Drywalling and stuff in the basement

Now that the staircase is finished enough to make it easy to get up and down the stairs, we can now lug more drywall to the basement with ease.

1 adding drywall

I’m using mold and moisture resistant drywall down here. Not sure why, because the humidity level in the basement is no different that the rest of the house. I’m using 4X8 sheets for the walls – that’s because that’s the largest size I can handle by myself.

4 electrical bulkhead

I had to make one more bulkhead by the electrical boxes to hide plumbing. I’ll figure out something to hide the breaker boxes.

7 mechanical room

Then continue along the walls and into the mechanical room and my little workshop. (I still have the 4 car garage to play in…so far). That mess of cat5e and coax cables are a job when my sawdust making period is over.

5 checking for drywall divots

I use a raking light to check for drywall divots before the primer goes on.

6 painting walls

Then the first coat of paint goes on – it’s BM Moonlight White – I think. The ceilings are being done by a drywall guy I know. They use 12′ sheets  – it will save my back and will look better than I could do.

2 whirlpool tubWhile I wait for the ceiling guy, I’ll finish up the framing for the whirlpool tub.

3 steam shower

And the framing and Kerdi Board prep is done for the steam shower.

See? Some things are looking finished – well, if you don’t look up, that is.

Pay attention now, I’m sure something pretty will pop up sooner or later.



Woman Cave – Finished Staircase

Well, there you have it – a project finished. Mmmm, maybe not completely, let’s just call it a photo-finish.

1 stair well

I’m not going to bore you with the tedious, multi corner drywall finishing. I counted 28 outside corners and 11 inside corners for the stairwell area. Why so many? Bulkheads and plumbing runs will make that happen. You’ll get glimpses of all the angles – the memories are too painful for me to show just how many there are in one shot.

2 wall insulation

The walls were finished and painted before the final stair goes in. The area under the stair stringers was framed with 2X4’s and was insulated with spray foam. Drywall was then placed to finish.

3 riser measurements

I’ve added the stair skirt boards and wrapped it around the tricky angled wall. The wall is reinforced for the stair tread supports.

4 all risers in place

All the risers are cut to the width of the opening.

5 stair tread template

Since this will be a carpeted stair, I used 1″ pine treads. Here is my handy cardboard template to figure the angle cut.

6 trim pieces

Speaking of angle cuts – these are the trim pieces I needed to fabricate to trim out the stair/wall junctions. Top Clockwise: 1st tread back trim, Bottom RH trim, Top RH trim, LH Top trim bottom block, LH Top trim.

7 buscit joiner layout

The bottom RH trim required a piece 14″ wide. So out comes the biscuit joiner. 1st we mark the biscuit locations.

8 biscut joiner

Cut the slots for the biscuits and glue it all up. The moisture in the glue expands the beech wood biscuits and makes for a solid joint.

9 finished stair

And that finished the stair – time to move on.

Time’s a wasting.

Woman Cave Continues

My blog posts are pretty much monthly now because I’m racing to get this reno done in 2016. Lots of work that’s not too interesting or photogenic. Face it, looking at the same set of stairs is not the most compelling blog post – but we will continue…

1 stringers ready

You can see the stringers are ready and some of the moisture/mold defense green board is up – I needed to get the stair area wrapped with dry wall before the stairs go in.

2 old stair demo

And finally the 45 degree angle 8″ wide stair treads bid farewell. That’s my little well pump sitting there below.

4 insulation

Because of clearance issues, the right hand part of the stairwell is against the concrete and brick basement wall. I couldn’t frame out the wall next to the steps or the stairs would be very narrow. I used 3/4″ foil faced insulation in this area. I attached it the the wall with nylon anchors and washers, with PL adhesive. The diagonal wood will allow the lower section of wall under the stringers to be framed out and foam insulated.

5 cardboard template

Once that was finished I made a quick cardboard template of the step nosing to use later when cutting drywall and trim pieces. It’s a good idea to make guides like this when the area is still open and easy to access.

6 drywall clamped

The drywall was cut and glued to the anchored insulation panel with drywall PL adhesive. Clamps are used to keep pressure on the drywall while the adhesive sets.

7 lowwer drywall

The lower section is done the same way.

8 stair tread blocking

Additional blocking is placed in the wall to support the stair treads at the wall. The wall behind the ladder and and the right hand side were framed out for foam insulation.

9 tv measurements

This area will have in-wall speakers, so a little layout is needed before the spray foam goes in. Here is the viewing position and the proper angle for speaker placement.All of the structured wiring is run and additional conduits were placed in case I need to run additional wiring later.

10 spray foam

I made wall bucks at each speaker location. These will make a void in the spray foam, but allow for insulation behind the speakers..

11 speaker bucks

After the closed cell foam goes in, the plastic covered bucks are removed leaving a place for the speaker.

So, as I said – not very interesting, but time consuming. We’ll get to some pretty stuff – all new hardwood floors, cabinets, lighting, and more…

I need a nap.




Basement Stairs – Getting to the Woman Cave

Welcome to spring my fellow renovators! As usual, I have a dozen projects going on at the same time – and most aren’t very photogenic – yet.

Let’s go down to the woman cave and get that pesky staircase built for the basement.

Here we go – watch your step. And a warning – this is  a longer post than most.

First we need a plan. Go to My Carpentry.Com for a really good calculator. You need exact measurements of the distance from one finished floor to the next to make a good, safe set of stairs.

1 stair plan

The items needed for laying out stairs is pretty simple. A framing square and some stair nuts, or some other means to make stops on the square to make consistent marks on the stringer. And for me, a life size cardboard template.

2 mock up

Calculating the proper size of the stair is easier if you use a template like this. Here the cardboard template is in place. The 2X4 wood in the foreground is a mock up of the bottom step height to make sure I have enough head room to meet code.

3 stringer template

Once I’ve gotten the stringer template made I’m ready to transfer to the real stringer. The wood for the stairs is typical Misadventures material. Most use a 2X12, but here we’ll use a LVL or Laminated Veneer Lumber beam. I like using laminated lumber on stair stringers for several reasons.It’s really strong, straight and won’t warp or change after cutting, which is something dimensional lumber will sometimes do.

4 stringer jig

Since I’ll be making 3 stringers for this project, I’ll make a set of jigs for the cuts. The one on the left is for the ‘run’ cut and the right one is for the ‘rise’ cut. I find it so much easier and faster to take a few minutes and make a jig if I have a lot of repetitive cuts to make. On stairs consistency is a safety issue, so make ’em right.

5 saw spacer block

One more jig and I’m done – promise. I also make a little spacer that is the width of the saw shoe plus the thickness of the saw blade. This will vary slightly from one blade to the next, so I made a new one to match this blade. You need this little block – so make it.

6 stringer end cut

Jig and block together – so sweet! The block is used to line up the layout mark on the stringer and then you butt the cutting jig next to the block. I screw the jig to the stringer to keep it secure.

7 sawing stringer

Then we cut the stringer stopping right at the intersecting line. No over cutting here.

8 hand saw finish cut

Then we take a hand saw and finish the cut. Over cutting will weaken your stringer, especially if you use dimensional lumber. I could overcut this LVL – but I would never do that – my OCD would never allow it. You can see how straight and square the cut is – that’s why you use a jig.

9 fitting first stringer

Now we check out how we did – we’ll check to make sure the rise and run are correct before we mess up any other materials. You can see how much longer and less steep the stairs are next to the original.

10 checking level

Check for level on the steps and I think we’re ready to make some clones!

11 tracing stringer

Take the finished stringer and clamp it to the next and carefully trace the pattern.

12 stringer end cut

The spacer block is also used to make the end cuts.

13 two down

Two finished and one to go.

14 three stringers together

Once all three are cut I line them up with the framing square and screw them all together.

15 sanding stringers

The three are then tweaked with a belt sander to make them all identical. Now – this is crazy precise for a simple stair stringer – but remember this is my hobby. It does show that taking a few minutes building a jig will make your project a lot easier to build.

16 old stairs

I think it’s time to say goodbye to these 81 year old stairs.

Hang in there – we’ll make something out of this place yet.

January Recap – Three Stories

The blog post has been pretty quiet around the Misadventures project – not because of lack of activity, but because it’s still not to the pretty stages yet. I have projects in the basement, 1st floor and second floor too – hence the blog title.

First the basement stuff.

1 steam shower framingThe steam shower framing is done. The sloped ceiling is framed and all the plumbing is in. All this has to be finished before the walls get spray foam.

2 structured wiringOf course to make it more complicated and expensive I’ve run Cat5e and coax everywhere. It home-runs back to this structured wire cabinet in the basement.

3 wire laddersI use ladders and bar clamps to hold the wire spools while I pull the wires from one floor to the next. Some are in conduits and some are not. Extra lines are run for stuff I didn’t think about.

4 kitchen cabinet layoutIn the kitchen I’m finally getting around to mocking up some layouts. I need to know where to run lighting and speaker controls as well as gas lines and all the other things that go into the kitchen. It’s a modified galley that allows traffic to avoid the cooking area. More on this in later posts.

5 master bathroom wall layoutUpstairs I’m laying out the bathroom window wall in my traditional freestyle design technique – lay some sticks against the wall. Good enough.

6 window jamb detail1st the window jambs are made and the corners are routed to make a stronger straighter corner.

7 window casing layoutThe side casings are added and the top is measured and cut.

8 window casing pocket screwsThe ‘U’ shaped casing is glued and  pocket screwed together on the back to make a nice tight joint. The bottom will have a marble sill.

9 wall detail startA preliminary fitting is made with 3/4″ pine. I didn’t use poplar here because I want some grain to show through the final finish.

10 wall detail not usedMy original idea was to continue the banding to mimic the doors. One thinner top band and one thicker lower band. But it made the room look too squatty, so I pitched this idea and the lumber I already cut. Another design faux pas.

11 wall panel cutsThe wood panels are cut for the field areas. Sometimes people use the drywall as the field, but I want a finish that shows the wood grain, so I used a 1/4″ birch ply panel.

12 wall finishedThe panel and battens in place. The white tub sits in front of this window so I wanted some contrast in this white room.

13 wall paintedI painted the wall with BM Shaker Gray with a Pearl finish. The paint color matched the grey veining in the porcelain tile border. The paint was thinned 5:1 with water and then hand sanded lightly to show some of the grain and texture. The wall was then roller painted with Verathane waterbase satin diamond clear to get a smooth finish with a little sheen.

So a little progress on the pretty side, not much, but I promise I’ll get to that in the next few months.



Adding an Egress Window in an Old House #4 Finished

So finally we have the fourth and final post of this little egress window adventure. Would I do it again? Sure – it’s not that bad. But I will admit it would have been a lot easier 21 years ago when I was 40. This is a long post – so I can move on to the next project. This one’s done.

1 single sideTime to attach the window well. I chose a Bilco Scapewel. This is their smallest model 40-48. The wide window frame allows the panel to be attached through the frame into the foundation. This gives the inside of the well a seamless look. I tried to attach the side panel mounting flanges with stainless steel sleeve anchors, but ended up with 1/4″ X 3 1/2″ Tapcons which held in the block foundation much better. You can see I’ve used my water table jack to hold the side up for attachment.

2 double sideThe other side attached. You need a minimum of 12″ on the outside for the panel to attach the flange and fill with gravel.

3 back onThe two back panels snap into place and are held with 2 1/2″ deck screws to prevent them from detaching when filling with gravel.

4 bracingCross braces are added to keep the well square. I have a top that snaps over the well and it must be within 1″ of square or the top won’t fit.

5 rock startPressure treated braces are added under the well sides. This is to keep the weight of the gravel fill from pulling the side panel flanges away from the foundation wall.

6 drainThe drain is set in the approximate place as the drainage gravel is added.

7 gravelThe 4 ton pile of gravel is slowly shrinking as the well gets filled.

8 gravel doneThe well is filled by hand evenly around the outside. This keeps everything square and makes sure the drainage rock is uniform.

9 well viewThe rock is leveled and filled up to 4″ of the side panels. Final grade will be set when the back yard is finish graded.

10 concrete paversSince I had some old 16″ square concrete pavers laying around, I thought I would put a solid bottom in the well.

11 pavers installedYou can only do this if you have a direct drain to take up the excess water. There is 18″ of drainage rock underneath the pavers, just in case.  We had a very heavy rainstorm last night  and I had a tiny leak from a missed caulk joint. I’ll take up the pavers and fix and add some flashing. It won’t be a problem once I have gutters and the cover attached.

12 window closedThe Tilt & Turn window is perfect as an egress window. Aluplast is a German company that licenses their technology and components to various fabricators around the U.S.  It’s a very solid all vinyl window.

13 window open Turn the handle horizontally and the window opens like a door for emergency egress.

14 window ventedTurn the handle up and the top opens like a hopper window for ventilation. A removable screen keeps the bugs out.

15 window well viewThe well has a ‘step’ that is also a planter, so you can have a few live plants to spruce up your well.

So that’s it for the window well adventure. I had fun and took lots of pictures. Sort of like a vacation – but without the sunburn.

On we march – lots to do….

Adding an Egress Window in an old House #2…the unpleasant post

If you’ve followed along with this blog over the years you might notice that I don’t complain very much – after all, this is my hobby. I love renovations – the work itself is therapeutic to me. But it’s the designing and figuring this stuff out in my head that is my most favorite.  I love the mental challenge of each project. This egress window has tested me physically as well as adding a little mental confusion along the way – and a couple of calamities thrown in for good measure. Oh, and one other thing – this project is like everything else – overkill. I’ll do more than what’s normally required to complete a project like this – but it’s a hobby.

0 respiratorHere’s a selfie of the results of cutting the foundation. It looks like I have multiple chins, but it is in fact brick and concrete dust caked to my skin. I had to hose off outside before my wife would let me come inside.

1 sub sillBack to the window. The sub-sill is added to the bottom of the window cut. The piece is marked in two spots to reference the hollow core of the concrete block below.

2 anchor boltsHoles are drilled in the sub-sill and anchor bolts are attached.

3 level sub sillAnchoring cement is used to fill the cement block voids were the anchor bolts are located. The sill is leveled. The anchor cement sets in 20 minutes.

4 anchor boltsThe sub-sill can then be removed to add adhesive for final installation.

5 waspenatorOh, I forgot this part. Here is a picture of the ‘Waspenator”. This hole was dug for several weeks before I could get to this point. In the mean time wasps had found this to be a really great place to hang out. With my first ladder step down into the hole  I was greeted by lots of unhappy wasps. Some of you might remember that it was two years ago this week that a wasp instigated my ladder fall that put me in a wheelchair for six months. I’ve figured out that if  you just move normally and not over react you’ll be fine.

But I never forgot what they did to me.

So the first day “Waspenator” and I dispatched 77 critters to Wasp heaven and the second day added 28. I quit counting after that. I keep my swatter handy and pick off one or two a day. But it seems I don’t have many left to swat. Revenge is so sweet.

6 second sillA second sub-sill was made from kiln dried treated lumber (see how pretty this stuff is). Holes were partially drilled to clear the bolts of the first sub-sill.

6 window test fitThat was temporarily placed along with the window buck assembly and the window to make sure they fit.

7 coring bitNow the crappy part. The window well needs to drain in case of a large rain storm. As usual it’s gotta be the best I can do. Here is a 3 1/2″ coring bit attached to my hammer drill – it’s just the right size for a 3″ PVC pipe. The hole needs to go through the foundation at the basement footer into the interior drain system that was installed earlier. This required me to dig a pit another three feet down. I had to drill this upside down with my head in the hole. It took several hours. No fun here.

8 drain testBut after a few muddy noisy hours we have made it to the promised land. I’m checking the drain and it works fine.

9 drain cementedOnce the pipe is placed hydraulic cement was used to seal the pipe to the foundation.

10 drain and windowThe drain is 9′ from the surface.

11 rain drainOf course it rained every day due to remnants of Hurricane Bill. I spent a couple of hours each day last week pumping out water and digging out mud. Fun, fun, fun! But the drain worked.

12 poision IvyOh, one more thing – in the middle of all this I got a great case of Poison Ivy when I decided to clean up some bushes in our back yard. The one (and only) day I decided to wear shorts, I might add. I called my Doctor who put in a prescription – when I went to pick it up the bill was 235.00. What? So I politely declined and went home and ordered this stuff Mean Green Hand Scrub and I will tell you it really worked magic for me. The 64 oz tub was a little over 30.00. Take that big Pharma .

Till next time.