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Category Archives: Fixing Issues

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: Fixing Issues

Fixing a Problem

Open BoxWhen we first saw the house, while the drywall in the basement meant I couldn’t easily see the floor above, or look for any mechanical issues that might be tucked in the joists, I did see an uncovered electrical box. I thought it a bit odd, in that it had obviously been there when the house was built, and being open, a code violation. I also thought it a bit sloppy of the original electrician, as it’d be rare to have to splice something in during the original build. I figured that all I’d have to do with it would be to put a cover on it, and that’d be that.


About four months after moving in, the overhead lights in the kitchen flickered and went out. My first thought was a bad switch, so I looked at the switches and saw the electrician had (as is too common) used the push in connectors on the back of the switches, which can fail. So, I bought three new switches and installed them. No luck.

Burnt EndsThen I remembered the odd open box in the basement, and thought it could be the problem. I shut off power to the kitchen again and tested the box for power. Nothing—I’m on to something. I removed one of the wire nuts to inspect the connection, and saw not only that the electrician had merely held the stripped ends of the wires together and screwed a wire nut on to them, but that the unsecurely connected wires had arced repeatedly to the point of charring. I got my lineman’s pliers out, snipped the burnt tips off, stripped and twisted them securely before screwing fresh wire nuts and taping. The kitchen lights were fixed.

Category Archives: Fixing Issues

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: Fixing Issues

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.

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