Renovating and Remodeling My 101 Year Old Row House by Kevin – Weekend 1: Framing and Drywall

Read Kevin’s previous post here.

We officially started finishing the basement! After thinking and planning for more than three years, it is exciting to see things start to come together. Framing and electrical started on Friday, and my father and our contractor friend Ron got all of the exterior walls framed, all the rough wiring run and hooked up all 15 recessed lights. Because the ceilings are only seven feet in the basement, and the AC duct lines run through the middle of the room, there was some interesting soffit work done, but we were able to maximize every space possible. I left the common wall on the side with the stairs as exposed brick, which saves on materials, and I love exposed brick.

Continues after the jump.

On Saturday we began hanging drywall, and we also ran wires from the back of the house to the electric panel for the big addition in the fall while the ceilings were still open. We pulled seven new circuits for the new kitchen and bathroom, and while they are not hooked up to the electric panel, we won’t have to fish wire through the new basement ceiling when we start the big addition.

To be kind to my neighbors on the non-exposed brick side of the room where the TV will be, I used sound proofing insulation to help keep things quiet. I also put insulation on the front exterior wall, which is required by code, as well as in parts of the ceiling where heavy foot traffic happens on the main level to help reduce sound. I also used special sound proofing drywall on the part of the ceiling directly below the half bath off the foyer. While that drywall is outrageously expensive (more than $40 per 4’ x8’ sheet), the end result is worth it and now it doesn’t sound like you’re standing next to the person when they use the bathroom above.

Sunday was dedicated to a couple small sections of drywall and odd framing pieces around pipes we didn’t get to Saturday, and then we installed all of the corner beads and taped and got the first coat of mud on the drywall. Even though it is just the first coat, it really makes the room feel more “finished.”

In just three long days we turned an unfinished basement into an unfinished room that is well on its way to becoming my Gentlemen’s Pallor. During this week I will work on sanding and getting the walls ready to be primed, and next weekend we will start working on some of the finishing details.

What do you think so far? I’m trying (unsuccessfully) to keep these posts shorter, so what have I left out that you want to know?

Additional photos are here.

22 Comment

  • austindc

    I suffer from Gentleman’s Pallor myself. But this looks awesome! And you are inspiring me to tackle my own basement! Frankly, I want longer posts with more info so I can just copy you. Thanks for the great photos!

  • “Gentelman’s Pallor” sounds like an old-timey disease one would catch from a prostitute.

    Nice work so far! Very impressed and great ideas/instruction for those of us trying to do similar work.

    • austindc

      Well I never! I’ll have you know that I contracted this malady from an upstanding young lady who is the daughter of a well to do merchant in Devonshiretingham, and I must defend her honor! I challenge you to an old timey duel!

  • As a former contractor, I’m impressed with the speed! The quality looks pretty good, too.

    As a current energy consultant, I’d like to point out to other readers that the insulation should be considered a top priority for all renovations, not just ones where noise is a concern. Air sealing would have been preferred, as well. In basements, it’s key to seal the gaps at the ceilings along the perimeter walls. Often, you can look up there and see behind the plaster or drywall of your first floor. This space acts like a chimney and sucks all the conditioned air from your basement into the attic and then into the atmosphere. Or, cold air runs down the walls and blows dusty attic air into your basement. There are also plenty of gaps in exterior walls around pipes, wires, windows, dryer vents, etc. You can even get air movement through gaps that lead to interior walls on the first floor, which then connects to the space between your 1st and 2nd floor (or attic), which connects to the spaces behind the perimeter walls, which ultimately connects to the outside. Have a row house? Yup, there are leaks between your house and theirs, as well.

    Bottom line: there’s all kinds of air movement through the wall and floor cavities and the more (responsible*) air sealing you do when you have the chance, the better. Here’s just one method for the basement perimeter wall/ceiling gaps:

    You can also seal those gaps with blocks of rigid foam and a few regular cans of spray foam together like ginger bread and icing. To maximize energy efficiency, improve comfort, seal all the air leaks in the walls, and reduce sound transmission during a remodel, consider hiring a spray foam contractor to fill the new wall framing with foam. This essentially turns your basement into a foam cooler before the drywall goes up. Just make sure you’ve done ALL wiring, ALL plumbing, and maybe left some conduit in place in case you want to add systems in the future.

    * As for being responsible, one should be mindful that:
    – Your house needs to breath just a little bit. Making it too tight could cause backdraft problems with gas water heaters or conventional gas/oil furnaces/boilers. If you have a nice big kitchen hood and a tight house, you could end up sucking carbon monoxide down the water heater flue into the basement.
    – Moisture needs to get out of the house. Bath fans are a must. Really, use them. If you don’t, all that steam will just keep your walls, framing, belongings damp. Dampness leads to mold and rot. Old drafty houses do tend to dry out better than well-insulated ones. Energy recovery ventilators are a good idea if you want to make your home really tight.
    – Spray foam isn’t the friendliest product in the world. Even the soy-based versions have chemicals you shouldn’t breath, emit greenhouse gasses, and are made with petroleum. In the coming months, we should see foams that use HFOs, which are CFC’s great-grandchildren. Their global warming potential is just a fraction of the current generation of spray foam blowing agents (HFCs). Alas, in all construction, there are trade-offs.

    Sorry to go a bit off topic with a lengthy post. I just want potential remodelers know what opportunities they have to improve comfort, utility bills, and the environment.

    • Thanks for adding this great info Irving. One of the projects I worked on during my three years in the home has been to better seal it. For the basement I replaced all the old windows with glass block, insulated and seal those very well. I also cleaned out all the old mortar on the below grade wall, and filled in all holes and any space for air to escape. Then I painted with the special sealant paint on the below grade wall. It is very important to me to make the home as energy efficient as possible while maintaining the original charm.

      One of my long term projects is to have the original windows rebuilt to be more energy efficient. Any advice on that is greatly appreciated.

    • Thank you!!!

  • Is there a top plate on that row of studs?

    • There is not a top plate, very observant. We actually nailed directly to the sides of the floor joists above, and they all fell pretty close to 16″ on center which was nice.

  • you leave out all mention of getting approvals for the work from DCRA. that is definitely the most frustrating and arguably the most difficult part. are you just doing this below the radar? its cool if you are i wont rat you out.

  • I don’t get it. You’re writing is fine. But, where’s the dramatic tension? Who’s the bad guy, the nemesis, the force of nature against which you’re battling? I mean, if you were installing a sex dungeon, that’d be interesting on its own, but for a gentleman’s parlor I think you need another antagonist: Hot wife who doubts you? Dad, who said you were worthless? Unless you yourself are 101 years old. That’d be cool.

    • There were a lot of daddy long leg spiders at the start of the project, and spiders of all kinds scare the crap out of me. Does that count? Also exhaustion, I’ve never been so physically and mentally exhausted for this long a period.

      But honestly I’ve been blessed with a great father who loves this work and helping me with projects. And my awesome (and hot) girlfriend has been supportive all the way.

      But I haven’t picked out furniture yet, so a sex dungeon is still possible, I may have to rethink my carpet selection though.

      • Excellent start. Exhaustion and power tools are high tension. More spiders. Much more girlfriend. And, your dad could be an amusing supporting characters, particularly if it is in fact a sex dungeon – oh the hijinks.

  • I like the block glass windows but I think that would sacrifice getting fresh air to the basement. Did you remedy this?

  • I would like to see future photos of what you did with the power curcuit panel.

    • Yeah, I’m still trying to figure out what to do there. I also have a shut off valve for an outside hose bib, and that is right in the corner, so it will be an interesting solution.

      Does anyone have creative electric panel cover ideas?

      • To cover an electrical panel you can hang a piece of art in front of it – put the art on a side hinge and then it swings open whenever you need to get to the panel. A friend did this because her panel is in the middle of the only wall in her kitchen – so she hung a huge 1930’s vintage poster over it. I had no idea the panel was even then until she needed to get to it one day while I was there. I love her idea and would copy it if my panel wasn’t in my garage.

  • We have lower hanging pipes running to and from the radiators above. Did you? Are you just insulating and boxing them? Did you drill holes through the old joists to accommodate the wiring? How can that be done so it is safe?

  • It looks wonderful! I have a similar basement layout and I’ve been planning my own renovation for about 2 1/2 years now– hoping to get into it this winter.

    I was also planning on leaving the wall adjacent to the stairs as brick; ours is painted, however, and I want to strip the paint to get the exposed look. Did you have the same issue, and if so, how did you deal with the paint removal?

    • The condition of the lower half of my exposed brick wall was not the best, so I’ve cleaned it all off with a stiff metal brush to get all the loose mortar and paint off, then I patched holes and did some minor pointing where needed. But I am going to be painting the wall.

      For stripping paint off brick, there are a couple of methods for getting all the paint off, but they are very messy to do inside. I’m mostly thinking about bead blasting, which would be done by a professional, and they may have a way of containing the mess. But you could also work at it with a scraper and brush and go for the “was once painted but now isn’t” look.

      Good luck and I’d love to hear how it turns out.

Comments are closed.