Basement Project #8: We Were Framed...and Other Dilemmas

Walling off the mechanical room
Finally, the framing began! My friend Mark arrived and started by framing in the walls that separate the mechanical room from the main living space and the exercise area.

Most of the basement ceiling was open to the joists but a small section in the exercise area was plastered and needed to be removed so Mark could box in the heating pipes that ran across the ceiling. I was glad that Mark insisted on removing this old ceiling in the work-out area because the ceiling is low enough that we wouldn’t have been able to have a surface-mounted light on it without bumping into it while standing on the treadmill.

A further bonus to having the ceiling removed was the electrician was able to run wires to the living room to repair one of the outlets there. In so doing he realized that the wires were bare and it was a good thing safety-wise that he was rewiring it.

A few of the dilemmas the electrician needed to address

Note: This happens often in old house remodels. Lots of problems are discovered once the walls are opened. Fixes that arise along the way can add up cost-wise. That’s why I always recommend adding 10% to the budget for unforeseen necessities. 

Once the walls were framed in with 2x4s the electrician was able to start wiring in earnest. It is a well-known fact among remodelers that the “might-as-wells” start with the electrician. Even though I was on a budget for this basement project, it didn’t make sense to skimp on lighting options or outlets. Not doing those things can drive you crazy later when you are using the space. So save yourself the aggravation and add the extras while it is convenient.
Joists reinforced with microllam

Speaking of might-as-wells, the joists below the future powder room were undersized and sagging because, for some strange reason, this house does not have bearing walls in the basement that line up with bearing walls above. So this seemed like the perfect time to shore them up.

Saga Woodworking “sistered on” a microllam to three joists to provide more support for the first floor of the house. A microllam is laminated veneer lumber. It consists of many thin layers of wood sandwiched together with strong glue. They can be much smaller and also lighter than traditional wood joists but have even greater strength. I was happy that the portion of the old joist that sagged could be cut flush with the other ceiling joists to allow the new ceiling to be more level. It felt wonderful to take care of that problem.
Dusty and Pathetic from
removing old sill insulation
Cavities emptied and ready to be filled

The next really horrible job was removing the old material out of the sills along the top of the basement foundation. When these houses were built the open cavities were just filled with a cement-like material that crumbled to sand with age. When I was removing it this incredibly dirty, fine dust went everywhere, even into my nose—despite the mask I was wearing. I wanted to remove the old material in order to insulate the dead spaces because lots of heat is lost at the point where the first- floor framing meets the sill plate. 

Ultra Touch "denim" insulation

My first thought was to fill the voids with “Great Stuff” but that proved to be unworkable. The foam wouldn’t adhere to the sandy sides. It would have been wonderful to have an insulating company come in and foam the areas, but that wasn’t financially feasible for such a small space.
Shortcut for cutting the insulation

I went to Natural Built Home and purchased Bonded Logic’s Ultra Touch "denim" insulation. It is Class A fire-rated, uses 100% recyclable fibers, doesn’t contain formaldehyde, is LEED approved and doesn’t irritate your skin or nose. It’s not necessary to wear gloves when working with it. We used the chop saw to cut it into pieces to fill the sill plate voids.

Meanwhile, the electrician kept working away, continuing to find things that previous electricians had done incorrectly. Ca-Ching! Ca-Ching!

Shimmed to a plumb line
Mark put up studs along the stairway wall, doing lots of shimming because the wall was so uneven. Finally the sump pump area, and the spaces under the stairs and around the main stack were framed in and the doors were hung.

At this point I realized it was time to bring in the plumber again to connect the waste pipe for the future main floor powder room—currently disguised as a front-entryway closet. I had hoped to do the main floor powder room after finishing the basement but I realized in order for the plumber to rough in the pipes, the waste stack and vent would have to be installed. Because we were entertaining that weekend, I not only had to clear out the closet, but I had to put all the stuff out of sight. 

We made a night of it—cleaning out our belongings from the front closet and shifting stuff around in the attic and back closet to create more storage space. Déjà vu!  Once again I wished that I was more of a minimalist! 

The worst of it was that the powder room wall needed to be opened up in order to run the pipe for the toilet, and the opposite wall needed to be opened to accomodate the vent pipe, which meant the wall in the upstairs bedroom above it also had to be opened up to connect the vent to an existing vent in the attic! More moving of furniture! And now the second floor and attic were impacted because of the vent pipe. Dominoes were falling everywhere…
Adding the drywall is an exciting step
After the walls are taped they are ready
 for priming and painting

Back in the basement the framing was completed and moisture resistant drywall was put up to prevent mold growth. It is always a high point in remodeling when the drywall goes up; you can really see progress. 

Next the taper came in to mud the drywall.

Since I am the painter on the job I have many hours ahead of me of priming and painting walls and woodwork but to me it’s very satisfying because I’m in control and it’s such visible progress.

Coming up next: the main floor powder room begins to take shape, too!