Ten Days Down (Basement Reno, Part 2)

When I left you last, we were about to embark on our basement renovation project. I know you’ve been anxiously awaiting an update. Sorry, I got a little caught up on Pinterest…read below for more.

We’ve done home renovation projects before. (Well, let me clarify: We paid other people to renovate our condo for us, lest I lead you into thinking I’m at all handy with a nail gun or wet saw.) None were as big in scope as this project, but the big ones were plenty more intrusive: the full kitchen remodel while I was on the low-iodine diet (when lack of access to a kitchen is a bit problematic) and the full bathroom remodel when we only had one bathroom.

So, I figured: this project’s happening in the basement, a space we hardly use (yet), away from the day-to-day life in the house. How much of an inconvenience could it be?

And the answer is: not that much.

See, I tricked you again. You thought I was going to say it’s been terrible, our house has been upended, there’s crap everywhere, etc.

And the truth is, our house more often than not is in a state of upendedness, with crap everywhere. We live with a toddler. And his many, many blocks.

But the basement reno hasn’t really been that much of a contributor to the chaos. (Yet. I must follow every statement like that with a “yet.” We are only two weeks into an estimated six-week project. I may be optimistic and naïve, but I’m not dumb.) Yes, the contents of our basement pantry are now scattered between the kitchen and the spare bedroom. And yes, there are pieces of random electrical wire in our driveway. And yes, until sometime last week, we couldn’t figure out what had happened to the keys to the outside basement door.

But the dirt, dust, debris of the past projects? Nowhere to be seen. Yet.

Not on the main level, at least. The basement? Well, we do have a very impressive dirt pile going.

What a pile of dirt.

What a pile of dirt.

That dirt pile represents a giant sigh of relief to me. You see, they dug the trench for the bathroom plumbing on day three of this job. DAY 3. Really. And whenever they dig in basements like that on HGTV, that’s usually when the host/contractor gets to have the foreshadowed heart-to-heart with the homeowners where he/she breaks the news that their house is built on an old burial ground/is infested with black mold/is falling down.

So when our contractor said they were starting to dig that day, I braced for impact, for the heart-to-heart, for the revised estimate that would send us scurrying for extra pennies in the couch cushions.

And it didn’t come. No, all that came was the request that we pick out our bathroom fixtures so they could finish the plumbing.

Um, what? On DAY 3?

I’m sorry, I was still busy pinning 700 different bathroom color combinations on Pinterest. You want me to have fixtures picked out already?

OK, well, then I’ll do what I have to do. (Which is obviously to spend a half a day at work trolling the Home Depot and Lowe’s websites.)

I shouldn’t make it sound like everything has gone 100 percent smoothly. There was the revised list of necessary work from the plumber and electrician, including the highly technical item of “fixing laundry room plumbing that is all messed up.” This is what happens when plumbers and electricians step into 90-year-old houses. (And why we will have great pipes but not a built-in bar.)

There was also the small snafu last weekend when we didn’t realize that the washing machine drain hose hadn’t been fully reconnected. Lots of water on the floor, but we were just glad when the dirt pile – just feet from the washer – didn’t become a giant mudslide.

But you know what makes up for those things? The days when we come home to find new “presents,” like when the previously floating-and-not-in-a-good-way stairs got rebuilt, and when the plumber moved the huge pipes that had been running down the middle of the room into the rafters, and when the electrician installed the outlet boxes for all the new plugs. (What, we aren’t going to have to run everything in the basement off of extension cords anymore? Really?)

Before: stairs floating down to the basement, and not in an architecturally interesting yet safe way.

Before: stairs floating down to the basement, and not in an architecturally interesting yet safe way.

After: look at those rebuilt stairs! Look at those gorgeous supports!

After: look at those rebuilt stairs! Look at those gorgeous supports!

So, two weeks in, we have dirt, and we have chaos — but we had both of those things before the project started, and we’ll have them after. Along with a whole new basement.

Just don’t call it a man cave. (That’s a completely different post, but don’t worry, it’s coming. REALLY, don’t call it a man cave.)


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