The Unscheduled Basement Remodel

The Unscheduled Basement Remodel

The day my parents came to visit, I noticed a smell in the basement when I was exercising. At first I couldn’t figure out what was causing the smell. The carpet didn’t feel wet so I opened windows and sprinkled baking soda over the carpet hoping it was just normal basement funk. Later that evening after vacuuming, it still smelled and I asked Noel for a second opinion. He agreed it smelled weird, but also couldn’t detect any wetness in the TV room. He proceeded into the guest bedroom and moved the table that sits under the window. When we saw that the spot the table legs had rested on was damp and moldy our hearts sank. We pulled back the carpet and discovered it had traveled the length of that room, under the wall and into the TV room. The carpet padding (most of it replaced from our 2013 trip to Funky Town) had done a really good job of soaking up the moisture which is why the problem was not immediately obvious. Since we had guests arriving within hours we did what damage control we could and then let the rooms sit torn apart for several days. Leaving the room for awhile actually turned out to be a good thing. The next week was another heavy rain week and we were able to figure out exactly how water was getting into the basement. Honestly, we feel a little bit stupid about the whole thing. As it turns out, the dirt in front of our house isn’t graded terribly well. That in itself is a problem, but we had also dug up some sprinkler lines in preparation for a sprinkler reconfiguration project and piled a bunch of dirt close to the house. The pile was perfectly positioned so that water from an insufficient downspout would hit it, head back towards the house and flood the window well. We were getting so much rain that the water was rising above the windowsills and leaking into the house.The very first thing we did was buy a downspout extender, move the pile of dirt, and regrade the dirt in front of the house. Yet another crazy downpour happened a few days later and the guest bedroom’s window well stayed nice and dry; the water didn’t even come near it. (The window well outside my sewing room, the other room that flooded in 2013, didn’t stay nice and dry, but I was vigilant and spent a clothes drenching 30 minutes bailing it out and digging trenches with my brother. We may have been soaked, but the sewing room stayed nice and dry.) 

The water path.
The wall all patched. My only regret was not taking a photo of the huge bubbles that bulged in the paint during our period of observation.

Once the mitigation had been taken care of, we turned to the damage itself. Even though we feel a bit sheepish about the whole thing, we’re pretty sure this has been happening for years and long before we were the homeowners since there were a few areas in the basement that had been touched up with bad paint color matches that align perfectly with the path of the water damage.

Goodbye Wood Paneling!As we inspected the damage, we became worried about the bottom of the wall that bordered the guest room and the TV room. Even though we didn’t really want to, we felt like we needed to pull the wood paneling off the wall in the TV room to check on the sheet rock. It added a lot more work, but we’re glad we did as the bottom of the wall was pretty saturated and not in great shape.

Cut out the damage. We opted to just cut out the bottom of the wall and replace it instead of replacing the whole wall. It did leave a detectable seam, but because one side was in a closet and the other is behind the treadmill we decided it was okay, at least for now.

Stretch that carpet.Once we’d taken care of all the structural stuff we started on the cosmetics. My brother and I laid the new carpet padding and then he and Noel re-stretched the carpet. (The carpet didn’t get too wet and dried out decently, so we didn’t feel an urgent need to replace it.) Luckily, Noel has a co-worker who is a slum landlord and let us borrow his carpet stretcher so we were able to save a little bit of money from bleeding out of our emergency fund.

PrimingThe final step of this project was painting. We considered paint matching the room for a minute, but ultimately decided to repaint it in a lighter color. (The subpar paint job and the nice touch the previous owners had added of painting over the outlet covers was also motivation.) We’ve lived in our house for four years now and this was the first room that we’ve painted. We were really impressed with Lowe’s paint matching technology to get us a color that matched the walls in the TV room, but were not as impressed with our paint matching ability when we tried to match the white trim with some cans of paint we inherited with the house. We tried every white and would think we had a match, but by the time the paint dried it was obvious the paint wasn’t actually a match. In the end, I just repainted all of the trim.

TV Room
The wall in the TV room post “remodel.”
"New" guest room.
Finished guest room.

Everything is put back together and functional again.The carpet has also been cleaned thanks to a friend who let me borrow her steam cleaner. We had everything up and ready for business by the time Vanessa Joy and Chris (Noel’s sister and her husband) came to visit over the Memorial Day weekend. You can see some “before” pics from this post, although I wish I had more that showed you all of the little details we upgraded like getting a cover for the cable wire that used to just snake into the room or installing curtain rods instead of literally stringing the curtains up with push pins. And please do laugh at the lawn chairs in the old basement tour, I did. In case you were wondering, we now have a real couch (secondhand of course) down there.

2 thoughts on “The Unscheduled Basement Remodel

  1. Nice job taking care of everything! Coming from someone who is yet to be a homeowner (but hopefully will be in about two months…) I am impressed with any home improvement or remodel project. I may be asking for your advice on things in the near future, like the minute something breaks down or needs repairs. Actually, if you have any advice on what you’ve learned since buying a home, please email it to me!

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