Because our basement bathroom renovation project was so delayed, we decided to shift gears and make progress on the family room – basically a second living room in the basement where we’d have more space to watch tv and let the kids play.
Before I started framing, I had to lock down the design. Per the usual design drama, it took us a couple of weeks to agree on the layout – essentially which direction we should face when watching TV. With a brand new space, the possibilities were endless. Ok, not endless, but we had 4 choices (facing any of the 4 walls).
Then from the 4 options, we decided that we could only really make 2 options work. So I took some inspiration photos and started laying it out. This is a relatively new process I’ve started to help make design decisions, but I find it quite helpful.
Just like for the bathroom, I used the recent millwork and stairs as my straight line to create my new walls. The first wall, which extends from the basement stairs, will be behind the couch and house some cabinets (Ikea Sektion kitchen cabinets plus my own hack). Once I had my straight line and top and bottom plates in place, it was pretty straightforward.
The adjacent wall wasn’t complicated either, but we needed to convert our water meter to 3/4″. When we underpinned the basement, we upgraded the water from 1/2″ to 3/4″ pipes and then replaced all the pipes inside the house with 3/4″, but the water meter was still 1/2″. We hired a plumber for this since it involved doing the work quickly while the city hung around to shut the water on and off, and with 2 babies at home, quick is not something we often achieve.
After the water meter was changed, I framed around it and also framed for the access panel.
Speaking of access panels, there are 3 things in the basement that we need access hatches for: a junction box that Alex couldn’t get rid of, the water meter and the electrical panel. Since these things are going to live in the family room and couldn’t be moved, I wanted to find an access hatch that looked really sleek. I managed to find a company in Vancouver that made custom sized architectural access panels. More on that later.
Before we hung the drywall, Alex did a bunch of electrical work to wire for future pot lights, install switches and remove some of the old lighting that we wouldn’t need. It was a lot of work but not overly interesting so I didn’t include it here.
Another task before we drywalled was putting in the insulation – Rockwool (previously Roxul) in the ceiling for noise and pink insulation in the exterior wall for warmth. Since there isn’t any moisture on that part of the wall (since it’s under our porch), I figure it’ll be fine.
Figuring out where to put the panels was actually more complicated than it should have been because I wanted to have the panels meet up with the existing drywall in the hallway and be in a position to minimize the number of seams and akwardness of their location. Once I figured that out, I cut the panels and we were off to the races. Hanging drywall sucks. Especially on the ceiling.
The access panels are pretty clever – they’re a sturdy metal frame with a door that sits with 1/8″ gap around it, making it almost invisible (or so Bauco claims). They have a handy installation video, which I watched, as well as pretty detailed online instructions.
The panels require specific framing around it (see photo of the water meter above) and can be installed after the drywall is in place (since they attach to the drywall itself).
I made sure to measure and mark where the subject of my panel was so that I could then cut the hole for the access panel. The drywall hole is 3/8″ larger than the frame itself, so it was important to get it right the first time. I also made sure that it was square to the wall (or in the case of the wall access panels, level).
I missed one very key note in the video, which was: if you have limited space in your ceiling or wall space, install the frame behind the drywall. I did not and then ran into some trouble. Son of a …
I loosened almost all of the drywall screws around it and managed to find the right angle to make it fit. But I was sure I’d have to take one of the drywall panels down, which would have broken my heart. Luckily I managed to get the ceiling panel in place without damaging the drywall (which would have made it impossible to install the access panel frame).
I then screwed it in place using self-drilling screws (a first for me!), making sure it was square to the walls around it.
I ran into a similar issue with the wall access panel for the water meter. Except this time I couldn’t manage to make it fit. Luckily only half of my wall was drywalled, and because of the underpinning ledge, the top portion of the wall had a gap behind the insulation, so I managed to have it travel behind everything and drop into place. Now I know better for when I install the last access hatch.
Mudding and Sanding
Next to my most hated step: mudding and sanding. Nothing ground breaking to report here, except that halfway through I switched to a low dust compound, which I’ve never tried before. I couldn’t tell if it made a difference or not, but for the extra $5, I’ll allow myself to think it did.
The access panels are cleverly designed to have a small edge around the frame so you can add mud for a seamless finish. It worked very well and was (dare I say it) almost a pleasure to mud.
And what felt like a gazillion years later (but was actually 6 days), I was ready to prime and paint. It doesn’t look like much, but there’s a lot of work that went into what’s behind those walls.
Priming and Painting
Next up, my Ikea cabinet installation!