Basement workshop update. It has been three weeks since my last remodeling confession and there is a reason for my delay. First, a recap, as I am wont to do. This time last year, we were scraping up layers of carpet, vinyl flooring and various glues and nails, along with tearing down the wall to what was the former downstairs kitchen. At that time, I expected to, with a touch of good fortune, be moving into my workshop just before the winter Solstice Party – in 2011. That was, of course, before the quality of the walls in relation to the unknown foundation wall situation was known, thus before the plan to build new walls, and before refinishing the wood floors. And, obviously, before this new discovery a couple weeks ago.
Back then, I’d mentioned that we were going to put a hole in the floor to check for concrete quality and any possible water damage. We did that and found that the concrete, while awfully dirty, seemed sound and there was no evidence of water damage. I proceeded to have the wood floor refinished and we continued on as expected. The former kitchen sink pipes will be reused for a new workshop sink, but in the workshop plan they were going to be way too close (actually touching in places) to the block foundation to put the new wall behind them. Between that and one of the old rusty, drainage pipes leaking a bit, we had a plumber out to do some work. The plumber completely misunderstood the scope of work (despite Slick’s detailed explanation) and came prepared to only replace the leaky pipe. We agreed that the pipe needed replaced and that he’d come back out to move the other pipes and the base of the drainage pipe, which was situated in the floor. After the replacement and plumber departure, we decided to cut a hole in the floor ourselves and see how much of the plumbing work we could assist with while we waited for our second appointment. I admit, I was pretty eager to get this plumbing stuff done, because it was the only thing holding up framing the new walls. I had my saw set up, the nail gun loaded and ready, the lumber stacked neatly – I was fucking ready to frame!
This is what we found.
Dirt. Lots of dirt.
What the fuck.
So, clearly the drainage pipe base will be a breeze to move since it is merely surrounded by a bit of dirt.
A few questions probably arise at this picture. Such as, “but I thought you cut a hole in the floor to look around?” Well, yes, we did that. The hole we cut was conveniently centered over one of the concrete piers which are spaced about four feet apart. The next picture should show what I mean. Now we know why it seemed awfully dirty when we looked.
The floor beams were laid directly on top of the concrete piers. If we didn’t have such decent drainage, this could have been a problem. As it is, the only floor beams with degradation were in the area of the leaky pipe.
Another question may be, “is this why your radon levels were shockingly high? Why, yes! Yes, it is almost certainly a major factor. If you have no idea what I’m talking about you A) probably don’t live in Cheyenne, and B) can check out this link about radon. But quickly, radon is a radioactive, heavy gas which is odorless, invisible and undetectable except by testing. Breathing the gas is the same to your lungs as smoking (hello, non-smoker lung cancer!) and contributes to radiation absorption. In short, you don’t want to live in this stuff. While radon is a fairly rare gas, it is common in Wyoming and surrounding areas, in wildly sporadic concentrations. When we bought The Arches, the radon tests came back so high we had a double vent radon dispersion system installed before the paperwork. It was at pack-a-day levels. We did not pussyfoot around with that stuff. Coincidentally, a quarter of the basement has lower, concrete floors where there are no wood floors, which added to the assumption it was all concrete underneath. Those two concrete floor sections are where the radon pulling vents were installed.
A possible third question could be, “but what about your freshly refinished wood floor?” I’ve made my love of wood floors well known, but after mine was finished I wasn’t the biggest fan of it. The wood floor guys that came recommended to us turned out to be not so stellar at all. We don’t need to go into the details, but we were not happy with the service or work. As well, the condition and quality of the wood was mediocre. Over the past few months I’d managed to convince myself that I’d be okay with replacing sections as they failed (with special pieces made and detailed by me), and that the poor quality would help me NOT treat the floors as precious, which is a factor in a workshop. So, yes I’m out the money for the floor refinishing, but that simply cannot be helped.
Thus, with our radon concerns and with the general low quality of the wood floor, we decided the best course of action would be to pull up the wood floors and have concrete floors poured. This weekend past, Slick and I got down there with a saw, sledgehammer, gloved-up hands and ruthlessly pried up all the wood flooring. Our little pull-along trailer is stacked with the cut up flooring, ready to go to the dump. Due to the quality of wood and refinishing, very little of it was salvageable or worth even looking at. And, Slick built a makeshift door to block off the room from the cats. The cats, naturally, would be all too happy to have a 270 sqft litterbox, but they also might find a way under the remaining floor and piers to get stuck.
Here is a shot of the floor before the beams were removed. We found a dozen or so spiders, a couple scraps of newspaper or wrappers (pictures soon!) and evidence of the leaky pipe in the former kitchen being a long-term problem. The next step is to have concrete poured into a floor shape in here.
This is Revision Seven to the general basement workshop remodeling plan. It is a big one and all work has completely stopped. Instead of positive progress to show, we have negative progress. While this is frustrating, I’m sorta okay with it. The wood floor didn’t satisfy me and I am excited to have a fresh, new concrete floor that I can paint or stain as desired as often as I want. I was investigating the possibility of floor heating cables to put in the new concrete floor pour. It would feel very nice, but it seems to be a lot more involved that simply slapping a mat down into the wet pour, especially since we have plumbing in the room. Considering the plumbing move, existing pipes, radon considerations (you don’t necessarily want to merely seal dirt, you want to consider facilitating the venting system), the fact that this is a non-structural floor pour, and we don’t have a contractor or estimate yet, we’re not completely sure where the new floor level will be. This may affect the walls that I spent many days carefully repairing, sealing, and first-layer insulating, but I’m hoping I’ll only have to fill in and reseal the bottom edges once it is done. Also, I’m going to feel better about my walls being framed against concrete – even though they aren’t load bearing, but merely decorative and insulating.
On the upside, we did find a contractor who is willing to go overkill on our foundation. If he responds to us again (instead of fleeing, blocking our number and/or stubbornly refusing to respond to us) we might have hope of the foundation work being done the best way possible. The other guy who said he would do the lesser version stopped responding, wouldn’t give an estimate and was irritated with us (!!) when we kept calling him every day. What has happened to service nowadays? Or even simple professionalism? DIY takes on a gloomy quality when it is the only choice.
If everything goes well and there are no more major Revisions to the plan, I might be moved into the workshop by the end of the year. That is moved in, but not with all the furniture built and significant amounts of boxes and stuff still residing in the garage. Faced with this timeline, I bought myself a small table and crammed it into my makeshift office/library/box storage/closet/dressing area. There is only a skinny path through that room now, but I have Gretchen back out and dusted off, ready to roll with me.