Keyword Exclusive - Diary of a basement
Supplement to “Building Beautiful Basements”
We’ve all heard the expression “if these walls could talk.” Here’s what the Crums’ walls might say about the process of finishing the basement:
John and Tonya contract with a builder for their home in Nicholasville. They know they want to finish the basement after moving in, so planning becomes important at this point. The couple opts for poured concrete walls and roughed-in plumbing for a full bath in the basement.
They also tell the builder to tuck the furnace and ductwork under the stairs so they will not take up as much room. The builder mistakenly puts it in the middle of the room, but the Crums insist on it being moved. They still wind up having to do a little extra framing around the ductwork, but for the most part, the equipment is out of the way, giving them an “L” shaped basement to work with.
John and Tonya decide the time has come to finish their basement. In his spare time after work, John and a friend begin putting up studs around the ductwork, copying the work they have seen in many other basements. Soon, however, the weather turns warm and the Crums head outside for the summer, leaving the basement for later.
Work begins again on the basement. The Crums hire a professional drywall hanger as well as a plumber. John plans to do the trim work himself. Knowing which jobs you can do yourself and which require professional help is important. Generally speaking, electrical wiring and plumbing work are best left to the pros.
As studs go up, Tonya goes into planning mode, trying to figure out each detail. A workforce education trainer, Tonya plans her work months in advance. John, however, is a firefighter/paramedic and is accustomed to responding quickly. Their two approaches soon clash. Tonya leaves for a work trip to Virginia and work comes to a halt while John cares for their two daughters.
Still, the planning they have already done proves important. A small recessed space on one wall becomes a craft and computer center, and another small recess becomes a serving bar. Neither would have happened without planning.
The couple also has different concerns, with Tonya concentrating more on appearance and John more focused on function. Soon they compromise. Tonya plans the placement of doors (which determine where studs need to go) and the arrangement of fixtures in the bathroom. John gets to choose the electronic equipment for the home theater. Paint color is put off for a while.
Work kicks into high gear, but inevitably problems arise. Experts tell you to expect a few surprises and a few mistakes with any project of this magnitude.
Tonya’s design for the bathroom will not work because of how the plumbing was roughed-in originally. The bathtub must change location. Tonya also envisions shallow shelves on one wall—a place to put family photos and mementos. John has already dry-walled the area, necessitating some changes there.
The couple enlists Tonya’s mom, Patty Tarvin, to help with the decorating. John wants a bold approach—red walls and black ceilings. Tonya wants the room to blend more with the rest of the house. Tarvin, an interior designer by profession, offers suggestions that will please them both. Meanwhile, John’s dad, Frankie, and uncle, Whitey Meek, lay all the laminate flooring.
With the room nearing completion, the Crums leave for a weeklong vacation in Orlando. Tonya has revamped her planning at least four times, but finally quits looking at her list. She has already spent hours picking out just the right materials such as cabinet doors and pulls to hide the electronic components. John has been to numerous electronics stores before Best Buy offers him a great deal on the electronics he wants.
When they return from vacation, Tonya looks at her list once more and realizes she forgot to order two doors.
Focus on purpose.
Before you begin, the Crums say to think a lot about the purpose of the room and what you want it to look like.
Talk to other homeowners.
Learn from people who have gone before you. Ask them, if they had it to do over again, what they would do differently. Also, look at magazines to get ideas. You may not be able to do all the ideas you get, but they may spark other ideas.
Don’t buy everything at one place. Lumber wholesale stores often offer bargains. For example, the Crums purchased baseboard at a builder’s supply store for half what it was at other home improvement stores.
Make use of seemingly unusable space.
The space under stairs is a good example. The Crums left room there to store their daughter’s larger toys when they are not in use.
Give yourself a firm but manageable deadline.
The Crums did the bulk of the work on their basement in two months, pushed by the deadline for this article. That pace was a bit too fast, but without the deadline, they might still be working.
To read the Kentucky Living May 2007 feature that goes along with this supplement, click here: Building Beautiful Basements