Renovating and Remodeling My 101 Year Old Row House by Kevin – Starting the Basement


See Kevin’s introductory post here.


When I first saw the basement to my home was unfinished, my eyes lit up with thoughts of the possibilities of what to turn that space into. My 29-year-old self instantly went to “Man Cave” with a huge TV and sound system, pool table, poker table and a kegerator…or two. But as I’ve matured and developed the need for more space (and less beer), my plans have changed. There will still be a big TV, but 70” is more than big enough for the space. A pool table just will not fit, no matter how I try, but a utility fridge for beer and other things is not a bad idea (besides I’ve come to enjoy a variety of quality beers more than large quantities of shitty beer.) So now instead of a man cave, I am building what my girlfriend likes to call a “Gentlemen’s Parlor”.

Because the basement was completely unfinished, I did not have to worry about saving or recreating any original elements in the space. But I didn’t want to create a space that wouldn’t fit with the flow and personality of the rest of the home. So while I had a blank canvas to work with, I will incorporate design elements and materials from the existing house to try and give it an old home feel.

I began the basement work in December of 2011 by replacing all of the old windows with glass block and building out the full bathroom/laundry, which was completed it in early January.

Continues after the jump.

The first step was to replace all of the old drafty windows with glass block. For security, privacy, and energy efficiency the old windows, which were not original to the home, had to go. I used glass block because they were easy to install, and for me glass block has a classic basement feel. It also allows for a maximum amount of light while maintaining privacy so drapes or blinds aren’t needed. After the windows were done, we moved onto the bathroom.

The initial plan for the bathroom was to have a tiny shower, toilet and enclosed space for the washer/dryer using plumbing from the previous owner’s meager attempt to install a full bathroom. But we saw an opportunity to move the AC air handler unit about eight inches, and were able to open up the space to get a pretty nice sized shower.

Because of all the plumbing and duct work in the ceiling space, we had to be very creative with how everything was framed. You can see from the pictures all of the soffits and interesting angles. Each area was framed on the fly to maximize as much space as possible.

To try and bring in elements from the old home, I left the wall behind the washer/dryer exposed brick, and I used a larger baseboard and trim throughout the room which was stained dark to match the rest of the house.

The end result is a unique space that is both functional and appealing. And like the main bathroom, the space is clearly new, but still fits with the overall personality of the home. Click through to see the pictures during the work and after. Unfortunately my photos of the bathroom space before construction were lost in a SD card accident.

Construction of the rest of the Gentlemen’s Parlor begins this weekend with the goal of completing the work in four weekends. I am excited to share my weekly progress with you, as I look to create a new space in this very old original home. But I’m also curious about things you have done in your basements. I’m always looking for inspiration for neat ideas. Please share in the comments.

See more photos here.

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