Terrific Broth

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

Category: Renovation Page 2 of 27

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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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2. The water main upgrade

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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.

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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).

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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

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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:

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New connection inside:

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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.

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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:

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The new PVC held by plastic straps:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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

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

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

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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!

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

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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!

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The new water lines:

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What a sharp contrast between old and new sewer pipes:

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After!

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

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Whereas the old lines were below the floor joists:

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Then the framing below was gone too.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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