Existing: The basement is “partially finished” in exactly the same era as the rest of the house.  In effect, it has a play room finished in linoleum tile, knotty pine and wall paper walls acoustical tile ceiling.  Further exploration when I started to pull down the horrid acoustic tile ceiling indicates that the “finished” the basement later – maybe in the 1960’s due to the odd collection of 60’s era Madison Public Library books I found hidden in the ceiling.

before_den-1 before_den-2 before_den-3 before_den-4

The “half bath” is a toilet and shower unit that are open to the unfinished laundry area and pretty much un-usable for that reason.

existing-laundry existing-bath-1

There’s also this odd extra room clad in faux wood panelling.  It could be a bedroom – if it had an egress window.  Perhaps it was an office.  Frankly its pretty unappealing.  That bump out in the corner housed the oil tank for the original furnace.

existing-bedroom existing-bedroom-2 existing-bedroom-1

The lower ceiling area in the upper right corner is an access panel for the bathroom plumbing above.  I plan to re-configure the room so that this lower area has a closet underneath it and the room can have a consistent ceiling level.

Here’s the existing plan for reference.

design basement floor plan

The Plan:  I’ll transform this basement from a chilly storage space (and that includes the finished rooms) into an integral part of the house – an extra bedroom, a fully functional 3/4 bath, and a den for multimedia viewing.  About half the basement will stay “basement” but get a face lift – a nice scrubbing and new floor to ceiling paint job.  Here’s what I  plan to do with the space.

Progress:  Step one was to pull down that horrible acoustic ceiling tile.  I cheerfully took a crowbar to it at the end of January only to freak out that I might be filling my lungs with mystery asbestos.  I paused, took a sample and dropped it off at the State Lab of Hygiene for testing.  Fast forward two weeks and I got my answer – nothing but harmless wood pulp.  So I gated Roxie into one corner of the basement and got out my utility knife, crow bar and an old chisel.  The panels are easy to pull down but incredibly dirty.  Its fully mask-and-goggles work for sure.

From there I pretty much completely stripped the original finishes and walls.  The ceiling tiles are long gone and so are the 2×2 furring strips.

Here are some of the Progress Updates in the Basement

(Click the images to see a blog post on the subjects below)

basement bath during plumbing header

The plumbers came and busted out the old toilet and shower plumbing and laid in new PVC drain lines for my the bathroom layout shown above.  I even remembered to have a vent set into the excavation for future radon remediation!

basement slab header

We poured new concrete to fill in the hole in the floor over the new plumbing, carrying a (literal) thousand pounds of Quick-crete mix down the stairs, mixing and leveling it ourselves.  It was labor intensive but WAY less difficult than I expected it to be!

dricore header

I lay a new subfloor over the existing basement floor using Dri-core – a tongue in groove product that combines a standard OSB sub floor top with a textured plastic under layer that prevents any moisture from wicking its way up into the new floor surface.  Its also more comfortable to walk on than vinyl tiles stuck to a cold concrete floor.

old pipes header

We had the plumbers back to pull out all the old supply plumbing to the upstairs rooms (kitchen, bath and two exterior hose bibs) so that we could run new PVC lines through the joists and win another 1 1/2 inches of basement headroom.


We framed new interior room divisions, notably a new bathroom, then had the plumbers back one more time to rough-in the bathroom piping and install the old shower form in a new location.

window well header

We cut in and installed a new egress window well to allow save exit pathways – an a lot more natural light – into the basement.  We built that window well ourselves at a cost of three back breaking days of gravel hauling and timber cutting but a savings of over a thousand dollars in pre-fab window well.

egress window header

Then we installed the new window (and replaced the other leaky old single pane windows with better insulated models.

basement window header

We finished the insulation and framing of the exterior wall furring.  This will also have batt insulation between the framing members.

basement paintin header

Meanwhile I sealed and painted the CMU block in the unfinished part of the basement.  Going from dirty yellow to bright white noticeably brightened up the space there!

basement bedroom soffit header

We framed in soffits around the perimeter of the rooms to enclose and disguise the existing ductwork (supplying warm and cold air to the upstairs rooms).  It also creates an artificial feeling of elevated ceiling in the parts of the room that extend all the way to the joists above.


We worked with an electrician to do the electrical rough-in: mounting boxes for switches and outlets, placing can lights and running Romex wire between all of the above.