Group 6 6 minutes Read

basement progress: laundry + scope creep

Lauren Zerbey

[A quick note to say thank you all for your support and votes in the Small Cool contest. Even though we didn’t win the big prize, we’re glad Daniel did and can’t wait to see what kind of awesomeness he creates with all that moolah.]

Ok, the basement. It’s been a while since we’ve given you an update but that’s not to say there hasn’t been some major progress. Get comfy, because we’re about to dive in.

Back in early April we talked about getting a new washer and dryer to help with Kyle’s allergies and the upcoming onslaught of baby laundry…

…and while I was out of town the following weekend, Kyle did just that.

But as that post alluded to, buying the washer and dryer was the easy part – actually installing them involved new plumbing, electrical, framing and for good measure – concrete. (Because what’s a project without a little concrete pour?) To jog your memory, we last left off with the installation of that steel channel (that you see in the photo above) and the removal of a pesky interior column that was getting in the way of a more efficient use of the space.

Column gone, concrete curb still there. How was that for a blog post cliffhanger?

Nothing a little jackhammering couldn’t take care of though. (We later filled the hole with fresh concrete.)

Next, to create a level surface for our fancy new appliances to sit on, Kyle poured a concrete plinth (using welded wire mesh for reinforcement). The washer and dryer come with adjustable legs, but we had too much wonkiness in the existing slab. 

Oh Bailey…we know. It’s your “what the hell guys?” look again, but just trust us on this.

For the formwork, Kyle used some scrap pressure-treated lumber that we had on hand. We also had an old floor drain (covered by the concrete above) that we decided to plug. The drain was more of a nuisance than anything, especially since our sewer line tees into our neighbor’s before connecting to the main line in the street. A few years ago, when a bunch of college-aged guys were renting the house, they had a back-up in their basement bathroom which resulted in a back-up into our basement. Not cool. Actually, it was pretty disgusting.

To deal with the indentation of the slab where the drain was, Kyle used a strip of flexible black sticky flashing to keep concrete from seeping out between the old slab and formwork. A quick float, a little canine supervision, and it was done.

With the slab in place and cured, it was time to frame up some walls and start on the plumbing. We eventually want to semi-finish the laundry space, so it only made sense to run all the new plumbing through a framed furring wall instead of the willy-nilliness that existed before. Because of our shared sewer line, Kyle also installed a backflow preventer in the main line (it’s the thing under the neon green level). Basically, it’s a one-way valve that lets our drain water flow out but keeps our neighbors’ (or anyone else’s) from flowing in.

Before all this magic could happen though, there was a lot of researching, diagramming and code checking. And I have to give full credit (and a huge THANK YOU) to Kyle for being both the brains and the brawn behind this operation. We generally take a tag team approach to remodeling, but with the baby timer ticking we’ve delegated out entire projects between the two of us and are on a go-go-go schedule till d-day.

That being said, taking on plumbing as a DIYer is no easy feat. Not only do you have pipes that supply hot and cold water, but you also need pipes to vent out of the house and pipes to take the waste water away. Of course, you also need power and a way to vent warm, moist air from the dryer. Oh, and all these things must coexist within a relatively small space. A washer and dryer are one thing, but since we were already subjecting ourselves to this level of complication and head-scratching, we decided to also plumb for a utility sink…

…and a future bathroom(!) (Hello scope creep!) It was quite an effort to coordinate everything, but we’re glad we did. It might not seem like it now, but planning ahead will save us time, money and sanity.

To support the new countertop, Kyle installed some steel angles along the back wall and then welded up this steel bracket support for the end. (We needed to be able to pull the washer and dryer out periodically, so the countertop couldn’t sit directly on top.)

As usual, Bailey was on hand to provide support and supervision.

The small portion of basement next to the exterior door is quickly becoming our mechanical/electrical room. Kyle installed the supply lines and drain hose for the washer in this zone so that they could be easily accessed after the laundry room walls get covered up. Hot and cold water (the red and blue pex lines) tie into water hammer arresters, which are common to laundry areas and act as shock absorbers as water flow starts or stops abruptly within a cleaning cycle. Flex lines then run from the arresters to the washing machine and the gray hose is a flexible drain line that runs from the washer back to the black drain pipe which connects to the main sewer line.

In a nutshell, clean water in, dirty water out.

(He also relocated the thermostat for the tankless hot water heater. It’s the small box between the drain hose and Apple Time Machine.)

For the utility sink, we bought a basic 36″ IKEA cabinet box. The stainless steel sink was actually purchased a few years ago as a maybe kitchen sink (we ended up finding another one on Craigslist that was a little bit better quality), so we were glad to finally find a home for sink #2. In lieu of the flimsy cabinet back that comes with the unit, Kyle used a piece of plywood with a generous cut-out to allow room for the sink p-trap and access to the plumbing beyond if we ever need it.

With everything finally in place and all systems a-go, Kyle installed the cabinet doors (we used the affordable Applad line from IKEA). As you can see, the washer and dryer are quite a bit taller than a standard counter height of 36″, so Kyle built a wood plinth that the sink cabinet sits on top of. To give everything a more seamless look, we purchased an extra drawer front, trimmed it down a bit, then glued it to the front face of the wood plinth.

The countertop is a 3-0 x 7-6 birch door that was cut to fit and then coated with a few layers of polyurethane. A space to fold clothes that’s not our bed? Winning!

The faucet and soap pump are Kohler (the model is Simplice). It’s a great faucet that’s well-made, affordable and has a pull-out spray for hand-washing clothes or ornery cats. We considered it for our main kitchen sink but I could never come to terms with the slightly flared handle. For the basement, it didn’t seem to bother me as much. As mentioned earlier, we bought the sink a few years ago off Craigslist. It came from a generic supply store south of Seattle and actually has no brand or product name on it. The whole thing seemed a little sketchy, but we bought it anyway. Because we had plenty of depth but were crunched on width, we decided to install it perpendicular to how you normally would. We’re crazy like that.

So here’s our “finished” laundry space, for the time-being at least. Of course it all took longer than expected (which was especially challenging for me and my limited wardrobe options), but after a week or so we finally ran the first load. Bailey and Felix both made an appearance for the inaugural run, mesmerized by the swishing and whirling behind the clear plastic portal. I was just happy that I would not have to resort to wearing sweat pants to work.

But we’re not done. OH NO. I couldn’t cram everything that Kyle’s been secretly working on into one post, so we’ll be back later this week to talk about our current endeavor. Hint: it involves busting up concrete and digging dirt – inside our house. 

Oh yes we are!