Greg MacLellan

November 30, 2008

Tear-down and framing exterior walls

Filed under: Renovations — groogs @ 5:01 pm

I’m going to be putting in closed-cell spray foam insulation. The big advantage here is the minimal space required – 3″ is over R-20, and it can fit in a 2×4 framed wall.

To start with , here’s a couple shots of what I ripped out.

Half of the basement had some old insulation that had an R-value of maybe R-7. It also had an integrated paper vapour barrier, which is not very effective. Not that it really mattered, the other half of the basement had no insulation at all, as you can see here.

I took out all the old insulation, and disassembled the framing, which was made of 2×3’s with 1x2s in a grid pattern. This took an amazingly long time to take apart, since it was comprised of so many separate pieces of wood.

I left a ~1″ gap between the new framing and the cement wall, which will get filled with insulation. This minimizes the amount of heat transferred through the studs themselves. All the walls are anchored into the ground with concrete nails and/or tapcons, and anchored to the joists above using extra sections. I had to leave a gap at the top of some of the walls to allow access to the headers for spraying insulation, but it’s high enough that when I put the suspended ceiling in, it will not be visible.

There were a couple of annoyances during this process. The hot water heater was only about 2″ away from the cement wall. This meant I couldn’t frame or insulate behind it, which of course would be bad. I cut the pipes above it, drained it about half way, and moved it over so it’s now about 5″ from the wall. I also moved it back towards the furnace more, which allows me to move a 5′ wall about 6″ back in the laundry room.

Luckily, the tank is connected via a flexible copper gas line, so I was able to safely move it by myself. Note that I did turn the gas off to this line just to be safe.


I also noticed that the furnace filter was on the back of the furnace, where I was going to be putting a wall. I didn’t really want to put a dumb-looking access door on the wall, so I figured I’d give turning it around a shot. I was able to pull the return vent off, and then remove a couple of screws inside and turn the filter housing around. It now is accessible from the front of the furnace, which will be inside a utility closet in the laundry room.


I also put framing up in the crawlspace, so that if I want to put shelves up or whatever, it will be easy. Once the insulation is on the walls, it’s hard to build anything in front of it, since the surface is fairly uneven. Having the framing up now gives a nice flat surface to work with later. While most of the basement is 16″ studs, the crawlspace is 24″, which makes it a bit cheaper to build. Since it’s only a 4′ high wall, there probably won’t be any reduction in the strength of the drywall, not that it needs it there anyways.

November 27, 2008

Bathroom rough-in

Filed under: Renovations — groogs @ 5:56 pm

Since the house has only one bathroom, we decided adding a second half-bath to the basement would be a good investment, as well as a useful addition to us right now.

When we moved in, there was an existing sink in the laundry room, which I’m pretty sure was the old kitchen sink and cabinets. I took this picture after I had taken down several cabinets (I unfortunately did not take very many ‘before’ photos), but there were two big cabinets mounted right above the sink before.


Underneath, the drain line branches towards the wall as you can see, then went out on an angle, for some reason, over to the laundry sink (which is just to the left of the countertop – don’t ask me!), so that by the time it got there, it was probably 6″ away from the wall.

I cut both the drain line and vent line off, leaving enough room to hook into later.

In preparation, I framed in the bathroom wall that will be used for plumbing, as well as the front wall with the door (partly because it was convenient to do at the time, partly because it adds some support). So how do you put a drain for a toilet in a floor that has no drain for a toilet? Make a hole.

I actually had a plumber do this part. I’m sure I could have done it myself, and smashing up my floor would have been fun, but my thought was smashing a hole through my main sewer line would have been the exact opposite of fun. You can see the main sewer line running at a 45-degree angle off to the corner of the house, and you can also see a smaller branch line which goes to a floor drain in the laundry room. The top left arm of the hole is for the sink drain. Fortunately there was just enough room above the small line in the picture that the new drain can go over top, and still be a bit more than 1″ below the floor.

The next day, the plumber came back and finished running all the pipes. I was actually going to do the supply lines myself (in PEX) but since I don’t own a PEX crimper, I figured it was easier to have the plumber do those lines as well, and it really didn’t cost that much more. My cousin came over a few days later to help cement in the hole. I forgot to take a picture, but we added in a couple ~3′ pieces of rebar to add some strength to the cement and help prevent it from cracking. It’s not the prettiest thing ever, but it is quite flat, and that’s what’s important, since I’m putting a subfloor over it later.

You can also see the new plumbing for the laundry room, including the washer box which is recessed inside the wall, and the hookup for a sink in the laundry room. I’m actually going to be putting in a cabinet and counter-top with a drop-in sink — sort of like what was there before, but.. less ugly. The laundry room is a bit of a weird shape, but the main area is about 10′ x 7′, so space is at a premium and the cabinet/sink combo seems to make more sense than a regular laundry tub.

November 20, 2008

New Kitchen Faucet

Filed under: Renovations — groogs @ 11:46 am

A relatively simple thing we did was replace the kitchen faucet. The kitchen was renovated fairly recently (within the last 10 years), so there is not a lot we were planning on doing with it. The old faucet was leaking from the handle a bit when turned on, and a bit ugly. It was also a bit short for the sink, making it hard to fill up pots etc sometimes.

Under the sink, the lines from the faucet were soldered to the supply lines, and only the cold side had a shut-off valve.



For the new faucet, I used flexible lines to make the connection and added new quarter-turn shut-off valves.


The faucet itself we got on sale at Canadian Tire, and it has the pull-out handle with the sprayer, and works quite well. This was a quick, relatively easy project and it made surprisingly big improvement to the overall look of the kitchen.

November 19, 2008

Updating front entrance

Filed under: Renovations — groogs @ 10:39 am

I haven’t been posting updates very regularly, but I have been quite busy working on my house.

One of the non-basement projects I’ve (half) completed is the front hall closet. For some reason, I didn’t take a before photo, but basically it had a bi-fold door that went all the way to the ceiling, 8′ high, with no header. It also didn’t open very smoothly, which I later figured out was because it was mounted to an old floor underneath the carpet, so it didn’t really have room for the carpet at the bottom. Needless to say, it looked quite dated. The picture to the right is the closet in my bedroom, which is the same style (and also will eventually be changed, once we get to that room).


I cut off the carpet in the main entrance (which my cat found very intriguing), and pulled it all up, revealing the 70’s stick-on tiles in all their glory. Looking underneath the heat vents in my living and dining rooms, the whole area was done in these tiles at one point. I can’t tell if the kitchen was or not – it was re-done with laminate a few years ago.

The only real way to take them out was to pull up the 1/4″ plywood they were glued to, which was overlaid on the plywood subfloor. So, that is exactly what I did. What we are planning on doing is putting down another layer of plywood or cement board, and then putting ceramic tiles on that.

Now, back to the closet itself. We decided that what we’d like is to put a sliding (bypass) mirror door. It’s only 36″ wide, so it requires a special order, but it is still big enough to be useful. The sliding door seems like the best option here – the front entrance is small, so it doesn’t take up precious extra space to swing out, and the mirror will both make the area seem a bit bigger, and make my girlfriend happy that there is one last place to check her hair etc before leaving the house.

Standard closet doors are 80″, so I filled in the space above that. I’ve hung drywall before, but I’ve never tried mudding and taping anything bigger than a light switch-sized hole. Overall, I’m fairly happy with it, but I am definitely not going to try and be a professional drywaller anytime soon.

What’s actually kind of annoying is the existing wall on the right is not straight. On such a short wall, it didn’t really matter, but now that I’m extending it, it does. If I were to make my new header follow the same angle, it would be clearly and terribly crooked looking. Instead, I opted to make my new header straight, and so when you look at it from the side the other wall is clearly a bit crooked. Hopefully it’s just something I notice (and now anyone that reads this), but it is glaringly obvious to me.

The finished header, painted. The ceiling still needs to be touched up again, but without the camera flash you actually can’t really notice the drywall mud along the ceiling.