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

Tag: Media Room

Bye Bye Paneling, Hello Drywall


As of many old ranch house our basement walls were covered by paneling. Although adding paneling has been a design trend for the last a few years, the 50 years-old orange paneling in our basement did not achieve a desirable and high-class look.



With the rest of the basement finished with drywall, the paneling started to look unbearable. Initially I had wondered if paint could make it look OK, until we found more than a few gaps and unevenness upon close inspection. It was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

1. Demolition

Slav has been a long time advocate for replacing the paneling. Once we decided on drywall he could not take these paneling off fast enough.





Left on the wall were 1″ x 3″ wood studs, which held the paneling onto the concrete foundation. The wood studs were mostly solid, except a few have separated from the wall. The good news is that there was absolutely no sign of water damage. Our concrete foundation was bone dry and based on the appearance of these wood studs, it had never had water issues since the built.



Interestingly, the junction boxes are recessed by digging into the foundation wall! I am wondering if this was a common practice at the time this house was built.


2. New Framing and Drywall

Before attaching the drywall, Slav got masonry anchors and secured all the wood studs to the concrete foundation. He also framed around the water main in the corner of the room.



After everything was secure we started putting up drywall. This room is large and only has one window, one doorway, and one column, which made things a lot easier. However, I had little experience working with drywall and Slav’s drywall days go way back. So it still took us two 4-hour evenings to finish hanging the drywall.




Drywall shims were used at places where the walls/studs are not straight.







3. Drywall Finish Marathon

Putting up drywall panels is just the first step. Since then, Slav has been busy at taping, mudding, and sanding.



It is interesting to see how different corners are finished using different materials. Paper tape was used on inside corners and butt joints, metal beam was put on the outside corners, and specialty L beam was used against the window.



Working on just a few joints is definitely not as bad as skim coating all the walls on the main floor while living there. That being said, it is still time consuming. Slav worked for a whole weekend and we still have the last coat to go.



We expect to finish the drywall in the next a few days and by weekend, we should be able to paint! Cannot wait!

Picking Out Flooring for the Basement

While it is still 90 degrees outside, we start to see signs of Fall. The backyard maple tree starts changing color, and our garden tomatoes are going stronger than ever. The nights are in the 50s which is such a blessing – I love sleeping with windows open and fresh breeze.

We have entered a busy September full of business meetings, work trips, Fall planting, and before-the-winter outdoor projects. Most excitingly, we started shopping for basement finishes. Paint, flooring, trim, baseboard, and even furniture. Yesterday I brought home 12 gallons of paint and primer. With 750 square feet of the walls and 500 square feet of ceilings, I will be surely spending some quality time with my paint sprayer.

On top of the paint we’ve decided on the basement flooring. Although we prefer wood flooring to any other type, being in the basement we decided to use something truly waterproof. Tiles have gone down in the bathroom and will be in the utility room where our washer and dryer are. For the rest of the area? Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) flooring there will be.


We did look into luxury vinyl tiles, which will making leveling the floors of living space with the tiled floor in the bathroom a breeze. But we also want something softer and warmer than tile. After some debates between wood look (Slav) v.s. marble look (me), dark tone (Slav) v.s. light tone (me), we settled on the Nucore Driftwood Oak, a medium-tone, wood-looking LVP. It has the most natural-looking wood grains and a rich color that is neither too yellow, too red, nor too grey.


The picture above shows the Driftwood Oak LVP on top, our dark bathroom floor tile in the middle, the shower pebbles at the bottom, and the white subway bathroom wall tiles to the right. I like how well the Driftwood Oak pairs with all the tiles. It appears rich and dark next to white tiles, but somehow lighter and airy next to dark color. The latter also applies to the black bed we have:


Nucore is a fairly new product and does not have many reviews on its durability. But on paper it does have one of the thickest wear layer (22 mil) compared to other LVPs (6~12 mil). With two dogs who like to race up and down the stairs we will be putting this LVP to test especially at the landing area.


Oh, from the picture you can probably tell that Slav has already ripped off the paneling. Instead of this:


We now have this:


Slav will be putting up the drywall this weekend before I start painting. After a long summer of not being able to do anything in the basement, I have such an urge to get it finished. I started feeling my DIY blood boiling – so stay tuned for more updates!

Planning a Basement Media Room

When it comes to home renovation, I am always the one coming up with ideas. From the purpose of the place to furniture placement, from the vibe of the room to the paint color, I spent weeks contemplating every detail of the room before presenting them to Slav. Planning our basement renovation was no exception. As soon as we decided to make the north side a master suite, I kept feeling the large space we called “living room” should become our new media room.

Let me remind you this space we called “basement living room” for the past two years. It is the first room you walk into when entering the basement, and it is a large 22′ x 12′ common space that opens to all the bedrooms, the hall bath, and the laundry space.

Ranch basement_current

During the first year we lived in the house, we combined the laundry room and the neighboring bedroom to create a big utility room. Last year, we removed the wall between the new utility room and the basement living room to create an open floor plan.

Ranch basement_proposal 1

Most recently, we converted the remaining two bedrooms into one big master bedroom, and expanded the hall bath into a bigger master bath. The current floor plan looks like this:

Ranch basement New Floor Plan

As you can see, this 22′ x 12′ “living room” space has become a buffer zone between the basement entry and our master suite. It is still the first room you walk into when entering the basement, and the only room from which we access the most private space in the house. Functionally speaking, this space should have some characteristics of a sitting room, where we could curl up with a book, as well as those of a family room, where we could sprawl out for a movie. When we host guests, who will be sleeping on the main floor, this room should function as the second living room to which we could retreat and relax in private.


Therefore, we decided that this room functions the best as a media room, which will house a comfortable sofa, bookshelves, and our projector/home theater setup for late night movies. We also envision a dry kitchen/bar area so we can make hot and cold beverages without going up to the main floor.


This room is a long 22′ x 12′ space and could comfortably house everything we need for a media room.  After getting Slav’s input on the home theater setup, we have decided to put a TV on the west wall neighboring the bedroom; the projector screen will be mounted on the ceiling right in front of the TV so we can get more cinema experience while watching movies.


A big sofa on which both of us and our dogs can sprawl out will be placed in the middle of the room, facing the TV/projector wall.

Ranch basement New Floor Plan_1

Behind the sofa will be a reading area. I imagine a big, comfortable chair surrounded by several small bookcases and a big electrical fireplace. It will be where I hibernate during Christmas.


The big opening to the utility room will not remain open, and the utility room will not stay as an unfinished laundry space. Our basement 2.0 plan includes finishing the utility room as a dry kitchen, with a big island on the right half of the opening facing the media room. We would like to be able to serve some drinks and make simple breakfast in the basement, which will be extremely helpful during the main kitchen renovation.


Despite of calling it a media room, I try not to let it become a mancave. Slav does not crave that vibe and I do not want to create a place meant for isolation. Aesthetically speaking, I would like the new media room to be just as cozy, calming, and breezy as a bedroom, which can be a challenge with all the media equipment such as TV, projector, and speakers. We are in the process of choosing the flooring, picking paint color and making furniture decisions while our contractor is still working on the bathroom. Below is a sneak peek and I cannot wait for the day when the bathroom finishes!




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