Basement Laundry Room Before and After

When we bought our house, the basement laundry room area was thoroughly gross and rather dangerous. It is significantly less gross and dangerous now! Here’s all the unglamorous work that went into that.

First step: making sure the water heater doesn’t kill us.

During our home inspection, our inspector pointed out that the melted plastic on the top of our water heater indicated our flue was blocked. This meant dangerous fumes were not venting out of the basement like they should. He suggested we remove the vent to see if we could find the cause.

Such a happy new homeowner! About to find something awesomely morbid.

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Yep: that’s a fully cooked bird. Poor little guy. We removed his bones, which solved the problem.

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Up next: so much cleaning.

Our house was purchased as-is, which meant that the previous owners were not legally obligated to clean it out before closing day. They took full advantage of that fact and left a lot of crap in the basement.

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We’re lucky to have helpful friends. Thanks, friends!

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Our favorite feature in the basement was this open drain.

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That paint tray kept the flow of water from the kitchen sink and the laundry tub directed into the hole. (We had this fixed shortly thereafter.)

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The sign next to the open drain reminded you of your manners: it says “Do not pee pee in here.” Our friend Kimberly said we should assume that any area without a sign had been peed on. She’s probably right.

Once all the junk was gone, Jarrod and I started cleaning. I scraped flaking paint off the walls. There was several rounds of wall and floor washing with bleach, TSP, and Simple Green. It took weeks. It was equal parts loathsome and satisfying. I cannot overstate just how gross this basement was. I’m going to make you look at several photos so you’ll believe me.

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Yep, that’s mold. The bleach killed it, and a dehumidifier has stopped it from returning. Initially alarming but ultimately not a big deal!

Another thing: making sure the dryer doesn’t kill us.

Lint is super flammable, which is why you’re supposed to keep your dryer vent clean and unobstructed. Our dryer vent set up was remarkably terrible. (The previous owners wrote on that board, by the way, not me.)

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They had the dryer venting into an old window, which would have been fine except 1) they didn’t remove the window screen, and 2) that window is under our back porch/mudroom (outside our kitchen, glimpsed here, and one of my current big projects). So, they were pumping hot, damp air into a semi-enclosed space. This is what I discovered when I crawled back there:

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The window screen essentially served as a secondary dryer lint collector, which is far more gross than that dead bird and nearly as dangerous.

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I threw away the screen, put up a board, learned a lot of about dryer vents, and installed a new one that ran all the way to the exterior wall. Exciting times, guys.

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It would be nice if this duct were in a less visible place, but this is the best option for the current configuration.

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Finally: paint it white.

So much painting. Two coats of primer on the brick/concrete walls, one coat of primer on the rest of the walls, followed by two coats of paint.

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I realize my “after” photos could very well be someone else’s “before” photos (and they’ll eventually be our before photos when we do a full basement remodel), but I’m still proud of the progress I’ve made with not much money and one thousand hours of hard work. It went from feeling like a place where you might get killed to being a pleasant area to do laundry.

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I was so excited to buy a new utility sink to celebrate the culmination of this project.

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Isn’t that the the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? I bought the Mustee Utilatub (such a name!) at Home Depot, and the American Standard Colony Soft Double-Handle Laundry Faucet from Amazon. I removed the old sink and installed the new one myself. It was my very first plumbing project.

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I built a simple wood shelf to hide the crumbling concrete of the window ledge. That black hose is from our washer – not pretty, but necessary.

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To commemorate the previous owners, I framed the sign and a water color painting they left tacked to the bathroom wall. Don’t even think about peeing in here.

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Chicagoans: Sign Up for a Water Meter!

If you own a house in Chicago and don’t have a pool or an indoor water park: GET A METER. I am very grateful my coworker happened to mention MeterSave to me (thanks, Curt!), so now I am mentioning it here. If you don’t own a house in Chicago, tell your friends and loved ones who do.

When we bought our house, I had no idea how Chicago’s water service worked because I never had to deal with it as a renter. I was surprised to learn that the city estimates water usage based on the size of your house, or the number of faucets, or the cut of your jib. Chicago is moving to a metered system so that they can measure actual usage instead of guessing. Make sense. Having a meter installed will be a requirement in the future, but for now they’re trying to lure people to sign up via their fancy website (“Version 1.0 Copyright 2009”) and dreamy headshots.

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The meter and installation are free: absolutely no cost to you. The installers need access to your main water valve. That was easy for us, as we had recently gutted the basement. They installed the meter here:

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They also installed a small radio instrument to the front of our house. It’s currently the most attractive thing happening in that area.

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With only two people living in our house, I knew we’d use less water than the city’s estimate, but I was still surprised by just how dramatically cheaper our water bill is now. Without a water meter, the City of Chicago would have charged us $560 every six months — nearly $100/month, making it our most expensive utility on average. With the water meter, we’re averaging $18 a month. If the price and our usage remains about the same, the water meter will save us around $900 a year. 

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If you know your water account number, proceed straight to www.metersave.org and sign up for an appointment. Note: the online form suggests that you’re scheduling an exact time, but when you get appointment reminder it’s revealed that you signed up for a two-hour window.

If you don’t know your water account number, call 312-744-4420 to ask for it! Don’t wait until you get your first six month bill to find out your number, or you’ll have wasted money. They prorate your bill from the time of installation, so the sooner the better. (That “CR” in the statement above is a credit — our non-metered water payment is paying it forward.)

April 22 is both Earth Day and my husband’s birthday. Jarrod is my most enthusiastic and supportive reader, and he’s a pretty great teammate for life. So, this proselytizing post is in his honor. HBD, JMR!