Keep It Coming (Basement Reno, Part 3-ish)

Last week, I railed against “man caves.” In this week’s installment of This Old Storybook Life House, I can report a lull in the proceedings, followed by a fear that we were starring in a remake of the classic “The Money Pit” without our knowledge — and some good news.

We may have been a bit fooled by the immediate progress that we saw in the first week of construction. Framing going up! Stairs being rebuilt! Bathroom trenches being dug! It was really quite impressive.

The work was still impressive in the second week, just not as obvious. All new wiring went in; outlets sprang up every 6 feet throughout the basement, promising that we’d never again have to rely on a tangle of extension cords to power the place up. We’d come home, look around, and realize, “Hey, that junction box wasn’t there yesterday. Or that light switch. Wait, we have light switches!” New copper pipe appeared where before there had been old pipes…made out of whatever material they were made out of…and wrapped in insulation to keep them from freezing.

Then, in the project’s third week, construction progress slowed. As in, we’d say, “Were they here today? Can you tell if anything’s different? Well, they did unhook the washer and dryer…” (Related: we washed our clothes at a friend’s house this weekend.) Turns out the contractor was waiting on the D.C. plumbing inspector, and not much more could happen until he visited.

He arrived and granted his blessing to the new pipes last Monday. Hooray!


Behold the beautiful pipes. (Ignore the snow shovel and bike. But hey, that’s also a new outlet!)

But we weren’t content to let the project sit and wait. So we made progress on our own – mostly with trips to everyone’s favorite box stores, Home Depot and Lowe’s. Because, don’t worry, those stores aren’t busy the week before the 4th of July or anything. You definitely want to spend your weekend there. With a toddler. And his snack trap of Cheerios.

But progress, we made. Subway tiles for the tub? Check. Hexagon tile for the bathroom floor? Check. (After finding it in the store, then going online to buy it so I could use a 10% off online coupon, only to find out that the in-store tiles differed every so slightly from the online ones, and the online ones wouldn’t be in for another two weeks. Back to the store, cancel the online order, buy the in-stock tiles, still get the 10% off honored. Score.)

Tile! And so. many. trips. to. Home. Depot.

Tile! And so. many. trips. to. Home. Depot.

We also settled on the many boxes of floor tile needed for the laundry room (Will they be too light? Not gray enough? Only time will tell), the laundry room countertop (6 weeks and a $400 minimum for special-order laminate countertop? The in-stock counters will work just fine for us, thankyouverymuch), and the paint colors for each room (here’s hoping the pictures people have posted on Pinterest of each of them will be close enough).

So, we were feeling pretty good there for a couple of days.

You know what comes next, right?

At some point last weekend we realized that the a/c wasn’t keeping up. We don’t aim to keep the house cold. It seems like 76-78 should be doable. But our system just wasn’t having it anymore. First we saw 80, then 82, then 84. With the system running non-stop.

But B found a spot where the duct work had come apart and taped it back together. That should do the trick…right?

Not so much.

Did I mention that the heat index was 105 degrees on Wednesday and Thursday? Out went the plea to the contractor: “The a/c isn’t working. Please send your guy back, and SOON.” We ate freeze pops. We turned on fans. We jacked up the extra system we have upstairs that we (usually) hardly have to use. We put Teddy to bed wearing only his diaper and pajama shorts.

In the meantime, though, in went the tub. We have a tub! Hooray!

Tell me that bathroom doesn't scream luxury.

Tell me that bathroom doesn’t scream luxury.

For a little while there, though, we didn’t have well-functioning plumbing in the rest of the house. When I saw the brown water sputtering from the bathroom faucet — as I sweated in our essentially un-air-conditioned house — I started to wonder if, like Tom Hanks, I’d soon be falling through a hole in the floor and wind up singing the banana song.

We added to the email to the contractor: “So now it’s the a/c AND the plumbing…”

We had an email back from him within minutes. They’d be over the next day to fix everything.

And they were. Well, short of the bathroom faucet, which it turns out was just unrelatedly busted. So, we did our patriotic duty this weekend by returning to Lowe’s –again — to buy a new one (which B installed! Nicely done.).

But, four weeks in, there’s happy news. The house is now below 80 degrees! And we not only have a tub, we have insulated walls and a light in the bathroom, too!

Insulated walls! And the space formerly home to a giant dirt pile is now home to 15 boxes of floor tile.

Insulated walls! And the space formerly home to a giant dirt pile is now where we’re storing 15 boxes of floor tile.

And no holes in the floor in sight.



3 thoughts on “Keep It Coming (Basement Reno, Part 3-ish)

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