Terrific Broth

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

Category: Renovation Page 1 of 24

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. 🙂

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!

Basement, Painted!

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It has been a long journey to renovate our basement. We started demolition last December (here and here) and it was not until a few weeks ago, we finally got all the walls finished.

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I spent a day removing drywall dust and taping the windows and outlets. To get a good result of paint preparation is the key. Any unevenness and floating dust shows regardless how many layers of paint are put on the wall.

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Since we decided to use the same white paint on all the ceiling and walls I used my beloved paint sprayer. It took two coats of primer to saturate the new drywall.

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We used the same color of white paint (Sherwin Williams Extra White) and it only took one coat to get the basement finished.

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Above are the four walls of the media room. This room was used as a bedroom when we bought the place and was covered in paneling.

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Believe or not, the paint color on the walls and ceiling was also white…I guess with heavy texture on the walls and insufficient lighting, everything just looked orange.

The future master was also painted in the same white:

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This large room was created by joining two small bedrooms. I love how the light bounces in the room now we have windows from three directions. Above is the sleeping area where our king bed will be placed. Being a former bedroom it has its own access door, which has become a door leading to the master bath:

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Care to see what it looked like before the renovation?

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And this is the exact view now without the closet/graffiti wall:

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This part of the master bedroom will be used for clothes storage. We plan to install tall wardrobes on both side of the room, which will double the closet space compared to what we have now.

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This space used to be the second bedroom by itself, which looked like this before the renovation:

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Quite a change, isn’t it?

I am really happy how much light the new master gets thanks to the new egress window. I especially love that we can see the new front fence and the new flower bed through the window on the right, as soon as you walk into the bedroom.

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This is the view from the small window. The green arborvitae will eventually grow wider to meet each other and block the view of neighbor’s house. I planted a climbing rose between the arborvitae and grasses, which will be trained to climb onto the fence.

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Despite the uneventful color pick (white is always my go-to), the basement looks so fresh and much more finished. We removed the poly tarp covering the bathroom ASAP so our contractor can continue working on the bathroom tiles.

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While waiting for the bathroom to be finished, we are moving onto the next task – installing the LVP flooring. We have never laid any type of flooring before, so this will be a learning experience for us. I am watching video instructions thanks Youtube and who knows, maybe I will actually gain enough confidence to put down some planks soon! Wish us luck!

Bye Bye Paneling, Hello Drywall

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Ta-da!

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3. Drywall Finish Marathon

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

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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.

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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.

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

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