Terrific Broth

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

Category: Projects Page 1 of 40

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.

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#Apricot #blooms #zone5gardening #colorado

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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):

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

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The ceiling and laundry nook were also painted in white:

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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:

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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

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

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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:

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and all the way inside the closet:

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with a smooth transition:

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

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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:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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:

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It helps the whole space to feel so spacious:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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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:

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Framing a utility closet

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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With a 45 degree curve to soften the look:

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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.

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The new laundry nook and exterior wall

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

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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.

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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.

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Adding framing and a pocket door to the closet

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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:

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and secured it into the new framing.

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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.

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

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Insulating the utility room

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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Now we are ready for drywall!

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Drywall dust, I do not miss you!

The next day, the drywall was up.

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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.

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There it is, the new room!

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Remember the room before?

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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.

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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!

Home Stay+ Bath Door Refinish

Today marks the start of home stay week 3. It is frustrating to watch the world to get sicker each day, while doing nothing is actually my best way to help. I wonder how I’d feel about this time when it passes, like ten years from now. But for now, the uncertainty gets the upper hand sometimes.

To keep my mind occupied, and more importantly, to make myself feeling useful, I turned to DIY. Tangible, tedious, fulfilling, and therapeutic. I’ve organized the garage and built cedar planters for the patio. This week, I refinished our master bathroom door.

The second-hand bath door

Our master room has two doorways, and this is the door we mounted between the media room and the bath.

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I do not think Charlie digs the concept of glass door at all.

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We got this door second-hand from Resource Central’s resale store. It is made from solid wood and double-paneled glass. It is super heavy.

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From distance the door looked pretty nice. But when you looked it closely, its color read rather yellow and it had screw holes from hanging blinds.

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We’d like to re-stain it to espresso to match other doors in the basement.

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First step: Sand

The first step of finishing any wood product is to sand off the old finish down to bare wood. We moved it into the garage and I started by covering the glass with plastic drape.

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I usually use random orbital sander on large surfaces, but for the rather narrow door frames I chose my small 3M hand sander. I only had 80, 120 and 220 grit sandpapers on hand so I started with 80 grit.

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The wood is fairly soft. A few passes with 80 grit sandpaper took the finish right off.

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The dimension of the door was written on the side of the door:

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Came right off with the 80 grit sandpaper.

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Before sanding:

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After 80 grit:

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It took just 5 mins on each side.

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To sand the inside trim I took the 80 grits sandpaper off the sander and held it with my hands:

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Trim before sanding:

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After 80 grits:

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After vacuuming the sand dust away, I proceeded with 120 grit sandpaper.

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And finished everything off with 220 grits sandpaper:

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Step 2: Clean and patch (then sand again)

By this point the door frame was very smooth. I cleaned off the sand dust with a damp microfiber cloth:

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Then patched the staple and screw holes with wood putty:

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After a light sanding where the putty had been applied, the door was ready for the stain!

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Step 3: Stain!

For the stain I picked Varathane in espresso color. I recently read about shellac as a wood finish and decided to give it a try.

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Rubbing on the first coat of stain. I immediately liked the color of the stain and how easy it was applied.

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You can see how much the espresso color of stain darkened the wood. It looked warm, but did not read red or yellow. I am very happy with this color.

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After letting the first coat of stain dry for a couple hours, I applied the second coat. I do not think the second coat darkened the wood much more, but rather filled in the raw spots and enriched the color. It added more weight to the appearance.

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This was how the color looked like in bright sun light after the second coat had dried. With cooler and dimmer lighting, it read a lot darker. I think it would match the other two doors really well.

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Final step: Seal and protect

After the stain dried I applied the shellac. It is pretty thick – kinda a maple syrup consistency, and dries very fast. I had to work very fast to make sure each layer was thin.

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Can you tell that it added a lot more shine to the wood? It was very pretty in person with just the first coat!

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I applied three thin layers in total, with one hour of drying time in between.

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After the last layer had applied I let the door sit. It takes time for the solvent (ethanol in this case) to evaporate completely and the shellac to harden. We have not mounted it yet. But I like the finish! Do you?

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