Finishing the basement, Round 1

The first Round of the first Wave of home improvements in the basement

As a brief written account of the first day of finishing the basement, readers of this blog may recall previous mentions of my interest in improving wherever I live, particularly working with the owner(s) to facilitate a stronger positive relationshipAssuredly, I have gotten what I wished for in this case!  As a little bit of background to the house I live in, it is nearly 100 years old (if I recall correctly), and thus has the characteristics one might expect.  The basement is a bit on the short side, has no ceiling to it (just exposed rafters), the walls were once painted (~30 years ago, from the looks of it), but are mostly exposed brick and stone; and then the pile of unused furniture and/or garbage.  A lot of work to do, but one of the most important steps that has to happen early is shoring up any holes in the brick- and stone-work with mortar, and then water-sealing it all with Dry-Lok, which also functions as a white paint.

The process involved, then, went as follows.  We had to start the day by doing three things: removing a low-hanging heating duct (that needed replacing anyways, and isn’t in use yet), Ryan scrubbed the walls with a steel brush to remove loose bits of masonry (to better prep the walls for painting), and then I vacuumed an innumerable amount of spiderwebs from the ceiling rafters.  While we did this, the owner Whitney split his time between installing 4 additional light fixtures (bringing our basement to a well-lit total of 6 lights) and working on repairing Ryan’s shower on the third floor (for folks who speak to me in person know, his shower overflowed and caused 7 different leaks into my bedroom this past Wednesday… good times!).  Ryan and I eventually took a break for lunch, and realized that our goals for the first day would be to 1) clean the ceiling where we were working; 2) scrub 2 of the 4 walls; 3) acid-etch those same walls (a caustic designed to remove even more loose dust and the like that would make the painting less effective); 4) rinse them and finally 5) paint those two walls.

As part of this set of goals, we had to remove furniture and tools and crap from the one corner of the basement, and after that, remove an installed oil tank that was previously used to heat water and the house.  I can not only say now that I have done such a thing; I simply have to tell the story.  There is a gentleman who lives in this neighborhood who have known Matt and Whitney (the owners) for years, and his name is Tom.  He has a very specific method of dealing with problems when it comes to home improvement and changes; he has a big old hammer, and just goes to town.  He absolutely destroys things which are to be removed; for instance, the old oil refill lines that went through the brick and outside, Whitney cut through the thinner pipe and then had trouble with the thicker one.  Tom was like “don’t worry,” and then smashed through the wall with his hammer.  Once we have the oil tank on its side, to unscrew the four metal legs, I unscrewed mine without any problem (not that rusty, surprisingly); Tom’s approach was to instantly start bashing them.  A lot.  Similarly, his method for loosening the two refill pipes enough to unscrew them was to bash them!  It was a loud and entertaining interlude, and interesting in a historical sense; as per much of the basement, we’re mostly certain that the oil sludge in the bottom of the tank is old enough to have been THE oil brought in by Captain Ahab.  The oil tank itself was installed on the remains of the foundation for the older coal chute and bin; as far as we can figure, approximately 4 levels lower, one can find early Bronze Age pictograms and indications of the wheat harvests in our basement.

Definitely a bunch of work to go, as we only got the one wall painted (we ran out of both DryLok as well as energy at the end of a ~9 hour day of work), but Sunday will bring the removal of all the furniture and junk, so the basement will be open for us to work on from time to time.  Pre-winter is my goal, as water-sealing the old house will reduce chances of leaking and the like.

Photos: the build in progress!

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