When we moved into our house five years ago the basement was just one large concrete hole that contained an octopus style gravity furnace and a washer and dryer. There were no walls and definitely no insulation. That didn’t bother us because we knew that the foundation was in good condition because we could see it with our own eyes. There were no walls to hide problems. (If you are thinking of buying an older home always beware of any house with a basement that has just been renovated before going on the market).
That was the good part.
The bad part was that there was a lot of work to do and it sure wasn’t cheap. Replacing the gravity furnace was expensive because it contained asbestos. The floors all sloped towards a big drain in the center of the basement floor making the space useless. The walls although in good condition weren’t exactly straight (surprise surprise!). The windows were small and had been painted shut. You get the picture…
The first year we put walls up and insulated just so we could feel warmer. This presented its own problems as we had to work around the pipes that we were not prepared to remove yet. For example, the sewer pipe from our kitchen sink was across the house from the main drain. The pipes were sloped downwards and set into the walls.
We made the decision to replace the old windows with wooden windows from Pella Windows that looked almost identical to the originals. The gravity furnace was replaced with a high efficiency furnace. We had all new heating and cold air return ducts installed. Ditto for new gas lines.
The concrete floor was cut out to allow us to move the drain away from the center of the room. We mixed buckets of concrete in an attempt to level out the floor. We would have needed a truckload of concrete to even it all out and we had no ceiling room to spare so that is why we now have carpeting. It’s warm underfoot and very forgiving. We don’t have a moisture problem in the basement so that’s why it’s an ok choice.
By moving the drain to the far side of the room we were able to have a bath / laundry room. There just wasn’t enough room to have two separate rooms so we put the two together and it works well.
We raised the floor in the bathroom to make sure that the tiles did not sit on concrete which would have been way too cold especially in the winter. We installed the 2 x 2 floor system ourselves. This also gives us that bit of insulation between the floor and the concrete. The drain is set below and if there ever was a problem the substrate of the floor would not sit in the water as would be the case if we had used plywood on the floor.
My brother and I built some side cabinets and enclosed the new washer and dryer with top shelving. We used a set of louvered doors that were on sale for the cabinet doors. (see photo 3) This is because there wasn’t any doors in the size we needed so this turned out to be an inexpensive solution to our problem.
The walls were drywalled and painted a warm pinky- beige much like the colour of natural maple. The colours in the room are monochromatic to keep the space looking open and bright.
We struggled with the choice of ceiling. At first I wanted a beadboard panel ceiling. It became clear that this would be a problem because the joists were uneven and because there was sagging in the center of the house that made for an uneven ceiling. Then we thought of drywalling but that was no good either because we needed to have access to gas lines that were in the ceiling. We had the gasfitter put in these lines for the future when we wanted to get a gas insert installed to replace the antique one that no longer works. What to do?
After some soul searching we made a decision to do a combination of drywalling and dropped ceiling. Drywall was necessary because of the ceiling height where the heating ducts were – the clearance is just 6 ft 2 inches. We did the dropped ceiling where the ceiling was 7 feet in height and we were able to “straighten” it out. We used plenty of potlights to keep the ceiling flat and the room bright. We also installed dimmers for lighting around the tv.
This space, for all intents and purposes, is a modern space. There is no precedence for basements when our house was built in 1912. The basement was a storage space and there is no way that the original homeowners would have even considered doing any living in a dark basement. So modern is the way we went. (Although having antique furniture does tend to still give it a connection to what’s happening in the rest of the house).
I looked high and low for furniture I liked for the basement but none of it would fit through the narrow stairwell to the basement. The furniture you see in the picture on the left actually comes apart. The backs come off so it can fit through small openings where other pieces just can’t. They are recliners with attached footrests and are very comfortable. All in all we captured some more square footage for living in. The space is toasty warm and we love watching a good movie here. It’s become a favorite space for my husband and I have to say that it’s nice to have a modern room in an old house!