Reno 911

So we’ve been saying for about, oh, 9 years now that we are going to finish the basement. Probably the last five years or so, we’ve been “really, really” serious.

One problem: okay, two problems, really. One, we have children who, for some reason, continue to need to be fed and clothed and driven to birthday parties and gymnastics classes. Two, we have absolutely no building skills whatsoever.

A lot of our friend have finished their own basements, though, and we thought we MUST be able to do it to, only, no. It was not happening. Every time we went down there – despite a rather clear vision of the project – we’d imagine ourselves cutting wood? Probably? And then attaching it to the concrete floor…somehow? With some sort of tool or device? Perhaps?

And that’s about as far as we got.

So this year, we decided to hire someone to do it for us. Not necessary all of it, but at least to get us started – maybe to do the framing and drywall, and we’d do the finishes, or something like that. Just to get the project kick-started, you understand. Not that we were not PERFECTLY CAPABLE (i.e. not at all capable) of becoming tool masters. ONLY because we were so very very busy. Orphan Black is not going to binge-watch itself, you know.

I will not bore you with the details of our search for a basement finisher, suffice to say that there is a wide, wide range of prices and levels of finishing out there.

Here is our basement, in its raw form:


(Oh, how our little ones loved to ride their trikes in a loop around the staircase…good times, good times.)

This is how we wanted it finished. Closing the area to the left (where the electrical panel is) to be a storage room; closing the area to the right (where the furnace is) to be a work room/tool room; then finishing off the stairs, hallway, and one very big room across the back to be a kids’ lounge/TV/craft/toy area.


Our basement was already framed and insulated along the outside walls, so the project only involved framing the interior walls. There were only two doors to add. There’s no bathroom down there or any fancy features and we only wanted the bare basics of finishes (plus a bunch of pot lights).

We considered this to be a pretty small project – granted, we know nothing about construction but we received quotes on this project ranging from reasonable to WILL YOU BE WALLPAPERING THE CEILING IN GOLD LEAF, JESUS. (Seriously – one quote was for $50 000. Apparently we would really, really notice the QUALITY of the finishes. SERIOUSLY.)

We chose a guy who we really, really like, who has done other basements in the area, and we’re off to the races – he’s been here all week working away on the framing, insulation, and drywall, plus an electrician friend of his has been in to do the wiring and lighting. I am already amazed at how much work everything is. I estimate just the framing – SO MANY little boxes around all kinds of ceiling crap, GAH – probably represents at least eight weekends worth of our life.

Hiring someone else, who actually knows what they’re doing, to do a fantastic job, and get it done while our children are still living at home? WORTH IT.

Surprisingly, there’s still quite a lot of work left for us to do. For starters, we did hire our awesome guy to just do part of the project – so we’re on the hook for finishing the flooring and trim, and painting the place, once it’s done. In the meantime, I’m kind of trapped in the house – I trust the guys to be alone in the house while I pop out to pick up the kids, but I’m still not sure about leaving them for the whole day, and at the least I have to be here to let them in and see them out at the end of the day.

Plus, we’re swamped with decision making – so far we’ve had to decide the location of every outlet (plus meet code), lay out the location of every pot light (working around beams and heat ducts), decide what the heck to do with the stairs (built-in shelving underneath, opening to the hallway), pick out various fixtures and switches and doorknobs and doors, and deal with minor construction issues and awkward corners.

It’s work, but also fun…will post some pictures once we get to the really fun decorating part.

7 thoughts on “Reno 911

  1. Yay! Want pictures! Our big home projects were driven by pregnancies – we got the basement finished when I was pregnant with number one, and had our enclosed front porch / entryway done when I was pregnant with number two. This led to situations such as me coming home and finding a shower stall in my living room because it wouldn’t fit down the basement stairs, and bursting into tears. Followed by my husband calling the contractor to apologize on behalf of my hormones (but advising said contractor he would do well to get the shower stall out of the living room because my hormones were not going anywhere). Since then we’ve had less motivation for big projects so I need to live through yours!

    1. Renos during pregnancies = ACK. (mine with all the basement stuff upstairs in our bungalow while 8 month pregnant with #2 and a toilet training tot climbing boxes and beds in livingroom = how is it I’m still alive AND sane(ish)? I hear ya!

      1. I was about to comment that you are both nuts – mixing reno and pregnancy seems insane – but I just realized that we actually moved when our middle daughter was six weeks old. So that meant packing up an entire house in the late months of pregnancy, dealing with various construction errors and disasters at the new house while hugely pregnant, then living with a newborn in “camp out” style conditions for almost two months…so, kind of similar. I guess we’re all nuts!

  2. Keep your sights on the prize. You are doing the right thing. The painting and finishing will be fine, just invest in some good green painters’ tape and lots of newspapers, and you can do it. And NEVER EVER UNDERESTIMATE how much extra storage space you need. Always say yes to more. That’s my tip.

    Looking forward to pics! 🙂

  3. currently going through the same thing- bathroom reno’s. It’s our first time having someone work in our house & so far so good. I have gotten used to men roaming in & out (that sounded wrong) and have noticed that they all seem to drive black pick up trucks.

    I have given them the garage code to our house so I can continue on with my day as needed. granted when the work is done, the code will be changed. I feel very comfortable doing this. But, I wasn’t sure originally that I would.

    one thing is for sure, it sure gets me dressed a whole lot quicker these days!

    1. Hee!! Me too – getting dressed and ready before 8 a.m. has been my biggest personal challenge on this project :). I also thought about doing the garage code thing, but I have no idea how to change it. Will look into it though – good idea!

  4. I hope you’re putting empty conduit in lots of convenient places – so you can run ethernet, HDMI, fiber and what-have-you for whatever you end up doing down the road. We don’t have the luxury of building our dream house from scratch, but not surprisingly many of my colleagues do, and this is probably the number one recommendation made when you’ve got the walls open.

    Sounds like fun, though. I’m all jealous of you (and Canadians in general) for having basements to do stuff like this with.

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