Our hundred year old basement has really good concrete. The floors are still crack-free and flat and the walls don’t show any sag or bowing. However, we don’t know how dry the basement has been in the past, so we decided to be safe and chose a waterproof laminate flooring for the main area. It is an engineered laminate that is designed to snap together. My initial plan was to do the whole floor in the TV/bar area in one go. But it turned out that my floor didn’t meet the exact requirements. The laminate requires a very flat and even floor. I poopooed this as over-specifying and felt that I could make it work on my sort of flat hundred year old concrete. I can admit that I was wrong. I failed to take into account that the basement has two floor drains and nice gradual slopes leading to each.

I found that there was not enough play in the joints of the laminate to allow for the slight curve of the slope. I was forced to limit the laminate to the large open areas in the center of the room. My altered plan had me putting down laminate in the main room and a portion of the guest room. Behind the bar I will put down a nice tile and on the sloped sections around the drains will be creating a mosaic with small 2″ tiles. The colors of the materials are similar and I think it will look nice in the end.

I didn’t want to put the laminate directly onto the concrete because of moisture gassing up through the concrete and other possible seepage in the future. I installed a dimpled underlayment that raised the laminate about 3/8″ and provided a vapor gap under the flooring. I will be keeping the drains in the floor. I have hot water heat, a boiler and lots of pipes in the ceiling of the room. I want easy access to the drains for any moisture that accumulates.

I did a lot of research before installing the underlayment and laminate. I wanted to do this myself, do it right, and do it once. So I was not going to rush into anything.

First, I filled in the joints in the floor with some left over hydraulic cement to provide a smooth flat surface for the floor. Any defects, dips or grooves in the concrete would be translated to the floor above it. Next, I put down the underlayment leaving a gap along the walls. This was all done in a weekend. I then put the laminate down during the week, working a couple of hours a night. It took some practice and some mistakes to get the engineered laminate to go together consistently, it is very brittle and the joints break easily.

Also, because the joints are so tight with very very little give, any joint that isn’t perfectly tamped together will build up and become a problem several rows later. So, rather than being perfectly straight and flat, the floor develops a hump or slight curve that you can’t easily correct. As I said, it took some time and mistakes to get it right, but I completed it in the end and it looks great. There were some harsh words and thrown tools, but this DIY Engineer triumphed in the end. But I also want to say that I will NEVER do this again! I will also not recommend this flooring. I should have just tiled the entire floor. I suspect I will be replacing this floor in about five years. I’m not a fan.

The remodel of the basement has progressed well. Once it was gutted, cleaned up, and the walls sealed I felt that I need to add a little insulation to the walls to prevent the rooms from getting that clammy basement feel. I used a half inch thick aluminum clad insulation that is commonly used for garage doors.

For the framing, I am fortunate to have an 8ft basement ceiling! This meant that I didn’t have to cut any of those uprights. I used treated lumber for the bottom plates and anchored them to the floor, with the headers attached to the floor joists to keep it all plumb.

This basement is a century old and actually looks great. However, I found that the walls did bulge a little. Getting everything plumb required a some adjustments and a small amount of rework and cursing, but it all turned out in the end.

Now, I did the framing myself. Meaning – by myself – me and my new Dewalt impact-driver. I had a good time, but ended up with tennis-elbow or something. My gripping elbow is killing me. My guess is tendonitis and I’ve got ice and a compression sleeve on it. No one every warned be about that kind of injury.

This project has now cured me of any desire to do drywall. I’ve done some in the past, but not in a while. I now have a hatred for drywall. Our mantra for this project has become: ‘Never again.’ This is honestly our last project house. We just need to finish it.

Our plan is to leave all the pipes in the basement exposed and create a steam-punk or old industrial theme. The water main comes through the wall in our TV room and I didn’t want to cover it. So, I did some creative framing around it. I think it turned out pretty good. Later, I want to cover it with a perforated brass grill with some mood lighting behind it. That will be later.

Next Post: Laminate flooring!!

I have discovered that my new home has a bamboo infestation. I’m not sure that is the correct term, but I’m going to go with it. The previous owners seemed to have used the bamboo as a way to screen the backyard from the neighbors.

At first I didn’t know what it was. There was just a line of bushes that screened off a bit of the backyard. It wasn’t until we began cleaning the yard that it really became clear what we were dealing with. It’s only bamboo, right? Pull it up and plant some grass… done.

At least that’s what I convinced myself of. The reality turned out to be something much darker.

Now that spring is in the air and everything is green and alive, the bamboo has spread and now controls about 20% of my half-acre. I have been mowing every weekend since we moved in and am becoming frustrated and a little worried. This stuff is growing faster than I thought possible and seems to be spreading at an increasing rate. I’m not sure what to do.

I did some quick Google research and found a few home remedies such as mowing, digging and white vinegar. I am rather curious about pickled bamboo. For now, I have begun to dig up the clumped roots but everything seems to be connected into some vast labyrinth of living network. I’m seeing a scifi movie in my backyard.

The most drastic solution involves RoundUp weed killer and I am extremely reluctant to go there.

Does anyone know how to defeat the Bamboo Beast? Or does anyone know where I can rent a panda?

If only we could capture that moment of connection

The fire and energy, all cosmic pieces fitting

That moment, that microsecond before rinsed away

By the wash of time, of thoughts and senses, living and life

Oh woe for the lines and lyrics, and visions lost

For want of a notebook


There are so many times that I’ve had a brilliant flash of inspiration only to have it vanish into of other thoughts. It’s frustrating to think that our lives are so very limited and the true sparks of the muse even more so. But yet we can watch them slip through our fingers so very very easily never to come again.

Scotland

The last two weeks have been very busy at the century house. So busy in fact that I’ve neglected to post anything. Sorry.

So Sheri has been busy taping and painting the kitchen and my office. She really hates painting, but since she can’t frame walls or lay flooring she gets to paint. I even volunteered to paint my own damn office, yet she ended up doing that too. The kitchen turned out great. We happen to like accent walls and went with a dark red called Sangria for the kitchen. The remaining walls are painted light brown Mocha. Honestly, this was a unconscious coincidence. However, it works with the theme – a kitchen painted in wine and coffee colors – perfection!

We have also purchased a new kitchen island that we will be installing once all the new appliances are delivered. Next week!! Aaahh!

While Sheri was busy with that, I was framing in our new TV room and guest bedroom in the basement. The worst thing I ran into while framing was that some of the walls were bulged out in the middle. I think this was part of the original pour but had to account for it when anchoring the base runners. The walls are pretty close to level all around now. There are a lot of pipes and windows in the basement that required some fancy framing around them that I will highlight in another post. That was the fun part.

However, I personally hate installing drywall and grumbled though this part of the project. I keep telling myself that this is the last time. This is my last house remodel. Seriously.

But I have a good start on the drywall now and have started planning the flooring for the rooms. This is where I ran into a major issue. We intended to put down wood laminate throughout the basement. However, I found that there was too much slope around the drains. It is a very nicely done poured floor that gently slopes down to drains in two places. However, there is a three inch difference between the outside wall and the main drain – the one in the bedroom. The laminate will work with small variations in the floor but that is way too much. We will still use the laminate for the center of the main room and most of the bedroom while we look for other options for the area where the slope is the worst. I’m leaning toward ceramic tile and a mosaic around the drain. I have my eye set on a very nice rusted steel-look tile for the bar area and a small brick-like tile for the drain area that I can place individually to create the mosaic look that I want.

The biggest problem in making any of the flooring work is drainage. We have hundred year old walls that weep a little. We also have a boiler system that has the potential for leaking. Meaning we have to leave the drains alone and provide unobstructed access for the any water. To accomplish this, I will be using an underlayment beneath the laminate that provides both a vapor barrier and drainage for any water that leaks in. But… I have a bit of research to do before I can really be sure of my plan. Lucky for me there are ambitious DIYers like myself that have already made the mistakes. I am on a few forums and sites dedicated to DIYers that have provided good sound advice so far and I will be looking through there over the next week before I actually do any floor work.

We are only three weeks away from moving into out new home and are in a rush to get everything done. I won’t have the basement completed as planned but I will have most of it useable. The bar and the bathroom will have to be finished later. I am also adding a laundry room on the second floor and will need to step away from the basement to get that roughed in. The new washer and dryer are being delivered next week and need to be functional from day one.

I have a very very busy three weeks coming up to make the house workable. We are very excited to move in and be done with the daily commute we make to work on the house. It will be nice to be right there to work on things and then have the option of just going up to bed, rather than needing to cleanup and drive across town every night.

Our heart is already in our new home, we just have to rest of us there.

When we removed the old drywall and studs, we discovered a wide crack in our basement wall. There wasn’t any indication of water leaking in, but it was crumbly and old in place. I would have to fix it. I’ve never repaired a crack like this, so this was going to be another learning experience! Google and YouTube were my instructors.

First I had to open up the crack with an air hammer. (Another use for the new air compressor!) Your supposed to chip away material to create and undercut that will hold the cement in place after the repair. However, they really knew how to make cement a hundred years ago. It was very hard and stubborn in places.

The repair itself was a bit of fun. Once all the loose dust and dirt was blown out of the crack, I used my gloved hands to squeeze cement deep into the back of the crack. Hydraulic cement is a very finely sanded mortar that sets up FAST. You only mix what you can use within about three minutes. By that point it starts to harden and stick to the bucket.

The cement is mixed really thin so you can squeeze it into the small recesses in the wall. Again, I used my gloved hands for this. It’s very much like playing with mud. I enjoyed it thoroughly and expect I will be using this stuff more often. I’m not sure for what, but it’s too cool of a material not use for something.

Poem of the day.
I love this…

Eunoia Review

When you kiss me you get all of me,
the face, the mouth, the fingers.
You get the years of being broken by love.
The irreconcilable ache of this body, alone,
the unshackled heave of its engineering,
the low notes of want.
You get the breath still sour from last night’s dinner,
the vitamin deficiency,
the easy bruising,
this map of obsidian veins
embroidered down the backs of my calves.
My grandmother’s veins,
passed down.
You get the license to touch me there,
and there,
and there.
Not there.
Not yet.
Just.
Wait.
The fear of guns
and turbulence
and the green clouds that gather chemically
on the horizon
before becoming a tornado
and church
and holes
and frogs.
You get my lips and tongue and throat.
Drive trains of anger,
cylinders of yes,
giving and receiving
along with you,
working urgently
toward linguistics.
I have something important to tell…

View original post 81 more words

I forgot to stick with original title heading through these posts so I’ll have to go back and fix them.

But over the weekend we tackled the basement. We installed insulation on the concrete walls and began stripping the paint off the brick columns.

Our theme for the basement will be a mix of steampunk and Irish pub. The ceiling rafters, pipes, and bare brick will give the open industrial feel we are looking for. Mechanical accents will be added later. For now we’re building out the walls.

Originally we intended to leave the concrete bare or maybe add some paint or even brick overlay, but after some research we decided that it would be best to cover it in order to limit any heat loss or moisture buildup. This will be our TV/family room; I don’t want it to feel dank and basement-like. We will be framing up the walls this next week.

Sheri’s task was to remove a hundred years worth of paint. There are four of these and we want them to be bare brick. We tried several methods to remove grind or sand the paint off, but that turned out to be a bad idea. First, it didn’t work well at all and second, there is a very good chance that there is lead in the older paint. So, we gave up on that idea.

We tried a chemical stripper called, Citristrip. An orange gel that did absolutely nothing to this paint. The paint softened a little bit but not enough to remove it.

However, we had a savior in the paint industry. My wife happens to work for a distributor of chemicals used in paint. And the VP happens to be a chemist. Sheri called him with our problem and he had an immediately solution. Peel-Away from Sherwin-Williams. It is packaged as a kit in a bucket with everything you need. It is white paste that is brushed on and then covered with a special paper. Sheri applied it on Saturday and when she removed it on Sunday the paint peeled off in chunks! I was amazing. The product liquifies the paint, allowing it to be scraped off easily. There were multiple layers of paint on the column and it turned out beautiful. Peel-Away is an amazing product for anyone working with layers of old paint. We really had only one complaint: there is only about half as much special paper as you need to use the entire bucket. I suspect it is a marketing ploy. We’ll need more paste and paper to finish the remaining columns, but now we know how to do it. And the result is amazing.

Yesterday’s coffee
Cold or reheated
Is never quite what we seek

No matter how steaming
Or ‘fixed’ up
It still lacks the warmth and comfort of fresh

Those elements must fume off and dissipate
Leaving a lesser liquid
With all the kick but none of the bliss

What remains is a faded interpretation
Of godly ambrosia
The aroma now dampened and muddy

Yet, still I hold you close
And sip your faded essence
To forego the waste of the perfect cup you were

The first floor of our century house still had all of the charm and most of the fixtures that came new a hundred years ago. We have no intention of changing a thing on the first floor. However, the second floor has been remodeled several times over the years and the charm was missing, so we chose to update the space with new fixtures, carpet and even a second floor laundry.

We pulled the bland boring institutional carpet that was in the two main rooms and found asbestos tiles underneath. I was concerned at first, but after some research found that if I planned to cover them with carpet or other flooring, I didn’t have to do anything with them. It’s called ‘encapsulating’. Basically, as long you don’t plan to disturb them, you can leave them. I love that. Therefore, we left them in place as much as we could.

The problem came when we went to hire a carpet installer. The Lowes installer refused to do the work unless we removed the tile, which I said was never going to happen. I did not want anything to do with that paperwork. As far as I am concerned, that tile will be in the house for another hundred years. Lowes actually tried to play hardball and pressure us into pulling it up, but we found Flooring Galaxy in Brentwood, who said they did that kind of work all the time. Which made sense to me. St Louis is full of hundred year old buildings. There is no way people are pulling out all the asbestos tiles in those buildings. No way. And I was right. Terry and Michael at Flooring Galaxy hooked me up and did a fine job of installation.

BUT – before we could install the carpet I wanted to replace the radiator in the Master bedroom.

The original radiator was a large cast iron beast that took up a significant section of wall. In order to place our bed where we wanted, I would have to move the radiator and the plumbing. All, before the carpet could be laid – I was on a deadline.

Hot water heating technology has advanced far beyond what it was a hundred years ago. Finding a small wall-hung unit to replace the cast iron beast was easy. Replumbing it was a much tougher task. Hundred year old pipe fittings don’t like to come a part. They were also installed when the walls were open and accessible.

The end result was a complete replumb of the heating system for the master bedroom and bathroom. The master bathroom is currently without heat until I can get around to that remodel.

The heating pipes were installed between the floors in the sewer stack access tunnel and were inaccessible unless I wanted to open up the wall – I didn’t. Instead, I purchase two twenty foot sections for 3/4″ PEX and slipped it up through the wall beside the old steel pipe. It was not easy and took a good part of a day to get it in position and connected. I cut off steel pipe and left it in place. Maybe at some point in the future I will have access to remove it. But for now it is a relic for future repairers to find.

Connecting the new piping to the larger pipe system in the basement was also an adventure. Hundred year old pipe does not like to come a part! I hurt myself and used up my entire collection of pirate words to get it done. There was some cutting and cursing involved.

This was what I consider an advanced home project and it was definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. However, it turned out great and is a huge improvement to the room.

My wife did all of the painting and hated every minute of it! That is worthy of a post in the future.