± Up for Sunrise

Gonna rise up. Find my direction magnetically.

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Painting, DONE.

One step forward

We finished the last of the painting today. Cottage white on the ceiling and projection wall, Organic field on everything else. We got the Behr Ultra paint which is the primer + paint in one. The coverage was less than stellar and we still needed two coats even after 1-2 coats of drywall primer. Julie did a great job doing the detailed work on the ceiling/wall edge along the stairway. Using my father-in-law’s adjustable ladder made the work far easier and less treacherous.

The girls got their first lesson on electrical today by helping me wire up the outlets. Things are starting to come together and we spent an hour cleaning everything up after the electric was done. The girls actually went back down there after we were done to play for a couple of hours. Amazing how quickly they want to take advantage of the new space.

One of the things I had to take care of today was the bottom drywall edge. When we initially hung the drywall, I wanted it to be 1/2-1″ short so there would be plenty of space between the bottom of the drywall and the floor. We were able to get this on most of the sheets, but a few were pretty tight so I went around with a dremel and cut off the bottom 1/2″ to make sure. If (when) it gets wet on the floor, the last thing I want is water working it’s way up the drywall.

Moulding and Trim

Before we get the carpet installed, I need to finish the trim work and get the room prepped. Not only will this cut down on the mess that will get made installing the trim, but it will mean that when the carpet goes down, I can put the done stamp on this part of the project.

We knew when we put up the drywall that we were going to use some type of crown which saved me from having to finish all those inside corners around the whole room. We have oak trim through most of the house and Julie loves it, so our first thought was a 3 1/4″ oak crown with oak base and casing. In theory, this would work great. As we started to work through it in more detail, some issues arose.

  1. The ceiling isn’t perfectly flat (I know… I know… my fault) so when you put the crown up against it, you will see gaps. These small gaps are no issue if you are using a primed, white crown because you can just fill the gaps with caulk and they disappear. With oak, you cannot hide these very easily and when you do, it’s obvious.
  2. If we go with a white, primed crown, base and casing, how will that look if the cabinet system I am going to build is in oak? Will the basement be the only room in the house that doesn’t have oak as the primary trim material?
  3. How will all the trim work around the cabinet system that doesn’t exist yet? I do NOT want to have to take down and recut a lot of pieces once I build it. I just don’t have the time to do it now so I’m going to have to really pay attention to this. Probably means I’ll have to fully design the cabinet to make sure it will work out.

What we have agreed on for now, is to have white, primed crown (painted same color as ceiling) and oak base and casing. Mixing these was not ideal, but it does solve most of our issues. We searched the internet to see if anyone else had sought out advice on a similar topic. Only a few hits were found and the consensus was that it was allowed, but more common in Europe (Spain) than the US. So what do you think? Below is a picture that shows roughly how it will look.

Oh, and I think I am going to have to build at least the base of the cabinet system before the carpet gets installed. I do not want the carpet below the cabinets. If it ever gets wet and has to be removed, I do not want to mess with the cabinets at all. Awesome… add it to the list!

Final Day

2 week vacation

So that’s it… I’m not going to get anymore done in the basement before I got back to work tomorrow. It’s been a crazy two weeks. The picture in the upper right was taken on Jan 8th, the picture at the bottom is from today. I tried to keep a similar camera angle. The second collage is from the opposite angle.

Some stats (for those that are so inclined):

  • 8 trips to Home Depot, 1 to Lowes and 1 to Menards (although I didn’t buy anything here and it was a 10 min run in… does that still count?)
  • 11 sheets of 5/8″ drywall, 23 sheets of 1/2″
  • 18 gallons of mud
  • 4 gallons of primer
  • ~1600 drywall screws (1 1/4″, 1 5/8″ and 2″ combined)
  • 10 outlets, 6 cans, and 2 dimmers
  • 1 rental (drywall sander)
  • Number of days I worked by myself (or just with Julie and no outside help): 3
  • Number of days above 40 degrees: 8
  • Number of days above 50 degrees: 2
  • Total snowfall: ~10″ (two major storms)

I really do owe a lot to all the friends and family that helped me. Without them, I would still be hanging drywall or finishing framing. Thanks to my father and mother-in-law, my Dad, Tom, Craig T., Nadeem, and Julie. I have learned a lot from this experience and I appreciate the conversations and time spent with everyone as much as the actual construction. Julie made a lot of lunches for various sized work crews and did a great job putting up with everything.

What’s next?

The last steps will take me a few weeks to complete. I was pushing hard to get painting completed so I could get the carpet in quickly. Putting the done stamp on it would be really nice, but I think that might be rushing this last stage a little. I decided to finish all the trim work before carpet so I am planning on completing the painting this upcoming weekend (just the walls remain now) and then spend another week doing the trim. Hopefully the carpet will be good to go the second week in Feb. This means no super bowl in the basement :(, but this will coincide with another experiment Julie and I are going to try out: NO CABLE! We have discussed it and are ready to give it a go soon, but that is another post…

Here are some updated pictures I took earlier today after we finished priming all the drywall and put the final coat of paint on the ceiling. Enjoy!

The end of drywall work is in sight

Day 14

So today is officially day 14 of working on the basement. After going back to work for two days (Thurs. and Fri.), I got back to it yesterday and today. It’s all about drywall finishing now. Taping, mudding, and sanding is the meaning of life until it’s done. This is by far my least favorite part of home improvement. It’s a pain and because I am not great at it, I need to do a few more cycles of mudding/sanding than the pros.

I bought a new sander to help and since we didn’t hire out the job, I thought a $30 tool to help things go faster was justified. Turns out, it wasn’t up to the job. The sander is manual and you can use screens or regular paper. It has an attachment that allows you to hook it up to a shop vac and it sucks around the sander as you work. It works pretty well, but not for a project this size. So after trying to do an initial sanding of the walls with it yesterday, I gave in and rented a power sander from Depot. I have used these a few times before and they are great, but you need to be very careful because they can be very aggressive. In the picture below you can see the manual sander with the attached hose as well as the power sander.

The sander gets heavy after a while and my arms as well as my back are killing me after two days of using this, but it is way quicker. It attaches to a vacuum you get when you rent the sander and for $30/day, it’s a pretty good deal.

So where am I at? I have put the last coats of mud on and have finished about 95% of the sanding. Mostly just touch up work remains that I need to complete tomorrow morning before the drywall primer goes up. When I return the sander tomorrow, I will be picking up a few gallons of paint for the ceiling and walls. The main room will get painted first because the stairway and soffit are a pain. Lots of small areas that I need to baby… sanding, mudding, sanding, etc. I am betting the stairway won’t be painted until Sat. 🙁

Protip: To make sure your mudding job is done, go around the walls with a high-powered work light set an angle to the wall. This will highlight any imperfections in the mud job before you prime. Credit goes to my father-in-law for teaching me this.

My goal was to have everything except the carpet done when I go back to work Wed., but I don’t want push things at this stage. Taking your time and getting the mudding just right makes trim and paint go so much easier.

Problem area

When finishing a basement or doing any large project, you always run into a few snags or unexpected things. I’ll share two of mine… extending the air ducts to meet the new soffit and returning the soffit into the stairs.

First, the air ducts. The air duct that ran next to the i-beam had two vents into the basement. You can see them in the first picture below. Once we put up the soffit 2×2 framing, these vents needed to be extended the 2″ (1.5 for the 2×2 and .5 for the drywall… we used 5/8″ on the soffit, but the .5 made it a hair shy and is what we needed). The internet was no help so I went to Menard’s and then Depot looking for ideas. The original vents were 12 x 6 but I could only find ‘risers’ or sheet metal cut into a rectangle shape in a 12 x 4 size. I thought the smaller vent would actually look better since it would be centered on the soffit more so I bought some new vents and the riser material.

My brother helped out with this part of the project. We cut and shaped the riser material and then used foil tape and sheet metal screws to put it all together. It looks pretty good if you ask me.

I got help with soffit return from my father-in-law. I framed and drywalled the return knowing that I didn’t like it, but pushed on knowing I would have to come back to it later. Well, the time came on Friday night because I had to get it resolved before all the drywall finishing got into full gear.

My first idea was to angle the return and then use some trim on it or something. I didn’t like it, but it seemed like it would work. My father-in-laws idea was since I was already losing the 2″ on the stairs, I should just bring the soffit all the way into the stairs. As you can see, this looks better and feels ‘finished’. The carpet and molding will go right up against it. Awesome!

More pictures

I got a few comments that I didn’t post enough pictures… so here is a grouping to show the current state.

Day 12 – Drywall finishing


Our drywall finisher came in with a quote that was nearly double what we were looking for…. so…. here is a picture of me in the middle of taping/mudding from today.

Yep, made the call last night to push ahead. Julie and I got one coat on the walls last night and then my Dad came over today to hit the walls again and get a first coat on the soffit and ceiling.

Am I glad we saved the money and went at it on our own? Sure.  Am I excited to do 2 more coats + sanding? Hell no.

The low height of the ceiling is finally paying off in some way since I can mud it while standing on the floor. We are putting up some crown, so I am not doing the joint between the walls and ceiling which saves me a LOT of work. My arms and neck are pretty sore and I can feel my body breaking down after 12 days of doing basement work, but after this  part it’s on to paint + carpet and then done! The end is in sight.

I had mentioned in an earlier post about putting up a projector. I still think we are going to move ahead with that, but the wall cabinet system will have to wait. Maybe in a few months I will have the energy to tackle that project. I am heading back to work tomorrow and Friday so I won’t have any update until Sat. Hopefully that will be the day we finish the drywall work and start priming.

The old man showed a lot of love today by coming out and learning how to mud. Thanks!

Drywall nearly complete

Quick update

We spent Saturday and Sunday doing more prepping of the ceiling (additional framing that was needed to make sure that the seams would be sufficiently supported when the drywall was hung) and hanging the ceiling. We used 5/8″ drywall to meet code, but also to help deaden the sound from upstairs even more.

With that done, we were able to get going on the walls pretty quickly today. No major issues and I had a lot of help from a friend of my father-in-law and my Dad. At the end of the day we finished it with only a few sheets remaining to go up… mostly on the main wall in the room. The first thing we will tackle tomorrow is the hardest sheet in the room… it has one outlet, the outlet box being used for the speaker cables, and the 1.5″ PVC port for the cable run.

We went to Depot tonight to check out some carpet samples and I think we are very close on a color for the walls. It occurred to me while we were hanging the ceiling this weekend that this is going to be a LOT of taping and sanding. This prompted me to ask a few folks for drywall finishing referrals which resulted in Hugo coming over today and having a look at the basement. Hopefully I can get a quote tomorrow and get a crew out here asap.

If there is one area of a project this size to hire out, it’s the drywall finishing. After you put in all the effort to get to this point, you realize that the hardest and most challenging part for the amateur DIYer still remains. A good drywall job is so hard to do and takes so long if it’s not something you do often… I’m hoping this comes through or I will start the mudding tomorrow night. YIKES!!

10 days ago



Electric and Ceiling Prep

Day 6 – Electric

Man, was Thurs. a long day…. my electrician friend, Craig, made it to the house despite the pending 4-8″ snow storm and we finished things up by 4 pm so he was out of here at a reasonable time. The day consisted of cutting a lot of bx, making a lot of holes, and connecting a bunch of wires. At the end of it, we had all the lights working according to plan and the outlets were live. I learned a few new tricks along the way:

  • I installed my first breaker into a panel.  The big thing was to make sure the breaker was set to the off position before I put it in. Other than that, it was pretty simple so I feel pretty confident that if I needed to add another one in the future, I’d be capable of doing it.
  • In the midwest, the ground always goes to the right when installing an outlet. There is no code that dictates this, but it is a regional thing. Weird.
  • Don’t run the circuit though an outlet (using both screws to pass the electricity to the next leg in the circuit). It’s better, and safer, to create a pigtail to tie in the outlet. If the outlet is ever damaged, it w0n’t impact anything else that is ‘down stream’ to the outlet.
  • Prepping outlet boxes for the drywall saves a lot of time down the road. Get your cables in shape and setup properly. It’s worth it.
  • Ripping out 30-40 feet of old BX that was run through the ceiling joists is a royal pain in the rear and takes a lot longer than you think.

Oh, and I also got made fun of because of the size of my lineman’s pliers. Craig asked if Maddie or Brooke let me borrow their tools for the project… Nice. Add that to my tools-to-purchase list.

After Craig left I started to really think about the drywall and started to freak out a little. I had planned on starting drywall today (Day 7), but I still didn’t have a lot of things figured out and I wasn’t ready. I needed to finish the 1.5″ PVC run, insulate and great-stuff all around, take care of the soundproofing, finish all the speaker cable runs, and more before I was ready for drywall.

Day 7 – Ceiling and wall prep

I stayed up late last night to plan out the next big steps and realized this morning, after snow blowing, that I needed to spend the day doing other, non-drywall related tasks to prepare. We called Julie’s dad and told him what was going on so we pretty much cancelled the planned day. They did come over, but only for a few hours. Still very appreciated…

We got the weatherproofing/insulation completed as well as the soundproofing today. The room is prepped and a friend came over tonight and helped me carry all the drywall into the basement (BIG THANKS). I setup the drywall lift (which I am SOOOO excited to use) and we are now ready to start hanging rock tomorrow. We ended up going with Roxul over most of the basement. Depot carries it now and as soon as we put it up, it was obvious that the sound in the room changed. It was quieter with very little echo. Hopefully this means with the 5/8″ sheetrock, it will keep out most of the noise.

I also ran 110′ of speaker cable for the future home theater. You can see the speaker cables hanging in the picture above and you can see all of the cables feed into a 4″ electric box in the picture below. Looks a little crazy, but heh, now is the time to do it. Oh, and if you count the hanging wires, you’ll notice I setup the room for 7.1… if we ever wanted to go that way.

Day 5 – Electric begins

Day 5

I had a dentist appt. and a meeting I needed to dial into for work so I had a late jump on things today. Since the framing was finished up yesterday, I decided to dive right into the electric. The electrician came over last night and we talked for an hour about the plan and what I could get started on before he shows up on Thursday. We will be adding two circuits for the basement. One 15 amp for the lights and another 15 amp for the outlets. There are a total of 9 outlets, 8 6″ can lights, 1 new light at the top of the stairs along with a three way switch, and 2 dimmers at the bottom of the stairs. One is a three way dimmer that goes along with the switch at the top of the stairs and controls the stairwell light as well as two of the cans at the bottom of the stairs. The other dimmer controls the 6 cans in the larger area of the basement. We are running almost everything with BX, thank God!

Today I wired 6 of the outlets and all the cans. When Craig shows up tomorrow, we should be able to start right away on the more challenging part of the job.

One other thing I am putting in is a run of 1.5″ PVC pipe so I can pull ethernet, cable, etc. at any point going forward (see picture below). The pipe runs from the front wall to a location in the back of the room where the projector will hang. From there, it makes a turn and then ends up being open to the laundry room. I’ll throw some string in there as I am putting it up so I can easily pull new cables in the future. It adds some extra work, but it will make things MUCH easier down the road and I won’t have to open up any walls.

We have a big storm forecasted for tomorrow so Julie is picking up the drywall lift from a friend tonight (BIG THANKS). Hopefully it won’t hold up the electrician… if that happens, I guess I am starting drywall tomorrow!! I have two walls I can rock now if I needed to get going. I also have a good friend coming over tomorrow night to help carry the 36 sheets of drywall from the garage into the basement. Again, if the weather is really bad, I’ll be hauling a few sheets down and then wait for him to come over on Friday. Yikes… lots of things coming together in the next two days. Oh yeah, add to that Julie’s father coming over again with his friend Jim Friday morning. Woot!

Last thing… I learned two new terms yesterday: gem box and madison hangers. Always learning…. always learning. Thanks Craig.

Day 4 – Ramset Demo

Tool Demo

One of the best parts of any project is getting new tools. My new tool for this project is a Ramset which uses a small amount of gun powder to shoot a nail into concrete. If you have ever drilled into concrete to set those blue screws, you know what a pain that can be and why this new tool is so badly needed. The Ramset is $25 and ammo/nails will run you another 10-15 for a 100 count. Not bad at all, and have a mentioned how much fun this thing is to fire? It can be frustrating at times when the pin doesn’t engage right and you end up hitting the damn thing 4-5 times with no bang… but on the whole, it works great and saved me tons of time.

Here is a video of me using it. Two things to note about the video.

  1. Julie didn’t feel the need to tell me that I had a small piece of sawdust in my hair before we shot it.
  2. I should have been wearing my safety glasses. I may have fired this thing 120+ times in the past 4 days and this is the only time I can remember not wearing them. Doh!




Day 3 Update


The goal was to continue working on framing a few of the smaller walls and see if I could be ready for more help on Monday. Al (my father-in-law) and his good buddy Tom were coming over so I wanted to have things ready to go when they showed up. What ended up happening was I got stuck working on one problem area for 2 hours including 2 trips to depot because the bolts I got were 1″ too long.

The image below is roughly what I am following for my basic wall construction. For the 2 2×4 walls, I built them in a more traditional way. I still used the 3/4″ foam against the concrete, but the 2×4 wall is freestanding. The problem I ran into yesterday was that the 2×4 bottom plate (turned on edge) as seen in the picture needs to follow the wall and be attached with concrete anchors. Shouldn’t be a big deal, right? WRONG! As usual, you never know what little part is going to kick you in the ass and become a headache. It turns out that two of our walls (the two I chose to work on yesterday) have a significant bow in them and attaching the treated 2×4 at one end meant the other end stuck out a good 1.5-2″ from the wall. The damn 2.5″ ramset anchors wouldn’t hold so I had to find a way to bend the 2×4 to match the curve of the wall. I ended up going with some 3″ concrete bolts that you hammer in and then they expand as you tighten the nut. At 9 pm last night, I finally could put the done stamp on it.

It should also be noted that yesterday marked the first injury. While getting frustrated about the ramset not working, I swung and missed the ramset. Unfortunately, my forearm got in the way and I ended up hitting it full force. It was extremely painful and affected my ability to fully grip anything with my left hand the rest of the day. Luckily, it was much better this morning. Hopefully that was the last injury.

Framing 98.2% complete

With all the great help I had today, almost all the framing is complete. I have some finishing touches on the soffit that I still need to do, but all the other walls are built and looking good. I did end up switching one wall which I planned on using 2x2s on to using 2x4s so I had to buy about 20 yesterday and will need to return a bunch of 2x2s later this week… what a pain.

I am all set for electric and I will start on that tomorrow before my electrician friend shows up on Wed./Thurs. He is stopping by tomorrow night to see what the project looks like and assess what we need in terms of materials. PROGRESS!

Today did mark the end of an era. 11 years ago, I bought my first major power tool, a Craftsman 10″ miter saw. While in high use today, the brake failed on it for the second time in the last 3 years (when you let go of the trigger the brake should make the saw stop spinning in a second or two… mine got so bad today and it didn’t do anything and just allowed the blade to keep spinning). We were forced to use the circular saw while Julie and my stepmother-in-law ran up to depot to pickup a new one. You can see it pictured below next to my drill. There is no way I was going to finish this basement without a miter box.

In other exciting news, I purchased boxes and boxes of screws since I know that my father-in-law is kind of crazy about having every size you can buy and wouldn’t you know it… I missed the exact size he thought was critical. 3″ coarse drywall screws. Goes to show that getting 1 1/4″ thought 2.5″ including have a few big boys (4+”) just in case doesn’t cut it. Luckily he had some in his gear so it wasn’t a total loss.

Also, you may have noticed that the squat rack/gym equipment featured in earlier posts is no longer in the updated pictures. For the first time ever, posting on Craig’s list has worked for us. I will be delivering all our exercise gear on Sat. morning to a guy in McHenry, IL that seems very, very excited to get it. A win/win.

Day 1 – Foam board and first wall

Day 1 – Foam board and first wall

Today’s goal was to get all the foam board up and start some of the framing. Mission accomplished. I got an early jump on the foam board and then had help from my father and mother-in-law to finish it off. The timing allowed for us to keep going and get the framing done on the one 2×4 wall that we have. In order to maximize the square footage available in our small basement, I decided to go with 2×2 framing everywhere it made sense. This pretty much meant everywhere except on the main tv/cabinet/entertainment system wall.

start of the day / end of the day

With that wall done, I move on to do a few of the smaller 2×2 walls tomorrow and then get help finishing up the framing on Monday. I am happy with the progress and we didn’t run into any serious issues. I did discover that the walls that I thought were painted white actually have some type of plaster-esk coating on them. A little disturbing considering I glued the foam board right to it, but I didn’t really have an option.

I am totally out of 2x4s which means I mis-calculated a little and will need to grab a few more from depot when I go. I may make a run tomorrow night after I am done with basement work for the day.

A good friend was over for dinner last night and made a most excellent suggestion for the basement. When I was explaining the layout and where the TV would go, he suggested looking into getting a projector instead of an LCD TV. After doing a little research early this morning, I think the idea has a lot of merit. I’ll keep looking around a bit, but I am pretty convinced that this is the way to go for what I want to do. Great suggestion Ramesh! I can set the projector back about 12′ from the front wall which would give me a significantly larger screen than I could afford to do with an LCD. The screen size at that distance would be around 80″ wide and 44″ tall. The equivalent of a 90″ LCD TV. Woot! It will be great to watch the Ravens beat the Packers in Feb. on that screen.

TV Wall

Found these pics of Julie and girls destroying the last of the walls put up by the previous owner.


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