The Grotto

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Category Archives: Framing

Doors and Riser

Riser and Doors StartThere will be two rows of seating in the theater. This means that the second row will be on a riser. I wanted to do multiple rows of seating in the last house, but with less than eight feet of finished headroom, I didn’t think I could do it comfortably. I don’t have that limitation now. With the first draft plan, I had double doors that opened into where the first row was, with stairs to the right of the doors leading up onto the riser. When the theater was made wider with angled walls in the back, I had to move the door to the angled back wall, meaning the door was opening to the riser.

Doors Start 01This posed some additional challenges. If I were to have a simple door, I’d have to have two stairs immediately inside the room. This presents two problems—first, it cuts into the riser area, and with limited width already, could pose an additional problem with later furniture selection. The bigger problem is that the stairs would pose a significant tripping hazard in the dark. Putting the stairs outside the room could solve the tripping hazard; however, as the door could not open out from the theater over the stairs, opening the door into the theater still limits the usable width of the riser.

Doors FramingPocket doors don’t have the issue of do-they-open-in or do-they-open-out. They do have their own challenges in that it takes double the wall length to install them, and they can rattle if not well-installed. Because I wanted the door centered on the wall, and the wall is less than seven feet in length, I decided on double pocket doors of 18″ each. I also decided to put one stair outside the room, and the other in the room. The outside stair would be a large curved wood stair in front of a rather elaborately trimmed opening.

Doors and RiserWith the other stair inside the room, this also minimizes something that bugged me about our last house. I had a large studio space just off our media room, connected with a set of double door five feet in total width. The space had a good amount of natural light. Whenever we watched a movie during the daytime, the light spilling from underneath the doors bothered me. It wasn’t really that noticeable as it was behind the sectional and out of sight while watching a movie, but every time I turned around and saw it, I cringed a little. Now, with putting the second stair immediately entering the room, light from underneath the doors will be almost gone. Creative trim work will keep light from pouring in between the doors as well.

Category Archives: Framing

Another Challenge

Niche IssueWhen I started framing the wall and doorway at the bottom of the stairs, I ran into a problem. I had planned a 90 degree corner at the bottom and opening into the finished space. The problem was that the condenser line for one of the A/C units is in the way of the corner.

My first thought was to curve the corner, but nothing else in the design had curves. So I thought of possibly adding some curved elements—barrel ceiling, curved bar, arc the angled walls in the theater. Sadly, those ideas either would have added new challenges, or simply weren’t practical. So I turned to the wife and her artist’s eye.

“Just angle it,” she said.

“Angle it? Are you sure that won’t look weird?”

“No, it’ll be fine.”

“Are you sure it’ll look ok.”

“Yes, I’m sure”

Niche FramingSo, I nervously changed the plan to a 45 degree angle in the corner, still unsure of how it’ll look once the doorway to unfinished space is in place. Then it hit me. Near the top of the stairs, on the main floor, there’s a lighted niche. If I put a niche in the angled corner, it’ll look like a design feature to match the main floor, instead of a compromise to hide an obstacle in a basement.

When I finished the framing for the niche, I showed it to our son. His eyes got big and he said,”I thought you just cut a hole in a wall to make one of these.”

I laughed.

Category Archives: Framing


Sub FloorI don’t like the idea of putting carpet on the concrete in a basement, even a very dry one. The problem with carpet on the floor is that in the summer, the carpet will be at the temperature of the concrete, and humid air will cause condensation in the carpet and pad, which will result in mold. In the last house, where the basement was entirely underground, I used Dricore tiles to give an air gap between the carpet and the concrete. it resulted in a very warm floor, even in the middle of a Chicago winter.

Subfloor OSBIn this house, because the basement opens directly to the back yard, I wanted to do something a little different. The plan is to put in traditional wide plank pine flooring, which, needs a solid subfloor. So, I’m using rolls of Delta-FL with a ¾” T&G OSB subfloor tapconned (and sealed with silicone) to the concrete. The Delta-FL is taped with moisture-resistant tape where it meets, and gaps between the wall framing and subfloor are sealed with expanding foam.

Category Archives: Framing

Starting the Build

First Bit of FramingAfter pulling the permit, framing has started. The bottom plates are all pressure-treated, and tapconned to the concrete. The bar will be where the file cabinets and ladders are. I still have some drywall to demo from the ceiling left of the beam.

When the movers brought all of our stuff, they put everything that was destined for storage here in the basement. And all of it in the space that will be finished, meaning I had to move it all out of the way.

The door on the left side of the pic leads to the backyard, and is two feet above the ground. In other words, almost the entire basement is above ground. The only place where it’s below grade is in the front of the house; on the sides it slopes dramatically. Unlike the last house, I have few water worries.

Theater Framing StartedThe theater framing has started. I put tape up on the studs to show the size of the screen, and chairs from our condo to get an idea of how the screen would look from the front row. I also laid out the floorplan on the concrete using painter’s tape.

HVAC snorkels and ductwork neatly bisect the room. There’s also a sprinkler head that drops down at an odd length. It’s going to take me a few drawings to figure out how to deal with these without looking too much like I’m hiding obstructions.

More Theater FramingThis pic shows the radon system in the back corner of the room, and the start of the angled walls in the back. I’ve got 2x8s sitting in the back that will be used to build the 12″ riser for the second row.

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