Basement Project #6: Concrete Solutions

Most homeowners know, or will soon find out, that the least sexy repairs cost the most money. A new roof, new furnace, new wiring—or in my case, new basement walls and floor—inevitably eat up a giant share of the budget. However, these things are the basis of solid, enduring construction and good design.

Pouring a new cement floor and redashing the walls with concrete was by far the greatest expense items in my basement project—almost half of the total cost. But both were necessary. The walls were in a constant state of deterioration, continually sloughing cement sand and dust onto the floor and onto anything placed next to them. The floor sagged and heaved as though moles had been at work below the cement; numerous cracks were everywhere. When the sewer backed up earlier in the year we discovered that everything flowed to the middle of the rec room toward a floor drain that had been capped. All these conditions were reason enough to pour a new cement floor.

Floor is gone, new footing poured
I got a couple of bids from cement contractors, considered several other factors, such as reputation and workmanship, and decided to hire Jerry Gardner, Gardner Construction, Inc. I visited the home of one of their satisfied clients and was impressed with what Gardner had done to their basement walls. After hearing a glowing recommendation I decided they were the ones.
As a little aside here, it isn’t always cheapest contractor who is the best choice. Some contractors are just more skilled or experienced than others. It’s also important to get comparable bids. Sometimes a project changes or grows after consulting with the first contractor, so the second one might actually be bidding to do more work. If you have a written plan that all contractors refer to when making a bid you are more likely to get bids that compare “apples to apples”. 
Putting wire mesh on walls in exercise area
The concrete work in my basement was a huge job but they were very efficient—in and out in just a few days. They had about 7 guys working at once so things happened quickly.

Newly redashed wall, drying

Another redashed wall

The first day they took up the old cement floor, hauled it away, and began putting wire mesh on all the walls. The next day they were back early to finish putting on the mesh and to spread the first coat of cement over all the walls. The third day a second coat of cement was applied. Voila! The walls were done. 

Walls alone might have taken the average DIY homeowner several months to complete. 

Yes!  New floor drain next to new water heater

Before they could pour a new floor I had a plumber come out to remove the old floor drain which had been previously capped off. He added a new floor drain and new water heater in the mechanical room. He also ran a sewer pipe for a new powder room which is planned for the first floor (more about that soon).
Pouring new floor

Leveling the new concrete floor

The concrete crew came back, the walls were marked with a laser and the sand leveled so the new cement floor could be poured. The floor was poured in just one day and then they were gone.

Old floor gone, moisture barrier down
Deciding how to finish the new cement floor came next. Home Depot carries a product called DriCore which acts as an insulator and barrier between any moisture in the cement floor and the finished floor. It allows carpet or engineered floors of wood and linoleum to be installed in a basement without having to worrying about mold and mildew. I am a big fan of cork, so my first choice was to float a cork floor. However, the 3/4” of DriCore plus the 3/4” of cork would raise the level of the floor by 11/2". Given that my ceilings are only 88" tall unfinished, cork was not a practical choice. It also would have made the final step down to the basement only 6” while the other steps have a 71/2" rise. If you’ve ever stepped on irregular steps you know how annoying and almost dangerous it can be.

An advantage to my newly poured concrete floor was I didn’t really have to cover it with anything. So I decided to save money by simply staining the new concrete and putting down jute rugs from IKEA. An 8 x 10’ rug costs about $130 so if it should get wet it would not be a big loss.

Okay, solid walls and a new floor may not be sexy but nonetheless they are very exciting to me.

My friend Mark has offered to trade carpentry work for design work so now he can now come over and we can discuss the plans for walls, ceiling, insulation etc.  More about those developments soon…

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