Terrific Broth

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

Tag: Basement Page 1 of 9

Bed, Bath, and Beyond

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Three weeks have passed since I left you with the photo above and this length to-do list mostly for the basement bathroom. Since then I have been slowly figuring out the big ticket items. I’d like to give you an update on our progress, and here is the to-do list first:

Getting new bath vanity and sinks
Bathroom fixtures! Vanity! Toilet!
Glass shower door by professionals
DIY install 4 new doors for the bathment bedroom, bathroom, and entry, including a pocket door between the bath and the bedroom
Closets in the bedroom!
Baseboards and trims in the bedroom and media room

Vanity, sink, and plumbing

As you can see the first four items are all for the bathroom. We actually bought vanity and sinks before summer, but the incompetent contractor (whom we have fired) did the plumbing wrong and they have to be returned. Thanks for IKEA’s full refund policy we were able to minimize the lose, then we found this similar one on Wayfair:

Faycelles Rigel 48" Double Bathroom Vanity

Ordering vanity and sinks online felt intimidating. Before pulling the trigger, we triple-checked with our new plumber that this one would fit our space AND work with the rough plumbing. It will be delivered to our home this weekend, and our plumber Chris will come first thing next week to look at it in person and make sure it is really gonna fit. Speaking of Chris, he is truly amazing! He is not only knowledgeable and experienced, but also super transparent about his approach. After giving us all the information we need, he even suggested NOT to book him until we figure out the shower door installation, which should go in first before the vanity.

A new glass shower door

Following Chris’s advice, we shifted our focus on finding a shower door. Slav wants a see-through glass shower door to make the bathroom feel bigger. After getting several quotes, we trusted our business to a local company called L and L Glass. They are specialized, professional, and never pushed any product on us. Among all the quotes they are not the cheapest, but we have already learned in a hard way to not go with the cheapest!

Our final choice is very similar to the inspiration photo below. The difference? Ours will be composed of two clear glass panels, one fixed and one swinging door. We also opted for a single knob instead of a handle for the door.

Seneca Adjustable 72.75" x 74" Hinged Frameless Shower Door

To date, the shower door will be installed after the Thanksgiving weekend, then Chris will come in the following week to install the vanity, sinks, faucets, shower fixtures, and toilet. After he puts everything together, as the last step – we will install the medicine cabinet which has been collecting dust in the basement for 6 months!

Doors, doors! And doors…

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With all the bathroom work scheduled in early December, we might (!) have a complete bathroom by mid-December, minus the doors. Yes, the doors. There are three empty doorway waiting for their doors, and as we are on it, we will replace the basement entry door under the stairs too.

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This entry door and the media room-bedroom door are easy-peasy. They are both in standard sizes, so we simply ordered the doors from Home Depot website. However, the two doors leading to the bathroom are merely 76″ tall. That means we need to either cutting the standard door down, or customize-building them. I am still trying to figure out the bestĀ  and cheapest way to go about it. Luckily we do not have to have doors to actually use the bathroom…

Now the fun part: working with the PAX

With all the bathroom stuff (almost) figured out, I finally had some mental capacity for bedroom closets. Slav is completely hands-off on this project, so I am taking full responsibility of the design, the purchase, and the assembly (hopefully Slav will lend a hand there…). Although there are a lot of decision to make, it feels like a good break from the bathroom decisions!

To make things easier I decided to design and purchase my closet first. My request of closet is simple and does not require fancy add-ons, And because it is sitting along a long wall, the design challenge is minimal. Slav’s side of the closet is a lot more complicated because of the location of our basement windows. So I hope what I learned from designing and installing my closet will be helpful to the design of Slav’s. So stay tuned for the big closet post!

Baseboards and trims

The very last thing we need to tackle to complete the basement reno 1.0, is to install all the baseboards and trims. This step should come after installing the closet and doors, which means we will likely not get to this part until January. Since we have already picked out the profile we wanted, it should be a fun and easy project when the pressure of bathroom and holidays is behind us. Right now, the bathroom and the closets! I cannot wait to come back with some completed installation of…anything, the closet, or the bathroom, anything really! We will get there, I promise!

Life Happening + Basement Electrical

Life happening

For the past three months, we’ve been on pins and needles waiting for the basement bathroom to be completed. The promised July 8th deadline was abandoned with no new deadline, and the progress was very slow.

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When I say slow, I mean SLOW. The three pictures below showed the tiling of two of the bathroom walls, which took three months. THREE MONTHS! Some days we came home saw three tiles laid, and other days we only see tools being moved around.

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When an adult decided to not do his job there is really nothing you can do. By adult I mean our contractor. I considered firing him multiple times during the renovation, especially after he missed the July 8th deadline. But Slav advocated to keep him at least the quality of his work was decent. But when the wall of dark tile was laid, we could definitely see a drop on the quality of the work. And this was the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.

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Another red flag with this contractor is that none of his subcontractors showed up on time. His drywall-er came in at night without notifying us, and his plumber friend never showed up. More recently, after we painted the basement, his electrician who wired the can lights was expected to come back and finish the rough-ins and installing the outlets and switches. But for weeks, our contractor failed to get him back. More ironically, this electrician is actually our contractor’s brother! How could we trust a contractor if his own brother does not want to work with him?

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When October rolled around, we realized neither electrical or plumbing would be finished by professionals. Our then contractor, despite his lack of experience, was planning to finish everything himself. This explained why he was not making progress – he does not know HOW to finish these things properly.

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By this point we just want to get the project wrapped up. We did not need a functional basement right away when we hired this contractor, but that was assuming the project would have been finished by July 8th. Slav’s mom is coming for Christmas and we are looking forward to hosting more family and friends in the coming spring. Besides we are just too tired of seeing exposed electrical wires by now!

In the bath

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So, this was the state of the union as of Oct. 23rd, the day we let the incompetent contractor go. It may look like we were close to the finishing line, but unfortunately we were not.

The Unfinished surfaces

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For one, the dark wall of tiles are not grouted, and the white tile wall has several unfinished edges we have to cover somehow. Slav will finish the grouting himself – we have ordered the right colors of grout and silicone caulk. And I will be tackling the painting drywall work as soon as Slav finishes grouting.

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On a side note, Slav actually does not have any grouting experience either. But he is handy and good at learning new things. And he takes his time. If there is one bright side of this unfortunate contractor experience, that is I now appreciate Slav a lot more for his dependability and responsible work ethics. Apparently not everyone is a man of integrity but I am lucky to be with a good one. šŸ™‚

Installing fixtures and finishing plumbing

The next step will be installing all the bathroom fixture, including the toilet, vanity/sinks, medicine cabinet, and shower fixtures. We have brought in an expert for the work, who pointed out several plumbing mistakes our previous contractor made with the first glance. Nothing cannot be fixed, and we are looking forward to a functional toilet down here really soon.

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Bathroom electrical finish

In addition to general electrical finish, such as outlets and switches, we needed to add two more mini can lights in the soffit which involves drilling the tiles. We brought in a wonderful electrician (his name is Paul) who installed these babies in just one morning:

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Paul also installed all the switches and outlet for the bath. His work completed the electrical in the bathroom, including two ceiling can lights, two mini can lights on the soffit, and one bathroom fan.

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Finishing the electrical for the rest of the basement

We also asked Paul to finish the rest of the electrical here for us. The previous electrician, the brother of our previous contractor, seemed to have done a decent job (phew). With Paul’s help, we added breakers to the subpanel, finished all the can lights, installed all the switches for can lights as well as all the outlets:

living room can lights

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controlled by two three-way dimmer switches:

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Bed room can lights and switches:

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Paul also installed the wall sconces in the bedroom.

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They are on dimmer and give the best warm light in the evening:

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The new to-do list

As we are coming down from this intense rollercoaster ride, here is the to-do list we still have to tackle for the basement reno 1.0.

Finding new bath vanity and sinks (the one we purchases back in June does not work with the plumbing our contractor did… SAD!)
Installing bathroom fixtures + medicine cabinet + vanity
Installing a glass shower door
Installing closets in the bedroom
Installing 4 new doors for the bathment bedroom, bathroom, and entry, including a pocket door between the bath and the bedroom
Installing baseboards and trims in the bedroom and media room

These tasks will for sure take us beyond the holidays, so we would have to move into the basement without baseboard or even doors. But that is OK as long as we have a working bathroom! So for now, we are focusing on bathroom finishes and everything bathroom. Stay tuned, friends!

New Floor in the Basement! – NuCORE LVP Installation

Well, the deed is done!

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During the past two weekends, Slav and I installed the NuCORE LVP flooring in our basement master bedroom:

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and the living/media room!

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In the last update on our basement renovation, we painted the basement ceilings and walls snow white. We had picked out flooring for the basement weeks prior, and having finished surfaces finally allowed us to move forward on the installation!

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The flooring we chose for the basement is NuCORE LVP flooring in Driftwood. We like it because 1) it is LVP with cork backing and we want something waterproof on the basement slab; 2) it’s only 6.5 mm thick and saves head room in the already-low-ceiling basement; and 3) it offers the highest scratch resistant rating (22 mil wear layer) among similar products. This floor will stand the test of puppy paws!

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An additional perk about the NuCORE is the locking system – instead of tongue and groove, it has channels on both long and short ends. With this locking system, every plank is locked and tapped in place without the need of a pull bar or a tapping block. It ensures a seamless look and therefore DIY friendly to flooring newbies like us.

Slav and I never installed floors. We watched some videos and followed the principles: 1) the long side of the floor boards should run parallel to the long wall of a room; 2) staggering the seams. NuCORE requires neighboring seams to be at least 8 inches apart; and 3) leaving 1/4″ space around the perimeter of the room while avoiding skinny boards (narrower than 2″) on both sides or short boards (shorter than 8″) on either end. These requirement are pretty straight forward so we quickly geared up for the installation.

Preparing the concrete slab

Before the exciting work of actual installation, the first step is always the boring prep. LVP flooring has to be installed on very leveled surface without significant holes or slope. Although our slab was pretty even, near the bathroom doorways, there were quite some settling. Slav leveled the low spots with cement mix, and filled holes and control joints throughout the basement.

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After the cement dried Slav came back and smoothed everything out with spatula and sanders. He also did a thorough cleaning with vacuum and mop to make sure the slab is a debris-free and dust-free.

Underlayment over the slab

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The supplier of the NuCORE flooring, Floor and Decor, recommended the Sentinel Protect Plus underlayment to go under the NuCORE. Because NuCORE is a locking and floating type of floor, the underlayment needs to be fairly rigid with high crush-resistant. I do not know how other brands of underlayment would work with NuCORE, but with Sentinel this underlayment is the only suitable one.

From my understanding, underlayment under basement flooring usually serves three purposes: 1) moisture barrier – for which lots of people use 6mil plastic in addition to underlayment; 2) cold insulation – so the flooring stays warmer in winter; and 3) sound barrier – so the flooring feels softer and prevent it from making clicking sound against the concrete slab beneath. The cork backing on the NuCORE flooring resists to rot and provides sound and cold insulation, so technically we could skip the underlayment all together. On the other hand, adding underlayment does not hurt and should improve the sound and cold insulation, so we still decided to use it for the peace of mind.

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Laying underlayment is pretty simple. We followed the included instruction and laid them perpendicularly to the flooring direction. We cut the 4′ wide roll to size, pieced the seams together, and taped them down with this underlayment tape. The long seams actually comes with built-in adhesive to connect neighboring pieces. But the connection is fairly wimpy so I still recommend to use underpayment tape on top.

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If the subfloor (in our case, the basement slab) is even and debris-free, the underlayment should go in like a breeze. It is also easy to cut around the nooks and crannies too.

The underlayment provided a clean, soft and warm surface to work (and walk) on without shoes.

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Laying down the planks

Before putting down the first plank, we measured the width of the room to make sure that the last line of boards will not be too skinny. We were lucky that both of our rooms had more than 2″ space left when we started with a full-width board. Once we have the layout planned, we opened a few boxes to make sure that we have the full spectrum of wood patterns on hand. The Driftwood color of NuCORE has six basic patterns that are printed on the plank in both directions as well as shift longitudinally. So we have more than 10 patterns to work with.

I took the initiative to plan the layout, select boards, and set them in place. Slav cut them to size and tapped them in place. These boards are easy to cut on the short direction with a razor blade pocket knife. I tried to work a couple rows ahead of him, while taking mini breaks to clean up the empty boxes and vaccum the underlayment ahead of him. It is always pleasant to work together. We are both very methodical thanks to years of training in research laboratories. We also tend to focus on different aspects of the project and pay attention to different details. Our similarity in work ethics and differences in tactic makes working with Slav a really enjoyable experience.

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To floor around the framing Slav cut the boards using oscillating saw. It made very clean cut without ripping the cork backing.

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For longitudinal cuts such as some corners or the last row, table saw worked perfectly.

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Transitions between rooms

There are three transitions we need to install between the rooms. For perfect match we got NuCORE transition moulding in Driftwood color. It comes in a kit with a channel and concrete anchors. In the picture below, you can see the channel placed between the bathroom tiles and the bedroom flooring. Slav drilled into the slab and secured the channel against the tile, then laid flooring against it on the other side.

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After both side of the flooring complete, the moulding was snapped into the channel to complete the look. It can be popped off easily when it is time to replace it.

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Finishing the stair landing

We decided to continue the flooring all the way to meet the bottom of the stairs. There were quite some cutting to do in this narrow (37″ wide) space.

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Underlayment was down:

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And the flooring! We used long enough planks that span the entire width of the landing here to add strength.

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The cost and a supply list

For slightly over 500 sqft space we used 28 boxes of flooring ($53.4 per box/19 sqft) and 6 rolls of underlayment (~$50 per roll/100 sqft). Adding on the transition mouldings and one roll of underlayment tape, the total material cost is about $1900. It does not include the cement product we used to level the slab, so I’d say that on average NuCORE costsĀ  ~$4/sqft to install.

Time-wise, it took Slav and I, both of whom without prior experience, two 9-hour days to complete the installation. Again, this time frame does not include the leveling of the slab, which takes time to dry and polish. During the first 8-hour day, we installed the flooring in the bedroom (22′ x 10′), while really taking our time to figure out the layout, get familiar with the process, and establish a cohesive work flow between us. The media room and all three floor transitions took another 10-hour day.

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Just a friendly reminder, the installation is on the hands and knees, so I will highly recommend knee pads and gloves. It also put quite some stress on lower back. We did not do the work in one weekend – the two work days were on two separate Sundays, and we felt exhausted after each day. So if you could find more help – even just with carrying boxes or cleaning up periodically – take it.

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Aside from knee pads and gloves, we used the following:

Measuring tape, marker, pencil

Pocket knife (to cut the planks and open packaging)

Speed square (to assist the cut of the planks). I used a plastic one to avoid scratching the planks.

Oscillating saw (to cut irregular shapes and angles)

Table saw (optional, to cut longitudinally. A shape pocket knife and a long ruler together should work too)

More Befores and Afters!

Before I check out, allow me to remind you (and ourselves) of where we started:

The bedroom before:

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The bedroom now:

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The media room before:

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And now:

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The landing before:

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The landing now!

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Isn’t it much better? We love love love the color of the flooring, which is perfect in every lighting situations. We have only lived with the new floor for TWO days and I already start forgetting the ugly befores! It feels that the basement has always been this way and it should. It is such a joyful DIY victory!

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