Basement is Done (Almost)

It’s been a while but most of the basement is finally done. Or at least done “enough”. We had a birthday party the other weekend at our house for our son, and the main behind the scenes star was going to be the basement. With seven kids plus adults coming over, we needed the indoor entertaining space done, or at least presentable enough to utilize for the party.

My brother and I busted our backs getting the tile in, and trim on. I fell short of grouting the tile, and painting the trim, but overall everything looked great and we were able to use the space without a hitch.

I was exhausted for days afterwards. More so than I’ve ever been in a very long time. But it was well worth the effort. Even in its unfinished state, the basement space looks fantastic. It’s like having a whole new house. And the possibilities are endless. At the very least we can finally start unpacking and going through everything that is in the basement. We can set out some furniture from the old house, that has been taking up space and collecting dust. I am looking forward to it.

Here are my notes and photos from wrapping up this phase of the basement project. I still have to do my office space (in addition to putting the finishing touches on the main part  of the basement). I have all the materials, I just need to find the time and energy to tackle that part.

Notes:

  • I hate tiling. I shouldn’t say I hate it, but I suck at it in one regard: cutting tile. I was cutting with a tool that scores the tile then breaks it cleanly in a straight line. Problem is I couldn’t use the tool very well. I went through $5 tiles like they were potato chips – cracking them and rendering them useless. I bet I wasted close to $500 in tile because I suck at cutting tile. I wonder how much it would have cost to hire a professional…
  • We went with 1×10 baseboards so that if the basement floods, we only ruin the boards, not the drywall. To save money I went with pine instead of poplar. I’ll have to fill in or smooth all of the knots in the wood, and then prime it…so definitely more labor on my part, but the cost was 1/4th of poplar or ripping down plywood
  • To mount the baseboards to the steel framing of the basement, I ripped down 1/2″ thick blocks and mounted them using low profile trim screws. I primed the treated wood blocks, to add a layer of moisture protection. Not sure if that was necessary, but hey, it couldn’t hurt.
  • The tile looks great. Most people assume it is real hardwood. Don’t be absurd. It’s porcelain tile, silly.
  • I found a great, simple circle mirror at IKEA. It looks great in the bathroom. I love shopping at IKEA.
  • The ceiling will be installed at some later date in the future. There was the suggestion that we simply spray paint the ceiling grey to give it an industrial vibe, while saving money.
  • I suck at drywalling. I had a piece of drywall I had to put in after the plumber moved the shower head. I tried to mud and tape it, and it was a complete disaster. So I called my drywall guy and he came out and rectified the situation in about ten minutes. I don’t know why I try to be handy. I’m not very handy at all. No patience.
  • I really hope I have enough tile – I think I counted right. Because with my luck they’ll discontinue the stuff before I’m done with the office. I went out and picked up six more boxes, which I think will be enough. Fingers crossed.

Basement Progress

We started tiling the basement floor. And today the electrician started to finish up the electrical work. All of the switches and outlets are installed in the main room and bathroom. As well as a couple of light fixtures and a bathroom fan.

It’s impossible to take good photos of lights with my phone, but you can generally see what they look like in today’s photos.

The tile is going to take a long time install. This is most of a day's worth of labor.

The tile is going to take a long time install. This is most of a day’s worth of labor.

The bathroom light we bought at Home Depot.

The bathroom light we bought at Home Depot.

The caged wall sconce we bought from Restoration Hardware.

The caged wall sconce we bought from Restoration Hardware.

My Home Interior Paint Selection Tips

Basement Progress

With the basement drywall complete, the next logical step is painting of course.

I usually paint walls after we “move in” so to speak – after the flooring and trim is in. But in this case, if I paint now, I don’t have to mask anything off and don’t have to worry about drop cloths covering the flooring. Without the tile or trim installed, now is the time to make painting an easier chore. I am assuming though that I will have to touch up a few things after the trim is in but otherwise I going with the plan that this will save me some time and effort.

I took advantage of a 40% off sale at Sherwin Williams this weekend and picked up all of our paint and primer for the basement. Total cost, including a couple of sundry items, was around $400. My labor is free.

I thought the project would take a weekend, but here we are on day four, with at least one more day to go. The basement has over 2,000 square feet of paintable surfaces, not including the trim which will be painted white later when it’s installed.

It’s a relaxing project, and it makes me get some exercise so I don’t mind. I talk about colors and color selection later in this post.

Also exciting this week, I picked up all of our tile for the basement. It took two trips with our 4×6 trailer. 667 pieces of 6″ x 36″ porcelain tile total. It is amazing how much tile weighs when you have to move the boxes by hand. We lucked out in that each pallet of 252 pieces fit through the door of the enclosed trailer. The first load let me know that my trailer tires were pitifully under inflated. After unloading, I aired them up and returned for the second load. The excess boxes of 7 tiles apiece easy stacked in the back of the RAV4.

Now we just need to move all 95 boxes down to the basement from the garage. My back will be happy when this basement project is over.

Fingers crossed we can start laying tile in the next week or two.

My Paint Selection Tips For Your Home

As you may or may not know, we’ve chosen Sherwin Williams HGTV Global Spice palette as the general guide for our home decor. Nearly every wall color we’ve used is off of this palette. This has been our “Bible” so speak, but alarmingly Sherwin Williams dropped three colors and replaced them with three new ones.

Oh no! What the hell?!

It took me a while but I’ve come to terms with the new palette colors, which include a replacement for the Edamame (SW 7729) green that we painted the upstairs bathroom. Also Gallant Gold (SW 6391) is gone (we never used it), and Grandeur Plum (SW 6565) is of off the list (an awful for walls, purple color).

As a designer I like the idea that Sherwin Williams’ color experts have assembled a group of diverse colors that all work well with each other. This way I can spend my time painting, and being imaginative with which colors I want to use and how I want to use them.

We selected these colors from the Global Spice palette for the basement:

Cloudburst (SW 6487) for the bathroom (new blue color on the GS palette)

Loggia (SW 7506) which is a fantastic neutral tan, for the living area

Resort Tan (SW 7550), a dark mushroom color for my office (also used it in our living room upstairs)

Cavern Clay (SW 7701) for the storage cubby / play fort under the stairs (a deep earth tone that I’ve wanted to use for quite some time now)

I painted the entire basement with VOC free Harmony primer, and used top of the line VOC free Emerald paint for the walls in a satin finish

Wondering what to do color-wise for your next painting project? Here are my design tips:

  1. Pick A Palette – All paint suppliers have cards of colors that work well together. Pick what you like and go with it. We like earthy palettes because they seem more natural. But if historical or Mediterranean is your thing, go for it. Get something with a few colors from multiple color families – i.e. greens, browns, tans, reds, blues, etc.
  2. Try Monochrome or Tones – Often you can get paint chips on a card with 2-5 other colors that are various shades of the same color. Pick one color off of the card to be your main color, then select a color two shades darker or lighter to use as a compliment. In our last house we chose four colors off of the same card, and painted our kitchen, dinette, family room and fireplace alcove in the order the colors were on the card, lightest to darkest. It created a wonderful color changing graduation across a huge open space. The changing light throughout the day and evening made for a subtle yet interesting effect.
  3. Use Earth Tones Instead of Beige Everywhere – I feel strongly that every room should be a different color, even if the changes are subtle. There is an infinite palette of really nice earth tones that can be used instead of painting everything white, off-white or beige. Infuse subtle yellows, browns, rust reds, sage and plum into your color scheme. Earth tones are natural, inspired by nature and never go out of style
  4. Include Unexpected Touches – Highlight your home color scheme by painting a room or even just a wall with a bold color from your palette. Bathrooms or small bedrooms are a great opportunity for a fun color (or even wall paper) to create some interest in the home. In large rooms I love to paint one wall a contrasting color, or a different tone of color. The front wall of our home is a subtle yellow tone, that is found nowhere else and travels across three other rooms, each painted their own complimentary color
  5. Paint A Few Ceilings – There is no reason all of your ceilings should be white. Hopefully you have a “knockdown” texture on your ceiling or better yet, have no texture on your ceiling and then paint it. That yellow color on the front wall of our home? It carry’s over onto the kitchen ceiling to define that space in an otherwise open floor plan. In the bathroom downstairs, the ceiling and walls are all an earthy blue color. Painted ceilings help cocoon you and make you feel at home
  6. Consistent Trim – I happen to prefer the pure line that wide, simple profile white trim brings to the story of your home color scheme. It helps separate color spaces; floor and wall. And it’s universal – goes with everything. For an earthier look, try an off-white or medium toned trim color. But  I feel like the whole house should use one trim color and go with it. Don’t mix and match trim colors. It’ll just look disjointed.
  7. Don’t Use Purple – Actually I feel like you should be able to use whatever color you like, but I just don’t like bright purples (or other bright colors) for walls; other than the occasional unexpected touch. I prefer a neutral, earthy look and feel for the walls. Then add in pops of color with your furniture and accessories. Earth tones give you a huge array of decor possibilities. A color like purple means you’ll be stuck neutralizing it with boring tan furniture, instead of the other way around. I’d rather the background, which is what the walls are, is more subtle. Then the items in the room can be where the interest is at. Save the purple, bright blues, retina burning reds or acid greens for your couch, accessories or pillows.
  8. Go Dark – Don’t be afraid to paint an entryway, family room or other space a dark color. Colors like SW Plum Brown (SW6273) , Sable (SW 6083) , and Sealskin (SW 7675) are great colors for transitional spaces. Our basement is actually a few darker colors. You’d think that would be counterintuitive, but dark colors embrace you and can make wide monotonous spaces smaller. The darkness can be offset with white ceilings, and lighter furniture and accessories. The only down side is that you’ll likely need 2-3 coats of paint to get the look you want.

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.

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.

Finished Basement Update – Electrical

I wanted to share with you some pictures from our basement finishing project. After sitting idle for several months, work has picked up again on the basement. We’re in no rush to get it done, but it would be nice to have it ready by later 2015, fall or early winter.

After completing, and getting approval for the rough framing that yours truly completed, it was time to get the electrician in. I can not do electrical work. It scares me, and as prone as I am to making mistakes, I’d likely burn the house down and kill myself.

The electrical will be completed in two phases. Right now is phase one, the rough-in. After this is approved by the building department, then we’ll cover everything up with drywall, and then the electrician can do his final electrical work.

The install should take three working days total for one electrician. All seems to be going well. Basically a bunch of electrical boxes and yellow wires everywhere.

The Superior Wall System we used for our foundation makes wiring outside walls a breeze. There are little holes for wires to pass through on every cement stud of the foundation. Electrical boxes mount easily to the metal studs of the foundation, and my partition walls, with self tapping screws. Note, if you have Superior Walls, have your contractor check out their website. There is a lot of info on there for contractors regarding how to work with the wall system.

Superior Walls make life easier for insulators, electricians and even plumbers by virtue of their thoughtful, feature filled design. Any house I ever build will utilize this wall system for the foundation, if possible.

I went over the switch and lighting layout with our electrical contractor. I think the wife and I have it all figured out…designed…as best we can tell, in terms of where we want lights and how we want everything to be switched on and off. I’m having the electrician put in a CAT5? cable into what will be my “office” space. Not sure in this day of wireless communication how important this is, but I guess better to have it than not.

There is pretty good access, even after the drywall is up, to many of the walls and all the rooms, especially because of the drop ceiling that we plan on installing. So I’m not to worried if we screw something up and have to “fix” it later.

Electrical should be done this week. Then we can order drywall and start that phase.

Wires simply pass through the remade holes in the Superior Wall studs of our foundation.

Wires simply pass through the remade holes in the Superior Wall studs of our foundation.

Electrical boxes simply attach to the metal studs of the Superior Walls of our fondation.

Electrical boxes simply attach to the metal studs of the Superior Walls of our fondation.

A typical plastic grommet bushing (the red thing) in the metal studs. This protects the wires from chaffing or cutting on the sharp metal.

A typical plastic grommet bushing (the red thing) in the metal studs. This protects the wires from chaffing or cutting on the sharp metal.

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.

Framing The Basement – Steel Studs

Here’s my recap for framing the basement. It’s probably a good thing I’m writing this a few weeks after the actual work, because it wasn’t as easy a chore as I would have thought.

In a previous life I rough framed houses, so framing is probably what I’m best at when it comes to home DIY projects. Had I chose to use wood framing I’m sure partitioning the basement would have been uneventful. Well because of my concerns with flooding down there, should the sump pump ever fail, I was leery to use pine 2×4’s that could become water-logged and moldy in a water event. There’d be the risk that I’d have to rip everything out and start over if that ever happened.

I could use all pressure treated lumber, which would be impervious to rot, but I was thinking of a more contemporary solution.

Steel Framing

I knew about steel framing, having seen it used at my corporate job. It seemed like that might be a good option: use galvanized steel framing. If it got wet it wouldn’t rot, mold or rust. So I did my homework.

From what I gathered steel framing would be less expensive and go up as quickly as lumber. You can’t use it for structural walls, but none of my basement walls are structural. They just have to hold up drywall. Steel framing is also resistant to fire, which is a good thing around mechanical systems. And steel is 100% recyclable, so it’s a good choice from an environmental standpoint.

I got a quote for having someone else install the walls, but I decided to try to save some money, as well as learn a new skill by doing it myself. Here is an article from The Family Handyman magazine that explains how to install the steel studs (click here). I’ll let you look and learn on your own. Instead of going through the steps again, I’ll hit on my thoughts and highlights regarding using steel framing (compared to wood framing).

Cost

From what I read steel was supposed to be cheaper but I’m not sure that’s the case. If anything it’s a wash. Studs were $4.17 for 10′ lengths. Pressure treated wood is more. Regular pine / fir is less. I looked at both Lowe’s and Home Depot and both stores had steel in stock for similar prices. I bought at Lowe’s because I get a discount there.

Fastener wise you have to buy screws, four per stud. That cost is likely the same as nails so that’s a wash. The same goes for the floor anchor bolts.

Advantage: it’s a draw

Material

Steel is great because it’s straight and light weight. I did the entire project single-handedly. I’m not sure I could have done wood alone. Also we haul materials on the roof rack of the RAV4. Lightweight steel means more studs per trip to Lowe’s. Wood is renewable. Steel is recyclable, fire resistant and doesn’t rust*.

Advantage: steel*

(*make sure you get galvanized steel. I bought mine at Lowe’s and I’m almost certain it’s not galvanized, other than one batch of studs. I asked the associates on two occasions and they said the product I was buying was galvanized but I’m pretty sure it’s not. What I got will likely rust over time potentially. I’ll keep an eye on it (I have access to nearly all the walls from  the back side via mechanical rooms).)

Installation

Wood is easy. Measure and cut. Steel studs are a pain in the ass to cut to length. Our ceilings are 9′ tall. Turns out the holes for electrical wires to go through the stud fall right at 9′ from the end of our 10′ studs. So I had to cut each stud two times.

Actual installation was nothing short of maddening. A drill holster is an absolute necessity since you have to screw each stud four times, twice each top and bottom into metal channels. You also have to clamp the stud to the track every time you go to fasten a screw. I nearly had the entire basement framed before I learned that you just gotta jam the drill on full blast and hope the screw bites.

The worst part is trying to fasten a screw where the track butts up against an obstacle such as the I-beam running down the center of the basement. I finally figured out you need to install the fastener from the inside of the stud, not the outside, first. Then do the subsequent other fastener on the other side of the stud, from the outside.

Steel stud install easily took 2-3 times longer than wood would have.

Advantage: wood

Utility

Steel studs can’t bear weight. So if you’re going to hand cabinets or shelves you likely have to frame those areas with wood. Doorways need to be trimmed in wood anyway because finish trim won’t attached to steel unless you use decorative small profile head screws. I plan on putting in a barn door for the storage room and I know I’ll have to block the heck out of that area to support a sliding door.

For electrical, my electrician is saying steel will cost more because of the boxes and whatnot that he’ll have to use. Also I’ll need to block in with wood mounting points for outlets and more.

Steel is great for partitions but not much else. By the way, all my soffits are made from wood, as well as the ceiling in the bathroom.

Advantage: wood

Final Verdict

So it’s no surprise that I can’t recommend steel framing for any project. I love the look, and steel is definitely easier if you’re working all by yourself, like I invariably am. I suppose the learning curve is there: I now know what to look for and I’ve made many of the mistakes. But regardless I probably should have just stuck with lumber, even if I used pressure treated sole plates and risked wet wall studs.

Check out my photos below for more info and details.

Shoot me any questions in the comments section.

 

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