We have a deep dark secret looming underneath our house: Our Basement. When we bought our house there were definitely some unsightly areas, but nothing compared to the basement. Here are some shots from right after we moved in:
Believe it or not this is actually a really descent basement for Minneapolis! Back in the 20's they didn't build basements with the idea that they'd be lived in some day. One of our criteria for house hunting was that we find a basement with "potential". Many of the basements we viewed had such low ceilings you couldn't even stand up without hitting your head. Some were 5 feet high and others has so much duct work that you practically had to crawl to get to another room. For the taller basements, it was really popular in the 50s to make a cheap living room with vinyl tiles and knotty pine paneling ... we saw a lot of those and I can't stand knotty pine panels. A third thing we smelled rather than viewed in many house basements while hunting was mold. And while we had a freezer full of mold in our basement, the rest was dry and mold-free!
We knew immediately our basement had great potential. The ceiling is 7'2" which is a good height for Minneapolis. Building codes out here require 7' ceilings so with drywall and a floor we'll just barely fit. The basement is also big! The utilities are tucked nicely in the corner and aside from some boiler plumbing (see them along the ceiling/wall in the first picture?) and the main pluming vent, there aren't a lot of obstacles to work around. The previous owners had even dug out a legal egress window so if we finish a bedroom we'll have a legal room.
There's some bad news though. Previous owners have worked on the basement to varying degrees and didn't always do things right. It's hard to see in the pictures but there's a plywood sub floor covering half the basement. Unfortunately it's not insulated, it's not attached to the cement (so it bounces and wiggles when you step, and the sheets aren't offset from each other, so it's a bad floor. Additionally, someone decided to build all the walls on top of this sub floor so to get rid of the rickety floor, all the walls have to come down. If that wasn't reason enough to start fresh, the exterior walls are also insulated (YAY!) with rigid insulation, but (BOO!) the seams aren't taped and there's no vapor barrier so the insulation is basically pointless at best and at worst, helping the wood rot. The electrical system is also a mess with switches in awkward places or lacking altogether (pull chain only) and with an undesired layout of the outlets.
For a long time I wanted to try to work off what was already there but I kept having the nagging suspicion that I'd be tearing it down in a few years because of mold anyway. My suspicions were confirmed as everyone who saw the basement instantly knew it was done wrong. On top of all that, I'm a Holmes on Homes nut so I keep hearing Mike say, "If you're going to do it, do it right." Ok Holmes, we'll take it all down!
Dreaming of the Future
We're still working out a lot of details but we're hoping to gut the basement and start finishing it the right way next year. We want to add a half bathroom (roughed in at first), a storage unit, a bedroom (which can also be a guest room or office depending on future needs), and a long living room for playing games and watching movies. We plan to do as much of it ourselves as we can and work with a contractor for the rest. There's a lot of excitement and uncertainty at this point though! Here are some floor plans we whipped up showing the bare basement, how it looks right now, and what we'd like it to look like.
|Bare Basement Floor plan|
|Floor plan when we moved in|
|What's bouncing around our heads|
Think we can do it? Do you have any stories from basement remodels, warnings for us, or affordable ideas for how to make this useful space in the future?!
Check out the rest of our basement posts!