Basement Update – Drywall

The basement has drywall! Happiness.

Once completed this will be our first finished basement as a family. In fact, the wife’s never really ever lived in a house with a finished basement. So getting the drywall installed is a big step towards that goal.

The space actually doesn’t look all that different, or at least not as different as I expected. It does look good though. You can get a feel for the large rooms down there. And as you look at the photos you can see how we left the sheet rock up about 8″ to mitigate against any potential future basement flooding. We’ll cover that gap with replaceable plywood baseboards that can be removed in event of water pooling in the basement as a result of sump pump issues.

I didn’t install the drywall myself, rather we contracted that out. It took about a week for one person to hang, tape, mud and sand. It installed with no problem onto our Superior Walls foundation, and the metal stud partitions I raised.

To a certain extent, installing sheet rock on the foundation walls, along with caulked baseboards, should insulate the basement even more, and make for a tighter envelop on our home. Maybe once the basement is complete, and I do a few other things (all LED light bulbs for example), I will have the house re-evaluated for energy efficiency and see if we’ve improved our HERS score.

Take a look at the photos and captions for more on the drywall.

Next up will be painting all the walls. We’re going to do this next because with the floor being bare cement, we won’t have to worry about paint spills. We can get at least a coat or two on the walls, then touch up later if necessary.

Speaking of the floors, we have tile on order from Lowe’s. We went with a distressed wood look porcelain tile, which is very trendy right now. The 6″ x 36″ tile is called ‘Sequoia Ballpark Tile’, and it is $2.99 a sq. ft. which is a bit pricey. In our search we did come across tiles that are upwards of $10 a sq. ft., so everything is relative. We like the look and will save some cash by installing it ourselves. We’ll cover all 948 square feet of the basement with the tile. This will give us a nice looking floor that will be impervious to any flooding or moisture in the basement. The distressed look, with brown, white and grey tones should be timeless aesthetically, and congruent with the style of the rest of our home.

It’s very exciting to well on our way to finally having a finished basement space for work and play. This will accomplish a major house goal for us. One that has been around for over fifteen years really.

Advertisements

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.

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.

Insulation

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.

Floors

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.

Ceiling

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.

Electrical

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!

Walls

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.

-Chris

 

 

Random House Repair

Sunday found me tackling a three items on my “honey do” list. Here is how things went or are going:

Repair The Coat Hook Rack In The Foyer

As you may remember, my sister-in-law ripped the coat rack off the wall in a drunken fit of rage on Thanksgiving (okay not really but that sounds better than “my wife and kids overloaded the coat rack, and my sister-in-law’s coat was the last straw”). Well anyway, the coat rack ripped clean out of the wall. My fix is to install a 1×8 poplar board, between the trim of the studio and front doors. I’m actually a huge fan of horizontal trim boards on walls. I think they add a “farm-y” or “craftsman” look to the interior and they are extremely practical, especially for coat racks, shelves or garment pegs. They also add some visual interest as well as make the wall color pop, if the trim is of a contrasting color such as white. If I was a designer, I would put them all over the place.

As of today, I’ve got the poplar trim board installed and painted. I’m trying to decide how best to install the coat rack. I’m leery to just screw it to the board, as I don’t want the screws to rip out of the poplar board. No worries about the board coming off the wall, it’s fastened with eight (8) SPAX screws so the board is going nowhere; just that the coat rack may still pull off under load if I don’t attach it properly.

Here’s the progress so far:

The coat rack ripped right out of the wall under load.

The coat rack ripped right out of the wall under load.

I cut away the damaged drywall.

I cut away the damaged drywall.

I spackled / mudded over the holes to repair them.

I spackled / mudded over the holes to repair them.

I pinned the 1x8 poplar board in place using my nail gun and small trim nails.

I pinned the 1×8 poplar board in place using my nail gun and small trim nails.

I used awesome 2-1/2" SPAX wood screws to attach the board to the studs, countersinking the heads.

I used awesome 2-1/2″ SPAX wood screws to attach the board to the studs, countersinking the heads.

I used spackle to cover up the nail holes. I then painted the trim generic white.

I used spackle to cover up the nail holes. I then painted the trim generic white.

Therma-Tru Door Corner Pads

For 18 months now I’ve needed to install the little “L” shaped pads in the lower corners of our Therma-Tru doors. We could see daylight in the corners which means we were leaking warm air outside all winter. I simply followed the directions that were included with the pads. It was super easy.

  1. adjust the threshold plate so the seal under the door fits snuggly
  2. caulk the seam where the plate meets the door frame
  3. install the wedge-shaped pads in the lower corners, tucking the “L” part behind the vertical seal on the door frame. I put the “L” part up. I think that was right.
You can see daylight before the pads were installed.

You can see daylight before the pads were installed.

Here are the parts and directions from Therma-Tru for the corner pads. They sent these to me for free after I sobbed that I didn't have any and could see daylight in the corners of my exterior doors.

Here are the parts and directions from Therma-Tru for the corner pads. They sent these to me for free after I sobbed that I didn’t have any and could see daylight in the corners of my exterior doors.

I caulked the plate after adjusting it vertically to fit snugly against the door's lower seal.

I caulked the plate after adjusting it vertically to fit snugly against the door’s lower seal.

The pad installed. Now we can't see daylight. Not sure if the house is any warmer.

The pad installed. Now we can’t see daylight. Not sure if the house is any warmer.

Laundry Room Drywall Repair

When we moved the water hook ups for the washer and dryer the plumber left a huge hole in the wall of our Laundry Room.  With two new cats exploring, the last thing I need is a cat, or kid, winding up behind the drywall meowing (yes my kids meow too, on occasion).

While the Cleveland Browns were blowing yet another football game I was in my studio cutting drywall. I attempted to cut it out of one piece and install it as such, which I was fairly successful at doing. The problem I ran into was for whatever reason the planes of the new drywall and old drywall already on the wall, didn’t really match up. Well let’s just say I didn’t let that dissuade me from making a mockery of the art of drywalling.  I proceeded to slather mud on the wall and squish tape into the joints. I pretty much hate drywalling.

Most “handy” people would look at something a homeowner does and give them pointers….”do this” or “try that“.  They would encourage and empower that person to do it themselves. They’d even make you feel bad if you called an electrician or plumber. ‘Cause after all, we’re all innately born with the ability to do simple house repair.

If a handyman saw how I do drywall they would say “You really should have hired someone to do that for you.

To say the drywall repair behind the washer and dryer is bad, is a gross understatement. It’s so bad, I CAN’T EVEN THINK OF A SNARKY ANALOGY! Just be glad I don’t make airplanes, condoms or lentil soup.

I put the second coat of mud on today. I’m thinking 32 more coats and everything should be evened out. The tape over some of the joints wasn’t sticking so I pulled it off and just slathered mud over those joints. It’ll be fine (no it won’t).  In the end, aren’t we just gonna tile over it all anyway?

The hole in the wall; a result of moving the water connection up in the Laundry Room.

The hole in the wall; a result of moving the water connection up in the Laundry Room.

On the right I screwed a piece of particle board in place so I'd have something to screw the drywall to.

On the right I screwed a piece of particle board in place so I’d have something to screw the drywall to.

This is where is started to go wrong. Once in place none of the drywall was on the same plane. Instead of fixing I figured mud could cover everything up. Frankly I'm not sure how I woulda fixed it anyway. What the hell, just "do it" baby!

This is where is started to go wrong. Once in place none of the drywall was on the same plane. Instead of fixing I figured mud could cover everything up. Frankly I’m not sure how I woulda fixed it anyway. What the hell, just “do it” baby!

After the first coat of mud.  Eeek!

After the first coat of mud. Eeek!

After the second coat of mud.  Looks better, kind of like having beer goggles on, and drinking your second beer.

After the second coat of mud. Looks better, kind of like having beer goggles on, and drinking your second beer.

I leave you with a picture of our new cats. Both of whom are driving me insane. They have to be sequestered in my studio indefinitely and cabin fever is forcing them to go insane to. I may have kitten fur mittens by Christmas.

cats-in-studio

Studio Project Drywall

Sunday night after another busy weekend.  I didn’t get as far as I wanted but made steady progress on the office area in my studio.  Below is a photo tour of what I did this weekend including adding an outlet and starting the drywall installation.  This desk area is primarily a catch all for the office space.  I found a really cool outlet at Lowes.  On the bottom is a regular outlet but on top instead of another outlet there are two USB jacks so we can charge our phones and other USB devices without the need for an adapter.  Very cool indeed; $20 at Lowes.  Another cool product I picked up there were dry wall corners that are made from metal and covered in drywall tape.  That way I didn’t need to screw metal corners on and try to mud over the metal.  I simply put down some drywall mud, squish the corners in and then cover in mud.  For an amateur like me these integrated corners were really easy to use and made the job simpler.  I got pieces for both the inside and outside corners.  I’ll even use them on the top of my freestanding wall.

One bad thing I noticed was somehow my calculations or my craftsmanship failed me.  The 48″ space I need for the office counter top is closer to 48.5″ – 49″ which means I need to figure out how to finish off the gap I’ll most likely have.  I had our countertops premade so it’s not like the counter will just go wall to wall.  I’ll figure it out, there’s not much I can do about it now.  Also I’m looking at my sink on the end wall and going to plan on a redesign of some sort.  That counter may need to be remade as I didn’t have the sides of the counter laminated….once again, we’ll see.  Better planning would have helped but I had a design in my head, seeing it in person I think I want it another way.  No big deal.  Live and learn.

Photo show of the weekends festivities…

 

Electric Company

The transition into the home stretch should officially start tonight.  Our friends at Ohio Edison should be installing the permanent electrical meter at the house in the cold and dark of this mid-December night.  What this means to us is that we can fire up the temporary furnace and “bring our ship about”.  The furnace should get the house up to temperature for the first time ever.  Pretty remarkable event considering all that we’ve done to make the home energy-efficient.  And like firing up the engines of a new ship as it lies in the shipyard. Once up to temperature the house, even in its current state, should hold its own against Mother Nature, as she kicks off another Norhteast Ohio winter.

We have a temporary furnace to take us through the finishing phase including drywall taping and sanding, trim work and painting.  Then towards the end of the project the permanent furnace will go in.  If we put the permanent unit in now it’d void the warranty by virtue of all the dust and debris created during the finishing phase.

I spoke with the painter today and laid out the game plan for painting the interior.  The exterior will wait until Spring; too late in the year now to lay down paint outside.  As for the inside, we’re going to go bare bones painting wise to save cost.  Christine and I will want to determine, and paint, the interior palette ourselves anyway.  If we’re feeling really frisky we’ll do some faux painting, patterned or textured painting after we move in.  This would surely temp fate.  The closest we came to divorce so far was during the course of “rag rolling” a den in our first house.  I suspect though that most of the painting will be subtle.  The contemporary nature of the house will dictate a subtle natural palette devoid of much flourish. 

Painting wise, to start with, the ceilings will remain unpainted knock down drywall texture.  The wall will all be flat white.  The trim will be semi-gloss white.  Stained areas will include the window sills, ship’s ladder and staircase treads.  The steel I-beams in the kitchen will be black (maybe distressed?). Anything that’s stained will be a light maple to match the hardwood flooring. By the way, I did specify non-VOC Sherwin Williams paint for the house.  This will minimize the amount of chemicals our family will be ingesting within our air tight home.  Carpet, paint, flooring, furniture and so forth all “off gas” chemicals into the air.  Since our house doesn’t “breathe” as much as a porous cookie cutter house, all those chemicals float around and end up in inside of me and the family.  Hell, after 38 years I’ve got all kinds of crap inside me that no sane human should have, but my two little boys should at least have a fighting chance.  We’ll do the best we can to make sure they’ve got a healthy home to grow up in.  I’ll do a tally of what we’re doing from a health and environmental sustainability standpoint at a later date.

As usual I don’t have any pics cause I haven’t been out in a few days.  I’ll keep you posted.

-Chris