Our Clean, Organized, and Practical Unfinished Basement

Now that you’ve read about our basement flood and the makeunder that predated it, it’s time for a full tour of this clean and organized workhorse. I’m most proud of two things here: it is super functional for our needs, and it is outfitted with storage solutions that were purchased used and/or cheap (or, even better, free). I’ll include links to things I bought as an FYI, but please know that I don’t think getting organized requires an expensive storage system or a full suite of matching bins.

I’ll start with these fisheye photos to give you an idea of the full space and then move around each area. All of the photos in this post are functional, not pretty – just like the space itself.

Basement Pano

You can see in these photos the one area of painted brick that’s flaked away because of efflorescence. Otherwise, our paint job has held up great for five years.

Basement Pano 2

During demo, we left some studs in place as well as the middle walls because they hold electrical conduit and they help demarcate zones.

Basement Pano 3

Basement Pano 4

Settle in – this is a long post!

Jarrod’s adventure zone

On the weekends, I usually work on the house and Jarrod goes on outdoor adventures in and around Chicago: biking, kayaking, birding, skiing, etc. This is his base camp.

Basement Adventure Station

Yes, those are roller skates on the shelf above; it’s the traditional gift for a man’s 40th birthday. Bench acquired for free from Northwestern University’s Surplus Property Exchange; tub below for shoes.

Shoe Bin

Jarrod’s bike is on a stand that holds it steady when he’s loading up his panniers (or “paninis” as I call them).

Basement Bike Station

I mounted a piece of scrap wood above the window to store his cross-country skis.

Ski Storage

Here’s the back door; I tore off some trim after we painted and haven’t gotten around to touching it up. Step ladder on a hook. I’m always a big proponent of keeping stuff off the ground wherever I can, and the basement flood reinforced that instinct.

Basement Door

Pencil sharpener and extension cord.

Pencil Sharpener

Laundry room

Not much to say here that wasn’t already covered in Basement Laundry Room Before and After. Fact: that project is one of my most visited and pinned posts, which is what encouraged me to share a full tour. I’m glad people appreciate practical content as much as picture-perfect content.

Basment Laundry Room 2

That rolling cart works as a folding station and a holding area for stuff I’m washing at the sink. Our sewer backup definitely did not abide by the posted “Do Not Pee Pee in Here” sign. Rude! (The explanation for the sign is in the laundry room post.)

Basement Bikes

Assorted less-used cleaning tools (link to similar rack) – our most frequently used cleaning gear is in the mudroom. My bike, Jarrod’s surplus bike, and the commercial-grade phone line hub installed by a previous owner for unknown reasons.

This area is on the other side of the furnace. Shelves purchased off Craigslist, tall trashcan to corral gangly things, and the dollhouse given to us by a college friend (hi, Jen!) – when someone offers you a dollhouse, you say yes.

Basement Storage Area

Just an old photo of Lola I like.

Cathouse

Back to the tour: I cannot stress enough the importance of corralling your stuff.

Paint Bins

Storage shelf zone

All of these shelving units were purchased off Craigslist, except the plastic one which was left here by the previous owner.

Basement Storage Room

Basement Shelves

I keep tools in plastic milk crates I’ve collected for free over the years – they’re nice and sturdy (link to similar crates). Baby gate left here by previous owner and saved by me in case, I dunno, we ever need to corral a dog or someone else’s child or something.

Basement Storage Shelves

Milk Crate Tool Storage 3

I stick BBQ skewers into partially-used caulk tubes.

Caulk Tub

Corral! Your! Stuff!

Project Supplies

Potting shelves = proof positive I’m turning into my mother (as I’ve mentioned before). Just looking at this collection of planting containers makes me happy.

Plant Potting Shelf

My work area

This giant work table is usually covered in some in-progress project. Long stretches of trim, lumber, etc. are stored below.

Basement Work Table

I built the table using these sawhorse brackets, an old door, and a sheet of plywood.

Sawhorse Storage

Potting soil in an IKEA SORTERA bin.

Soil Container

My miter saw is on a workbench I built using this Midwest Manufacturing Workmaster Workbench from Menards. I customized it in a few ways. If you’re logged into Instagram, I think this stories link will work. I made platforms for either side of the saw, and I built the bench so the saw section is portable.

Basement Saw Bench

Like so! Big fan of these Toughbilt foldable sawhorses, by the way.

Outdoor Saw

I mounted a power strip on the side for easy access to plugging stuff in, and my Ryobi battery charger on the front.

Workbench Power Strip

Stud Grabber Extension Cord

Laundry basket for wood scraps.

Spare Wood Laundry Basket

Bin for shop vacuum attachments.

Shop Vac Storage

What about that sweet metal hook? Glad you asked. It’s a Studgrabber and I love it. No tools required for installation – it just bites into the wood and can hold a lot of weight.

Stud Grabber

I take back what I said about not needing to buy things to get organized: everyone should buy Studgrabbers. Get them for your mom as a belated Mother’s Day gift; get them for your dad for Father’s Day; get them for your nieces’ and nephews’ Christmas stockings. There is no one in your life who would not appreciate grabbing a stud with these ingenious hooks. (My friend Ben makes fun of me because he says my blog is 70% about hooks. He’s not wrong. It me.)

IKEA STENSTORP island hack

I bought an IKEA STENSTORP island off Craigslist nearly 10 years ago for our previous apartment’s kitchen. (IKEA doesn’t sell this model anymore; link to the similar TORNVIKEN.) We don’t need it in our current kitchen, so I turned it into a workbench. (Yes, I have a lot of workbenches. I do a lot of work. This was my first one and I acquired the others later. Don’t you judge me!)

IKEA Tool Bench

I splurged on some matching clear storage boxes from The Container Store. I put the cart on these tri-wheel rolling dolly things and mounted a peg board to the back. I use the braces to hang long stuff like my level and yardstick.

IKEA Kitchen Island Pegboard

The pegboard keeps tools and supplies visible and accessible.

IKEA Kitchen Island Pegboard 2

I replace my utility knife blade religiously. I don’t want to throw the used blade directly into the trash, so I kept leaving them all over my project areas. Solution: I made a sharps disposal bin from an old Rubbermaid container.

Sharps Container

Okay, one final product recommendation: I far prefer this Bucket Boss over a tool box for lugging tools. I keep all of my MVPs in here and tote it around the house. Five stars; two thumbs up.

Bucket Boss

Phew, and that’s the end of this three-hour tour!

Long-term plan

As I mentioned in my House Goals for 2019 and Beyond post, I hope to finish half of the basement with a guest bedroom and bathroom. Currently, our house has two bedrooms and they share the upstairs bathroom. This works a-ok for us, but when we host guests it feels a little too close for comfort. It would also be good for our property value to add an additional bed and bath, and a den area would be fun for a cozy sofa and giant TV. Don’t worry, I will not pursue this plan if it does not also allow for plenty of project space as well: the unfinished half is just as important to me as the finished half.

Here’s an imaginary floor plan:

BasementFloorplan

I plan to approach the basement renovation in two phases: 1) getting architectural drawings and installing a waterproofing system toward the end of 2020 or early 2021, and 2) finishing the space in 2022ish. I am super excited about hiring an architect to draw up plans – I’ve never worked with an architect before. I want to know the end goal before I proceed with having drain tile and a sump pump installed (like so).

Then, we’ll wait and watch for at least a year to make sure we don’t have any flooding or sewer backup issues. The worst case scenario would be to finish the space and then get water damage. That’s happened to several Chicagoans I know this spring, including Kim and Scott over at Yellow Brick Home. If we do see any signs of water, we’ll keep the basement entirely unfinished, which would be a-ok as well.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Unfinishing a Finished Basement

Last weekend, we had a sewer backup that spurred us to clean the heck out of our basement. I plan to share a tour of what the space looks like currently, but first I want to backtrack to 2015. When we bought our bungalow, half of the basement was finished and half was unfinished. I covered the unfinished half in my Basement Laundry Room Before and After post; this post is about the work we did to unfinish the finished side.

Basement-Before3

Basement-Before

Our real estate listing said “nice basement with 1 bedroom in basement.” I think we can all agree that statement is 1) redundant and 2) overly generous. That is the soil stack in the middle of the room – our house’s main waste line.

Basement-Before7

Our inspector’s moisture meter told us the drywall was damp, and our eyeballs told us the space was finished poorly. It was a wet mess. (Let’s all start using “wet mess” instead of “hot mess.”)

Basement Inspection

Our inspector recommended we gut the perimeter walls, which we tackled the week we moved in. (The image above is from our inspection report, by the way; I don’t think I could ever write the phrase “Much moisture at several areas.”) We hired out for the first phase of demo in the interest of getting the wet mess hauled away as quickly as possible.

Basement Wall

The plastic vapor barrier behind the drywall created a waterlogged insulation situation. “Nice basement”!

Waterlogged Insulation

The contractor took care of removing the drywall, insulation, and carpet. It cost around $500 – definitely worth it.

Truck Haul

This poor dummy broke his elbow in a self-caused solo bike crash – sweeping left-handed added insult to injury, given how proud he is of his usual floor cleanup game.

Basement-Before6

Over the following two months, we worked to make the basement as clean and bright as possible. We removed the studs around the bedroom and the perimeter of the basement.

Stud Saw

Usually I’m the one operating the power tools, but Jarrod’s baldness came in handy for using a potentially hair-singeing rotary tool to grind the nails out of the concrete floor.

Nail Removal

The walls were filthy.

Basement-Before4

SO filthy.

Basement-Before5

There were several rounds of wall and floor washing with bleach, TSP, and Simple Green. I don’t know what in the hell this Babadook situation was.

Babadook

Basement Demo

Basement Brick Wall Before

After the walls were scraped and scrubbed, we did two coats of primer and two coats of paint to get us to a nice, clean blank slate.

Basement Brick Painted

Basement Progress

Thanks for walking down memory lane with me – it was a pretty gross stroll. Next up: the current state of our clean, organized basement.

ORC Week 5: Shelving, Litter Box, and Light Fixture

This stage of the One Room Challenge is challenging because I don’t want to reveal too much of the room! I’m saving pulled-back shots for the final post – not that it’s going to be a stunner of a space. As I’ve said, this is a functional room, not a showcase. Anyway, this is a bit of a grab-bag post, covering three elements: the shelving unit, litter box, and light fixture.

Shelving Unit

I’ve had an Ivar shelving system since 2012, when I bought it for $60 off Craigslist. Longtime readers of this blog (thanks for sticking around!) may remember it from our last apartment’s catch-all room. IKEA still sells this series and I definitely recommend it – it’s a sturdy workhorse, and easily configurable to fit your space and storage needs. This past week, I added IKEA’s Borghamn handles to jazz it up.

Installing Handles on Doors.JPG

Putting something in front of a window isn’t a ~best practice~ but it’s the only option here. Would I do this in a living room? Nope. Am I fine with it in a utility room? Yup!

IKEA Ivar Shelving Unit.jpg

I haven’t loaded up the shelves yet because I need to move it to put a rug under it. And, I need to cut better looking risers to go under the middle and right legs. This used to be an exterior porch, so the floor slopes significantly to shed rain (a previous owner put the plywood over the original floor). The risers are necessary for the shelves to be level.

Litter Box

The litter box involves another IKEA piece: a Hol storage table/trunk I’ve owned since 2007. When I first bought it, I added hinges so we can flip open the lid and I cut a hole in the side for cat access. IKEA doesn’t sell the Hol line anymore, which is too bad because it’s perfect for a litter box. (You can still find them on eBay and Craigslist, if you’re in need of a litter box solution.) The holes provide light and ventilation while concealing the litter box.

The wood was looking worse for wear – there was water damage to the top, and the wood finish was parched overall.

Wood Top Before.JPG

I sanded it quickly with fine grit sandpaper, washed it with Murphy’s Oil Soap, and conditioned it with Howard Feed-N-Wax. This product is wonderful: super easy to use, smells great, and makes an immediate improvement to the appearance of wood furniture. One bottle lasts forever.

Howard Feed N Wax.JPG

The trunk also serves as one of Lola’s squirrel patrol posts.

Lola on Top of Litter Box Trunk.JPG

Inside the trunk, there’s a rug to help catch tracked litter and a scoop hanging on a hook.

IKEA Hol Litter Box Trunk.jpg

Lola expressed some confusion about WTF I was doing with his bathroom.

Lola in the Litter Box.JPG

Light Fixture

I ordered this pretty Langley Street Michaela 1-Light Semi Flush Mount light fixture from Wayfair.

Michaela Light Fixture from Wayfair.jpg

The electrical conduit in the mudroom is mounted on the ceiling, instead of being hidden behind it.

Mudroom Ceiling Progress

Painting the metal conduit same color as the ceiling helped conceal it, but the exposed junction box presented a challenge: any mounted light fixture would look less-than-great since it wouldn’t be flush with the ceiling.

Exposed Junction Box

I searched online and couldn’t find any examples of how people have handled this situation. So, I came up with a solution on my own: I made a basic wood medallion to mount between the junction box and the fixture. I cut out a circle of plywood using my hand-me-down Rotozip saw (thanks, Dad!). To get a perfect circle, I used a paint can lid as a guide. Then, I cut out the center of the circle – making a wood donut – which I painted white. (Sorry, I failed to take photos!)

Circle Cutting

I mounted the light fixture in the usual manner, with the wood sandwiched in place between the fixture and junction box.

Michaela Light Fixture.jpg

I’m very happy with this fixture. It’s large and well-made for the price ($120 when I bought it a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve since seen it on sale for as low as $106). Having a proper fixture in this space makes it look more like a real room and less like a storage closet.

Michaela Semi Flush Mount Light Fixture.jpg

Still on my to-do list: cut and bind a rug, organize the storage shelves, touch up paint, add some baseboard, and install a fun thing for Lola.

Bye for now – see you next week!

Previous ORC posts:

You can check out all the other guest participants on the ORC website.
New posts go up every Thursday.

ORC-Guest-250

Kitchen Progress: Faucet, Hardware, and Window Trim

I dove into my kitchen makeover this past month and knocked out three things that already have me liking the space a lot more: a new faucet, cabinet hardware, and window moulding.

Faucet

Our previous faucet had a leak that was getting progressively worse: the water would only shut off when the handle was turned to a precise 9 o’clock position. Also, the faucet head was low which – when combined with our rather shallow sink – meant dishwashing space was kinda cramped.

Black Faucet Before

To replace it, I bought this Delta Trinsic faucet in stainless steel. It’s really nice and was easy to install. The feature that sold me on this one is the MagnaTite pull-down head: it has magnets, so it connects really securely to the faucet neck and, because magnets are magic, that connection won’t weaken over time.

arctic-stainless-delta-pull-down-faucets-9159-ar-dst-64_1000

You’ll have to stick around until the end of this post for faucet After photos…

Hardware

As I mentioned in my Kitchen Decision Making post, I ordered Amerock’s Blackrock knobs and pulls. Five of the drawers already had pulls, so I was able to simply swap out those.

Kitchen Drawer Pull Replacement

The other nine drawers had these tiny pull tabs – you could only grab them with your pincer fingers. (Thanks to this guy’s blog post for addressing the pincher/pincer word choice issue for me.)

Drawer Tab Pulls

The pulls weren’t practical, especially on the giant drawers laden with heavy cookware. Thanks to Jarrod for hand modeling the pincer issue for me.

Pincer Fingers.GIF

I bought a hardware installation template set and neither worked for my needs. The pull template wasn’t wide enough and the knob template didn’t have a hole option that aligned with where I wanted to place the knobs. D’oh. So, I improvised.

To install the pulls, I removed the front from one of the drawers that originally had a pull and used that as a template for the other drawers. I aligned the tops, made sure it was centered, clamped them together, and drilled.

Drawer Pull Template

I kept it simple and used the same size pulls on all of the drawers. It’s narrow enough to not look ridiculous on the smaller drawers, and wide enough to not get lost on the bigger drawers. EZPZ.

For the knobs, I made a simple template using scrap wood.

Cabinet Knob Template

Window Trim

In addition to my miter saw and drill, I used three new tools for the first time on my window trim project, so I thought I’d round them up quickly here.

Table saw: I finally bought my first table saw this year. It’s the final frontier of saws for me. Despite regularly using several other power saws, a table saw has always seemed daunting. I purchased this Dewalt 745S – Home Depot offers this “Special Buy” that packages the DW745 with a stand, which is indeed a good deal. It sat unopened in our basement for weeks until I discovered Steve Ramsey on YouTube. I don’t usually like how-to videos (I prefer to read instructions) but this 7 Things To Get You Started Using a Table Saw video is great: it gave me the confidence I needed to safely use my new saw.

Kreg Jig: Confession: I’ve had a Kreg Jig kit since 2013 and have never used it until now. Again, I watched a Steve Ramsay video – Beginner’s Guide to Pocket Hole Joinery – and then used it to join the wood for my window stool.

Joined Window Stool

Brad nailer: Whenever I see bloggers installing trim, they’re usually using a pancake compressor and gun (like trim pros Yellow Brick Home), so I assumed I’d have to invest in that as well. But I discovered this Ryobi AirStrike, which uses the same battery system as my drill (which I love) and my string trimmer (which I hate). This brad nailer worked great on my window trim and it’s made me more excited (read: less full-of-dread) about replacing the rest of the first floor moulding.

Now that we’ve addressed the tools, here’s the order in which I tackled the window trim.

1. I did a dry-fit of all the component parts, cutting everything to size with my table saw and miter saw. One tool I don’t have is a router, but I wanted a rounded edge for my window sill. This Alexandria Moulding Stool—available by the foot in-store—did the trick. It’s not deep enough for my window well (our bungalow’s exterior walls are built with two layers of bricks!), so I attached another piece of wood cut to the appropriate depth as shown above.

This picture of me dry-fitting everything cracks me up because a) Where is my head? and b) Those shoes are hideous. Fleet Feet (a local shoe store) gives you sass if you express concern about aesthetics of athletic shoes instead of fit, which is how I ended up with these froggers.

Headless Horseman

2. Once I confirmed everything fit properly, it all went back to the basement for a first coat of paint.

Window Trim Painting

2. Then it was time to install for real. The window stool went in first; it’s nailed and glued in place.

Window Stool Installation

2. The side trim pieces (AKA casing) went up next. It’s simple moulding from Home Depot.

Window Trim Side Casing

3. For the header (AKA architrave), I used this Interior Primed MDF Window and Door Casing (Model #538A-MDF8) from Lowe’s. It’s all one piece, making it easier to install – I just needed to cut the return pieces. (See this post from Ana White for more details.)

Window Trim Header

4. I used a piece of cove moulding as a simple apron below the stool. I wanted something under the sill to make the window look more finished, but it couldn’t be very wide because it would further accentuate the slight slant of the counter backsplash. My trim is perfectly level and square, but everything around it isn’t!

Window Trim Cove Moulding

I cut the cove moulding at an outward angle to make the ends look more polished.

Kitchen Window Apron

5.  The window well is more rhombus than square, so I used backer rod and caulk to fill in the unavoidable gaps on the sides of the stool.

Window Sill Backer Rod

Note: ideally the stool would be flush with the bottom of the window, but that wasn’t an option here. You only notice that it’s raised when you’re looking at it from this angle, and why are you looking at it from this angle?

Window Sill Installation

Here’s everything all caulked, patched, and painted, along with the new faucet and hardware:

Kitchen Window Trim After

Just like with my remodeled bathroom window trim, now this window looks like a feature of the room – not an afterthought.

Kitchen Window Before

Kitchen Window Trim

So glad to get rid of those stainless bar pulls. And I don’t have to worry about patching the holes they left behind because the cabinet painter will do it: yessss.

Up next: floor refinishing, then appliance delivery, then cabinet paint. (And art, and lighting, and more!)

Bathroom Makeover Day 2

Day 2!  Full disclosure: this weekend won’t end with triumphant After photos because I won’t have our new shower curtain in hand until Tuesday. This is the drawback of real-time blogging.

Antique Grate and Flap Wheel

All totalled, I spent way too much time on this damn grate.  I just wanted to get down to bare metal so that I could give it a clean, even coat of spray paint.  I should have skipped the boiling, scrubbing and sanding and gone straight to the Klean Strip.  I usually don’t go all scorched earth on antique hardware but this thing isn’t precious.  It’s the opposite of precious: it’s heavy as hell and it will survive the apocalypse.  So, I shouldn’t have hesitated to strip it.  Lesson learned.  At least it was fun to use the flap wheel sander.

Antique Grate and Stripper

I also spray painted the toilet paper holder, held aloft with kabob skewers.

IMG_6987

Back upstairs is chaotic.  Lola finds comfort on his L.L. Bean box, which is very special to him for reasons unbeknownst to us.

IMG_6998

Finished painting!

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The color is Benjamin Moore’s Soot, matched by Behr – it’s the same inky-navy-black that we have on our kitchen wainscoting. Our bathroom is off of the kitchen and I like that the two rooms will now be cohesive inverses of one another.

IMG_7004