First step: Drawing plans and securing permits
We decided to use the space in our basement to create a new rec room and bedroom, adding about 400 square feet of finished space to our home. The complicating factor was a beam that bisects the space, supported by two steel pillars. It made perfect sense to try to hide all of this behind a wall, but this would mean making Nora's future bedroom to be a bit smaller than we wanted (tiny -- about 80 square feet). The codes governing bedrooms are very strict, we found out, and making this an official bedroom would mean adding an "egress window." We figured we could simply call it an "office" and use it as a bedroom, but having Nora trapped down there in the middle of a fire was a frightening thought. So, we decided to bite the bullet and make it an official bedroom. I drew up some plans, paid a lot of money for the building permits ($600), and got to work. Below is a copy of the plans I drew up.
Second step: Waterproofing
We sealed up cracks in the walls and coated them with white, DryLock Masonary Waterproofer. Controversy rages on the Internet about whether this stuff works and for how long. I figured it couldn't hurt and our basement was almost completely dry anyway. Whatever the case, this stuff was really thick and hard to apply and ended up being much more work than I intended. Ellie helped out considerably here.
Third step: Installing the egress window
We had a contractor install the egress window for us. Cutting through the foundation wall is considerably outside my comfort zone and tool capability. That work alone, though, cost $2500, which about doubled the cost of the finishing the basement.
Fourth step: Adding insulation
Once that was in, we added the pink extruded polystyrene insulation to the basement walls. It used to be that people would finish their basement by simply putting up stud walls directly against the foundation wall, insulating the stud cavities with fiberglass insulation, and then covering it all with a plastic vapor barrier. This led to all sorts of problems with mold, I'm told, since the moisture coming from the cinder blocks would get trapped in the insulation areas. Gluing on this pink foam insulation, first, and then building the wall 1 inch away from the insulation prevents this (or so I'm told). The hardest part of this was bringing the pink foam home on top of my car -- let's just say that now I know what not to do. In the picture, you can see the foam and the egress window in the background.
Fourth step: Planning and marking walls
This was fun. I bought myself a blue chalk line and had a great time measuring out the walls, snapping the line, and marking out the future space. It was great to get a first glimpse of what things would actually look like. Below, you can see the chalk outline of Nora's bedroom wall.
Fifth step: Framing
This was the part I was most looking forward to. I love working with wood, measuring, sawing, and hammering. The first step involved a wonderful new tool purchase, my now beloved "powder actuated nailer." This was to nail the bottom lumber plates into the concrete. It works basically like a gun with the nail being the bullet. You put in a powder charge and nail, and then strike it on top with a hammer. It shoots the nail into the concrete with a loud explosion. This was great fun, and even a little scary to use. The most useful tool I had during this process was my miter saw, though, which I received for my birthday a few years ago and never used much. I'm not very skilled with a regular circular saw, so this really helped me make nice, straight cuts. I could have used a nail gun, but hammering and screwing everything together turned out okay.
I was in rapture seeing the new basement world coming together around me. I think the framing looked pretty good in the end. I'm not going to lie, there were some major goofs along the way, and the finished project would never be mistaken for the work of a real carpenter (off plumb here and there, for example). But I had a great time, and only once slammed my thumb. Below, pictures of a finished wall, Nora's closet, and the half wall leading up the stairs (my favorite feature).
Sixth step: Electrical and Mechanical
These were both enjoyable, but for opposite reason. Electrical was interesting because I've never run any wire before. I know now about 20 times as much about electrical stuff as I did before, so it was a major learning experience (having a brother-in-law who knows something about electrical was a big confidence boost here). Running the heating ducts was fun because it took me back to my summers at Christensen Heating and Air Conditioning. In a sense, running the duct work allowed me to reconnected with my past self. Below are pictures of (a) a fairly complicated switch box with two, 3-way switches (one being a dimmer), (b) my canister lighting, and (c) one of my heating ducts.
I'm on drywall now. Stay tuned!