Terrific Broth

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

Category: Projects Page 1 of 37

Closing Up the Walls! A Basement Update

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I have not talked about the basement renovation for a while. Progress has been made, just not at the pace we were hoping for. But today, I think it has improved significantly compared to our last update and finally worth another post.

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First, drywall! The picture above shows the wall between the basement living space and the utility room. We took off the paneling here and some of the wall framing to open it to the living room. Below is how it looked like after we added soundproofing insulation around the furnace:

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Now, fresh drywall covered the insulation, I-beam, and the new framing around the doorway:

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We also removed all the ceiling drywall in the basement for new electrical and sound insulation. Since then, we have been looking at a sea of brown for a couple months:

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You can imagine my excitement when the ceiling drywall was hung. Bright and smooth ceiling made this space feel like a room again, even without paint:

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More drywall happened in the master bedroom. In addition to the ceiling, the newly framed soffit was covered and all the remaining walls were smoothed out:

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The vertical column next to the door contains the supporting column for the I-beam. It was exposed after we removed the closets dividing the two bedrooms.

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Inside the new soffit are the horizontal I-beam, a big air duct, and the HVAC pipes.

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A much improved look from this:

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The recessed lights and smooth ceiling definitely made the ceiling feel higher. Below is the space below Slav’s office, which will be our future walk-through closet.

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The space next to the bathroom will host our king bed and night stands. The pocket door to the right leads to the new master bath:

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Speaking of the new master bath, it is a complete different space now with the walls closed up:

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Under the window will be a shower area, hence the pebbled flooring and the red water-proof coating. The double-sink vanity and a big medicine cabinet will be mounted on the blue coating-covered wall:

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Neighboring the two doors will be the toilet. We asked the contractor to add a electrical outlet behind the toilet for a bidet attachment.

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It is not our preference to have the toilet so close to the doorways. In another words, I’d rather to have the vanity here and the toilet next to the shower. But the ceiling at this corner is lower due to an air duct, so it make the most sense to place the toilet under the lower ceiling. The pocket door will save some space in front of the toilet.

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With all the surfaces smoothed out in the bathroom, our contractor has started tiling. The floor tiles were completed last week:

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We chose a smokey black/grey color for the floor and pebbles in a similar color for the shower area. I think they complement each other nicely.

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Next week we expect to see tiles on the walls. The same dark floor tile will be carried up onto the wall neighboring the bedroom, budding against the pocket door. The end wall and the vanity wall will go white. We want the bathroom to look simple and sleek with big contrast.

I did not expect finishing drywall to be such a significant step in the basement renovation – all the sudden, all the rooms look like rooms again, which invites all the imagination on how they should look eventually. We still have lots of big decisions to make: paint colors, flooring, shower doors, bedroom closet layout, the color and finish of the stairs, and whether to drywall over the big section of paneling in the living space. Each one of these factors can drastically change the feeling of the basement.

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For example, what should we do with the living space paneling? It will not stay brown for sure. Slav insists in covering it with drywall, but I would like to paint it white first to see if they can disappear with a lighter color. What do you think? Drywall or paint?

Since we completed the demo, almost 4 months have passed. This basement renovation has been a slow and painful process, but nevertheless, I am happy to be at a point that we enjoy thinking about the basement again. In the next a few posts, we will discuss how we are gonna use the living space, the flooring choice, and the potential bedroom layout. At the meantime, I am impatiently waiting for our contractor to finish tiling and wrap up the bathroom. Because after that, it will be DIY time again!

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Master Planning

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How are we in June already? The days in April and May were such a blur. We spent most of the April researching about basement renovation, interviewing contractors, and comparing bids. May was entirely devoted to making decisions on everything basement bath-related. Slav has been busy with his work during this whole time, and somehow we still managed to celebrate a birthday with friends.

The basement reno has picked up the pace. I’ve shown you the demo in the living room, bedroom, and bathroom,¬†the installation of the egress window, the new electrical panel and recessed lighting, and how we sound proofed the basement. This week we crossed finishing line of framing and plumbing, which gave us a lot better idea of the new layout.

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1. The bathroom

To expand the bathroom we demoed the hallway closet, which I briefly talked about here. The goal is to accommodate a double-sink vanity in here.

The shower area

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The shower will remain at the end of the room, with the shower head on the left side. A double-sink vanity will be placed next to the shower on the wet wall, and a medicine cabinet will be installed above the vanity and under the soffit.

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The toilet will locate under the air duct and close to the doorways. I am not a big fan on having the toilet next to the door, but we’d rather place toilet but not the vanity under the low ceiling.

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We are in the process of picking out the tiles for the bathroom. We have basically narrowed down to using two tiles, a large dark one on one wall and the floor, with a white subway tiles on the other three walls.

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2. The master bedroom

By removing the closet wall used to divide the two bedrooms, we created a big and long bedroom. The I beam has been boxed in and will be drywall-ed over, which creates a natural divider to separate the sleeping area from the closet area.

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Under the egress window will be our sleeping area. We decided to put the king bed on the wall adjacent to the backyard for less noise, more fresh air, and east facing windows. The bed will be centered on the east wall of the master and flanked by the floating nightstands I built last year. The column to the right envelopes of the supporting columns for the I beam. I am considering putting a skinny bookshelf on the left to mirror the column on the right, which along with the I-beam creates the look of a sleeping nook.

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This is the view from the living room, through the two bathroom doors, into the bedroom. It will be a simple but comfortable space to nest.

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The front side of the bedroom, which is next to the front yard and under Slav’s office, will become a closet area. We plan to align wardrobe cabinets along the wall on both sides, which will provide more storage space than we currently have in the bedroom closets.

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3. The utility room

The last big changed we made is to remove the wall between the living room and the utility room. Remember the old laundry/utility room when we moved in? It was just a small hallway and hard to even open the dryer door. We first demoed a bedroom there to open up the utility area, and now with the living room wall coming down, we have the entire place opened up to the living room.

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We do plan to frame an utility room closet down the road to enclose the furnace and the water heater, and add a countertop on top of the washer/dryer. The small closet under the stairs will remain as a storage space.

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4. The living room

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Compared to other rooms, the living area changed the least. Aside from losing a wall, the only change is to add recessing lights and sound proofing in the ceiling. Instead of making this another living room, we will likely using it as a media/reading room. Before the sound proofing material went in the ceiling, electrical and Ethernet for TV box and projector had been put in. Slav has big plans for this space, and all I am responsible for is choosing a big and comfortable sofa down here. It will be a great room for late evening movies and friends to gather, but for rest of the year this big and empty room will probably remain big and empty.

The month of June will be hanging the drywall and tiling the bathroom, which will be done by a contractor. We will take the torch in July, after the drywall is finished.  Before moving down here we still need to paint, figure out clothes storage, and hopefully install some flooring at least in the bedroom before we move down here. We are far from fruition now, so it is hard to imagine to have smooth drywall and functional toilet again. There are still lots of decision to make (paint! shower doors! floors!)  and lots of little things to consider (tower bars! toilet holders! bathroom storage!). And I am trying to pump the optimism by keeping myself busy shopping. Cannot wait for everything to be over!

OMG OMG OMG We Got New Windows!

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Hallelujah, we finally updated all the windows!

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We used to have aluminum windows throughout the main floor of our ranch. Since day 1, Slav has been wanting to replace them. I do not blame him. The old aluminum windows lack both form and function. They are dingy, hard to clean, and do a terrible job insulating the cold/heat and noise.

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The pictures above show the old aluminum windows on the back and the north side of the house. These are windows in the kitchen, our bedroom, and the office:

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The previous owners added more layers to insulate, which made it impossible to clean between the layers:

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Some of the windows are so rusted that they do not open. During winter months,  condensation formed and mold was growing along the window frames:

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Colorado is so dry that we do not usually deal with mold problems. But these windows were exception. Needless to say that we were ready for this upgrade for a long time. So when DesignCrew, who did our basement egress gave us a very reasonable quote, we jumped on it with both feet. Their quote does not only include replacing 7 old aluminum windows with custom vinyl windows, but also includes the cost of making the office window bigger.

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The picture above shows the old office window on the left, and the living room window on the right. You can see the office window was shorter. To bring some symmetry to the front of the house we wanted to make the office window taller so it would match the height of the living room window.

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Making this window taller requires cutting the brick window sill off, removing a few rows of bricks below the sill, and building the sill back up again. The DesignCrew guys subcontracts the brick work to a masonry contractor so the quality of the brick work is professional.

In the morning of the window installation, we pushed everything away from the old windows and covered our stuff.

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The crew arrived after 8 AM and worked their way from the inside out, so they can clean after themselves effectively. Lee, the father of the company started to enlarge the front office window (the left window in the picture above) right away, while Ryan (one of his sons) worked on the smaller window on the north side (the right one in the pictured above).

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The bricks were removed before the windows were taking down. Lee, the guy in the picture explained to me that doing things in this order prevented the dust from entering the house. I really like how methodical and organized these guys work. Cannot recommend the DesignCrew enough!

Within an hour the bricks demo was done. Lee then removed the window and trimmed the wood framing to meet the new opening on the exterior brick. You can see how much we were lowering the sill from the picture below:

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Before noon, the new opening was done and I had a rare opportunity to peak into our exterior walls.

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Apparently our brick house was constructed in the following layers: a layer of brick, a layer of insulation board, then interior wood framing. There is no insulation between the interior studs as we discovered during the ethernet cable installation.

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It is so cool to be able to look into the walls – I love the mechanical aspect of the house a lot more than the finishes. Maybe one day we will build a house from scratch!

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The rebuilding of the window was pretty quick. I snapped the last picture above and went for a walk in the neighborhood. By the time I was back, the new window was up!

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The new and bigger window let in so much more light and the office was instantly brighter:

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And we can see a lot more of the front yard garden now with a lower sill. All the flower beds are visible as soon as you walk into the office. This new window has become my favorite spot in the morning. I love sipping my tea while watching birds and flowers in the comfort of my pj.

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All the new windows facing the front and back are double-slider windows – both glass panels are movable and can stop at any position along the window track. The panels can also be pop off easily from the inside for easy cleaning. Each window comes with a bug screen which is a continuous one-piece. The screen can be removed for clearer view. This feature is useful during winter months when we do not open the windows.

Lee saved all the sill bricks during demo so the masonry contractor could re-point them back onto the wall.

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He also replaced the bricks on the side that were cut into halves with bricks taken from the bottom of the window, so the wall on both sides of the new window looks seamless.

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And this is the new look in the front of the house! Doesn’t it look much better with both windows at the same height?

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Compared to this:

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So satisfying!

While Lee tackled the office window, Ryan worked on replacing the two small windows on the north side.

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We rarely open these small windows due to the furniture placement. All they are there for is letting the light in. To have a better view we opted for awning windows, a decision we are so happy with.

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We anticipated that awning windows will appear bigger, but we did not think it would look THIS much bigger and better. The unobstructed view out of these windows looks like a picture and instantly made the rooms feel more finished. In the bathroom downstairs we chose a hopper which is also without the middle frame. For small windows I highly recommend this approach. It also made the windows look bigger from the outside.

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And there will be no more mold!

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Also replaced are the kitchen windows:

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Which Roxie is clearly excited about:

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And the other window in our  bedroom. Directly below is the egress window DesignCrew put in for us back in January.

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A much better view of the backyard from our bed:

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The last window we replaced is in the garage! The old aluminum one was completely rusted and could not open.

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And here is the new one:

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We have been living with the new windows for a couple weeks now and really like them. We no longer hear traffic on the street, and every room is a lot brighter. The temperature inside is a lot more stable, and opening and closing the windows have been a breeze.

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In addition to the comfort, upgrading the windows brought such an instant upgrade to our curb appeal. We keep asking ourselves why we had not done it sooner! After removing the old front porch, installing a new roof, putting in new landscaping, building a new horizontal fence, and now with brand new windows, we finally checked off all the big items on our exterior renovation list. Remember the front of the house when we bought it?

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A very different view today:

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Now we can finally move into the decorative elements for the exterior. Slav has been wanting to add stone veneer to the bare foundation, and I’ve been dreaming about climbing clematis on over-window pergolas. Slav is also very motivated to paint the gables and the garage door darker to better match the bronze trims and gutters – or I should say, to let me paint the gables and the garage door darker. This summer will be full of small and fun projects to continue improving our curb appeal, and I cannot wait!

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