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Category Archives: Planning

Ceiling Planning

Posts and BeamBecause I don’t want to have to relocate the fire sprinkler system pipes, the plan is to screw 2x3s to the joists above to drop the drywall ceiling below the level of the pipes. This will also reduce the hard contact area between the drywall and the structure above, which, combined with the insulation we’ll be stuffing in the joists, will result in very little sound transfer between floors.

There is also the matter of the beam and posts in the middle of the space. I don’t like the look of a basement that has a boxed-in beam with a post cover in the middle of a room. To me, this screams “basement.” But there’s little choice in that the beam is in such a place that there’s no way I can hide them inside a wall. I’ll have to box in the beam and frame a column for the posts.

Main FloorFortunately, on the main floor of the house, there are several square columns, half walls, and beam-like ceiling features. If I copy the design of those features, the boxed-in beam and posts can look like the features on the main floor, and less like I’m hiding obstructions. And by putting a half wall in between the column and the outside wall, separating the bar room and the billiard room, I’ll even further match the rest of the house. And then, if I were to further match the column with columns on the walls at either end of the beam, and a similar beam/soffit over the bar, I should be adding architectural interest instead of covering up problems.

Category Archives: Planning

The Plan

First PlanHere was the first floorplan. There were a couple of issues with it. The first was that the wife wasn’t going for such a large office/studio for me at the expense of both the loss of storage, and the actual expense of the amount of framing it would take to turn that part of the basement into finished space. The second was that the width of the theater space would only comfortably hold a nine foot wide screen, and that would be smaller than the screen in our last house. And we couldn’t have that—one of the requirements we had in taking the transfer across the country was that the new house had to make the move feel worthwhile.

Because the rest of the house needed a good amount of work (deck, patio, landscaping, carpeting, paint, door knobs & hinges, drawer pulls, light fixtures, ethernet), I wasn’t granted an unlimited budget. In order to keep expenses down, we eliminated my office, and delayed the construction of the half bath.

Basement PlanInstead of putting the interior wall of the theater completely flush with the outside wall by the billiard room, I decided to push it as close to the water heater as I could, allowing for a comfortable ten-foot-wide screen, and angling the wall in the back of the room, which would be matched on the outside wall, where the radon exhaust pipe had been installed. This solves two issues by making them look like a design choice instead of having to hide something. My hope is that all of the numerous such challenges I have can be solved this way.

While drawing these plans, Dolby Labs announced a new technology for the home—Dolby Atmos. Being an over-the-top sort of guy, of course I have to add this to the design. So, in addition to the originally planned seven speakers, two subwoofers, and two rows of shaking furniture, there’ll also be four overhead speakers as well.

Category Archives: Planning


FloorplanThe initial plan is to have a bar, a billiard room, a half bath, and a theater. The basement is large enough that even after the planned rooms, close to half the space will still be unfinished for storage and work space.

Even though the ceiling is nine feet, there are still a number of obstacles (like in most basements) that mean I can’t just have a perfectly flat, tall ceiling. There is a large steel beam in the middle of the space that’s supported by two steel columns. In our last house, I was able to put all of them in walls and the columns of the bar, so none were noticeable. There is no way that I can bury these inside a wall, unless I want a group of very small rooms. There are also a number of sprinkler heads and pipe that’s hung on the bottom of the joists, meaning I can’t simply attach drywall to the joists.

HVACThere is also the problem of HVAC ductwork and snorkles. The furnaces are high-efficiency units that suck outside air for combustion, so instead of a traditional chimney and burning inside air, they are snorkeled to the outside via four long PVC pipes that neatly bisect the area that is planned to be the theater. I’ll have my work cut out for me as I try to design a space that takes into account these obstacles without looking like I’m hiding something.

Before closing, we had a radon mitigation system installed. Fortunately, the house doesn’t have a huge radon problem, but because the house had sat unwanted and vacant for several months, radon levels in the basement had built up to just above normal levels at inspection time, which meant a radon system had to be installed. We didn’t have any choice where the system was installed. Unfortunately, it was put in a corner of the area where the theater is slated to be built—yet another challenge.

Something I found rather unusual, is that code in our new township dictated that the builder sheetrock the ceiling in the basement. It was obviously done without any thought to finishing or aesthetics. Which meant that it would all have to be ripped out before the space could be transformed. We’ll hire a crew to take out most of it, but I’ll still have a good amount that I’ll have to do myself.

Category Archives: Planning


While the basement of the house was a beautiful blank slate, the rest of the house had suffered several years of grime buildup. In one bedroom, which was slated to become a guestroom/library for our son, one wall had a cloud of brown on an otherwise white wall where years of grease from a child’s head had deposited. Chunks of undetermined material were caked underneath the handrails on the back stair case. Teeth marks were on several of the window blinds where they had been gnawed by their kids.

oldfiltersAs part of our offer on the house, we stipulated that a professional cleaning crew must come through and clean the house. While they did a wonderful job taking care of most of the filth, some things were missed, like these HVAC filters. I’m not sure how many years of buildup this is, but I’m going to guess all eight the previous owners were here.

Most of the walls were still the builder’s original white, which effectively hid the extensive trim work. One room had been painted—the dining room had been painted a safe beige-like color that I named ‘sickly flesh‘ due to its faint pinkish cast.

All of the light fixtures were the same original builders’ grade cheap bottom-of-the-barrel bright brass jobs that we had quickly replaced in our last house. They would be junked even more quickly here.

Outside, no landscaping had been done, other than the front tree and bushes the builder had planted nine years earlier. No deck or patio was found in back of the house, leaving an odd exterior door dangling fourteen feet from the ground off the morning room.

The big advantage we found to the state of the house was that most prospective buyers skipped this house, despite the asking price sitting at a six figure discount to other houses in the neighborhood, and a dearth of inventory. Fortunately, unlike some other houses in which we had interest, all of the issues we found were merely cosmetic, and left us with the blank slate advantage of a new house, without the new house premium that could take a decade or more to recoup.

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