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

Tag: Utility Page 1 of 5

Home Stay + The Utility Room is Finished!

Four weeks ago we shared about the progress in the basement utility room. Since then, I was busy at Spring planting.

With all the warm days and cool nights, our yards have greened up nicely. The trees bloomed and all the perennials came back stronger than ever. The lawn remains nice and green, while all the seedlings came up nicely despite of using old seeds.

View this post on Instagram

#Apricot #blooms #zone5gardening #colorado

A post shared by Terrific Broth (@terrificbroth) on

Gardening really made the home quarantine a lot easier. I am blessed to have a big space to roam around safely. 10 weeks into the pandemic, neither of us feels anxious or claustrophobic. I still look forward to visiting the mountains and public parks though. But to date, gardening kept me calm.

I did go back to the utility room though. During the rainy days I painted the utility room in our go-to wall color – Sherwin-Williams Extra White (SW 7006):

IMG_1670

The closet was painted in “Pale bud”, the same color we used in our upstairs bedroom closets:

IMG_1672

IMG_1694

The ceiling and laundry nook were also painted in white:

IMG_1669

IMG_1673

The utility closet will be covered by doors so I did not paint the inside. In fact, we did not even mud the drywall inside the closet:

IMG_1688

Building the utility closet is truly a good decision! Not only it enables us to soundproof around the furnace, but also we now have a designated spot for all the unsightly cleaning tools and products.

IMG_1681

As soon as the paint dried, we moved onto preparing the slab for floor installation. It was an easy decision to extend the vinyl flooring throughout the basement into the utility room. What we used was a cork-backing vinyl flooring called NuCore, in the color of “Driftwood”.

IMG_9644

Installing LVP flooring requires a leveled floor. Moving the floor drain left us a low spot in the utility room. So we used self-leveling concrete to level everything and patch small holes.

IMG_1680

After the self-leveling concrete dried overnight, we went around the utility room slab with a scraper to clean up any small bumps, followed by a good vacuum around the room.

IMG_1677

Then we put the washer and washer back. Not able to do laundry for a whole month, it felt so good to have the laundry set back and connected!

IMG_1702

It was also a nice bonus that they were finally out of the media room now. For weeks, our media room looked like this:

IMG_1684

Now the washer and dryer were out, I could not wait to clean up the dust:

IMG_1705

I stripped away the floor protector and swept away any debris and dust in the media room. Gotta love a mid-project clean-up!

IMG_1819

Based on our experience, a clean floor installation requires a dust-free environment during the installation. Cleaning the neighboring media room prevented the underlayment to attract dust and hair due to static electricity. Using the same method, we expanded the flooring into the utility room:

IMG_1836

and all the way inside the closet:

IMG_1809

with a smooth transition:

IMG_1806

With previous experience it only took us 6 hours for the installation. We worked like a well-oiled machine and had a good time.

IMG_1848

Shortly after the flooring was installed, the doors were up! We ordered custom doors to match the profile of the solid basement doors. They came in pre-primed and with trims! After a few cuts on the trims, everything got installed in a day:

IMG_1839

A pair of french doors are used for the utility closet to ensure full access to the furnace and water heater.

IMG_1824

The door on the under-the-stair closet is a pocket door, which slides inside the wall to save room:

IMG_1821

After the sliding doors was installed, I was able to finish painting the boundary between the closet and the utility room:

IMG_1805

We did not install trim on the side wall. So the two spaces were separated by a crisp paint line between white and pink:

IMG_1813

We also took this opportunity to order and install the pocket door for the master bathroom:

IMG_1857

It will be painted white on the bedroom side. And the bathroom side will be painted in a darker color to match the tiles.

IMG_1849

The installations of the flooring and the doors happened back to back (crazy, I know), and together they made such a dramatic change to the whole basement! I had imagined many times how this space would feel at this stage. But in reality, uniting the rooms with seamless flooring created a look even better than I anticipated:

IMG_1844

It helps the whole space to feel so spacious:

IMG_1842

I cannot help but feeling that the utility room – maybe we should give it another name now – deserves to have its own purpose, rather than being merely an extension of the media room.

IMG_1862

I have come up a few ideas for the space and as you can see, and I put up some makeshift floating shelves made from scrap materials to try them out.

IMG_1873

The taller floating shelf is set at 32″ from the floor. At such height, it can be used to display books and collectibles. It also can be used for laptop or tablet if needed.

IMG_1864

I kept it narrow (12″) so it does not protrude from the partial wall next to the opening.

IMG_1872

I also made a makeshift low table with two simple storage cubes. It is elevated 18″ from the floor, a perfect height for an adult person when sitting on floor pillows. It can be a spot for chess games, tea time, or serving drinks and food when we have movie nights in the future media room.

IMG_1877

Being also 12″ deep, the low table can be tucked underneath the floating shelf, if such unobstructed access between the two rooms is desired.

IMG_1883

There you go, our finished utility room, and our almost finished basement! Without unfinished surfaces, our basement feels spacious, clean, quiet, and cool – a perfect spot to chill during summer days. It has quickly become Charlie’s favorite space to stretch out and nap. We moved two dog beds down here already, one in the bedroom for Charlie to sleep after breakfast, and the other in the media room for him to nap in hot afternoons. Charlie is a lucky pup.

IMG_1832

IMG_1890

The next step is finishing the trims and baseboards – we are getting so close!

Home Stay + A New Room!

People say that after over a month of quarantine together, couples would have either created a new baby, or gotten divorced. 🙂 What about us, you may ask? Well, in our case, we birthed a new room!

IMG_1648

Do you remember the utility room?

It has been two months since we turned our attention to the utility room. Last time we checked in, it was right after the plumbing work. Plumbing was really the last big task we had to finish before putting the room back together. So while I was outside digging dirt, someone was busy at building the walls back up:

IMG_1385

IMG_1536

IMG_1566

IMG_1609

IMG_1648

Framing a utility closet

IMG_1358

We have always wanted to box in the furnace and water heater. After our plumber moved the floor drain, we put up a dividing wall between the water heater and where the washer usually sits.

IMG_1469

The floor drain is now located inside of the future utility closet. The final position of the wall left enough room required by code on the right side of the water heater and access to the clean-out on the sewer pipe.

IMG_1496

And the cool thing is…this is not just your everyday framing – notice the void near the floor?

IMG_1584

Floating walls are required when finishing basements in Colorado. Due to our expansive clay soil, it is common for basement slab to raise or sink. By attaching the wall framing above, on the floor joists of the main floor, the basement walls are now decoupled with the concrete slab below.

IMG_1523

To prevent the floating walls from going out of plumb, a piece treated wood are glued and bolted down to the concrete slab. They are called bottom plates. Long nail goes through both the bottom of the framing and the bottom plate, linking them together so they won’t move in the horizontal plane. The bottom plates also functions as an anchor for the drywall to attach.

Above the utility units are multiple pipes. They are next to the air ducting which takes a big chunk of ceiling space.

IMG_1375

IMG_1380

We boxed all the pipe and ducting in with a large soffit:

IMG_1473

With a 45 degree curve to soften the look:

IMG_1470

Framing was added underneath the ducting, raising it as tall as possible for more head space below. It also allows drywall to attach from the bottom.

IMG_1497

The new laundry nook and exterior wall

The utility closet wall naturally creates a nook for the laundry units to sit in.

IMG_1482

You can also see the new framing on the exterior wall facing east. The new exterior wall was framed over 5″ away from the concrete foundation to accommodate the new sewer pipe as well as the R-19 insulation required by building code.

IMG_1451

IMG_1454

To save on cost the exterior wall, 2″x 4″ s were used in place of 2″x 6″ to frame the exterior walls. More importantly, it saves some weight hanging off the main floor floor joists.

IMG_1464

Adding framing and a pocket door to the closet

IMG_0619

On the opposite end of the utility wall, there is the basement stairs and closet underneath. We decided to keep the closet for storage as well as for better sound insulation. Inside the closet, we added 2″ x 4″ framing on the exterior wall.

IMG_1504

And a pocket door for closet access. This door needs to be at least 30″ wide to meet the code for the electrical subpanel.

IMG_1502

To attach the drywall securely under the stairs, we added strips of the framing under the stairs. It is interesting to see how stairs were built then – treads and risers do not overlap and there are gaps in between them. With the added new support the whole stair is more steady and less noisy.

IMG_1508

Putting back electrical

After framing we moved onto electrical. The electrical work in this room was largely completed last year, including installed a sub-panel, wiring for the recess lights, wiring 20A lines for the master bath, and wiring for the laundry unit and a couple outlets facing the utility room.

IMG_1486

The finished wiring was pushed to the side during the re-framing process and simply needed to be secured to the new framing. In addition, the subpanel was bolted onto the old framing.

Slav detached the subpanel from the old framing:

IMG_1509

and secured it into the new framing.

IMG_1526

Then we secured all the outlets to the new framing. The 2″ x 4″ framing is positioned over 1″ away from the basement walls, making installing electrical a breeze.

IMG_1537

We did add a few more outlets, including one inside the closet and a couple on the stair wall. The installation was pretty straightforward.

IMG_1538

IMG_1539

IMG_1543

Insulating the utility room

IMG_1532

With the electrical in place, we insulated the room. We used R19 for the long exterior wall facing east, as it is a couple feet above the ground.

IMG_1566

IMG_1560

Being completely under the ground (and our garage slab), the exterior wall inside the closet was insulated with R15 batt.

IMG_1562

IMG_1583

We also added sound insulation in all the interior walls. Putting the sound barrier around the utility closet should significantly decrease the operation noise from the furnace.

IMG_1567

IMG_1568

The wall behind the washer and dryer got the sound insulation too. We should hear the washer less from the bedroom and bathroom now.

IMG_1592

Adding sound insulation in the stair wall as well as under the stairs will hopefully reduce the sound from the kitchen and when using the stairs.

IMG_1576

IMG_1582

Now we are ready for drywall!

IMG_1580

Drywall dust, I do not miss you!

The next day, the drywall was up.

IMG_1607

IMG_1639

IMG_1625

IMG_1621

IMG_1626

IMG_1631

IMG_1611

Then the next three days were dedicated to mudding and sanding. I do not miss drywall dust at all! I am just so happy that we are finally done with drywalling in the basement.

IMG_1657

IMG_1656

IMG_1649

IMG_1650

IMG_1653

IMG_1654

IMG_1651

There it is, the new room!

IMG_1648

IMG_1655

Remember the room before?

IMG_9645

IMG_9647

IMG_9648

It feels so good to not looking at open studs again. Honestly, even I had rehearsed the whole design so many times in my mind and on paper, it still felt novel to see the finished walls in person. Yes, we got our utility room back, but it is much more than that. With the utilities and laundry units less visible, the room feels like a new addition to the basement. I am sure installing the closet doors and flooring will further enhance this feeling and give this room its own identity.

IMG_1646

The doors and floors will be delivered tomorrow, and we still have a whole week before the stay-at-home order ends. It would be totally crazy to come out of the quarantine with a finished basement!

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.

IMG_0617

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.

IMG_0618

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.

IMG_0621

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.

IMG_0619

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

IMG_0620

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.

02

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.

01

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.

03

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.

04

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.

05

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.

06

08

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

09

10

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

13_

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.

12

2. The water main upgrade

18

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.

14

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).

15

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

17

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:

IMG_0634

New connection inside:

17_

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.

IMG_0622

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:

19

The new PVC held by plastic straps:

20

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.

21

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.

IMG_0638

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.

IMG_0635

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:

IMG_0625

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.

IMG_0631

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:

IMG_8615

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.

30

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

35

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

36

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

23

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!

24

28

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

26

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!

31

The new water lines:

34

What a sharp contrast between old and new sewer pipes:

Before

25

After!

32

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

IMG_0639

Whereas the old lines were below the floor joists:

29

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.

Page 1 of 5

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén