This post has been a long time coming. I usually write about projects that are ongoing or just finished. But today, I want to give you a glimpse into a year worth of slow progress in our basement.
Above was the only basement photo I took during the walk-in. Hello 20 year old carpet + 1960 paneling. If you do not recall this space, I do not blame you. I sometimes forgot about it too. Since moved in, we only came to this basement once a week to do laundry…To remind all of us including myself, below is the basement floor plan.
Besides the living space and a small laundry area, this basement was divided into three more kid’s bedrooms, two on the north end, and one next to the stairs. These three bedrooms bumped the total number of kid’s bedrooms to 5 in this small ranch.
The northwest bedroom
The northeast bedroom
The 5th bedroom next to the stairs:
2017: Getting rid of the 5th bedroom
Culture phenomenal swings between extremes. The number of the kids/kid’s bedrooms in this house was no exception. Thus far we have reduced the number of the bedrooms in this house by 40%. First of all, we converted the second bedroom upstairs to an office for Slav. Second, we knocked down the 5th bedroom last summer to make HVAC and tankless water heater installation easier.
Opening up the wet wall
Soon after, we exposed the wet wall behind the washer/dryer. This two story wall is the only wet wall in the house, and opening it allowed us to identify/fix several problems with the utility lines/ducts.
By the end of 2017 the utility room looked like this. Utilitarian to the extreme.
On the opposite side though, the purple walls and the tiny closet served as a reminder for the old bedroom:
Behind the purple wall above is the basement stairs. The previous owners framed the space underneath the stairs into a closet.
There was also a window in this bedroom, looking into the living space. I guess it was here for meeting codes? It is amazing what creativity and laziness could produce. With four kids sleeping downstairs, a gas furnace, and multiple space heaters, I am glad that whoever slept in this bedroom made it to the next house safely.
Thus far it concludes all we had done in this utility room in 2017. For the matter of fact, this was all we’d done to the whole basement last year.
2018: Basement floor demo
2018 was supposed to be the year of basement renovation. But we really could not figure out what we want for this space and had to wait for the inspiration to strike. Fortunately, we did know what we do not want here. For example, the decade-old carpet. Early Spring, I started cutting off carpet and used them to suppress weed in the garden.
Mid-May, as a surprise for my birthday, Slav removed all the remaining carpet in the basement when I was at work.
Under the carpet we found tiles, all of which were glued to the basement slab. Slav chipped everything off and got down to the leveled concrete.
Removing the flooring was a big step forward. Seeing less old fixture helped me to imagine what is possible. Our slab was in very good shape and we have the option of any type of flooring without much work. The next thing I knew would help to grasp the potential of this basement was to figure out how the house structure was supported.
The I-beam discovery
I once made a birthday card for Slav, which said “some people never grew up, their toys just became more expensive”. I think we are both this type of people that have to know the mechanisms underlying everything. Knowing the mechanisms opens the possibility for improvement, and gives maximum flexibility for what we desire.
Anyway, this is a long justification of my desire opening this wall, between the utility room and the living space.
This was how the wall looked like from the utility room. The purple wall on the left with the window belonged to the 5th bedroom, and the white wall to the right used to be in the laundry room. The angled frame was where the bedroom door used to reside. The soffit above enclosed some air ducts.
We knew that the supporting mechanism for the whole house was inside this wall, but there was no way of knowing what it is except opening it up. So this happened. And I can proudly say, I did it.
All by myself. Without injuries.
And what did I find inside this wall? An I-beam running along the mid-line of our house!
You can read about the purpose of I-beam here. But after all, this I-beam is what supports all the floor joints above. The white pipe next to it is the old gas line, which has been discontinued during the HVAC installation.
Having the I-beam means that none of the walls downstairs are weight bearing. In another word, all the basement walls were put up purely for creating rooms and can be removed to our liking.
The I beam was held by three steel columns and likely sitting in notches on the foundation wall on both ends. The steel columns and the foundation wall are the ones that bear all the weight of the house. All the wood framing are not.
In fact, you can see from the picture below that the 2″ x 4″ wall framing was practically hanging off the beams with nails. It was the I-beam that keeps the walls in place, not the other way around.
Opening up more walls
Old houses like ours rarely come with structural blueprints. Often times, opening walls is the only way of learning how the house was structured. The I-beam discovery was a success in terms that we gained the option of open floor plan if we desire. However, not every open-wall investigations validate the best case scenario. For example, I later removed the weird bumped out drywall near the dryer, as well as the drywall covering the closet. In both cases, the demolition confirmed the need for their existence.
It turned out that the bumped out portion next to the dryer was for hiding a pipe. If we were going to cover this portion with drywall, my demo work would have been a waste of time. Fortunately we will not be using drywall here. I will explain it in another post.
Last I demoed the closet. After taking the door and all the shelves out, I removed all the drywall on the wall framing.
This wall framing is also not structural. However, it does hold up the stairway drywall, so it stays. Before closing this wall again, we will likely widen the closet opening and put in some insulation. The latter will prevent the sound and warmth from travelling as readily between the two stories.
The basement today
Here you have it, our basement living/utility room today. Although what we did so far was pure demolition, it expanded the potential of this space which we had not seen before.
As we speak, Slav is poking around in the bedrooms and the bathroom to find out more about the basement utility. Through the drywall dust we are contemplating a new plan for our basement, a plan far far from what we ever envisioned. Buckle up, guys!
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