The Basement Project: phases alpha-epsilon

With Conner's arrival I have officially been evicted from my office/music studio
(AKA "The Spare Room") and our first floor has been fully transformed into a toy
obstacle course. Christine and I decided it was time to finish our basement.

My father offered to reprise his roll as Russell Home Improvement Project Foreman and
Teacher. We got started in the summer by planning how to use the space and decided on
a 3 room layout with an office (Paul's escape), a larger playroom and a small workshop.

Enough can't be said for knowing what you need ahead of time. My father, having
done this sort of project before, knew exactly what supplies we would need. The
supplies were all picked up before Christmas. That means we only made one extra
trip to Home Depot instead of the requisite 52 per day for one of my standard projects.

A Note about building supplies: We went to Coldwells
(a local lumber yard) to
get most of the wood supplies. That place rocks! Unlike Home Depot, all the 2x4s
there were straight and square... Home Depot 2x4s are more akin to modern art
than useful building materials.

Eagles, Eagles and more Eagles: Major construction began on 2005-12-26 and lasted 3 days. In deference to my dad
and Rick (my father-in-law) we listened to The Eagles in an endless
loop that one might mistake as proof of a perpetual motion machine. Even the Ipod never got
tired... I think I became an Eagles fan during day 2, but John started getting punchy on
day 3, after hearing Hotel California only 6 times before 11 am.

2006-01-30 011
Framing: We started with a relatively empty section of the basement and framed the room.
Framing (previously a mystery) is actually pretty simple. Basically you need to get a
2x4 sealed to the floor with glue and nailed into the ground with another 2x4 exactly
above it (attached to the ceiling). The secret to this "exactly above it" step is
a device called a Plum Bob. Making the walls square to each other is
another helpful tip but artistic license is an option at this step.
Thanks to my dad we went with all right angles except for an intentionally angled door.

Framing & Electrical: So once the floor and ceiling beams are in place, then you
need to cut 2x4s to the exact distance between them. John was in charge of the
wall made out of wood, the rest of us used metal studs. John and I have decided
that metal studs shall henceforth be banned from our homes because of the
frequency with which we had to use a complex set of levers and weights just
to get a screw to connect two of them together. My dad says we're nuts.
He says that a lot... As we framed, we wired the room with two 20amp circuits
(nice to have when the band practices) and a 15amp circuit for the 2 zone,
4 switch, dimmable recessed ceiling lights. Tim (the tool man) Taylor would be proud.

Insulation Moisture Barrier: Any homeowner will tell you that moisture is
bad, unless they are in the process of installing a whole house humidifier.
We went nuts with the moisture barrier. Recall that we sealed the base of the
walls when we installed them. Once the framing was done we put in the insulation
and taped all of the seams so that there was a complete seal. Then we took the
biggest piece of plastic I've ever seen (think slip and slide for 100 people),
and encased the room in it. For better or worse no moisture will ever pass in
or out of that room. Air circulation looks to be a problem as well.

Sheetrock: The sheetrock was stored in my garage. That meant 2 people
had to carry it over ice and snow and then navigate the bulkhead which gave
us a few inches clearance with each 4x8 board. While the rest of us took turns,
Rick (my father-in-law) carried every piece of sheetrock that came into the
basement. He is a man among men.

The last day was a rush to get the last sheetrock up and wire the circuits to
the electrical closet. When everyone left, the doors were hung, walls sheetrocked
(save one wall of a closet) and spackled (one coat), and the electricity was working.
Major construction was complete. My dad, Rick, John and I had built a room from scratch.

Epilogue: A few days later John and Reza returned to help put that last wall
in the closet. It turned out that while putting in the metal studs I left one out
of the back corner of the closet so I pulled the sheetrock off and installed an
additional stud while they hung the last wall. Since then I've been spackling.
It's very slow going because I only get an hour or two a week, but it's
getting very close. Laura, a friend from down the street, is an ex-professional
spackler. She also appears to be wired in a strange way because she likes to
spackle. So she is helping put the finishing touches on the walls.

Epilogue Part II: About a month after major construction Reza brought his Guitar
Amplifier case made of 2 inch solid walnut over and we resized it with a circular
saw. This is mentioned here because the lack of any workshop space in the basement
forced us to do this work in the mostly finished basement. And its kind of funny.
We started by not so methodically trying to cut through the 2 inch solid walnut
in one pass. Fortunately my dad was only a phone call away and explained that
the burning smell was not only toxic, but a sure sign that the saw motor was
burning out. He suggested a more tempered multi-cut approach and was kind
enough to mention that we might want to set up a guide instead of making the
cuts freehand. As you can see, it was hard work, and Reza employed some
interesting positioning to get the proper leverage.

There's still a lot of finish work to do on the office/music room including:

  • Rerouting a forced air tube
  • Painting

    2006-01-30 014

    A complete set of pictures
    of this project are

    online here.

  • Ceiling installation
  • Carpet installation
  • Baseboards
  • Closet shelves
  • One door knob
  • And the other two rooms...

Thanks and Credits

Without the help of my family it is estimated that the work we
did in 3 days would have taken me 17.62 years. Thank you all for saving me those years!

Specifically, thanks to Christine (Wife/Mom), my Mom (Nanna), Michelle (Grandma) and Alli (Aunt Alli) for taking care
of the kids, keeping us in food and beer, and letting the guys do manly stuff for three days.

Basement Phase 1 Construction Crew

James (a.k.a Pop)Foreman, Designer, Electrical & literally everything else
Rick (a.k.a Grandpa)Framing, Electrical & Sheetrock carrier extraordinaire
John (a.k.a Uncle John)Framing, Sheetrocking & ex-Eagle Fan
Reza (a.k.a Aunt Reza)Closet Wall Installation & Soundproof testing
Christine (a.k.a Mom)Electrical Closet Sheet Rock Specialist
Laura (a.k.a cool neighbor)Professional ex-spackler & wall flatness consultant