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Maibe is having TWO Babies!

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That’s right everyone, your favorite DIYing couple (we’re your favorite right? We’re totally cooler than the Young House Love couple…) is expecting…TWINS.

Our pregnancy annoucement

Our pregnancy announcement

 

When we went in for our first ultrasound and the technician said, “heartbeat….and heartbeat,” we didn’t realize she wasn’t just repeating herself, but that there were two heartbeats.  We were thrilled.  We feel doubly blessed to be expecting twins.

Although twin pregnancies are more common nowadays, they still come with some scary risks.  Pre-term labor, gestational diabetes, preclampsia are just some of the fun complications that you are at an increased risk for with twins.  Not to mention the increased weight gain adding pressure to your back and joints.  Luckily, I am pregnant with dichorionic/diamniotic (often shortened to di/di) twins.  This means that my twins are in their own amniotic sacs and have their own placentas.  Di/di twins are the least risky type of twins.  They are also the only kind of twins that can be fraternal (70% of di/di are fraternal, while 30% are identical) and therefore the most common. The other types of twins are monochorionic/dicamniotic  (mono/di – two separate sacs, one placenta) and monochorionic/monoamniotic (mono/mono – one sac and one placenta, the riskiest type of twin pregnancy). Mono/di and mono/mono twins are always identical.

Ultrasound at 19 weeks - I love seeing my babies!

Ultrasound at 19 weeks – I love seeing my babies!

Starting at 20 weeks, I started seeing a maternal fetal medicine (MFM) doctor for ultrasound scans.  The extra monitoring is to try to catch pre-term labor before it happens and any other complications that may arise.  At my last appointment, they told me I could be the poster child for twin pregnancy.  Both babies are growing on track (for singletons!) and my cervix is the length of a singleton pregnancy – woohoo!

Although my babies and cervix are measuring at the singleton status, my baby bump (or officially “fundal height”) is definitely not. At 21 weeks, I was measuring as a 28 week singleton pregnancy. A whole 7 weeks ahead.  My doctor told me that I will be having all the same aches and pains that someone who was 28 weeks pregnant with a singleton would feel.  So basically, I just entered the “third trimester” early and will be in it for a long, long time! (That is the hope at least…I want these babies to stay cooking for a lot longer)

I just recently hit 24 weeks pregnant which is a huge milestone since it is the point of viability.  If I was to go into labor now, my babies would have a 50% chance of surviving.  Before this point they would not have been able to survive outside of the womb. In addition to it being the viability point, it is also when my OBs have started to be restrictions on me… no more exercise and no travel.  Since the risk of pre-term labor is so much higher with twins, they don’t want you doing anything that can cause contractions and trigger labor.  The no traveling is mainly because if you go into labor out-of-town, your babies will be in the NICU in that place until they can be released – which could be weeks or months.  I am going out of town this weekend at 25 weeks but it will be my last trip before being banished to Virginia until the twins are born. No holiday travel for the Maibes.
Another unique thing about twin pregnancy is that my doctors will not let me go past 38 weeks.  If I have not already had the babies at 38 weeks, they will induce me or schedule a c-section (depending on the babies positions – both have to be head down for a vaginal delivery).  This is the standard practice with twins because the degradation of the placentas happens earlier and more rapidly in twin pregnancies (mono/di and mono/mono twin pregnancies go even earlier).  On average, twins are born at 35 1/2 weeks gestation.  For me, that happens to be Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.  I’m hoping to make it past the holidays but the most important thing is for the twins to be healthy.

 

Now that you have had your full on medical information about the twins, I will get to the fun stuff. We found out we were having one girl and one boy about 5 weeks ago (at 19 1/2 weeks pregnant)!  We did not have the technician tell us, but instead had her write it down and put it in an envelope.  My sister-in-law was staying with us that evening and bought some unfrosted cupcakes on the way home from work.  We gave her the envelope and she got to work.  She made pink and blue frosting and put it inside the cupcakes.  She frosted the tops white.  Jim and I each had a cupcake for Baby A and Baby B.  We took a bite of the cupcakes together – there was pink for Baby A and blue for Baby B!

 

Gender reveal - one girl and one boy!!

Gender reveal – one girl and one boy!!

We are currently working on names, but those will be a surprise until the twins are born.  We’ve also planned out the nursery but haven’t started working on it yet (we had a basement to finish).  My mother-in-law threw a fabulous surprise baby shower for me last weekend.  Our house is filling up with baby gear and I am loving every minute of it.

For our loyal readers, don’t worry, this DIY Blog is not going to all of a sudden turn into a pregnancy blog.  I will be updating the blog with remodeling of the nursery, etc as well as some updates about the pregnancy and twins. Since we have babies on the way, we will not be starting any big home projects soon, so I will post about what I can.  This whole baby-making thing is a project in itself, just a little different then tearing down a few walls and rebuilding a room from scratch. I am just growing two lives from scratch…well scratch and DNA…and it is amazing.

Basement Reveal!!

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Here is another overdue post.  The basement has been fully functional since July.  There were some finishing touches that we only recently completed, so I was waiting for that before doing the “reveal” post.  We have been using the basement regularly since July though and I can tell you, it is awesome.

In my last post, we had just completed putting the lament wood floors down.  We needed to complete the moulding in the laundry room.  We did that next before installing the utility sink in the laundry room.  A little plumbing was needed to hook everything up, but all in all, it went smoothly.

Molding in the laundry room

Molding in the laundry room

The supply line and drain pipes waiting for the sink to be installed

The supply line and drain pipes waiting for the sink to be installed

Jim installing the sink!

Jim installing the sink!

 

After the sink was installed, the majority of the basement was complete.  We had the carpet guys come and install the carpet in the second half of the basement.  We already had the TV hooked up and a new couch.  We went to IKEA and got a media stand that Jim figured out how to install against the wall (so it is “floating”).  Jim also worked on installing his heavy punching bag to hang from the ceiling so that it would be as quiet as possible while he worked out.  Once all of these things were finished, we took a few months off.

The finishing touches had to do with the railing and guard rail by the stairs.  We needed to install a railing on one side and guard rail on the half wall.  Jim didn’t want nails to show on the railing and it took some time to figure out the best way to install the guard rail.  This is part of the reason we didn’t finish it right away – the other part was the laziness of summer.  Installing the long railing wasn’t too difficult and just required a lot of measuring and some painting.

Railing before the paint

Railing before the paint (sneak preview of the carpet too!)

After much debate, Jim decided to use screws to install the guard rail.  He decided to drill a large hole before the screw, so that he could cover up the screw by placing a wood cover over the hole.  It worked even better than we could have imagined.  The guard rail went up securely and there were no visible screws anywhere.

Two of the holes where the screws secured the railling

Two of the holes where the screws secured the railling

The other hole for another screw

The other hole for another screw

Railing in place

Railing in place

Full view of the guard rail

Full view of the guard rail

Wood covers in place and painted - no screws in sight!

Wood covers in place and painted – no screws in sight!

Hole be gone!

Hole be gone!

Posts up and painted - it was Jim's idea to use the dark gray for the posts - looks amazing of course!

Posts up and painted – it was Jim’s idea to use the dark gray for the posts – looks amazing of course!

 

Now what you have all been waiting for…the reveal!!

 

From the top of the stairs, looking down the tunnel to the basement

The old stairway looking from the top of the stairs into basement

New view from the top of the stairs - a lot brighter! (Not to mention the less squeaky, more secure stairs underneath the carpet)

New view from the top of the stairs – a lot brighter! (Not to mention the less squeaky, more secure stairs underneath the carpet)

The original stairs, take note of the carpet on the sides

Old view from the bottom of the stairs – notice the ugly carpet

New view from the bottom of the stairs!

New view from the bottom of the stairs!

Another view - we created the half wall which opens up the space a lot more

Another view – we created the half wall which opens up the space a lot more

It also allows for the amazing new railing

It also allows for the amazing new railing

The hallway leading towards the laundry room

Old  hallway leading towards the laundry room – we completely got rid of these walls to open up the space

View 2 of room #1

The basement used to be split up into two rooms – this was a view from the first one from the hallway

Room #2

This was a view of the second one from the hallway

Doors to the laundry room and room #2

This was the end of the hallway to the laundry room – now all completely different!

This is the old "first room" - now the lounging area of the basement

This is the old “first room” – now the lounging area of the basement

View of the "second room" - still from the bottom of the stairs. Without the hallway, the whole room is open. This is our gym section of the basement

View of the “second room” – still from the bottom of the stairs. Without the hallway, the whole room is open. This is our gym section of the basement

A view from the gym

A view from the gym

Another view

Another view

The new doorway to the laundry room

The new doorway to the laundry room

View into the laundry room

View into the laundry room

The basement is bright, new, and a place you want to spend time in now!  I did not do a full reveal of the laundry room because there are still things we need to finish in there that are not high priority (drop ceiling, closet doors, closet racks, etc).  Once we get around to it, I will do a new post just for the laundry room.  I also want to give credit where credit is due – in May, Jim became very motivated to finish the basement. This was about the same time that we found out I was pregnant.  While I struggled through first trimester exhaustion and nausea, Jim spent many hours working alone in the basement.  We are a team through our DIY projects but Jim really picked up all of my slack towards the end of this project.  He is so talented and amazing, it is not surprising we ended up with such an incredible result!

A Long Overdue Update

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This is a long overdue post.  There were some reasons for my delay in posting, one was that we went on an amazing trip to Australia in April which took up a lot of that month. Then we had to wait a while before we got the right people in to spackle the drywall so it would be finished and seamless.  It wasn’t until May before we really started making progress again…but now we’ve made a LOT of progress so we have a lot to catch up on.

Once the walls and ceiling were spackled, we were able to start painting.  We needed to prime every, thing before painting, so it took some time.  We pick a gray color for the main room and a yellowish white for the laundry room.  After painting, we saw a lot of little areas that needed some retouching with the spackling.  It took time to spackle all the areas, let it dry, sand it smooth and repaint.  Once it was all done though, the rooms both turned out great.

The painted walls

The painted walls

I took pictures of the different angles

I took pictures of the different angles

Another

Another

A few more of the main room...

A few more of the main room…

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The laundry room (this is bad lighting and makes the wall looks more yellow than it is)

The laundry room (this is bad lighting and makes the wall looks more yellow than it is)

More laundry room

More laundry room

Last one

Last one

After the painting, moulding needed to be added along the walls, door frames, and the post.  This meant measuring each moulding exactly right, nailing it in place, covering the nails with spackle, and then painting the finished product.  We plan to put moulding in the laundry room, but focused on the main room for now.  Moulding also needed to be put along the stairs.  This had to be custom-made for our custom-made steps.  Jim took all the measurements and planned carefully for the mouldings.  It came out perfectly. It fits snug up against the stairs and helps to finish the look.

The stairway with the unpainted moulding

The stairway with the unpainted moulding

Close-up of the moulding

Close-up of the moulding

The other side

The other side

One more full view

One more full view

The moulding along the walls

The moulding along the walls

More moulding

More moulding

Crown moulding along the post

Crown moulding along the post

We also needed to install the new door and door frame between the main room and the laundry room.  This was not as easy as it should have been.  When we would make one adjustment to line up the door, a corner would pop out or the door wouldn’t shut correctly.  After a lot of frustration and tries, Jim was able to maneuver the door in a way that made it fit perfectly.  After the door and moulding, Jim installed the staircase post (actually known as a newel).  He needed to drill into the cement in order to securely attach the newel to the ground.  He also secured the newel to the staircase using creative means.  It is very sturdy and looks like it has always been there.  Once the newel was in place, Jim added a finished board to the top of the half wall we cut out in the stairs. This helped finish the stairway as well as lays the foundation for stair posts and a railing.  Some other finishing touches included putting new vent covers on the a/c vents and installing a new vent for the dryer.

The door installed

The door installed

 

Close-up

Close-up

The newel with the finished board on the half wall

The newel with the finished board on the half wall (and painted moulding)!

 

The biggest update of all has to do with the floor.  Half of the basement is going to be the gym area and the other half is going to be for lounging and hanging out.  We decided to do different flooring for the two sections.  The gym and laundry room would both have lament wood flooring while the lounging and stairway would have carpeting.  On Memorial Day, we went to Lumber Liquidators and picked up some awesome flooring.  That week, we started looking on getting it installed.  The type of boards we bought were what is known as, “floating.” This means there is no nailing or gluing to install the floor boards. The boards “float” over the subfloor and connect to each other by interlocking the pieces.  Before putting down the floor boards, we needed to put down a moisture barrier that would protect the floor boards from moisture and mold. We got a thicker kind that would also help even out the floor if there were any imperfections (like where we couldn’t get the old vinyl floor up in the laundry room.  The moisture barrier went down pretty smoothly other than the fact that it rolled out the opposite direction it was supposed to be installed.  We figured it out though and were ready to start the floors.

Moisture barrier in place

Moisture barrier in place

Another view

Another view

Jim decided to get the flooring done as soon as possible. I was going out-of-town for my niece’s first birthday, so Jim stayed home and did the floors solo.  When I got home, I was amazed at how awesome it looked.  He had started the flooring before I went out-of-town and was having some trouble with the boards interlocking straight.  He got half of the gym floor done before undoing it all to make sure everything was interlocked perfectly so he wouldn’t have trouble later down the line.  He figure out a method of using a laser from one of the levels to determine if the boards were straight.  Although it was time-consuming, it worked and the floors turned out awesome. Jim needed to leave a space between the walls and the floor boards in order to allow for fluctuation in the size of the boards.  To cover up that space, he added quarter moulding along the floors to give an extra finished look.

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The start of the flooring

The gym section

Finished! The gym section

More of the gym

More of the gym

A shot of the finished door with the finished floors

A shot of the finished door with the finished floors

Showing how well it closes

Showing how well it closes

The laundry room

The laundry room

More laundry room - please excuse the unused mouldings

More laundry room – please excuse the unused mouldings

Threshold moulding (not sure if that's the real name...but it looks good either way, right?)

Threshold moulding (not sure if that’s the real name…but it looks good either way, right?)

The main section of the basement is almost complete.  We even mounted our new television and set up the new couch. Those pictures can wait for the big reveal.

 

One Step at a Time…Literally

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The steps to the basement were carpeted before we started the demolition.  We plan to keep the stairs carpeted, but we wanted to change how the carpet looked.  Here is a picture of the original staircase:

The original stairs, take note of the carpet on the sides

The original stairs, take note of the carpet on the sides

You can see that the carpet goes up on the sides of the stairs.  This is very unusual.  Jim absolutely hated it. I didn’t like it, but never really thought much of it.  On top of the weird carpet, the stairs were very creaky.  Jim figured he would take the carpet off and fix some of the creaks but adding some new nails and making it more sturdy.  Well, when the carpet came off the stairs, we saw that the stairs were no good.

The steps without carpet

The steps without carpet

Close-up to get a better idea of what bad shape they were in

Close-up to get a better idea of what bad shape they were in

These are not finished stairs.  These stairs were installed when the basement was unfinished and the look of the stairs didn’t matter.  Instead of having normal stringers to hold the stairs in place, these stringers had grooves in them to slide the stairs in.  These meant that the sides of the stairs that are normally uncovered would have grooves and be unfinished.  Jim and I brainstormed the many different ways we may be able to fix this problem.  Jim’s first thought was to re-do the stairs completely.  I came up with many different options that unfortunately would not look as good.  In the end, Jim won.  We were going to learn how to build some stairs.

Jim figured out all the measurements to make the steps work.  He had to work around the support beam in the basement which is located right at the very first step of the stairs. He also had to make the stairs end before the door to the tool closet at the base of the stairs.  He had a design and measurements worked out.  On one of our March snow days (because we did have more than one), we decided to start working on the stringers.

The wood all ready to be cut

The wood all ready to be cut

Jim's design

Jim’s design

The stringers are the skeleton of the staircase. It holds everything in place.  The cuts on the stringers are the most important part to getting the stairs to be even and level.  After measuring out what needed to be cut on the stringers, Jim used a circular saw to cut each step in the stringer.  Unfortunately, circular saws do not all the way through because they are, well, circular.  So after doing all the cuts on one side, we flipped the wood on to its other side to cut out the stairs there.  Then a little piece was left that we needed to use a hand saw to get rid of.  It took some time.  Once we had one stringer done, we used it has a stencil for the next two stringers.

The outlines drawn on the wood

The outlines drawn on the wood

One of the finished stringers!

One of the finished stringers!

Using the finished stringer as a stencil

Using the finished stringer as a stencil

Two weekends ago, Jim decided to tackle the stairs.  I had been sick that week and unfortunately was no help (outside of taking pictures and handing Jim things no and then).  He tore down the old staircase and got started on the new one.  He put a ladder in place so he could still come upstairs when he needed to.

The view from upstairs

The view from upstairs

View from downstairs...Derby was really upset the stairs were gone and that Jim was stuck down there

View from downstairs…Derby was really upset the stairs were gone and that Jim was stuck down there

Jim got to work figuring out where the stringers would go and also installing the support beams for the stringers.  Jim quickly realized some of his original calculations were off.  The stringers fit in place, but the stairs were incredibly slanted.  He had to rework all of his calculations and that took a lot of time.  He eventually ended up taking away one of the stairs and increased the height of the platform at the end of the stairs so that everything would be level and even.  Luckily, he did not have to do completely new stringers and just altered the ones we already cut.  Once all the measurements were corrected, Jim attached the stringers at the base and the top and then put them in place. Jim also had the foresight to add drywall to the sections of the wall that had been previously covered by the old stairs that would no longer be covered by the new stairs.  He saved us a lot of time from cutting out triangles of drywall to install.

 

The new wood on the platform step to increase its height

The new wood on the platform step to increase its height

Support beams in place, Derby still uneasy about the missing stairs

Support beams in place, Derby still uneasy about the missing stairs

Jim moving the stringers in place

Jim moving the stringers in place

Stringers in place!

Stringers in place!

The next step was to add the risers and the treads.  Treads are the part of stairs you step on while the risers are the vertical part that rests between the treads. Risers prevent you from putting your foot through the stairs and they add support to the treads you walk on.  Luckily, we were able to order finished treads and risers. The treads have round edges which make them look really nice.  Jim add wood glue and hammered them into place.  Before you know it, we had a brand new staircase!

Before the top step was put in

Before the top step was put in

All done!

All done!

With the staircase finally in place, we were able to build the half wall by the end of the stairs.  The stairs originally were tunneled in to the end of the staircase but we decided to open it up.  We needed to build a wall frame for the new half wall.  Jim was checking his measurements and had me figure out some of it as well.  We were building the wall frame with an angle in it, so we had to pull out our cosine, sine, and tangent knowledge.  I even searched for my high school graphing calculator, which unfortunately, was no longer working.  The math was done and the measurements worked out.  We also finished the last of the drywall and we are ready for the drywall guys to come in and finish the seams.  The basement is getting so close to being complete!

Using a string to help with measurements

Using a string to help with measurements

The wall frame in place!

The wall frame in place!

Beautiful stairs

Beautiful stairs

Last one of the amazing stairs

Last one of the amazing stairs

From the Windows to the Walls…

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It has been over a month since the last update and we have been busy at work.  There has been a few huge (for Virginia) snow storms during that time that kept us inside and working on the basement.  With the wall insulation done, we started adding drywall.  Installing drywall is always a very exciting step. It helps you really see the room come together.  We had a good system in place in which I would measure and cut most of the drywall while Jim hung up the pieces that I cut.  There were two sections of the main area of the basement in which the wall frames were shorter than the wall frames next to it. This meant that once drywall went up, the wall would either not be level or there would be a weird bumped out edge in the middle of the wall.  Jim caught the problem before we ordered drywall and planned to attach two layers of drywall to the shorter wall frames.  This actually worked perfectly. The first layer of drywall made it so the wall was lined up with the rest of the wall frames.  It took a little bit of extra time, but it was worth it to have a seamless wall. Most of the drywall for the main area of the basement went on without a hitch but when adding drywall around the post in the middle of the room, Jim encountered some problems. The wood we used to frame the post was warped. Therefore, the drywall would not lay flat against the wood.  Jim chiseled away enough wood in order to make the wood posts level. This took a lot of effort. Later, when doing the rest of the beam, Jim decided to use wood shims instead. This worked out easier and just as well for leveling the drywall.

The beginnings of the drywall

The beginnings of the drywall

In the laundry room, it was a little more challenging. We had to work around pipes while also moving the washer and dryer out of the way. We planned to close off the water heater and a/c unit behind a closet which meant Jim needed to build some wall frames and bulkheads for the closet doors and support beam.  There was a lot of creative calculation at work  in order to ensure the wall was parallel to the other wall.   Once all the framing was in place, we were able to easily finish the drywall.  There were some places are waiting to drywall (near the door to the laundry room, around the stairway, around one of the windows) due to additional steps we have not yet completed.  All and all, the walls weren’t too bad.

The wood after Jim chiseled away at it

The wood after Jim chiseled away at it

Next came the ceiling.  We decided to “sound proof” the basement to the best of our ability.  We will have a treadmill in the basement as well as surround sound for TV/movie watching, so we thought it may be beneficial in the long run. Jim looked into a variety of sound proofing and decided we would do two things: 1) Use insulation designed to minimize sound (it is called Safe and Sound) 2) Use Quiet Rock drywall which is supposed to supply the sound proofing of 8 sheets of drywall in one sheet. Before we could install the drywall on the ceiling, we had to install the sound proofing insulation.  This wasn’t difficult, just annoying at times. The insulation crumbled really easily.  We had to be very careful picking it up and stuffing it in between the beams. Also, gravity was working against us and all of the little shredding of insulation were falling into our faces. On top of that, the Safe and Sound insulation as smelled really bad. I got used to it after a while, but it was pretty gross at first.

The "Safe and Sound" insulation in the ceiling

The Safe and Sound insulation in the ceiling

More safe and sound

More Safe and Sound

Last one

Last one

Once the insulation was complete, we were ready for the drywall. We rented a drywall lift (we rented one in the past when remodeling the kitchen).  We wanted to try to get this done in one day because we needed to rent equipment. We thought this was doable since we bought a cool tool that easily cut out holes for recessed lighting, outlets, etc.  We had a system in place from installing drywall on the walls, so this should be easy-peasy. Right?  No, not right.  The Quiet Rock drywall sheets look like two thin pieces of drywall stuck together.  We assumed cutting the Quiet Rock would be the same as cutting regular drywall. It wasn’t. With regular drywall, you can measure and trace out your cuts. With a utility knife, you cut into the line you marked. You won’t be able to get all the way through the drywall easily, but that is ok because after you start the cut, you can bend the drywall and it breaks smoothly along where you cut.  Quiet Rock does not do that. It is thicker and does not break.  After trial and error, a hand saw meant for drywall was our best bet.  That meant we had to physically saw each piece. The pieces are 8 feet by 4 feet long. Imagine sawing line that are 8 feet long…over and over again.  You get the picture?  It was exhausting and time-consuming.  We worked all day but by 9 pm, it was clear we weren’t going to finish.  This was the Sunday before President’s Day. I had to work the next day (stupid snow day make-ups), but Jim had off.  We decided to call it a night and Jim would finish most of the ceiling the next day.  We ended up renting the lift for two days and got 90% of the ceiling done during that time. We had smaller pieces that we finished later without the lift.  We completed the bulkhead with the Quiet Rock as well since it is also part of the ceiling.  Before we could install the drywall there, we had to fix the air vents.  Previously, there were just holes in the ducts without a connection to the registers on the ceiling. These could result in a lot of air loss.  We went to Home Depot and searched for possibilities to attach the duct to the register. We came up with a solution that works nicely.  After this past weekend, the drywall is completed everywhere it can be (not in the places we still have to do other work) and we have the beginnings of our basement.

Drywalling (almost) complete

Drywall (almost) complete

View of the ceiling

Another view of the ceiling

Beam complete

Beam complete

Bulkhead complete

Bulkhead complete

The laundry room closed off by drywall

The laundry room now its own separate room

Drywall in the laundry room coming together

Drywall in the laundry room coming together

Another view

Water heater and a/c unit before the wall frames

One frame is up!

One frame is up!

The other frame!

The other frame!

Framing all drywalled

Framing all drywalled

Another shot

Another shot

Closet in the laundry room all drywalled!

Closet in the laundry room all drywalled!

Drywall around the utility box

Drywall around the utility box

Now to the windows.  Our basement had two small 14 by 32 inch windows.  They were up high and in pretty bad shape. We decided we would replace them with new windows with removable window panes. With the window panes removable, people could escape in case of an emergency.  We were all set to do this until the inspector came for the insulation inspection.  Even though this was the third time we had an inspector out to the basement, it was the first time anyone mentioned an “egress window.”  Egress windows are windows designed to be large enough for a firefighter to climb in or a person to climb out of in an emergency.  Code requires the window opening to be no more than 44 inches off of the inside ground.  It also has to have a much larger opening than 14 by 32 inches.  Luckily, code only requires there be one window. Our yard slopes downward so one of windows was actually pretty high above ground and adding in egress window there wouldn’t require too much digging underground. To install an egress, we would still need to dig a well on the outside of the window as well as cut a hole in the side of the house.  We called some contractors to get estimates. The estimates ranged from $2,400-3,600. This was going to cost a pretty penny that we did not include in the budget.  Jim researched everything required to complete the project and decided we could do it ourselves.  I was worried.  Mainly, I didn’t want a big hole in the side of the house without us being able to fix it.  Jim estimated that if we did it ourselves, it would only cost about $800. This was a significant saving in cost.  Jim knows he can always convince me of something if it is going to save us money, so I was (cautiously) sold on the idea. We replaced the one window with a new window of the same size and then prepared for installing the egress window.

Old window - not cute or easy to open

Old window – not cute or easy to open

Old window removed

Old window removed

Jim installing the new window

Jim installing the new window

New window - nice, clean, and easy to open!

New window – nice, clean, and easy to open!

The other weekend, we had unusually warm weather predicted.  No rain in the forecast with highs in the 50’s and 60’s.  This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to work on the window.  We prepped as much as we could on Friday. We had to take down the insulation and framing we had already completed.  We also set up plastic sheeting around the window to try to contain the dust produced from cutting into the cinder blocks. Jim also read we should create a barrier on the floor to prevent the water used with the saw from spreading everywhere.

This is the window we planned to replace with the egress

This is the window before we started working

Framing and insulation all gone

Framing and insulation all gone

Prep for the cutting - the plastic sheeting, very "Dexter"

Prep for the cutting – the plastic sheeting, very “Dexter”

Our foam barrier for water collection

Our foam barrier for water collection

Saturday was the day for digging the well.  Parts of the ground were still frozen and we had to chip around the first inch or so before we could dig.  We needed to dig a well that was 3 ft by 3 ft and 16 inches deep.  The side of the well furthest from the house also needed a trench, 6 inches deeper, to help with drainage of rain water.  The worst part about digging was the mud.  The ground was so muddy from the snow. Our shoes had inches of mud caked on them. It felt like you were walking in some sort of clown shoes. It was also hard to get good footing because the mud was slippery. Neither of us fell face first into the mud, although I came close a few times.  We needed to make sure the well was sloped away from the house towards the trench to help with drainage. You don’t want to go to all this trouble to have rain water just sit at the bottom of the well with nowhere to go but into the house.  We were able to get the well dug out and with the right slope in about 2 1/2 hours.  Once the well was dug, we needed to add landscaping fabric along the sides as well as gravel to help with drainage. After a few tiring and muddy hours, the trench was complete.  We also decided to drill holes at the corner points of the new window.  This was to help Jim when he was sawing through the cinder block to make sure each side was lined up.  Since we had some more time on Saturday, we decided to rent that drill and complete this Saturday.  You could say this day went well. (See what I did there?)

The window from the outside - before the well.

The window from the outside – before the well.

Our well!

Our well!

Another view of the well

Another view of the well

The landscaping fabric in place

The landscaping fabric in place

Gravel all done

Gravel all done

The lines drawn and holes drilled

The lines drawn and holes drilled

On Sunday, we rented the saw we needed to cut through the cinder block.  The biggest blade they had was 16 inches. This was a circular saw, so it would cut about 7 inches into the cinder block.  Jim had to cut on the inside of the house and then on the outside of the house to get through the whole 12 inch cinder block.  As with anytime you cut into brick, you need to add water to the saw (like the wet saw we have used in the past) to help with the friction.  My job was to spray the saw with water while Jim cut.  He had carefully measured where to cut.  The saw was big and heavy. It was not easy to hold up against a wall and cut. Luckily, I have a super strong man who could manage this job. Jim took his time cutting along the lines.  There were a few scary moments when the saw would jump up out-of-place. We think it was probably because the cinder blocks were hollow, so the change between hollow space and block would throw the saw off.  Jim had incredible control and nerves.  I kept praying for Jim to finish and for both of us to have all limbs attached when he was done.  Outside of the scary moments, the cutting went smoothly.  Jim knocked in the cinder blocks and we had officially had a hole in our wall!

Cinder blocks gone!

Cinder blocks gone!

Another view with less sunlight in the way

Another view with less sunlight in the way

The next steps involved adding new cement on the cinder blocks that were exposed to help strengthen them.  We then needed to add a 2 by 6 as a window sill and put the window frame in place. We removed the window panes before putting the window frame in place.  Jim worked on leveling the window and waterproofing it from the outside.  We were finishing up the window, so I went on an errand.  I came back 45 minutes to find Jim just finishing with the window panes.  Apparently, the window frame bowed out in the middle when we installed it without the panes.  When Jim tried to put in the panes, he could not get the window to close.  He had to undo the whole frame, put the panes in the frame and re-install it.  All of his waterproofing work was undone.  Since it was already late at this point, Jim put up a tarp for the night and fixed the waterproofing the next day.  Since that weekend, the weather has gone downhill – including another big snow storm yesterday.  We are glad the window is in and we can keep rolling with new projects.

The end of Sunday night - window in place!

The end of Sunday night – window in place!

This past weekend, Jim rebuilt the wall frames around the egress window.  We needed to redo the insulation (foam and fiberglass batts).  The window adds a lot of natural light into the room and is overall a great addition.

After the amazing framing job - looks like a pretty fine window to me!

After the amazing framing job – looks like a pretty fine window to me!

Window with all the insulation done as well!

Window with all the insulation done as well!

Another ceiling picture that I didn't put in earlier because you can see the new window in this picture!

Another ceiling picture that I didn’t put in earlier because you can see the new window in this picture!

Water Works and Staying Warm

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The past few weeks have been busy ones in the basement.  On New Year’s Day, my parents came to visit us for a few days. We did not work the whole time on the basement while they were here, but they did help out.  One of the days they were here, we had the drywall for the walls and ceiling delivered.  Jim calculated how much we needed and it came out to be 49 sheets.  That’s right…49.  The delivery man could not fit the sheets through the garage on his little lift, so he dropped it off as close to the garage as he could get.  The weather called for snow later that day, so my mom, dad, and I moved all 49 sheets into the garage.  With three people, it wasn’t too bad, but it did hurt the hands and back after a while.  The next day, Jim and my dad decided they should see how hard it was to bring one of the sheets of drywall down the basement steps.  They were able to maneuver it pretty well.  Luckily for me, they decided while my dad was still in town, they should move ALL of the drywall down the stairs.  I cannot emphasize how big of a help this was.  Not only did I not have to do it (woohoo), I am sure my Dad was a better carrying partner than I would have been for Jim.  They did 25 sheets one evening and then 24 sheets the next morning.  It was a lot of work.

All of the sheets of drywall!  Seriously, 49 sheets is a LOT...

All of the sheets of drywall! Seriously, 49 sheets is a LOT…

During the day, my dad and I also worked on the basement while Jim was at work.  We had decided to change the plumbing supply lines for the washing machine.  The supply lines were originally going directly to the sink handles.  On the sink handles, there were connections for the hot and cold hoses for the washing machine.  The drain hose of the washing machine just sat in the sink.  It was ugly plus the utility sink barely worked.  It drained fine but if you tried to turn on the faucets, water would just drip out.  This created a very dirty and gross sink.  We decided to add separate supply lines that would lead directly to the washing machine.  Jim found this awesome washing machine box that had a drain and a hot and cold hook-ups for the hoses. Jim installed this on his own (and didn’t take a picture of the before when he did it).  With the box in place, we needed to attached PVC pipes to the existing drain. This meant cutting into the existing drain and then hooking up the new piping.  My dad did the cutting of the drain pipe.  It was an ABS pipe (black in color) while our new piping was PVC.  (You may remember the explanation of these pipes during the master bathroom remodel)  In order to connect these pipes, you need a special removal connector (I’m sure it has a name but I can’t remember it right now).  Once the pipe was cut to the right length, I started putting together the piping.  Dad worked on installing some woods panels to make screwing in drywall easier.  I was worried about getting the piping in the right spots before the glue stuck, but luckily – everything turned out great on the first try! After the piping, I cut away some of the fireblock that would be in the way of future drywall and my dad helped clean up all the scraps.

Dad cutting the pipe!

Dad cutting the pipe!

The washing machine box Jim added with my pipe work below it!

The washing machine box Jim added with my pipe work below it!

The 2 by 4's my dad installed to make installing drywall easier

The 2 by 4’s my dad installed to make installing drywall easier

More of the 2 by 4's

More of the 2 by 4’s

Once my parents went back home, Jim and I got to work on the supply lines.  We started working on the cold water.  We needed to make a new line going to the washing machine. We also needed to alter the existing sink supply lines so they would come up under the sink (instead of at handle height) and make it fit under the drop ceiling we plan to install.  All the connections worked well for the most part.  One connection did leak after the first try, but we were able to fix it without much problem.  While we were working on the cold supply lines, we decided to work on the lines going to the front and back yard faucets.  Most supply lines leading to the outdoors should have a shut off valve.  This allows you to stop the supply of water to the freezing cold air in the winter time. The stop valve should have a drain on it so you can also drain the excess water in your pipes. This prevents water from freezing and bursting your pipes in the middle of winter.  Our supply lines currently had such a shut off valve, but it was very difficult to turn. It was also one that you would have twist around and around.  Jim had to do it because I was too weak to get it done. It was annoying and Jim hated it. The shut off valve for the back yard faucet was in a horrible location so we were also going to move the location to make it more accessible. We found new valves that have a lever that does 1/4 of a turn to turn it off or no.  Since we hadn’t had too much problem with the other work, we decided to work on adding the new shut off valves.   The back yard one seemed to go smoothly and we moved to working on the front yard shut off valve. We had more trouble with this one.  First the location was not great, but we tried to do it anyway.  While Jim was heating the pipe with a blow torch (required in order to add the soldering), there was a large “POP” sound. We weren’t sure what it was but we think that air might have gotten caught in the valve and the hot air expanded and popped out.  Just a little while later, while Jim was heating the pipe again, we noticed the fire was bigger than it should be.  Quickly we realized the handle on the shut off valve caught on fire!  It went out easily but it freaked us out.  After the popping sound and fire, we decided to buy a new shut off valve and start over.  We finally got it on and turned back on the water.  After a few attempts, we got the second valve working fine, but the first one that we “didn’t have trouble with” was leaking!  We had friends coming over and needed to turn on the water, so we decided to cap the pipe and work on it another day.

The old utility sink. Do you see how the supply lines go directly to the handles? Also, that hoses connecting to the handles and the drain hanging in the sink.  Pretty sloppy.

The old utility sink. Do you see how the supply lines go directly to the handles? Also, that hoses connecting to the handles and the drain hanging in the sink. Pretty sloppy.

The old pipes with some cuts

The old pipes with some cuts

New supply lines - Jim also hammered in new blocks into the cinder blocks to secure the supply lines in place

New supply lines – Jim also hammered in new blocks into the cinder blocks to secure the supply lines in place

The new supply lines and drain for the new sink

The new supply lines and drain for the new sink

New color coded hoses all hooked up and working perfectly!

The new supply lines with new color coded hoses all hooked up and working perfectly!

We worked on the hot water supply lines before coming back to the leaking valve.  We luckily had no problems with the hot water supply.  We tried over and over with the leaking valve and we couldn’t get it to stop leaking. Eventually, we decided to start over with a brand new shut off valve.  After a little bit more soldering – we had success!  No more leaking anywhere!

New pipe leading to the shut off valve

New pipe leading to the shut off valve

One of the valves in place and working!

One of the valves in place and working!

We had a little bit more plumbing to do before we were finished with it. This part was unrelated to the basement functioning, but while the ceiling and walls were exposed, this was our best opportunity to get this plumbing completed.  In addition to changing the shut off valves for the outdoor faucets, we also wanted to change the outdoor faucets themselves. They had similar problems as the old shut off valves. You had to twist them many times to turn them on and off.  The worst part was that they leaked the whole time you used them!  Jim found these awesome new faucets that also had a quarter turn to turn it on and off.   We pulled out the old faucets and added a copper pipe to the new faucets.  Then Jim went outside to lead them into the house while I tried to line it up to its connection. The faucet was a little wider around the sides that lead into the house.  Jim had to chip away at the cinder blocks before getting it to line up right against the house.  Once it was all lined up, Jim added some sealant and we were able to get the faucets hooked up.  The piping leading to the back yard faucet was a little tight because of the new wall frames we put up, but we were able to work around it.  Now our outdoor faucets work great and look great!  We are all set for Spring.

Old faucet in the front yard

Old faucet in the front yard

Side by side comparison of the new and old faucets - what a difference!

Side by side comparison of the new and old faucets – what a difference!

New faucet in place!

New faucet in place!

With the plumbing complete, we were almost ready to put our focus on insulating the basement. First we needed to change the dryer vent currently in place.  I did not take a before picture, but the dryer vent attached to the cinder block was plastic. When we had our house inspection, the inspector told us that was the worse type of dryer vent to have. He said the best was a rigid metal vent and the second best was a flexible metal vent.  We also found out that in order to have a vent behind drywall, you have to make it a rigid metal vent.  We plan to have a rigid metal vent behind the drywall and then a flexible one connecting the vent behind the wall to the dryer so we will be able to move the dryer with ease when necessary. Luckily, it was not all that hard to install the rigid dry vent and it looks so much nicer now.

New rigid metal dry vent!

New rigid metal dry vent!

Now insulation time! You may remember that we decided to tear down the old drywall when we discovered the basement was not insulated. We did some insulation in the kitchen remodel and the master bathroom remodel, but basement insulation in a different ballgame.  Since cinder block is porous, it contains moisture. If you put fiberglass batts (the type of insulation we used in the previous projects) directly up against the cinder blocks, there is a great risk of moisture seeping into the fiberglass which would lead to moisture on the drywall which would lead to mold! We did not want to be tearing down the new drywall in a few years because of a moisture problem.  We thought about hiring someone to install spray foam insulation but the more research we did, it would be the most expensive option for more insulation than necessary. The other option is to use rigid foam board to lay up against the cinder blocks and then fill the rest of the studs with fiberglass. The rigid foam board acts as a moisture barrier solving the moisture problem.  Most people who use rigid board insulation in their basements, install it before the wall frames are up. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that option (unless we wanted to tear down on the existing wall frames…which we didn’t). Jim and I decided to do our best with what we had.  We cut the rigid board to fit between the studs and used insulation spray foam (just some you can buy in a can), to seal the edges and prevent any exposure to moisture.

Rigid foam up and complete!

Rigid foam up and complete!

More of the rigid foam

More of the rigid foam

A few more of these...

A few more of these…

You have to see all the walls

You have to see all the walls

The last one - laundry room wall

The last one – laundry room wall

Once all the rigid foam boards were in place, we started adding the fiberglass batts.  In one spot on the wall, we plan on mounting a TV. I mentioned this is a previous post because we had a special outlet with a hole for wires to drop through.  We needed to leave some space for the wires to go when we were adding the drywall.  Therefore, Jim installed a PVC pipe under the special outlet for the wires to easily go through.

The PVC pipe attached to the special outlet

The PVC pipe attached to the special outlet

The fiberglass batts went up relatively easily around the main room. One of the walls in the laundry room has a lot of piping and electrical wires. This wall was not as clear-cut as the rest of the walls. We could not install the rigid foam boards up against the wall because of the pipes and wires.  We didn’t want to forego the rigid foam boards for fear of moisture. We eventually decided to just use the rigid foam boards in between the studs (where we would normally place the fiberglass batts). We would glue it in place and seal it with the spray foam. This was a great solution. We will still have insulation but without the moisture. The one area behind the washing machine does not have space for the rigid foam board because of how far out the drain pipe goes. This is the one area where we will use some fiber glass. We are going to try to have it not touch the cinder blocks.  We figure we will risk having to redo this one area of drywall.

Fiberglass batts in place!

Fiberglass batts in place!

There are a few of these too...

There are a few of these too…

Another one

Another one

The whole wall in one picture

The whole wall in one picture

Laundry room wall

Laundry room wall

Rigid foam board on the one wall in the laundry room

Rigid foam board on the one wall in the laundry room

We passed the insulation and plumbing inspections and are ready for drywall!  Unfortunately during the inspection, we found out we have to install an “egress window” in the basement.  More on that later…

Framing Your Thoughts…or Walls

Happy Holidays Readers!  We have been busy with family and holiday fun but we still managed to use some of our extra vacation days to work on the basement.  Jim and I both ended up having a snow day after my last post and we worked on the basement all day.  We did almost all of the electrical that day.  We installed recessed lights, all of the outlets, and light switches.  We decided to make the recessed lights in the main room dimmer lights.  That way if we are watching a movie or something, we can dim the lights and not have to turn them all the way off.  We also moved the location of the light switch when you first enter the basement. Jim thought it was too far away from the entrance way (I didn’t notice…).  We moved it over and now it is definitely in a great spot.  We kept the lighting in the two rooms on two separate light switches but moved them to one central location.  If you aren’t using the workout area of the basement, you don’t have to turn on those lights if you don’t want to. We had to rewire some of the circuits because the old wire did not reach to its new location.  I had learned stuff about electrical in previous projects, but I feel like I really understand.  I even did some of the electrical work in the laundry room last week while Jim was at work!  I was pretty proud of myself.

It makes a huge difference having light in the basement!  It is starting to feel a lot more like a real room.

One of the many outlets all wired up!

One of the many outlets all wired up!

Recessed light holdings all ready to be wired up

Recessed light holdings all ready to be wired up

One light switch in

One light switch in

Second light switch in place!

Second light switch in place!

Looking for a stud so we could move the location of the light switch

Looking for a stud so we could move the location of the light switch

Bye bye old light switch

Bye bye old light switch

The new light switch!

The new light switch!

The special outlet we put in for our mounted TV, that hole next to the outlet will let us hide the wires behind the wall

The special outlet we put in for our mounted TV, that hole next to the outlet will let us hide the wires behind the wall

Let there be light!

Let there be light!

The other half of the room

The other half of the room

Other old light in the laundry room

One of the old lights in the laundry room

One of the new lights in the laundry room!

One of the new lights in the laundry room!

In addition to electrical work, we have also finished framing most of the areas of the basement. This included framing the support beam, post, and vent. The wood frame needs to be there so we are able to screw the drywall into something.  Jim planned out how it would all come together and his plan worked great. It was a little difficult to screw the frames in place and level but after a few tries, we got it. We also added 2 by 4’s in between the two frames to secure it and also so we can add drywall to it.  The most annoying thing was that concrete around the base of the post was uneven and not in great shape. Therefore, when Jim tried to hammer a base piece of wood into the concrete with masonry nails, one side would go in and the other side would pop up.  We had to get creative.  We basically decided to make the vertical pieces a little longer than the needed to be so we could wedge the bottom piece into place.  I was a little uneasy about it being secure, but it ended up being so secure that Jim used it to lift himself up from the floor.  That wood isn’t going anywhere.

First half of the one frame

First half of the one frame

Second half of that frame

Second half of that frame

First half of the other frame

First half of the other frame

Second half of the other frame

Second half of the other frame

The framing around the post

The framing around the post

The 2 by 4's in between the frames

The 2 by 4’s in between the frames

Another frame that needed to be done was the frame located near our giant crawl space. The original framing had to be taken down because we wanted to move the opening to the crawl space.  We also decided to add an additional light switch to the light in the crawl space so it does not go on every time you turn on the laundry room light.  We attached that to the new wall frame.  The framing of this wall was a little challenging because of the limited space we had in the laundry room. There were also some obstacles (the dryer, the water heater, the radon expeller piping). Jim built some of the frame in the other room but most of it we had to build in place.  In order to attach the top of the frame, I had to tilt the entire frame while Jim stood on a ladder to hammer/screw it in place.  Everything worked out in the end and it looks great.

The wall without the frame (and a ton of stuff in front of it)

The wall without the frame (and a ton of stuff in front of it)

The beginning of the frame, already put in place

The beginning of the frame, already put in place

The radon expeller pipe that was in the way

The radon expeller pipe that was in the way

Most of the studs in place but no top beam yet

Most of the studs in place but no top beam yet

Frame all complete!

Frame all complete!

We also had to build and install the header of the new basement closet.  This closet will be accessed through the laundry room and we relatively deep.  The only complication in this header was  a water pipe that runs through that area in the ceiling.  Jim just created a little divot in the header so the pipe wouldn’t be disturbed.

The closet header (also the new recessed lighting in the laundry room)

The closet header (also the new recessed lighting in the laundry room)

We continued the fireblocking in the laundry room which was challenging due to all the wires and piping in that area.  We discovered that fiberglass insulation works as fireblocking, so we got a few rolls and cut up the amount of pieces we needed.  Jim was worried about not passing inspection based on the fireblocking, but we had it this morning and passed!

Fiberglass fireblocking!

Fiberglass fireblocking!

More of the fireblocking

More of the fireblocking

Last one

Last one

Before we know it, there will be drywall in the basement and it will feel like a real room again!

Happy New Year Everyone!

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