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

Tag: Utility Page 2 of 5

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.

IMG_9654

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.

IMG_9645

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.

IMG_9648

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.

IMG_9653

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.

IMG_6902

IMG_6905

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!

IMG_9040

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!

IMG_9149

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.

IMG_5761

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.

IMG_5803

Then the framing below was gone too.

IMG_8913

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

IMG_9490

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.

IMG_9647

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

IMG_9651

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.

IMG_5761

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!

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.

IMG_9134

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.

IMG_9132

IMG_9136

IMG_9148

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.

IMG_9665

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?

IMG_9559

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.

IMG_9666

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

IMG_9607

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

IMG_9669

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.

IMG_9670

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. 🙂

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.

IMG_9668

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:

IMG_9674

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.

IMG_9690

IMG_9675

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

IMG_9686

controlled by two three-way dimmer switches:

IMG_9680

IMG_9682

Bed room can lights and switches:

IMG_9687

IMG_9677

IMG_9676

Paul also installed the wall sconces in the bedroom.

IMG_9685

IMG_9672

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

IMG_9689

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!

The New Electrical is in!

With the recent rain and snow our yard has been insanely beautiful. On the opposite, the basement of our ranch was gloomy. Boob lights poorly light rooms and all the renovation efforts underneath. Fortunately all was in the past – because the can lights are finally in!

IMG_8817

The decision of adding recessed lighting was easy – a single boob light was all we had in each room before, including the big 20 x 14  living area. Since we are opening up the ceilings for sound insulation (more on that later), it was the perfect timing to brighten up the basement with can lights. Dimmerable LED is a must, and three-way switches are placed near every doorway so we can control the lights when entering and leaving each room.

IMG_8801

For 850 sqft of the space we put in 23 can lights – 8 in the living room, 5 in the bedroom, 4 in the bathroom, and 6 in the utility room.

IMG_8791

The can lights in the living room is more or less evenly spaced so we will not have any dark corners.

IMG_8810

In the bedroom, the placement of the cans was a big tricky due to the heat ducts. At the end, three cans were placed along the midline of the future closet area:

IMG_8804

And two can lights were centered above the sleeping area. We have a big egress window for natural lighting on this side and two additional sconce lights on the side of the bed.

IMG_8805

The bathroom is gonna be so bright! Two can lights on the ceiling and two mini can lights on the soffit should make up for the lack of natural light here. I am also excited to have separated switches for a bathroom fan, ceiling lights, and soffit can lights. The current master bath upstairs has everything wired on the same circuit, which means the fan comes on (and it is loud) whenever we use the bathroom, even just for washing hands. It is so annoying! I know the separated light and fan feature comes with 99.9% of the houses and apartments – but not in our old ranch, which really taught us to appreciate simple pleasures such as separating your fan and lights.

IMG_8907

The utility room will not be finished this time with the living area and master suite, for several good reasons. First, we want to put a dry kitchen and bar area here which requires a lot more time. Second, it will be convenient to have the wet wall uncovered and all the plumbing exposed until we renovate the bathroom and kitchen upstairs. But we decided to get the electrical part done with the rest of the basement. It just makes sense to upgrade the essentials all at the same time. In the utility room, four can lights were added to cover the middle:

IMG_8798

And one more was added above the washer and dryer:

IMG_8911

We also asked the electrician to add one can light inside the utility room closet. After opening up the bedrooms and getting rid of the linen closet, this closet became the only hidden storage in the basement. Adding can light spared us from the loose hanging light bulb there before and saved some much-needed head room in this under-the-stairs closet.

IMG_8909

In the picture you can also see the sub-panel. We did not know we needed it until the electrician took a closer look at the existing panel installed in 2017. On our main panel there was barely enough room for all the lights and utility we need, and definitely not enough room for the future dry kitchen. Adding a sub-panel not only makes wiring all the downstairs utility easier, but also allows us to reset the circuit without leaving the basement.

IMG_8904

The sub-panel was connected to the main one with wires threaded through the floor joints under the backdoor landing. We decided that the closet is the best place to conceal the unsightly sub panel. To meet the code the doorway had to be enlarged by a few inches, and no door can be added, which is not a problem at all. The wider opening actually made getting in and out of the closet a lot easier, and I have a few idea to make this closet not only functional but pleasant to look at even without a door.

IMG_8908

In addition to can light, we also asked for more outlets in the bedroom and the living area. Two outlets and two sconce lights were wired to flank the bed:

IMG_8912

And two electrical outlets were also added to the ceiling where the future projector, TV, and sound systems will be. Slav dropped ethernet cables (of course) next to the electrical outlets so everything we need for future entertainment will be concealed behind the finished ceiling. Last, we added one outlet and ethenet cable near the main entry. This will be a future bar area and I can see the need for charging cables and hardwired internet connection here:

IMG_8812

After all the electrical was done, we moved onto sound-proofing the basement. With the hardwood floor upstairs we really hear every step. It was like a disco party over the head whenever Roxie and Charlie play. To damp the sound, Slav installed the mineral wool insulation batt between the floor joints.

IMG_8817

We have quite some ducts in between the floor joints. Slav torn the insulation apart and stuffed them around the ducts and can lights really well. It was quite a messy job – I highly recommend a respirator – although it was no comparison to this attic insulation project we did ourselves. Applause to the husband who took care of the work so I did not have to!

IMG_8813

The result turned out exactly as we expected – the insulation damped the footsteps in large and helped a lot with the conversation noise. The bedroom actually got double layers of the insulation, which should help with the sound transfer between our future master and the guest room above.

IMG_8830

IMG_8863

We ordered 20 bags of the mineral wool insulation, and used 19 bags in the ceiling. Instead of returning the last bag, Slav installed the leftover insulation around the furnace. We plan to build a closet around the furnace down the road. With the help of the mineral wool insulation, we hope to minimize the furnace noise when it comes on and off.

IMG_8819

 

With both electrical and insulation done, we are ready for drywall. I had some anxiety closing up the ceiling and walls – I cannot help but wondering if we forget something important between the studs. We already determined to wireless connect the future speakers, then what else we could do when the studs are still exposed? Is there anything could be useful down the road, even though we are not using today? Give us a shout out if you have any ideas!

Page 2 of 5

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén