Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Our Basement Renovation Story - And so it begins...

I am starting what will be a series of posts chronicling our basement renovation, which we have been working on mostly by ourselves, in our free time.  I hope that you will be inspired to tackle your own renovation projects around your own house after reading this.  Here are a couple of the "Before" pictures of our basement.  I am embarrassed to even show them, as most people who have been in our house have not even seen the basement (Sorry, it's not a stop on the house tour!)  But, I think seeing the before pictures will make the "After" pictures so much more satisfying!

When we moved into our house, the lower level was finished as an in-law suite.  In the finished part of the space, there was a kitchenette, a bedroom, living room area, and small bathroom. The other half of the space was a single car garage, shop area, storage space, and laundry area (where the washer and dryer resides in the middle of the shop area).
Ugly steep stairs to the scary basement 
We initially thought we would just fix up the basement area, because it was functional; it just needed more lighting and a coat of paint.  But one month after we moved in, the lid of the septic tank in the backyard caved in.  At this point, we could no longer use it and we had to connect all of the plumbing in the entire house to the city sewer out front.  After my hubby dug the lines in the front yard and re-routed all the upstairs plumbing out the front of the house, we did not have the budget or the energy to put in a sump pump and update the basement level plumbing to connect to the city sewer.  There went our functional kitchenette and bathroom downstairs....whomp whomp.  From that point, we did not really use the downstairs other than an office for my husband and a dog cave.
The Kitchenette area

Fast forward five years....We had updated the deck and pool area, the yard, and both bathrooms on our main level, so it was time to turn our attention to the dark, ugly cave in the basement.  I had created a savings account for our basement reno, so we would have a budget to work with and not have to take out a loan.  Last winter, when a pipe from our kitchen started leaking and we had to tear down part of the basement ceiling to fix it, we figured now was as good a time as any to start the renovation since we already had a head start on the demo.  So, we started planning our dream basement (well, semi-dream basement, with our budget!)

Living room area a.k.a Dog Cave

First, we drew the plans out on paper, many, many pieces of paper!  Let me tell you, it probably took us a month or longer to agree on a layout!  Once we had a layout we liked, we used SketchUp to plan the layout with measurements to make sure our ideas would work in the space we had.  Once we had our computer generated plans with the measurements, we started cleaning out the basement and making many trips to Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, and the dump!
From our minds, to paper, to reality!
Our final plans included the following:
  • Rip out the old bathroom and convert the area to a mudroom, since it is right beside the exterior door.
  • Tear down the drop ceiling, which was barely 7' tall and either leave the joists exposed or put back up another type of ceiling that is not dropped so low (Still debating...)
  • Take down the cheap, painted paneling in the main living area and hang drywall.
  • Tear out the kitchenette to have one large recreation area.
  • Replace the tile and carpet with vinyl plank flooring throughout the entire space.
  • Convert the back half of the garage/shop into a bathroom and laundry room, which includes putting in a sump pump.
We are totally re-configuring a large part of our basement which is exciting and scary at the same time.  We are pretty accomplished DIY'ers...we rebuilt our deck the first year we were in our house, but we have never built rooms from scratch.  I hope you will come along on our journey and laugh (and sometimes cry...) with us!

Follow my Pinterest board for our design inspiration and DIY tips!

Have you tackled a renovation of this size before?


  1. You are seriously a rockstar for tackling this on your own! And I'm jealous you have a basement. We have a crawl space :/ I can't wait to see how things come together!

    1. Thank you for your comment! It has been a challenge and a learning process. Some days I wish I were rich so I could just call someone to finish it, but I know we will be so proud when it is finished!

  2. It certainly has inspired me to complete some of the renovations I have in mind but we've already hit a stumbling block! I was happy to rip a ceiling down in our 1970's home but we had to have an asbestos test which came back positive so professionals will now need to take it down, costing thousands.

    Traci Romero @ Harris Plumbing

    1. Oh no!!! That is terrible! We were actually really worried about that too since our home was built in the 60's, but we did luck out in that aspect. Best of luck in your renovation!

  3. Sometimes people seem to approach renovations with a more free flowing attitude. That is, they don't put everything down on paper first. They have ideas about what they would like but using software like AutoCad to help them plan doesn't come in the works. I think they end up better off when they have diagrams and all the steps planned out.

    Wilfred Andrews @ LB Plumbing and Heating


Please note that comments have been turned off. (Providing a name and email is not required to leave a comment on this website. If you choose to leave a name and email address, you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website)

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.