Basement Makeover

As you may recall, our basement flooded in late June.  We lost a great number of possessions, the damage was pretty catastrophic, and my stress levels were elevated for several months as we dealt with the aftermath, including a lengthy renovation process.

A week after the initial flood, our basement was a shell.  Most of the walls had been ripped out, the carpeting was gone, fried electrical equipment had been disconnected, but things were dry, our insurance company paid out pretty quickly (though the funds covered a small fraction of the costs), and we had accepted that we had a long road ahead of us.  Incidentally, we had to pay a fine for not having pulled a permit giving us permission to conduct the demolition – even though the insurance company, health and safety, and common sense required that we complete the demolition on far too tight a timeline for that to have been feasible.

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Fighting through layers upon layers of red tape was a persistent, aggravating, and stressful theme of this whole restoration process.  As with so much of our contact with bureaucracy, we found that we were caught in this perpetual Catch 22 of submitting paperwork which we were then told could not be accepted and filed because it was missing some components or that more detail was required but they could not inform us as to what we needed to do to successfully amend it.  Over and over this was our experience.  Thankfully the inspectors that came to the house were always pleasant and helpful but, man, there were a lot of inspections for us to get through at various stages of the work.  This, therefore, extended the timeline for the whole project as work would have to shut down in order for us to be inspected, submit the next permit, and be given permission to proceed to the next stage of work.  It was frustrating and mentally exhausting.

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As I wrote before, we were grateful that, while our basement was finished, it was overdue for a makeover.  I think the basement had been finished in the late 1970s with a bit of remediation work done some point in the 1980s.  We, therefore, decided to focus on the silver lining of having this opportunity to really turn this useful but dark and dated space into a light and appealing living space.  Having the space reduced to its bare bones even provided us with the ability to spruce up the electrics and the airflow for heating.  We installed two egress windows so that we could turn the basement into living space, including a bedroom, and those let in a whole lot more light than the hideous windows there before.

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Anyway, after all of the hassle, expense, stress, and frustration, we now have two lovely rooms in the basement.  One is a teenage hangout space for our four boys (which they are especially loving during this social distancing time) and one is a bedroom that means all four of our boys can now have their own bedrooms.  Our soon-to-be 13 year old has the basement bedroom and is loving it.

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We still have some decorating to do in the basement – pictures up on the wall and that type of thing – but that is all on hold right now because of the Covid 19 pandemic.  However, I am sure you can see from the photos how much the space has been transformed.

As a reminder, this is what the basement looked like not long after we moved into the house.

Before - Basement 5

And this is what it looks like now.

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Hallway Makeover

Home projects have a way of snowballing and spiraling.  As I have explained before, much of our house had not been renovated or even redecorated since it was built in 1968.  The staircase banister was starting to show its age in a terrifying manner as it was rickety and wobbly and threatening to pull away from the wall any time any of my boys leaned on it.  Pretty terrifying.  It, therefore, jumped up to the very top of the list of home improvement priorities.  But removing and replacing a banister was going to damage the carpeting and the walls.  And if we were going to repaint all the walls then we were best to replace the tiles in the downstairs hall.  And if we were going to replace the floor tiles then we should do that at the same time as pulling out the old downstairs loo.  So that one problem with the wobbly banister Hulked out and became a major project.

I forgot to take Before photos.  However, these images show what the hallway and downstairs WC looked like when we moved in to our house in August 2014.  Not much had changed since then.  I was not going to miss those “crazy paving” vinyl tiles.

Before Downstairs Hall 1

Before Downstairs Hall 2

Before Downstairs WC

I don’t do well with chaos so the period of the project was something I endured rather than enjoyed.  As much as I knew the final outcome would make it all worthwhile, constantly having other people in my house when I got home from work, having building materials stowed in our living room, and just the mess and disruption made it all quite stressful.  There were three peak incidents of stress: the contractor ripped out the old banister early on in the project but did not install the new one until the very end which meant living for weeks without any barrier whatsoever on the staircase – and you can imagine that my sons took full advantage of that opportunity to freak out their mother; the second was that the same period coincided with some of our worst weather of the winter which led to snow days and the kids being home while the work was underway and, on one such day, the floor was retiled while the kids were trapped upstairs – with the bathrooms – while I was trapped downstairs – with no bathroom – for several hours; the third peak stress moment was the absolute worst and involved the stair carpet still being installed after 10pm – installation having started at 1.30pm – partly because the carpet fitter stapled his own finger and had to be taken to the ER by an extremely jet-lagged Mr Pict.

During Hall 1

During Hall 2

In the end, however, we are happy with the results.  We now have a much sturdier and much more secure banister, dove grey walls, dark grey floor tiles, very plush and soft carpet for the stairs and upstairs hall, and a fresh and more modern looking downstairs WC.  Now we can start to personalise the space by pulling out framed art that hasn’t been on display since we emigrated and some pieces that need to be framed and getting those up on the walls.

After Hall 2

After Hall 1

After Downstairs WC 2

Bathroom Makeovers

For the past couple of months, the Pict home has been upside down because of a major renovation project.  Our bathrooms were original to the house and, while I could live with the 1960s stylings, we could no longer deal with the stressful ramifications of maintenance.  When a toilet seat broke (thanks to a sleep addled child) we had to source a vintage one and even things like the washers were non-standard sizes so we had to seek those out online.  We decided, therefore, that it was only a matter of time before some aspect of the plumbing failed in spectacular fashion and that it was better to get ahead of it than to have to deal with the whole process on an emergency basis.  There was a point about five weeks into the project where I definitely thought and felt like we were deranged for having done so but we determined that we should have both bathrooms ripped out and reconstructed at the same time.  The time efficiencies and budget savings made it worth doing but it definitely was super stressful having six of us trying to live among that degree of chaos for a couple of months.

Just to add to the mess and chaos and clutter, our formal living room was the designated set down space for all of the construction equipment and materials so a huge percentage of our home felt like a builders’ yard.  And then there was all the noise and the dust and the dirt.  I eventually just gave up properly cleaning the house because it was a Sisyphean task.  The dust was breeding quicker than I could ever clean and it was depressing.  I had no peaceful, tidy, clean space to retreat into.  It was actually really stressful but – now that it is all over – I think the end results were worth it.

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I did not take great before pictures.  I actually entirely forgot to take some so the photos are from our moving in day three years ago.  The pink bathroom was our hall bathroom, primarily used by our four sons and occasionally by guests.  The turquoise bathroom was the en suite for the master bedroom.  I am sure they will give some readers flashbacks.

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12a Main Bathroom

3a Master En Suite

I hope you will agree that both bathrooms were transformed.  We wanted to keep things pretty neutral because we want these bathrooms to last a long time.  I pretty much never want to have to rip out a bathroom ever again.  The hall bathroom is the beige/brown one and the en suite is the grey one.  Also my after photos suck almost as much as my before ones because the spaces are small and I wobble when taking panoramic shots.

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Incidentally it turned out to be very fortunate that we chose the bathrooms as our next renovation project because, once the tiles were gone, it revealed that the floor was disintegrating in one spot and would have eventually collapsed through the ceiling and caused major damage.  Of course, now that we have brand, spanking new bathrooms, it makes the hallways look even more in need of resuscitation than before and my bedroom – always the worst space in the house – looks even more wretched.  Definitely way more work to be done in this do-upper of a house but I think we might take a pause before we launch into another major project.  I need time to recuperate from this first.