We started the basement finishing project back in March, I believe. Since then, we’ve had fits and starts when it came to getting things done. Some of the reason for that is that we were doing things we didn’t really know how to do and had to learn as we go. Other reasons include health problems we endured this year and the lack of motivation from time to time. For what seems like a month or two, I’ve been trying to tie up these loose ends in the basement so we can move on to the next step.
So far, we have insulated the basement, put up drywall, and wired up the lights to a switch. What we haven’t done, however, is put drywall up on the ceiling. Just a few more things, I’d tell Ellie, that need to be done before we close up our access to the ceiling. Just a few more things turned out to be quite a few things. Over time, that list included:
- Rewire the lights
- Remove excess cable in the ceiling
- Remove conduit
- Add new vent
- Case the HVAC/cold air return
- Lower ceiling to clear conduit that cannot be removed
- Replace damaged drywall
- Add supports around laundry chute
- Remove miscellaneous items in joists
- Secure the edge of a piece of drywall
It’s quite the list and I didn’t have it all in my head at once. I’d finish one task and while working on it I’d see another to do. It was a puzzle where the picture was on the box but you had to place a piece before you could find and place another.
What helped to get through this list of projects was that I asked Ellie what weekend she wanted to rent the drywall lift and hang the ceiling drywall. She picked a weekend and it gave me a deadline to meet. I work really well with deadlines.
Let me give you a quick overview of why and how I did each of these items.
This was covered in detail in this post on basement lights. Read about it there!
Remove excess cable in the ceiling
For some reason, the previous owner of our house wanted to have a Buffalo Wild Wings amount of TVs in their house, at least as far as we can tell based on the amount of coax cable that was running through the basement ceiling. Since neither Ellie nor I are ever planning to get cable or satellite television, I did the tedious chore of removing it so it wouldn’t be in our way once we started putting the drywall up. Mostly, it was tedious because I had to use some wrenches to loosen the connections. There were a few that ran up to random places on the main floor, and I nearly pulled a chunk out of the wall before I realized.
If anyone is in need of a house worth of coax, let me know. I kept it because I don’t know what to do with all of it.
While rewiring the basement lights, I came to the conclusion I’d have to go back and redo some of my work. The reason being that the conduit was run along the bottom of the joists and if we left it that way, we would need to lower the ceiling to accommodate. I did a quick cost/benefit analysis and determined we were better off removing the conduit instead of lowering the ceiling in the main room. Most of the conduit had been disconnected when I moved two of the lights off of other circuits. I just left it there until I knew what I was going to do.
The harder one to do was the light I didn’t rewire because we wanted to leave it on the double light/switch setup it was already on. But, to keep the ceiling easier to do, it needed to go. It was a long length of conduit that ran into the basement bathroom and then up into the ceiling. Because I didn’t want to mess with how it was wired, I determined the best solution would be to disconnect the wires from the switch and the light in the basement and then pull them out of the conduit. Then, I’d run the wires through some flexible tubing back to the light and the switch. Everything was wired the way it was, but the conduit/tubing was now up above the joists making it easy to hang the drywall.
Add new vent
The small room in the basement didn’t have an HVAC vent in it and we knew we would have to add one. For some reason, this was more confusing than the electrical work (I guess I’m comfortable with electrical work now). I really didn’t know what I was doing with the duct work. We were fortunate that there was already a line going through the room and up to the room above it, so what I did was disconnect that line and cut a hole at an intersection of two straight pieces so I could put a saddle connection in there to drop down into the ceiling. It was a bit nerve-wracking because I was cutting into the HVAC and I don’t like doing damage to things that aren’t easily fixed if something goes wrong.
All in all, the process ended up being straightforward and the hardest part was having to reconnect everything when I was done. I could not get the old screw holes to line up like I wanted them to.
Case the HVAC/cold air return
This was covered in detail in this post on encasing the HVAC. Read about it there!
Lower ceiling to clear conduit
This was a relatively easy task to do. In the small room, the main electrical line is coming into the house and runs over to the breaker panel on the other side of the basement. It hangs below the joists a little over an inch. To remedy this, I decided to screw some 2x material to the bottom of the joists to give me an extra 1.5″ of clearance. I had a number of 2x3s and I bought a 2×4 to cut and fit to the correct lengths for each joist. I predrilled holes and started each screw before holding the 2×3 up for securing. It went smoothly, with the exceptions of a few screw heads stripping.
Replace damaged drywall
There were two places where I needed to replace damaged drywall hung on the walls. One was a piece that the previous owner had installed to create a partition between the two halves of the basement. The other was a piece Ellie and I had installed and then I bashed up while I was installing an electrical switch.
The piece the previous owner installed was filled with holes for some reason. They came in pairs and were in a few places throughout the panel. Also, to no one’s surprise, there was a coax cable sticking through. I unscrewed the piece and pulled it out. Some of the screws were covered up by one of the studs. Ugh. I just yanked out the whole piece. Those screws stayed. There also were what seemed like a hundred pin nails in the studs. They must have used a nail gun to hold the panel in place before screwing it in. The nails were hard to remove mostly because we didn’t see them all until we tried to put the new panel up and it would bow somewhere. Eventually, we got all the nails out and the panel screwed in. Then we noticed the color difference between the fresh panel and the old panel it was hung next to. Good thing paint will hide that aging.
For the other drywall panel I needed to replace, I had been working on the electrical and put the switch box in the wall. I didn’t have quite enough Romex running to the ceiling light so I gave it a yank and the switch box tore through the wall it was in. I could have tried to patch it but I figured, since I had the extra drywall, why not replace it and raise the switch up to give me that extra Romex I needed. It was a fairly simple replacement, though once I got the switch wired up, I found I couldn’t jam all the extra wire into the box and I needed to get a different electrical box for it. Fun fact, it’s very hard to find a double wide switch plate with only one switch hole.
Add supports around laundry chute
We have a laundry bag that hangs into the main room between two joists. I added some scrap 2×3 material on either side of the bag, running between the joists, so the drywall could have something to be fastened to. These were just nailed into the joists.
Remove misc. items in joists
I lost track of the number of cable hangers and nails and other random pieces of hardware stuck into the joists but they all needed to come down so we’d have a flat, even surface to put the drywall on. For this task, vice grips were my best friend.
Secure edge of drywall
I already had to do this while I was encasing the HVAC but there was one other spot where the wall was squishy near the edge. In addition to the studs being placed at random intervals, this was also a place where I had put some Romex for a wall outlet and that Romex was causing the drywall to stick out. What I opted for was a quick fix for this. I pulled the panel off the wall, carved out a chunk of the insulation at the top corner and the bottom corner, and then screwed in a block in each cavity. This allowed me to secure the drywall on the edge and hold it tight, even with the Romex fighting back.
The amazing thing was because of the deadline we set for ourselves, a lot of this ended up getting done in a day. Typically, I’d let myself work on only one thing a day before calling it quits. It helped that Ellie stepped up to the plate, out of her comfort zone, and picked up some power tools. She knocked out a few projects while I was working on others.
Now all that is left is to hang the drywall on the ceiling. We’ll have to rent a lift and figure it out as we go. I’ll update you once we’re done with that project!