Basement Remodel

I have/had a passion for home improvement.  I’ve burned out a bit lately what with the epic and expensive basement remodel we’ve finally “completed” (ok, there’s still some trim work left to finish and paint).  When we looked at this house we were immediately smitten with the full size somewhat finished basement and started to conjure up visions of what it could be.  Indeed it was a storage area, wine cellar, music venue, extra bedroom, and party room.  

In 2008 we complete phase 1, installing a custom wooden spiral staircase from the main floor down to the basement.  We had to move some gas and water pipes, replace old knob and tube wiring, install sheet rock, paint, rewire media cables, and put in flooring.  We also installed a sink near where existing water pipes were in preparation for phase 2.  All completed, that cost around $7000 for the custom stairs built and installed onsite and $10,000 for all the other work.  It was completed a month before we had our first child.  We thoroughly enjoyed our new media room, and my new office.  We got a new couch, had my brother install a kick-ass home theater; we enjoyed the extra space.

Then the housing market tanked.  We had only planned to be in this house for 3-5 years, sure that we could flip it for a fortune and move on up.  About 5 years in, we saw that we could not possibly sell.  So with plans for another baby and need of more space we decided to tackle phase 2.

This was a much bigger deal.

The thought was to redo the whole basement into more usable space: master bedroom, office, craft room/wet bar and wine storage, full bathroom, and home theater.  We saved up some money, refinanced our car (yes you can do that if you’ve paid enough into it and its still worth something!), and set to work.

I consulted my awesome plumber first (Mike Chickering at EMC) who hooked me up with a kick ass contractor (Nathan Saracino) and we met a few times to discuss.  I drew out numerous plans on graph paper.  I cut out movable pieces representing true-to-size sinks, toilets, sofas, tables, beds, and other furnishings to see how we could layout the rooms.  I consulted with a couple interior designers for tips, and kept checking for building code compliance with my contractor.  In the end I drew up the plans myself and went through the permitting process with the City.

Permitting was rough.  There were a few challenges:

  • Our ceilings are 7  feet on one side and 6 foot 4 inches on the other  (a living space must have a ceiling clearance of 7 foot 6 inches, BUT kitchens, bathrooms, and storage areas are ok at 7 feet).   I had to inform the city employee of this bit building code trivia.
  • We planned to install a macerating pump for the toilet waste, shower, and sinks since the basement is below grade the liquid needs to pump up and over-head to the main sewer.  The City had no experience with this and I had to get some paperwork from Saniflow and jump through hoops there.

After 2-3 visits to the City, I make a few revisions go to get my plan approved Friday morning, all is looking good until at the last minute Boss Man says, “A storage area can only have one plug and one light.”  (My storage area is 3 rooms and 900 square feet.)   This is a huge depressing blow and I’m hurt, mad, and defeated.   I relay this to my dad (who worked his whole career within city planning) and he gets stinking mad and we fight it.  We send an email to Boss Man and my council member saying they have no right or reason to deny our plan.  Monday we got our permit!

Note: There is more to this story if I ever find a moment to complete it…