Touring the Completed Basement Remodel

Bob meets with homeowner Sarah Monzon to recap the project, from the initial preparation to the renovations to the finishing touches.

Clip Summary

The new family room is all done and furnished and looks terrific. Bob talks with Sarah Monzon, the homeowner who also acted as the general contractor on the project, about the remodeling work done on the room. The room was a "cave" according to Monzon before the project was started. A pitted soapstone sink was previously used as a laundry and had become an eyesore. The room was also cluttered with accumulated junk. Because of the shortage of space in the house, the family decided to finish the basement to add to the living space of the home. Monzon acted as the general contractor for the project because there wasn't money budgeted for the expense, which was not necessarily an experience she would choose to repeat. The local inspectional services department provided a large amount of information for the novice general contractor. It is imperative before homeowners do any work on their home that they obtain the necessary permits and find out what is safe and what is not. If homeowners do work on their homes without a permit and anything goes wrong, insurance will not cover the damage. Before any work was done on the house, the basement floors were concrete and heating ducts crisscrossed the ceiling. There was flooding damage in the basement during the past fall which needed to be corrected and prevented in the future. Basement Systems was called in to install a perimeter drain and drainage system. A lot of existing plumbing was then moved from the ceiling to make more headspace and a new HVAC system was installed to move the heating ducts. The new central air system complete with an air filter made the house much more livable. In one of the smaller spaces in the basement, a new bathroom was installed with the help of technology from Saniflo. Owens Corning Basement Finishing Systems was then called in to install new finished walls. Many of the mechanical devices in the basement are now hidden behind the walls but are still accessible as the walls can be easily removed. A new entertainment center was then installed in the finished basement featuring a S1 Digital Media Center. The media center allows the homeowner to browse digital pictures taken using the family's digital camera or to set the image as wallpaper for the screen. Television shows can be watched or recorded using a schedule guide. The media center also can store home videos, movies, and music. New reclining chairs from Bell'O were put in the entertainment room. When laying protection from flood damage in a basement, it is important to elevate wood from the concrete floor. Instead of using a plywood underlayment, a plastic tile system was used which interlocks and can be screwed down onto the concrete. Plastic webbing underneath the tiles diverts any water which may come up through the concrete or spill in the basement to the perimeter drain. Slide-Lok cabinets were put in the basement to increase storage space. The Slide-Lok wall system was put in place to hang tools in the workspace. The husband of the family is a musician and uses much of the storage space to hold his instruments. Because the room can double as rehearsal space, two and a half inches of fiberglass are in the walls to reduce sound transmission to the outside. The basement has a small office space for the husband as well. Accents throughout the space correlate with other things in the room. The lampshades on the desk have a design which relates to the flooring product. The floor does not have a wall-to-wall carpet although it looks as if it does. The floor is from Binvetec and features tiles of carpet which stick to the floor. The product has interlocking patterns which can easily be layed down. Bean bags from Sumo were put in the room for lounging in and the kids love to play on them. A stairwell fishtank from AquaVista is only four inches deep.
And our new family room is one-hundred percent done and furnished and looks terrific.

And I thought it would be most fun to invite Sara Monsun who is our homeowner and who has been the GC on the project to give us the tour. Now Sara, let's reminisce a bit about what was here when you started?

It was a cave. That's what I liked to call it. There were two families who lived here before us. The house is 85 years old. Do the math. Everybody was doing their laundry, for years and years, in the basement, and before there were washing machines they had a pitted soap stone sink that they worked with.

Scrub -a-dub.

Yeah, and so obviously, when we moved in with all of our old stuff and stacked it all to the ceiling joists, it was not really great place to be. My husband still tired valiantly to use it as a music studio. The kids would come down here and we'd kind of let them play, but it wasn't ideal.

And it was such good space, that we were looking for the opportunity to make it into something livable.

Right. There was a lot of preliminary work that had to be done before we could get moving. Finishing the walls.

Well you decided to be your own general contractor?


Would you do that again?

Well actually I might out of necessity.


I mean I basically did it cause we didn't have a budget for that.


So, there was a tremendous learning curve. I actually got a lot of help from my local inpsectional services department here in Melrose. They where terrific and not condescending.

To a first time homeowner general contractor who was exploring this whole thing. You know, with only a surface knowledge of what was going on and trying to decide what had to happen when.

The proper way to do it.
I can't stress enough that if a homeowner is going to do this sort of thing themselves, they explore what's safe and what's not and they get permits because if you do work without a permit and then something happens. Yeah, insured.

You're not insured, exactly.

You're stuck, your house is in jeopardy.

So let's talk about some of the basics that went on down here before we talk about all the beautiful particulars.

Yes. Well, you know this house was crisscrossed with heating ducts and the floors were concrete. It was just a rat slab down here.


We had water on the floor when it rained this past year.
And it was the first time ever, but I said there is a first time for everything. It's just going to keep happening.


So, we had to have basement systems come in, and do a perimeter drain. Which was great. That was the first step.


We had to move a whole bunch of plumbing from the ceiling to make room for all this head height that we needed.

Right, because it is not exactly a deep cellar.

And then we decided to move some ducts, and that turned into replacing the entire H VAC system. With a new system that's now over there in the mechanical space. Central air, which, I gotta tell you, it's a life-changing event.


And an air filter that won't quit. It's fabulous.

Well the the biggest thing down here was really one of the smallest spaces. We were able to put in a second bathroom thanks

Thanks to the technology of Saniflo.

Which uses macerating pumps to allow us to locate the bathroom and the laundry room, all away over on the other side of the basement.

And so once we got all the mechanicals in place, we called Owen' s Corning Basement Finishing Systems in.
And they did an amazing amount of work in just ten days. They had walls up here, that we then did not have to finish.

Yeah. That's the thing with that kind of a system. It's instant gratification, once you put it up together, you're done. And if you need to get behind the walls?

You can pull this stuff right off, if you need to.

You can pull the mouldings off and get back there. Yeah.

We actually had to do this little bump-out because we had a plumbing stack and a water meter in here. We had, we actually have our new water heater behind that wall. We have hidden all sorts things behind here, including the old field stone foundation walls, which I didn't know how we were going to finish this.

Right, yeah.

So it's a great solution.

You even, it's a Rinnai Tankless water heaters, so that's one of the reasons it fits behind the wall.


And then you've got a whole new entertainment center.

This is just other-worldly for me, but.

Basically, what we have here, on top of the Bose system that went in last week, which is an audio controller. We have a video controller from S1. It's the S1 Digital Media Center.

And I have the ability here to go through and look at my pictures. You know, I can put, download them from my camera and stick them on here. These are demo pictures right now but, you know, I can use it as wall paper if I want to.

Yes, it's almost like a giant screensaver that you can.

Right. So we can have a family slide show here.

Right. Exactly.

So, I can also back out of this, and I can watch live TV.
Or I can record TV by using the guide to search for any program that I want to record, and scheduling it to record. It takes inputs from a lot of different sources and it has a probe It will control the cable box, and change the channel every time I need it to record a program. Ok. It'll store videos. It will store all kinds of movies.

If I wanted to store my DVDs on here, I could and sort them and search for them by title. I'm just really psyched to sit down and be able to watch it finally.


We've got these great new chairs to sit on from Bellow. This is a newly developed system.

Well, this is like you'd see in any, you know, real media center, home theater kind of set up. They're very comfortable.

Yeah. And they recline. If I move this for you, you can push yourself right back.

Oh, I'd rather not.
It's alright. But then, the other thing that you had to deal with was the floor. We had a slab.


That was just a kind of irregular old concrete floor.

And as we learned, you want to keep the wood off the floor in a basement.

Right, so we did not put down any kind of a plywood under lament. We went with a different system that's made out of plastic.

This is a plastic tile that interlocks, and screws down onto the concrete and has a webbing underneath that lets any water that might get up in the slab, or get spilled from a broken appliance, God forbid, it'll run away from the flooring surface and never get the carpet wet.

And eventually get to the perimeter drainage.


And then the other big thing was that you still needed more storage 'cause...


You gave up the raw basement space for storage and that's where all of these...

We decided to use slide-lock cabinets throughout this basement, and they were especially great in the workshop area, where we regained some storage. And used their great wall system for hanging tools. These are really easy to install and they come in lots of different sizes.

You know, we can keep a refrigerator in here if we really wanted to, but my husband, the musician, is finding a lot of great new space for his instruments, and he's been using this as a rehearsal space.
He's really going to love this.

And we love the fact that there are two and a half inches of fiberglass between him and the neighbors.
He's really going to love this.

Yes, so you have a got a pretty contained you can pretty well sound attenuated space.


And even if the kids are upstairs or, you know you have company upstairs you're still in a situation where you don't have to worry about.


The noise and you provided a corner back here.

This is his little office space.

So, he'll have a space to work instead of having to be all over the dining room table, as we are now.


I like that you've, you know, picked out accents for for the space, because it's a very neutral space.

And you've picked out accents that correlate with other things you've brought in here.

Yeah, the lamp core.


Well you can choose a million different things from their website, but the lampshades have a design that kind of relates to the flooring product that you put in.

Which is not a wall-to-wall carpet .

This is.

Yeah, no, this is from Binvitech.

This is a cut piece right here, but these are tiles of carpet that stick down with a tacky backing.

And I did this myself in the night, cause you can just turn them around and make different sorts of patterns with it and they all interlock.

So you can choose which pattern you want to make and just lay them out like tiles, but you don't have to use any adhesive, which is terrific.


We've got these great Sumo bean bags as well. They're enormous and the kids love to lounge on them, or play on them. And we even found a great fish tank that is only 4 inches deep, this Aqua Vista saved us space, even on the stairwell.

So, kids aren't home from school yet?


But, you're ready for them when they get here.

I will be.

Congratulations, I think you've done a great job of your own general contractor.

Thank you, Bob.

The family room has come up...

And we're out of time and out of project here, but next week we're starting a whole new story.
Creating a, an in-law suite for an elderly parent.

Till then I'm Bob Vila. Thanks for joining us.