Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

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The Utility Room: It Is All About Plumbing

Two weeks have passed since we started working on the basement utility room. We’ve been busy!

First things first, Slav demoed the last bit old drywall in the utility room. Our house is finally purple wall-free.

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Without the big block of purple color, the space immediately felt lovely. I actually do not mind the concrete wall look. But to adhere to the new building codes we have to insulate to R-19. So new framing and drywall there will be.

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We also ripped out the drywall in the closet. Slav hates textured walls. It is just cheaper to re-drywall than to skim coat everything.

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The new framing will be 2″x 4″ in the closet, so the finished wall will be flush with the front of the electrical panel.

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Re-drywall also presents an opportunity to add soundproof insulation under the stairs.

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But the biggest progress we’ve made was plumbing. The plumber who finished our master bath came out again and spent three long days in the utility room. We did many small upgrades. Although pipes behind the wall are not my favorite subject to spend money on, it is worth noting the purpose behind every bit of plumbing projects we’ve completed.

1. Installing a new floor drain

A full day of work was dedicated to replacing the floor drain. Floor drain is required by building code in laundry rooms and close to water tank. But ours has been malfunctional since the day we moved in.

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Not only the old drain was rusted and clogged, its location also inconvenienced us. Sitting far from the wall, the concrete slab around it sloped down significantly towards the drain. The uneven slab prevents us from continuing the LVP flooring from the rest of the basement into the utility room.

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We decided to move the floor drain to one corner of the room so we can lay floors down the road. At the mean time, the old rusty drain would be replaced with a new PVC drain.

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The new drain would be set near the furnace and tankless water heater, near the condensation pump on the floor. By relocating it we will be able to eliminate the condensation pump completely.

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Although we are moving the floor drain by merely a few feet, the work involves breaking the concrete slab between the two locations and re-pouring the slab. Along with the material for the new drain, this work cost us ~$1800 including demo, debris removal, plumbing parts, gravel, concrete, and a day of our plumber’s labor.

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As soon as the sewer line was exposed, we knew why the drain was not working – the underground serer pipe has cracked and was inevitably filled with dirt. The drain pipe actually came out in two pieces.

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Our plumber cut off the old pipe close to the new location, and installed the new drain.

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After laying down a gravel base, concrete was poured and leveled to patch the floor.

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Look at the new drain! Once the utility closet is built the drain along with the furnace and water heater will be concealed from the rest of the room.

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2. The water main upgrade

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As our plumber came in for the floor drain quote, he also suggested a few upgrades, including installing a pressure reducing valve on our main water line.

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Pictured above was the main water line for our house. Water comes into the house from the bottom and below the shut-off valve, and runs up into the basement ceiling then to the wet wall. As you can see, we did not have a way to regulate the water pressure coming from the street. The gate valve in the picture above is an all-of-none shut-off.

After testing, our house receives 80~90 psi water pressure, which is higher than usual (70~80 psi). Higher water pressure can damage household appliances such as clothes washer and dishwasher, as well as reduce the lifespan of plumbing parts such as shower valve. To reduce water pressure, we needed a pressure reducing valve (PRV).

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Our plumber installed the PRV to hold the water pressure around 75 psi, and isolated the valve with two new ball-style shut-offs installed above and below.

3. New outdoor faucet

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Our front yard water faucet is fairly close to the main water line and has been leaking since we moved in. As the plumber worked on the pressure reducing valve, we asked him to replace the outdoor water faucet as well.

New faucet outside of the house:

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New connection inside:

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To work on the water main and outdoor faucet, we had to cut in the new drywall Slav installed (1, 2) and I painted. SAD! After the plumbing work we have been working on patching the drywall. We will be using a electrical access panel (2nd hand for $10!) to allow future access to the pressure reducing valve.

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4. Upgrading/upsizing the main water line

Since the ceiling is open, we also replaced the copper waterline with PVC. The old pipe was installed below the floor joists at places and held up by metal screws/brackets. Metal contact on copper line, regardless water or gas, is a big no-no as the contact point will slowly corrode and develop leaks. Our plumber replaced all the copper line he could see with PVC and raised the new line to be flush with the floor joists.

The old copper line held by metal screws:

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The new PVC held by plastic straps:

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5. Upgrading the waterlines for the main floor bathroom

Since the wet wall will be partially covered by the end of the utility room renovation, we decided to replace as much as plumbing for the upstairs floor bathroom and kitchen as possible. The picture below revealed two problems for the upstairs plumbing: the contact between copper line and sewer line, and undersized pipe.

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This pictured vertical copper pipe is a cold water pipe that supplies the upstairs toilet. It used to feed the water heater below, but the line has been capped when Slav installed the tankless water heater. However, the copper water pipe remains on top of the sewage line due to the narrow space. This contact has been something that keeps us up at night (how adult…).

In addition, the waterline to the right was narrower than the left. Since the horizontal line is where majority of the water travels, It should remain 1/2″ pipe as apposed to the 1/4″ our old plumber used. To fix both issues, we decided to replacing this copper connection completely all the way up to the upstairs toilet, and replace the waterline to 1/2″ throughout.

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As you can see, our plumber upsized the main line and the new line is no longer touching and rubbing on the sewage line.

As a result, we now have a new water line to the upstairs toilet.

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We did have to cut out the bathroom drywall for the work, but this bath’s days are numbered too, so it is OK. The new water line will functional a lot better for us down the road, compared to the old line:

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6. Replacing the outdoor faucet at the back the house

Running down the line, literally, we also replaced the outdoor faucet at the back of the house. Slav took this opportunity and installed a new vent cover for the bathroom fan. The back of the house looks instantly better.

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I do not have a closeup before picture at this location, but you can get an idea how messy it looked from this old shot shortly after we moved in:

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Remember the old window well? I did not. Wow that was bad. But anyway, let us focus on the very left side of the photo. From left to right we have  1. dryer vent, 2. telephone box, 3. old water faucet, and 4. bathroom fan vent. Slav took off the telephone box off and installed a new vent cap for the bathroom fan vent, which completely upgraded the look of this area.

7. Upgrading the kitchen plumbing

The last plumbing project was to upgrade the plumbing for upstairs kitchen, which includes replacing the sewage pipe all the way to under the sink, and replacing cold and hot water supply to the upstairs sink.

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The old sewer pipe with rusted clean out is made of copper and was replaced with new PVC pipe and a new clean out:

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Our plumber installed the Y connection (for ventilation) sideways for easy framing.

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Continue up the under-the-sink sewer pipe was replaced too. It was a huge mess in the sink cabinet:

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Both water lines and the sewer pipe were in serious despair. There must have been leaks and the entire cabinet and the wall behind was rotten and covered by mold. Cannot wait to replace all of them!

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Drywall tape held the connection to the garbage disposal. I faint…

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And look at the new stuff! Apparently the new practice is to run the sewer and water lines through the floor, which brings less disruption of the sink cabinets. Smart!

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The new water lines:

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What a sharp contrast between old and new sewer pipes:

Before

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After!

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The new waterlines were also raised into the floor joists, which will make drywall the ceiling easier.

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Whereas the old lines were below the floor joists:

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What’s next

By crossing off plumbing upgrade from the list, we are ready for framing and drywall! All the framing and drywall finish will be performed by a new GC which will start in April. Then we can take over in May to paint and install flooring. It is tough to wait another month to see new progress, but it also gave me time to finish designing the space and start looking at furniture. Stay tuned!

1. Demo the remaining purple drywall and drywall in the closet;
2. Replace plumbing needed and move the floor drain;
3. Framing walls, soffit when necessary, and add a pocket door to the closet;
4. Frame a floor-to-ceiling utility closet to conceal the furnace and water heater;
5. Electrical work necessary;
6. Insulate and drywall the ceilings and walls;
7. Paint the ceilings and walls;
8. Continue the NuCore flooring from the media room to the utility room;
9. Install trims and baseboard throughout the basement;
10. Create a laundry nook with cabinet storage.

The Utility Room Reno Starts!

Now the dust has settled (literally) in the master suite, Slav and I ask ourselves, “what’s next?” Without hesitation, we both knew it will be the utility room.

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It is time to tiny up

Do not get me wrong, there are quite a few rooms that need attention. But the utility room rise to the top of the list as soon as rest of the basement was finished. After all, it is the last room to remodel in the lower level, and it is connected to the finished media room with a big opening.

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The rough state of the utility room actually prevents us from using the media room as it’s intended. Knowing there will be more drywall dust when we renovate this room, we do not want to furnish the media room just yet.

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Quite frankly, walking downstairs and still seeing bare studs and furnace ducts are getting old. It downplayed all the hard work we’ve done in the rest of the basement. “Curb your enthusiasm” it does.

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Longest in making: the initial demo

Interestingly, this utility room is the longest in making among all spaces. When we moved into the house in the summer of 2017, this space was divided into two rooms, a laundry niche and a bedroom painted purple.

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This bedroom was not up to code at all. And we do not need 5 bedrooms (!) in this house. We started demoing this space shortly after moving in, starting with the HVAC installation to accommodate the new ducting. It was 2.5 years ago!

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Soon after, Slav removed the dividing wall between the laundry niche and the purple bedroom. Finally, doing laundry with washer and dryer doors fully open!

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I immediately started brainstorming what this room could be used for. The first plan came to mind was to add a small kitchenette. You can see my blue tape on the wall indicating a sink cabinet.

We also proceeded to remove the drywall and soffit on the utility wall to expose the plumbing. It made the master bath renovation later a lot easier.

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Just like that, I had the luxury to do laundry in the most spacious utility room I’ve eve had. This utility room measures 12″ x 16″, bigger than any of our bedrooms.

Create an open floorplan

Fast forward to a year ago, before renovating the basement, we removed the drywall between the media room and the utility room to expose the I-beam.

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Then the framing below was gone too.

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As part of the media room finish, the drywall was back up and a new opening was established.

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It already looked a lot better, but we are ready to get it completely polished. If you have lived with renovation, you will likely agree that having a finished space that can be completely closed off from construction zones is essential for one’s sanity. Finishing this utility room will give us a finished basement that is isolated from the main floor, which is just that.

Kitchenette or not, it is a question.

To date, the utility room houses the furnace, the tankless water heater, and the washer and dryer.

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On the other side of the room, a closet hosts the new electrical sub-panel for the basement.

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For the longest time, I was convinced that we should turn this space into a dry kitchen. If you are not familiar with the concept of dry kitchen – it is very common in some culture to have two kitchens, one for washing and cooking, which produces moisture and smoke, and one for serving drinks and snacks, which remains relatively clean and odorless. The latter is called a dry kitchen. Small appliances such as microwave, toaster, and coffee machine can stay in the dry kitchen for easy access, whereas refrigerator and cooktop usually remain in the cook’s kitchen.

These two kitchens are often connected. The cook’s kitchen can usually be closed off with french/pocket doors from the dry kitchen when guests arrive. In our case, I imaged the upstairs kitchen to be where we cook, and the basement kitchen to serve more like a dry bar and place for snacks and pizza for movie/game nights.

With a dry kitchen in mind we started getting quotes. What we quickly learned, is that kitchen is expensive! Even so tiny, quotes we got were somewhere between $20000 to $40000. $20000, for installing a sink, some cabinets and countertop, and tile some backsplash! As you could imagine, we quickly nix the dry kitchen plan.

How we will go about finishing the utility room now?

We decided at last, without a clear vision for the purpose of the space, is to finish the room the simplest way possible. We can always come in with some DIY effort later, but for now, getting this space dust free is the priority. Below are the main steps we plan to take:

1. Demo the remaining purple drywall and drywall in the closet;
2. Replace plumbing needed and move the floor drain;
3. Framing walls, soffit when necessary, and add a pocket door to the closet;
4. Frame a floor-to-ceiling utility closet to conceal the furnace and water heater;
5. Electrical work necessary;
6. Drywall the ceilings and walls;
7. Paint the ceilings and walls;
8. Continue the NuCore flooring from the media room to the utility room;
9. Trims and baseboard – the entire basement;
10. Create a laundry nook with cabinet storage.

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So here they are, our current plan for attack in the utility room. We are still talking to a contractor about his availability, and this project will likely last the rest of the winter. But when it is finished it will be a great relief to us. We have started the plumbing work and I have been putting the progress on IG stories (under the highlight “AllAboutPlumbing”). Check it out, guys!

3 Doors Down

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Long time no see! I am finally getting around to show you what’s going on in the ranch. And I am excited to tell you about our progress.

Since moving into the bedroom we have been just tackling small projects – caulking, paint touch-ups, hanging art, and just settling into our new basement living routine. We like the master suite as much as the day we moved in. The closets function perfectly. The NuCore flooring is holding up to the “dog nail test”. And the glass shower door has survived the first two months of usage (did time fly!). I used to worry that one of us will slip and break the glass panels, but it turns out to be very solid and can take some impact. Let me tell you, living through January without making drywall dust was an absolutely joy.

After the holidays I started feeling like decorating. Hanging a couple pictures here and there, adding art to the bathroom, and bring in a much-needed clock to better get ready in the mornings. You know, the little things. One of the fun projects I did was dressing up the egress window well.

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The window well update

was a perfect Sunday morning project. Slav had been complaining how bare the window well looked, so I grabbed a bunch of faux plants from IKEA without telling him what they were for. Let me tell you, these plants are not cheap! What I got barely covered the front side of the window well, which we see everyday. But the hope is that they last a few years being out of the strong Colorado sun.

One Sunday Slav went skiing, I took the opportunity to setting up all the faux plants as a surprise:

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Much better from this, right?

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I documented the process with Instagram stories, hence the lack of pictures. Still debating if I should add a layer of white rocks to the bottom of the well. But for now, it is a killer upgrade that makes us smile every morning opening the curtains.

 

Installing prehung doors for the media room

The biggest progress we made lately was installing basement doors – 3 out of 4 to be exact. You might have noticed some of them in our last post:

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These two doors are the basement entry door and the bedroom door, we chose solid core doors for their soundproofing properties. We are happy with the JELD-WEN window in the main floor living room, so choosing their doors was a no-brainer. The style is “the Craftsman” in Espresso color.

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The bedroom door was discarded during the renovation, so there was just one opening left.

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We ordered pre-hung door for the opening and it was pretty straight forward to put on. We chose left-hand opening so it opens into the bedroom.

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The doors did not come with knobs or lock. We picked some satin nickel lock from Lowe’s to match the finishes of the hinges:

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We also ordered a pre-hung door for the basement entry. The old jamb was in bad shape and the hinge side had started to separate from the foundation.

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We took the door and the door jamb off, and Slav secured the framing to the concrete wall properly.

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And the new door was on!

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We added the same lock on this door and it looked amazing:

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Much better than the old one. 🙂

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Even Roxie was amazed. 🙂

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Customizing a door for the bath

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While the DIY momentum continued, we installed a bathroom door. Our bathroom has two door opening, one being a pocket door to our bedroom, and one to the media room. These bathroom doors brought bigger challenges. Both of the openings are only 77″ tall, which requires customization. The task is so intimidating that we had been procrastinating as long as we could.

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Until I found this door from a local resale store – it is 76 1/2″ tall, so it fits perfectly under the short doorway. It also sports a big panel of glass which lets in the morning sun from the bathroom into the media room. This door is made with real wood and very steady.

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As you can see, the top of the door opening is already at the height of the ceiling. The space is tight! The doorway was actually a few more inches too wide for the door, so we started by adding a 2″ x 4″ on one side of the doorway framing:

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We decided to narrow the doorway from the toilet side, so we would see less of the toilet from the media room.

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To further narrow the doorway we installed another piece of 1″ board on top of the 2″ x 4″. Then we proceeded to making new door jambs for the glass panel door:

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Besides getting the height right (you want to leave 1/8″ gap on all sides between the door and the jamb), it is important to get the hinges installed at the right spot. Slav used a router to carve into the jamb so hinges could sit flush with the wood.

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We also cut a notch at the bottom of the door jamb to accommodate the height of the tile.

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With all the pieces cut to size, we assembled the door jambs on the floor, then attached the whole assembly and the door to the opening:

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The last step was to add door stops at the proper location. Then…Ta-dah!

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We used matching hardware as those on the pre-hung doors. A narrow strip of drywall will be added to cover the 2″ x 4″ and the  1″ board, then the gap between the new drywall and the door jamb will be covered by trim.

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This is the view from the media room looking into the bath. We may obscure the glass in the future somehow. But for now, we are just happy to finally have a door on the bathroom!

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And finally be able to keep the dogs out of the bedroom – or in.

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Getting one of the bathroom door installed really lifted a lot of weight off our shoulders. I do not know if you are the same, but when I face too grand of a to-do list, I have a hard time taking the first step. Now with only one pocket door to install, it started feeling fun again.

On a separate note – I knew what I’ve been posting lots of in-progress photos. Any successful blogger will wait until they can get the perfect “after” shots, which means  after the drywall and finished trims are all in. But this pretty “after” may take weeks to come in our hands. I figured it is better to update you what we’ve been up to now. Gotta keep it real! After all, this blog is more of a diary of this house to me, even during the slow days. More and more so, I found myself relying on the in-progress pictures I posted before to remember how we did certain steps, or what product we used. In a way, the blog will remember for us what went behind the walls, and the sweat and tears we shed along the way. So, no shame on posting in-progress photos for me!

Now most of the doors are in, we can finally consider door trims. (Pocket doors are trimmed differently so we are not gonna worry about it now.) All of our basement doors are located really close to a neighboring wall, which means we can only install the most narrow trims. Narrow trims = ugly looking. So I would have to figure out something creative. Another thing I would like to do is refinishing the glass panel door with stains matching the color of other basement doors. The color of the prehung doors is labeled as “Espresso”, but it reads lighter and reddish compared to most of the Espresso stains you can find on the market. So there will be some mixing and trials to get the color right.

Here you have it, our slow, but steady progress in the basement. I will work on the stains and trims next. What are you up to?

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