The Great Basement Renovation: Starting Point

So Canadian Bacon and I have a lot of work cut out for us in the near future.  My Meemaw has decided that she wants us to move in with her and Sugarbandit to help do stuff around the house and for her own peace of mind.  In order for us all to be more comfortable, for Meemaw to keep her house set up the way she has it, and for our cats to not have to mix and interact (we will have a total of 7 in the house at that point), she has decided that she wants to renovate and refinish the basement.  Sugarbandit told me last night that he is “the great procrastinator” and he always meant to finish the basement off.  There is still the chance we won’t do it if it winds up costing too much, but before we get a contractor in to give us a really good estimate, we’ve got to clean the thing out.

It’s no secret that my Meemaw is a hoarder.  She’s not one of those super gross ones with trash everywhere, starring on a reality show; her house is clean, but just really cluttered.  This past summer, they had their deck converted into a sunroom/washroom so she could do laundry without having to go up and down stairs; she’d stuffed it with furniture within a month.  I’m the world’s biggest klutz and I always knock stuff over just walking through the house.  Her basement has become a catchall for the junk she’s acquired throughout her life.  There are things down there that have been there since I was born; she’s added a lot more as I’ve grown.  At one point when I was a kid we cleaned out the basement in prep of renovation, and just never went through with it.  It quickly filled back up to the point that the old “paths” I remember navigating are completely closed, and the stairs are blocked off.  You have to access the basement from outside.

I think there’s something like 1200 sq ft of space downstairs.  Originally it was a two car garage, but Sugarbandit ripped out one of the doors and turned it into a double window.  It’s so seamless that Canadian Bacon didn’t even know it wasn’t original to the house.  Last night I asked Sugarbandit where he found the perfectly-matched brick, and he told me he went around to like 9 brickyards in Nashville until he was able to find the same colors used in the house.  This was shortly after they bought the house, which had only been built 6 years prior.  Also, sometime before I was born, Sugarbandit partitioned the basement in half and sandwiched a washroom / workspace between the garage and the basement.  The garage curves around in an L shape and has a large storage section tucked away in the back where Meemaw keeps her holiday decorations; the rest is cluttered with workbenches, various tools and lawn implements, and other random things.

Only about 600-700 sq ft are what we actually call “the basement,” counting the washroom but leaving out the L-shaped garage.  Our tentative plans include framing out a bedroom, adding a couple of closets, and converting the washroom into a bathroom + storage closet.  That’ll bump the house up to 4bdr 2.5bath and hopefully increase its value.  It would give us the aforementioned bedroom and full bath as well as plenty of storage, and a “great room” for a sitting area / office space.  I actually think it’s slightly more space than Canadian Bacon and I had in our basement apartment in Thunder Bay, just minus the kitchen.  Since part of the reason we’re moving in is to cook for Meemaw and Sugarbandit, having our own kitchenette downstairs seems silly; we’ll take all of our meals upstairs together.  That should also significantly lower the price.  All in all, I’m thinking the bathroom is going to be the biggest expense, especially since we’ll either have to excavate and rough-in plumbing or buy a upflush pump and plan around it.

But I’m getting ahead of it.  First things first – we have to clean the area.  We’re thinking of giving many of the stuffed animals and dolls to a charity, dividing up some of the antiques to family members who’ve always wanted them (for example, Aunt Karen’s going to take Aunt Bertie’s cedar chest home with her), repurposing some of the ones that are dear to Meemaw (she and I discussed using Gran-Gran’s jelly cabinet as a kind of fancy linen cabinet in the bathroom), and selling a large portion of the non-sentimental items on Craigslist or in a yard sale to help fund the renovation.

Oh, and the kicker?  The part that makes this all super exciting and challenging?  The basement is infested with spiders, amongst them black widows.  Meemaw’s already promised she’ll have a spider-killing-certified exterminator in to purge the place prior to construction, but in its overstuffed state trying to spray now would be useless.  So we’re doing this hazmat-style, with our socks pulled up over our pants legs, and with heavy work gloves.

I hope to update here routinely with progress reports, as this is going to be one helluva transformation.  Feast your eyes on the official Before pictures below.

A fake fireplace and five fishtanks. Yes… five. Two currently contain life.  A ton of creepy dolls that must be purged before they murder me in my sleep.

Why are there so many dolls?!

Fishtank #6, with #7 lurking behind it, unseen. One contains water; neither contain life.

Random tupperware and a boxspring without a mattress. Door to the washroom / future bathroom.

Creepy ass corner by the stairs. Due to the large number of cobwebs and the fact no one’s been there in years, I suspect that’s where the Spider Queen may live.

Hey, there’s fishtank #7! That corner is under the porch; it’ll make a good closet / storm shelter. I have no idea why there are random hanging baskets.

Stay tuned for more excitement in my next post, Adventures in the Washroom!


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