basement Decor MAIN

How to survive a basement renovation

You know all those awesome bloggers out there that can take a 150 year old home and gut it with their bare hands and rebuild it from scratch?

We are not those bloggers.

That is, home decor stuff, desks, furniture, art & crafts projects – no problem. If I can upcycle it, I will find a way. Drywall and framing…eh…

We live in a tiny home by suburban standards at 1300 sq feet in a sea of 3000-4000 sq foot homes. The problem isn’t the size – we’re very happy with our house. The problem is that the kids are getting bigger and louder and my husband works shift work. You try getting a hyper, stir crazy 5 year old and her 2 year old mini me quiet during the winter when the living room is directly under the bedroom where my husband needs to sleep during the day. Short of giving them Benadryl all week, a more human solution would be to move them about 6 feet under the living room. Not that kind of 6 feet  under (I love my kids…most days…) but the unfinished basement.

So after almost 3 years of my husband wearing ear plugs to bed (because saving money to do these projects takes time when you’re a one income family) we’re almost done the basement reno.

You know that old adage Time is Money? When it came to the framing, the drywall and the electricity this was one of those cases. We just did not have the time or the skills to DIY that part. In which case we hired an amazing contractor, Rick from Hayden Renovations (who has no idea I have a blog and is probably going to wonder who the hell this is when the search engines pick this up – Hi Rick!) and his team to do that part. In case you’ve stumbled on this page looking for a review of Hayden Renovations we highly recommend Rick. Great job, great work ethics and we would have no doubt recommending him to anyone. We are so happy with the finished product.

And that ladies and gentlemen, is how we stayed sane and survived this basement renovation. We hired someone who knew they were doing vs trying to miter saw our way to a crookedly framed wall hell.

Simple right? Oh yeah and then stayed the hell out of their way. I can’t say the same for my kids who though playing peekaboo with the contractors in the new window was awesome. Sigh. I apologize. Again.

Now smart bloggers would have taken this post and had broken it up into 10 different “In Progress” posts to make for good blog content that they can stretch out. But really, I am not a renovation blog. Like I said we’ll do decor projects, make furniture etc., but the probability of me giving you advice on how to do framing and drywall is just not going to happen. So I think a good Before and After is well worth the one post instead.

If you want a great house renovation blog, go visit my friend Stacey at A Goode House and watch the magic her and her husband do in transforming their Mid Century Modern home in Texas.

So here in photos, is our basement as we make progress to getting it all done.

Side note – If you want to see our basement before we started renovating it, go visit The Dungeon Part 1 and The Dungeon Part 2 for the whole story of how we demolished the previous disaster of a basement that was in our house when we bought it.

THE BEFORE

basement before

basement before (2)

basement before (3)

basement before (4)

New window goes in…

basement before

basement before (2)

basement before (3)

new window

basement before (4)Drywall goes up.

basement before

basement before (2)

basement before (4)

basement before (6)The never ending painting.

basement before

basement before (3)

Flooring.

I have to thank my Brother In Law for coming over to help James put this in. This is the Kaindl Natural Maple Laminate. This is not your Grandma’s laminate. It is so similar to Engineered Hardwood that everyone who sees it in real life is floored – ok that was bad – is shocked when we tell them it’s laminate.

Kaindl Natural Maple Floor (2)

Kaindl Natural Maple Floor (3)

Why do builders always put the electrical breaker box in the most inconvenient places?

Kaindl Natural Maple Floor (4)

That back wall in the next photo where the miter saw is on the floor, is the location of the future wet bar. So I can have a place to store all my Wiser’s and Innis and Gunn.

My husband then did all the trim and moulding work with his new toy.

basement progress

basement progress (2)

basement progress (3)

basement progress (4)

And here’s where at today. The kids have already taken it over. What a surprise.

Well that’s the best part and the total intention of finishing the basement.

basement after

My $49 MCM credenza that I scored at Value Village has finally found a home.

We also made a cover for the breaker box. That’s a post that I will definitely write about. And how we had to get a new couch because we destroyed the old one in this entire process.

basement after (2)

We still have tons and I mean tons to do.

The wet bar, decor, get some rugs, window treatments, lighting, shelving, pillows, tables. Can you hear the sound of me going to thrift stores for all of this? It’s like Christmas in July!I currently like it better than my living room if only because there is no stucco on the ceiling.

But the most important thing is that right now I am just happy that my husband gets to get a good nights sleep for a change.

32 Comments

  • Reply
    Janet
    July 11, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Wow – it looks fantastic Alex!
    Our boys were about your kids’ ages when we moved all their stuff to the basement and I remember what a huge difference it made in our lives. We felt like our house doubled in size.

    • Reply
      Alex @ northstory
      July 15, 2013 at 11:11 am

      Thanks Janet! That’s just it, it felt like the walls were closing in and just this one additional room is such a huge help.

  • Reply
    April
    July 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

    It looks amazing and so full of light – I love it!!! Love that you have a walk-out too. I can’t wait to see it in person!

    • Reply
      Alex
      July 15, 2013 at 11:12 am

      I’ll trade you for your pool. Esp on days like today. SO hot!

  • Reply
    Jolene Fournier
    July 11, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I love it!

    • Reply
      Alex
      July 15, 2013 at 11:13 am

      Thanks Jolene!

  • Reply
    now at home mom
    July 11, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    WOW! 🙂 you have a very nice basement Alex! 🙂 I love the before and the after pictures, they are my favourites. You were very lucky to have a good contractor, we had some issues with our kitchen reno when it was going on (I can’t believe I haven’t posted about it yet) anyhow, I love that your kids already found their place to play and you have found a place for your credenza & a nice new couch 🙂 I would love to decorate a new space too because yes it would feel like Christmas looking for new items to decorate with 🙂
    those laminate floors are very nice too, we have real hardwood in our basement and we regret it because Nathan (Nate) has scratched it already with his truck, he also scratched the one upstairs They also say it’s smart to have laminate floors in the basement in case (water)
    happy you have a new beautiful space for your family and that your husband gets some sleep too 🙂

    • Reply
      Alex
      July 15, 2013 at 11:15 am

      Oh you’ve got to post about your reno. I love reading reno stories b/c there’s always something that you learn from someone’s experience to help you with yours. I hope everything is ok!

      We have the same hardwood floor issue. It’s on our main floor and we thought no more laminate and regret it. I would have done laminate all over b/c like you when it dents forget it. You can’t buff our engineered hardwood.

  • Reply
    Ashley
    July 11, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    It looks really great! I’m in the market for a similar credenza and I have a feeling I’m going to be waiting a long, long time…

    • Reply
      Alex
      July 15, 2013 at 11:18 am

      I will admit that this was such a fluke and I haven’t found one since. Most of the credenzas out there are way too expensive. Keep checking kijiji and craigslist b/c there’s bound to be someone wanting to get one of their house that maybe needs a little work that you can find for a steal.

  • Reply
    Rambling Renovators (@ramblingreno)
    July 11, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Great before and after! It feels very Scandi. And its done – even more awesome.

    • Reply
      Alex
      July 15, 2013 at 11:18 am

      It’s totally Scandi! We have so much of that influence in this house it’s seriously a problem.

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Brave New Home
    July 11, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Haha, I hear you, sister! I was like, Let me research on how to install a recessed medicine cabinet. Pulled up the first page and was like, Nope. Let me see how much wall secured wall cabinets cost 😛 I am just a decorating, DIYing type!

    I love your basement! It has such a great feel to it. Does your square footage include your basement? I come from the land of earthquakes so I have no familiarity with the things : ]

    • Reply
      Alex
      July 15, 2013 at 11:24 am

      As soon as I got to your recessed I was like yeah I can totally relate. It’s just not going to happen and I totally want that for shelving.

      I don’t think it does but I am probably wrong. Our house is very small by the average house size here but even if we had the money, we’d still probably choose this size. Less to clean. *cough* We both really like row houses so for us a smaller space suits our personalities better. The only thing we would really change is to have a bigger garage or some sort of building space for crafts and projects and fixing stuff.

      Do they not allow basements where you live? My husbands Aunt and Uncle live in the South and they say a lot of the home around them don’t have them.

      • Reply
        Jennifer @ Brave New Home
        July 15, 2013 at 5:54 pm

        I’m with you! Smaller houses = less cleaning! Yup, we don’t have basements here (I’m guessing) because we have frequent earthquakes and because of the soil (desert soil means flooding when it rains). We don’t have attics in this region either…

  • Reply
    Stacey
    July 11, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Alex, this is a jaw dropper! You’re basement space is awesome. And high-five to you for hiring it out. You have no idea how wonderful it is to see something actually get completed. I feel like I can never truly finish anything. It’s so worth it to have a pro come in and take care of business.

    LOVE LOVE those floors! The space all the way around is very light, bright and airy. I swear unless you told me, I would NEVER guess this was a basement. That lovely credenza that I lust over and remember so well looks perfect in the space. I know you must feel so great seeing it shine there. That was one of your great finds.

    Congrats on the renovation. It’s so beautiful! The additional living space has to be improving EVERYONE’S lives. Looking forward to seeing you giving it the Alex touch with beautiful things. 🙂

    • Reply
      Alex
      July 15, 2013 at 11:27 am

      I’ve said this a 1000 times but if you lived closer I’d have totally gotten you in here. It is totally the idea of not making it look and feel like a basement. We wanted it to feel like a living room to compliment the walk out to the backyard so there was no way we were going with panels on the ceiling etc. The light floors were also intentional to brighten the space. We have dark upstairs and it’s a dust magnet here.

  • Reply
    ScrapAndSalvage
    July 11, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    wow. this looks great, alex! how lucky you are to have such a decent sized basement to create this extra space! i love how clean and simple it looks and your girls must be totally stoked! plus i love the credenza!

    • Reply
      Alex
      July 15, 2013 at 11:28 am

      It’s funny b/c in photos it looks way bigger than it really is but that just means our illusion of light floors is working. 😉

  • Reply
    Gilit @ Shoes Off Please
    July 11, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    Oh em gee, that’s an amazing transformation! You somehow managed to make your basement FULL OF LIGHT!
    I applaud you vigorously

    • Reply
      Alex
      July 15, 2013 at 11:29 am

      Just buy a south facing home. You’ll get so much light that during winter your heating bills will stay down b/c of the rays. The summer however…

  • Reply
    Kate
    July 12, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Looks just amazing Alex, and once again a demonstration of what a cool partnership you & your husband have; an eye for design and a mastery of power-tools. If it had been our house, you’d have seen badly mopped-up pools of blood in any photo showing DIY projects with newly acquired power tools. I’ve scoured your pics in microscopic detail and failed to find any; beyond impressive. Can’t wait to see how you accessorise it further (always the most fun bit!)

    • Reply
      Alex
      July 15, 2013 at 11:34 am

      Ok now that I’ve stopped laughing, I totally get it. The first time James used his slide saw and asked me to hold the cedar wood for a project I was like Is this what they meant by Til Death Do Us Part?
      I’m telling you this is why we hire out.

  • Reply
    Danielle
    July 13, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    What an incredible transformation and such a great use of the space!! Congrats on the new addition and brilliantly hiring out for the tricky stuff. PS LOVE the credenza!!

    • Reply
      Alex
      July 15, 2013 at 11:35 am

      I tell James that one day I will convince him to make that our bedroom!!

  • Reply
    Lauren @ The Thinking Closet
    July 15, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    Whoah! How sweet is this? I would hang out down there ALL DAY LONG…how many basements have that much light? Not many. Not ours! The floors and trim really finish the look so well. And I cannot wait to see how you masterfully covered that breaker box…but still have access to it. In the home we’re renting right now, the breaker box is so front and center, it’s not even funny. Right now, I have my birthday calendar hanging over part of it, but it’s still an eye-sore…no bones about it. Eager to learn your trick!

    • Reply
      Alex
      July 27, 2013 at 11:18 pm

      Thanks Lauren!! Sorry for the late comment reply. My WP comment notifications have been seriously terrible lately and I’ve missed entire entries of posts that I haven’t replied to.
      See? I think there is some market that we haven’t looked into yet – breaker box covers. Do they sell cabinet covers or frames for them? I think we should get on this. LOL

  • Reply
    Before and After Kitchen Renovation Tour - NowAtHomeMom
    August 4, 2013 at 1:05 am

    […] month, my friend Alex over at northstory posted about her basement renovation and I loved seeing her before and after pictures. You should […]

  • Reply
    beckipeckham
    February 15, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Great renovation. The basement looks great!

  • Reply
    Heather @ Interiorgroupie
    April 26, 2014 at 12:53 am

    Wow – sooo much light! Thanks for pointing me to your post, noted the contractors name for when we start our job. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Alex
      April 26, 2014 at 7:42 am

      Anytime! We’re very happy with his work and are def going to hire him again for future work.

  • Reply
    Chapslee
    May 6, 2016 at 12:56 am

    Waooo so cool to see.This article is so informative and useful to me .

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