet indoors this year. Most of the activity around the ranch has centered around the bees, and maintenance type chores. Inside we’ve been going about our business of living in the house. But, as I mentioned in previous posts, we’ve got an indoor project going on this fall.

With kids, cats and us all bouncing into each other, the house is nothing short of a disaster on a daily basis. Tripping over toys and debris is a daily sore point for me. As is trying to get a semblance of privacy to work my home based business without interruption. Finally enough was enough. With all the studios, bedrooms, and whatever rooms basically decorated, or at least decorated as much as they will be anytime soon, there is one last major frontier to tackle inside: the basement.

I drew up a floor plan on the computer in October and secured a permit from our local building department. Once completed to plan, the finished space will add 950 square feet of living space to the house. The added usable space will feature an office area for me. Working in my studio just is proving to be a bit too disruptive during the course of the day. I’m not 100% sure I’ll move downstairs but it does provide that option. The other major space will be an open entertainment area which is our primary reason for doing the project now. We need a place where we can dump the children and their toys. A cluttered family room upstairs grates on my nerves. I’m tired of stepping over stuff.

Connecting the two spaces is a hallway and bathroom. The bathroom is already roughed in and the shower is already there. A large portion of the basement will be partitioned off to be a storage room as well.

We did not want to wait to finish the basement. If we waited, I know what would happen: there would never be a good time. We’d never have the money. The kids would be in college and then why bother. So keeping costs down is paramount. This will be our first finished basement since we’ve been a family.

Our budget for the project is $10,000. We don’t really have a due date but hope to be mostly done by Christmas this year.

Basement plan

Basement plan

I am (will be) doing most of the work myself, single-handedly. The intent is to save as much money as possible, so I’ll do everything I can do myself. Hopefully limiting costs to materials or those tasks I just cannot, or choose not to do such as electrical work (which I can’t do).

The plan is to get the basement done to the point where kids can go down there and play. We’ll have a finished bathroom and painted drywall on the walls. The ceiling will be a suspended ceiling and that should be in place. Floor-wise we’ll stick with the cement, but I’ll rent a cleaner and give it a good washing before the project is done.

Stay tuned for future posts as I walk you through the project, sharing what I learned, what works and what doesn’t work.

What projects are you working on this fall and winter?

Have you finished your basement?

Anything you’d do differently?

Share in the comments below.




I finished the sand box last week in preparation for our Memorial Day cookout. All in all it turned out okay. I give myself a B- grade.  I had precut everything last fall, and set the posts a few weeks ago so there was a lot riding on it all when I went to finally assemble the components.

Turns out the box is level, but quite a bit out of square. In my defense I did complete the task single-handedly, so it’s not too bad considering that fact.

When I went to install the two long side boards, I was off by a good 2 inches it seems, on the side everyone sees of course. So I did the best I could and screwed everything together. You can tell the one board is short and when you put the covers on you can see the one cross board isn’t square in relation to the closest cover panel. Over all though it’s a decent facsimile of what was in my mind and what I had designed on paper.

I designed the box to have three distinct compartments. The center compartment measures about 6′ x 8′ and is filled with sand. I selected “mason sand” from the local landscape material supplier. It’s not overly clean, but it packs well and it’s a larger grain so it is less likely to become airborne. As I’ve stated in previous posts, most play sand is so fine it becomes airborne and if inhaled, the sand is a known carcinogen.

Flanking the sand chamber are two smaller 2′ x 6′ boxes for gravel. The kids like playing in the driveway gravel, so I thought why not put some of that gravel in the sandbox to play with. It would add some variety to play time instead of just sand. Kind of like a gravel pit. In that box I just hauled over some of the #10 limestone from the drive, that had been piled up by the snow plow during Winter.

At the far end is another box, and I filled that with gravel as well. But I chose to have some #411 limestone delivered. I used the #411, which is a mix of natural limestone from dust up to 1″ size pieces, primarily to fix pot holes in the drive, but made sure I had enough left over for the sandbox. Interestingly enough, no one has touched it yet in the sandbox, for whatever reason.

To keep critters from pooping in the sandbox I installed the 5/4 board panels that I made last year. There are four panels, and they allow you cover the box in a variety of combinations, from open to fully closed over the sand area. They make great seating areas for little kids to sit on while playing in the sand, and can be used to drive little toy trucks over. Once again helping with imaginative play.

For a finishing touch I added some large stones that were lying around the yard, to act as boulder in the gravel areas.

Planting Flowers

We’ve been blessed with a beautiful Spring in NEOhio so far. We finally got some needed rain today, but the weekend weather was crystal clear and warm.

I spent Memorial Day planting all the seedlings my wife had grown as well as a few other miscellaneous flowers. Work got semi-busy again this week, thankfully, so I’m not sure when the veggie garden is going in yet. We’re a little late, but I’ll pick up some larger plants, maybe even on sale and we’ll good to go. My thought is to use landscape fabric to keep the weeds down in the garden this year. Right now there are weeds everywhere in there that we’ll have to remove by hand before planting.

With all the activity outside, ticks have been an issue, primarily for the wife who abhors the little pests – crawling on the kids, her, and in the house (they come in on our clothes). So we’ll need to get rolling on our guinea fowl project as soon as possible. Chemicals are out of the question, as is mowing down much more of the landscape, so hopefully the birds can help. Moving is an option that has been discussed as well. As for me, I tend to just ignore the pests; life seemingly endless list of things to worry about doesn’t benefit from additions to it. Maybe I’m daft.

Screen Porch

One surprise hit of spring is the screened in porch. While we don’t yet have a rug, I did make an addition yesterday: a TV. Best Buy had a sale going on and I was able to pick up a TV / DVD combo for under $130 plus the wall bracket cost. Now the porch is a bona fide  outdoor room. Just this morning, as I was turning over the cushions out there after an overnight storm, I thought to myself how great it was out there – with the TV you could sit and have coffee while listening to the news. Just like living in Florida I suspect. So from May through September it’s like having a second family room. Plus the cats love it out there.

Installation of the set was a breeze for the most part. I mounted the unit directly to an exposed stud in the porch frame. And after two big thunderstorms, I see no reason why the set can’t endure the weather under the protection of the porch roof. We’ll bring it in at the end of the season before it gets cold.

Now we just need a rug and I have to finish the ceiling with the grid detail and stain. Oh and build a bar shelf in the corner. Then we may not even have to spend time at all inside this Summer.

How do you like the sandbox?

What are your favorite outdoor spaces at your home?




Studio Entry Bench and Coat Rack

You don’t need me to tell you today was freezing cold outside. I awoke early to take the car in to get the inside cleaned…detailed I guess is the fancy term. See, we noticed mouse droppings in the RAV4 the other day and that’s all it took for us to decide to hire a professional. The car was filthy and the guys at Wheely Clean did a great job restoring it to like new condition.  With all the cold I guess the mice had enough of living in the cold garage and ventured into friendly confines, replete with old french fries under the seats and a half drunk juice box in the door.  I pray that they are gone now though.

Anyway, it was a pain getting up and going outside in -8 degree weather.  There, that’s my complaint for today. Otherwise it was a decent day. Got to spend some time working on a new home dec design project for my brother. If you ever need a cabinet-maker, he’s the guy to call. I’ve been fortunate to work alongside him on a few projects at our house and we even wrapped up a fireplace surround at a friend’s house. I’m even learning a few tricks of the trade which is always good.

Speaking of projects around our place, I wrapped up a fun, quick project in the studio.  I installed the coat hooks, reinstalled the switch and out plate plates and put hinges on the bench. Now we can enter the house on frozen days like today, through my studio and kick off wet boots and hang up heavy winter coats, and avoid trashing the front hall entry. Remember, you always want to try to have just one entry to your house for various reasons, but if you have two make sure they’re delightful or at least there’s a good reason. I like the studio entry for the above reasons. The cement floor and abundant space in the studio means we can shed snow laden clothing and let it drip dry with no worries or fuss.

It took me three tries before I found coat hooks I liked.  I went to, and bought hooks from, Hartville Hardware, Home Depot and Lowe’s before I found the perfect ones.

Here are the three styles I bought:

Third time is the charm. Here are the three styles of coat hooks I bought.

Third time is the charm. Here are the three styles of coat hooks I bought.

I like the one’s I ended up using (far left in the photo) because they match the drawer pulls and look contemporary and old-fashioned at the same time. Below the hooks we have an entry bench. The bench is designed, by yours truly, to fold up so that the second entry door can be opened up all the way. I attached two oil rubbed bronze door hinges to the bench and a drop down latch to retain the bench panel in the raised position. I kept everything quick and easy by simply surface mounting the hinges and latch. I could have over thought it but for once I decided just do the simplest, easiest thing and that’s what I did. Everything functions and looks great. It all adds a bit of rustic charm and detail to my studio space.  I like it very much.

Here are the coat hooks I went with, Gate House hooks from Lowe's in oil rubbed bronze.

Here are the coat hooks I went with, Gate House hooks from Lowe’s in oil rubbed bronze.

Here is a bench hinge installed, I just surface mounted the hinge. It looks and works fine.

Here is a bench hinge installed, I just surface mounted the hinge. It looks and works fine.

Image of the finished studio entrance bench and coat hooks.

Image of the finished studio entrance bench and coat hooks.

This latch holds up the bench when I need to open both doors.

This latch holds up the bench when I need to open both doors.

latch in the "holding" position.

latch in the “holding” position.

Here you can see the bench in the "up" position. On another note, I wish we didn't have a vent in the floor right below the bench. Takes up shoe space.

Here you can see the bench in the “up” position. On another note, I wish we didn’t have a vent in the floor right below the bench. Takes up shoe space.

Hardware for the hinge included one really long screw. I'm not sure why but I used it in the top center hole to fasten the hinge to the back wall of the bench area.

Hardware for the hinge included one really long screw. I’m not sure why but I used it in the top center hole to fasten the hinge to the back wall of the bench area.

One other fun thing today, Christine made me a Scrapimal (TM) of Dixon for above my studio sink. I love it; and I hung it up already.  To help pay for all these projects of mine, you should check out her Etsy store and buy yourself, or a loved one, an original Scrapimal (TM) as well. They’ll make your day as they did mine.

Dixon is a Scrapimal!  Weee!

Dixon is a Scrapimal! Weee!

One bit of housekeeping, I went ahead and purchased for eighteen bucks so from now on that’s where you’ll find the blog. The old address should redirect there anyway, but just in case. That makes the blog a little more official (and I think more appealing to advertisers….not that’s why we do it but hey, if I can someday earn a penny that’d be good….homeless home projects would be much less compelling I suspect.)