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Whoa, We’re Half Way There.

By At Home Alterations on Oct 19, 2011

Whooaa Oooo, living on a prayer.  Anyone?

Bon Jovi aside, we think we're half way done with the basement renovation!  It's hard to say how far we are and how much more we have left.  In fact, on paper we haven't even finished framing which was like the second thing on our list of things-to-do but we're doing things less linear than we thought.  Our new goal is to have framing and plumbing done mid November, do all the electrical before Christmas, then hire out (as was always the plan) spray foam insulation and drywall in January and be ready to do flooring by the end of January.  We might be ready to move our stuff back in three months!  While that will be super exciting we will then still have a few months of doing trim work, painting, building shelves, and decorating before we can wipe our hands and call everything "done."  We are more than anxious to use the space and bring home our stuff!

Our progress so far

We've totally destroyed our basement.  We took out all the walls, the subfloor, some pipes to the heaters, a lot of electrical wiring and fixtures, and even some of the concrete floor.  When we were done, we had the slab (with dirt holes in it), concrete walls, one receptacle, and six light bulbs, and ceiling joists.  Over the last 5 months or so we've been slowly building it back up with framing, electrical, and plumbing!  Nothing is pretty yet but we're getting there.

Laundry Room

This room has been a major pain.  All sorts of electrical, gas, and water pipe were connected to the wood paneled walls.  We had to basically take the room apart to demolish it, then take it apart again to add framing!  In the process, we sold our top loading washer for a (used) front loading one that matches our dryer.  We also replaced the floor drain that basically drained into the soil below the floor and added a drain for the washing machine so it doesn't have to empty into the sink anymore!  We also moved plumbing for the sink and washing machine (and gas for the dryer) so we can rearrange the room to be more practical.  This was one of the rooms in which we jackhammered the floor and filled it in with concrete once the plumbing was done.




The bathroom didn't exist in the "before" stage.  The space where we've added the bathroom was filled to the ceiling with boxes and bins.  We had to dig out the floors to add plumbing and add all sorts of pipe above ground for venting.  We're going to frame around the shower and add a door but we're waiting on buying fixtures, doing more plumbing, and tiling the floor for when we have money saved up again.



Storage Room

The storage room has changed shape a bit.  We planned to make it skinnier but then we stole a few more inches from it to make the bedroom a little bigger too.  There will eventually be a wall between the support posts where we'll mount our TV and hide the speakers too.  If it's not enough room, we'll have to have another garage sale to purge!  We will have storage for bulk food, T.P. and such in the laundry room, plan to stash some used-once-a-year bins behind the couch/under the built in shelves we'll build in the basement media room, so we're pretty confident that everything will shake out stack up just fine.





No one will be sleeping in this bedroom for a while.  Right now it's housing piles of wood and our extra doors.  I still need to frame the closet and install double pocket doors on the entrance.



Living room

This has been one of the easiest rooms so far.  It was easy to demo and frame since it's just a big rectangle!  We didn't like the two pipes hanging down from the ceiling so we had them removed (done by pros since we didn't want to deal with asbestos) and then I ran new plumbing through the floor joists.  We had a big debate over what kind of sectional to get for this room but we eventually figured it out!  In the "during" picture you can see our temporary support beam keeping the house from falling apart until we finish re-supporting the house!



Spending so far

So far our spending has been pretty surprising!  First, demolition and framing came out a lot cheaper than we thought.  Since we were able to sell some of the materials we demoed, the net cost was under $100.  Framing also came out low, the lumber to build everything was only around $300.  The doors were going to be the a bigger expense but we found 3 original doors to the house in the attic of the garage which saved a lot of money.  Plumbing was a surprise in the other direction costing over twice our original estimate because we ended up choosing to do more plumbing in the laundry room and I forgot to factor concrete into the budget, though the entire cost of tearing up concrete and refinishing the floor was under $300.

While plumbing will be the single biggest expense, we still have electrical (including all the lighting), spray foam insulation, and drywall which will all cost quite a bit.  According to our estimates we're about half way done spending but the second half will come within 2 months instead of being spread out over 5 months like the first half.  Luckily we've been saving for as long as we can remember and selling our organ put us over the savings hump.  We're very thankful that we were able to save enough money to pay for everything without taking a loan or dipping into our emergency fund.

Thoughts so far


I can't believe how much I've learned about construction, moisture, concrete, and everything else that goes along with a basement. I also can't believe I was crazy enough to give up all my time on the weekends for the past 5 months.  That's definitely been the hardest part.  There's always something non-basement going on and we have to keep choosing whether we're going to drag out the reno and do something fun or say no to a friend and keep making progress.  It's been especially hard when friends don't see that we make that choice every few days so if we have to say no it seems like we're just being lame or anti-social.

I also learned to appreciate my office job!  I often wondered if the grass was greener on the manual labor side where you get free exercise and get to spend time outside.  I have a new found respect for how much work labor is.  I think I'll keep my day job.

I've come to wonder if I like DIY work because it's adventurous or because I'm incredibly cheap.  I think it's a combination.  The adventure is what motivates me to start but then after the 6th day of carrying concrete from my car the only thing that keeps me going is reminding myself how much I'm saving by doing it myself.  Once the project is done the thrill of adventure sets in again and I feel crazy enough to start the next phase.

Though there have been ups and owns I'm really, really, looking forward to having friends over to watch movies and having some free time back!


I can't believe I'm still sane!  It has been a constant battle to keep the house clean.  The basement has made mess after mess and although I know it would be much worse if we had ducts instead of pipes for radiators, I feel like there's always a layer of basement dust on the first floor, am vacumning and sweeping twice as often, and most of the time I end up fighting the dispair of that it'll-never-be-clean-so-why-bother-cleaning feeling.

It's also been difficult to control my spending in other areas of the house.  Since we've been putting all of our savings to the basement, I've had to set aside some purchases for other rooms.  We did splurge on the living room curtains, which made a huge difference in the living room!  There are so many things that I am getting excited to spend our next savings on (Cosco stools in the kitchen, a dining room rug, living room art, a foyer makeover, valences in the hobby room, a king bed frame, landscaping next spring/summer, a dining room table and chairs, etc.....)

Although I haven't been spending much time or money on house accessories and furniture, I have had lots of fun finding inspiration (mostly on pinterest) and narrowing down my desires for different spaces in our home.

Three years ago I was struggling with being single and waiting to meet my husband but this last year I've been struggling with contentment among the chaos of renovation projects.  I'm sure in the future I'll start needing patience as we try to start a family, God is always finding a new way to teach me patience!  So right now, I'm focusing as much as possible on celebrating our progress and being content in the process of each step.

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