Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Transformations #44 - 49

If you've visited my home within the last year (or read my last post), you'll be aware that I performed an extensive renovation of our basement.  It was a pretty much a complete rebuild - we had an imperfect concrete floor that made use of the space for an entertainment room next to impossible, and we also wanted to add a bathroom.

I could go into great detail with what we did, but these before/after shots tell the tale more simply than words ever could:

Aside from tearing out the old & pouring the new concrete floor (Sturgeon Construction did that and did it very well), roughing in the plumbing (ahem), and taping & mudding the drywall (shout-out to my friend Lionel of St. Joseph's Carpentry for rocking that!), I did all the work myself, with the help of family and friends.

From the little errors I made as I progressed, I learned many renovation tips during this massive project, and they seemed noteworthy enough to count as the little Transformations I am still tracking in my life.

#44: Plan your framing to include corners for drywall mounting.  This might seem obvious to somebody who has done this before, but I hadn't, and I was left scrambling to figure out a way to screw in my drywall properly at the corners of the rooms.  It's all fine now, but do me a favour and don't lean on the inside corners if you visit.

#45: Consult a financial adviser when moving big money around.  We had stockpiled some money into our tax-free savings account, and drew from that to cover some of our costs.  After having a chance discussion with a financial adviser later, she cautioned me that I could get hit with a tax on moneys I withdrew from the account.  Fortunately it would have been a relative pittance, as most of the project was funded through a line of credit.  I dodged a bullet, but it was still a good tip I wish I'd known before.

#46: Practice a new thing first - i.e. putting in drywall screws - you get better at it as you go along, so mess up on a practice area first, instead of leaving your learning curve on display for everybody to see later.

#47: Inspect contractors' work thoroughly & don't be afraid to ask for corrections.  Most tradespeople will stand behind their work (ahem) and want to leave you with a good impression.

#48: Cut your holes in drywall for electrical boxes very tight - start small and work them bigger gradually as needed.  And cut circles (not squares) for circles.  If you know what I'm talking about, you'd be impressed with how I covered up those errors!

#49: Always have a shop vac, broom & dustpan, and large garbage container on hand.  Seriously.  Keep your workspace clean.  I've extended this lesson to my house in general, and have been able to keep my nice new basement clean as a result.

Oh, and Phillips head screws?  You suck.  Come on world, get on board with Robertson!


  1. Congrats on the progress you have made in renovating your basement, James! It really does look fantastic now. Sharing those tips will definitely help people who have plans in doing their own renovation project. By the way, how's your waterproofing system?

    Dennis Daugherty

  2. It's great, our new interior weeping tile & sump pit system worked like a charm last spring & summer with the thaw & a few heavy rainstorms we got. I'm eagerly awaiting to see they cope this year - we've got a lot of snow out there...

  3. Hey James,

    I peruse here from time to time, though as I'm replying to this 3 months after you posted it I'm obviously not as regular a reader as I could be. Sounds like you've discovered all the same things I learned the hard way when I did my place. The net result looks great, however, and of course you can be proud of having done the job yourself. Working a job that places me behind a desk most of the time I always find a certain satisfaction in being able to do a project like that (basement, deck, etc) where the result is more tangible. Looks awesome.

    -Disallowed (remember me? From Convergys, though I don't ever put my real name online.)

    1. You're a more regular reader than I am a poster, so you get an attaboy for that.

      The clues you left to your identity are sufficiently vague for me not to have conclusively figured out who you are. But as a Catholic, I'm OK with living surrounded by mystery, so we can leave it at that.

  4. Great job on the renovation, James! Thanks to the help of your family and friends, you were able to transform a lonely basement to a fabulous one. Anyway, your tips will be very helpful to those who are planning their renovations. And there’s no harm in correcting your contractors. If there's a glaring mistake or deviation from your plans, then it is really worth mentioning, no matter what. At the very least, you'll know why they did that, and can think of alternatives that would lead to a good compromise. Cheers!

    Nathan Riley @ Stanley Steemer


Comments are welcome, but must be on topic. Spam, hateful/obscene remarks, and shameless self-promotion will be unceremoniously deleted. Well, OK, I might put on a little ceremony when I delete them.