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Iowa 80 Basement Project - rebooted!

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Preface: I started a build thread a couple of years ago, which can be accessed here. It's now in the archive, and for good reason, because I haven't updated it in forever. Rather than dragging that thing up, I figured it was time to start anew, as we need to polish off room 1 (tv room), tackle rooms 2 (bedroom) and 3 (bathroom), finish my PhD, close out our permit, and put the house on the market, all by the end of next summer, and all with a (now) 16 month old running around.

Refresher: House

Basement (tv room) we started with

Basement tv room - current state

The purpose of this new thread is two-fold.
1) So I can pick people's brains about random things that come up during construction
2) So everyone in the forum can keep me accountable to actually make the progress on this project that I need to.

We have decided in the interest of time, hassle, and sanity, to put major construction items out to bid. These items include egress window installation in the proposed bedroom, HVAC revision in bedroom to maximize ceiling height, electrical (numerous existing electrical lines are run along joist bottoms, rather than through them, plus new circuit for bathroom), bathroom plumbing, and then drywall (because I spent 3 months mudding and taping the drywall in the tv room, and I'm still not happy with how it turned out). So, if anyone is in the eastern/central Iowa area, and has contractors they recommend, I'm all ears.

Now I turn things over to you. In order to prevent my usual "oh, I haven't had time to log in to the forums in a while" response, I'm setting my homepage to this thread, so I will be forced to check for responses every time I open a browser window.

Thanks for your views / comments, it's going to be a team effort to get this project done in time.

Edited by doublfelix - 8/16/12 at 8:59pm
post #2 of 25
The first step is admitting you have a problem . . . biggrin.gif

Sounds like a busy time in your life. We'll nag you to keep moving on the HT. You probably get enough nagging at home for the other things! tongue.gif
post #3 of 25
PM sent. Good luck with the PhD. Go Hawks.
post #4 of 25
Glad to see you are still around. Welcome back, now get to work!

You might actually regret setting this to your homepage, mindless, endless distractions as well as heckling and misdirection oh yeah and the occasional supportive comment/post. biggrin.gif


post #5 of 25
Good to see you back at work. Any updates yet tongue.gif
post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 
You might actually regret setting this to your homepage

I'm sure I will end up regretting it, but it did it's job already today, because I am here replying to posts already. Also, PMs with good info too.
Any updates yet

Hopefully tonight. I have the before pictures for our first project now that we're going again, and am planning to have the after pictures ready this evening.
post #7 of 25
Thread Starter 
So sometimes, the first step in a project is finding that project underneath all of the clutter that can accumulate in a house. This was supposed to be the eventual storage / utility room

And then this the eventual bedroom?

That's obviously not going to work. Here's what I have been trying to finish up the last 5 or 6 days, though darkness, a teething child, and the desire to not be hated by all my neighbors have kept me from being able to get all the cutting done needed to get this done.

I need to add a few supports underneath the shelf platforms and then attach those platforms before I can load it up. Once finished, this shelf, and a smaller one that is out of view in the photo, will provide storage for 16 of our containers. Hopefully this solves the old issue - if you can't get to stuff, you can't get rid of it.

Also, I'm going to issue a blanket apology for the picture quality - I've been using my phone lately because I can upload to photobucket directly, thus cutting out the step of having to transfer to computer and then upload. It makes posting easier, and although the images aren't the greatest, they should suffice for this early and low detail work.
post #8 of 25

Welcome Back - good to see you have returned.
Congrats on the PHD portion!

But tells more about this getting a house listed?
Are you sticking around the mid-west or ..??
post #9 of 25
Are you sticking around the mid-west or ..??
Yeah, man please find something local......we need the dues
post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 
Are you sticking around the mid-west or ..??
Yeah, man please find something local......we need the dues

Staying local seems to be pretty difficult if you've gotten your PhD here, as the university doesn't like to do a lot of hiring from within. I am also trying to make the jump from environmental engineer/geochemist to marine geochemist, which means I am looking at postdocs in marine science and oceanography programs, neither of which are very common here in the midwest. Basically, it's not looking good for me sticking around the area.

As for the house, I got my shelves assembled and bolted to the wall for safety, and now nearly every single one of the rubbermaid containers cluttering up my basement has been accounted for.

I also organized and moved my workbench into the work side of the basement.

So now I have a proper place to work on small projects, like fixing the various electronic items and toys that my son gets a hold of and subsequently breaks. I am otherwise dying a slow death taking old electronics items to Best Buy for recycling, sorting through the things we were supposed to sell at our garage sale (never happened), and getting rid of random building materials that we inherited with the house.

This weekend, I am hoping to get started on something fun - finishing out the interior of the equipment closet! Here's a teaser pic to show everyone the hideous (although perfectly functioning) mess that I'm about to wade into. I'll just apologize now, and hope that someone can save us from the spaghetti.

If all that mess wasn't relatively invisible from the front of the rack, I'm sure I would never have let it sit like that for so long. Now that I've got a picture of it, I'll be super annoyed until it is fixed.
post #11 of 25
I like that workshop area. cool.gif

We have a nice big storage area in our basement, that had shelves already. But they aren't tall enough shelves for those Rubbermaid containers. I need to fix that one of these days . . .
post #12 of 25
I have a HUGE rats nest in the back of my equipment closet. I thought for sure that with my theater I would run all of the cables and make everything all neat and tidy just like I did with my other electronic installs around the house. However I still have yet to do that. I close the door and turn off the light and the mess magically disappears. I know I will get around to it one day, it is just that day is not today or tomorrow either, and probably not any day this coming week! biggrin.gif


post #13 of 25
Thread Starter 
So here's a question that hopefully someone can help with. As you can see, I've got smurf tube that is longer than it needs to be on the left side of that equipment closet, with speaker wire inside. Does anyone have a clean method for cutting that tubing without damaging what's inside? I seem to recall when I was originally installing it, that I would use a hacksaw to cut through one side of one of the ribs, then basically break the rest off. It was effective, but ugly and probably not good to do all that bending with the wires inside.
post #14 of 25
Take an exacto blade or something similar, carefully slice a vertical cut in the tube a inch or so long and then go around the circumference of the tube with the blade being careful not to go too deep with the blade. Doing that should give you a pretty clean cut.


post #15 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks RT, your exacto suggestion worked perfectly, after a little bit of practice on some scrap smurf tube to get "the feel" dialed in.

Anyway, it's been a long time with no updates, I figure I should throw out some photos of the minor progress that I've made. I was able to trim back much of the excess smurf tube and wiring in the equipment closet, so that stuff is just awaiting drywall and low voltage boxes to sit in. Before I can do that though, I needed to put a floor in there, which I did with some leftover Platon and OSB from doing the floor in the tv room. The closet is so small and awkward that it's tough to get a decent view in one camera shot.

I also tore off the previous paneling on the wall, and got rid of the framing that was mounted directly to the foundation wall. This week I plan to patch / clean / etch the wall to prep it for drylok, then frame up a new mini wall the right way, at which point I can put up some of my leftover drywall and clean up the wiring once and for all.

In the meantime, we have been gathering bids for the first few critical items that need to be hired out before I can start really building up the bedroom. We've put a deposit down for our egress window install, and we're just waiting to get it scheduled. This window is going to turn into a 28"x41" egress window, which is south facing, and thus should make the room pretty bright for being in the basement.

We are also having a plumber in to remove this gas line that runs over to our electric dryer, and to clean up that rat's nest of piping.

Getting all that excess gas pipe out of the way will then allow us to have someone take this HVAC line and move it next to the beam, where the unused gas pipe currently is. They're also going to make the supply wider and less tall, which should allow us to gain somewhere between 2 and 4" of ceiling height, which is critical when your already at 6'11" from floor to joists.

My plan is to enclose that HVAC supply in a soffit, along with all the electrical that runs along the beam. I'll throw out a few questions and see if anyone has run into these items before.

1. Junction boxes in a soffit? My current plan will involve enclosing at least 2 j boxes in the soffit, which I will have to maintain access to. I've used the plastic access panels you can get from the big box stores for water shutoff valves, etc. in the ceiling, but I wonder if anyone has done something more creative.

2. I plan on taking advantage of this time while we are waiting for contractor items by running all of the low voltage stuff I never got around to before. Does anyone have recommendations for tools that I'll need to run coax and cat5 throughout the basement and the ground floor rooms that I have access to through the basement?

Thanks for any advice you can give. Hopefully my next update should come in a couple of weeks, and will include an egress window as well as a much cleaner looking equipment closet.
post #16 of 25
One thing you could possibly do with the soffit junction boxes would be to put some low profile light fixtures at/near the junction box locations. All of you wires now have someplace to go, and you get the added benefit of some additional lighting under the soffit, which is often dark due to the soffit shadow.

Obviously this will only work if you can move the wires far enough to put the lights in reasonable locations.

Try that, and then order yourself a nice Greg Brunner pizza down at Bob's Your Uncle. Ummm, yummy.

post #17 of 25
Nicest access panels I ever saw executed involved a series of raised panels, much like wainscotting along the soffit. Two of them were framed out to allow the "raised panel" to be friction fit. Panels were drywall with plywood behind them to allow the framing trim to be glued/nailed onto just the inset part. Contractor put a small bead of urethane caulk around the outside perimeter of the portion of the raised panel that sat inside the soffit, leaving it to cure for a day or so before inserting to create some extra grip, but not so much you couldn't wiggle it back out. A lot of trim carpentry depending on how you divide up the soffit length, but pretty invisible if well executed.
Do you have a power miter saw yet?
post #18 of 25
and while on the topic of tools.........you want to use compression type connectors for your CATV and match your connectors to your cable. there are a lot of flavors of coax....RG59,RG6 RG 6 quad shield, RGxx- plenum jacket. All have different specs, all require different F connectors........buy accordingly. TIp from the pros about stripping coax, cut the cable off squarely, or else you may leave your center conductor short.
Menards and Lowes both stock versions of these and the tools you would need to compress them. Check out the Data shark line from Pallidan. Ideal also makes a reliable product available at retail. The strippers for CATV vary a lot, I always like the clothes pin type that clips over the end of the cable and you give a spin or two. Make sure you don't cut off all the shield wire or scar the center conductor. A sharp utility knive and the right stripping instructions are just as good if you are only doing 10-20 fittings & you are patient. Your previous plastic conduit experience should be good practice for this. The goal is cutting through the wire jacket without nicking the copper. For Cat5/6 you may find the best tool you can buy is some type of wire mapping tool that will show you if you have all your pairs punched down correctly on both ends. A lot of Cat5/6 jacks will come with plastic tools to insert your wire into the retention mechanism with a backing plate to seat it. If you want to go all out, buy a punch down tool. If you are crimping RJ45 connectors directly onto the cable you have run, I would suggest avoiding the "feed thru" style. They often do not seat well causing intermittent problems. Don't untwist any more of a pair then absolutely necessary to get it into its position, better to add a twist than remove a twist.
Regardless of the wire type you will appreciate in investing in a pair of Klein diagonal wire cutting pliers and a Klein 1104x series wire stripper. You can get away with substituting a chinese version of the stripper but there is no substitute for the clean cutting Klein diagonal wire cutter. I've never worn one of these out, only replaced because they were lost/forgotten in a ceilng or attic.cool.gif
Edited by weaselfest - 11/10/12 at 5:56pm
post #19 of 25
Thread Starter 
Hey Weasel, thanks for the wiring tool advice. I think the low voltage wiring fun will be one of my winter break projects. In the meantime, we've been fairly busy around here. I'll try and keep things organized chronologically, which could be interesting since I shot pictures with a bunch of different cameras. So where did we leave off?

Well the window in the soon to be bedroom / office looked like this.

Then a hole appeared

I was really glad to have hired this job out, because about 12" down they found an old concrete window well (including rebar, tied into the foundation) that was buried. Luckily, they brought a jackhammer, and made pretty short work of it.

Once the hole was ~ 4 feet deep, they pulled out the old window, and started cutting into the foundation.

Here's what it looked like when the cutting was done

Any geologist types want to identify these different soil horizons? Better not B.S. though, my wife spends 50% of her time at work drilling holes all over Iowa, so she's the resident USCS expert.

Framed and sealed. Looks like a much better job than whatever I would have come up with.

Then the window went in

Here's how it looks tonight from inside

I guess I'll have to shoot some pics from outside this weekend, I don't appear to have any once the well was finished and filled with gravel, and the window was trimmed out. It's still a shock every time I walk down there to see such a big window. It looks great though, and will look even better once it's part of a proper room.
post #20 of 25
Thread Starter 
We also had a plumber out to deal with our gas piping. The gas meter, water heater, and furnace are all on the south side of the house. This rat's nest was in the middle of the basement, so it was blocking where the HVAC will be moved to, and also eventually ran above the HVAC supply, pushing it down about 2" and further impacting our ceiling height (which is only about 6'11" in the best locations).

So we went from this
To this.
Here's a sampling of what got pulled and replaced by maybe 10 feet of pipe.

I also managed to get the foundation wall in the equipment closet prepped and painted
I patched together some scrap pieces of foamboard, and the adhesive is curing as I am post this. Here's my high tech setup to make sure it bonds nicely to the foundation wall overnight. I believe the industry term for this is overengineering, but I'm always trying to have fun with whatever project I have going.
If things go well this weekend, I might have some drywall up, but that will depend on whether my wife feels better. While our 20-month old is totally on board helping with home improvement projects, I'm not sure I trust him to run our powder actuated nailer. He's a champ when it came to wrapping our old school double hung windows upstairs though.
post #21 of 25
Thread Starter 
Ok, so here's another question I'll throw out. Right now, our cable feed from the pole is split 4 ways at the bottom of the pole, 1 leg goes to the second floor bedroom, one goes to a first floor bedroom, and one goes to the basement. The fourth leg is unused, as it used to run around the outside of the house and in one of the windows on the other side of the basement (we removed that whole run when we replaced the window). I'm going to switch out the 4-way splitter for a 3-way, and then deal with any further distribution in the basement. The basement leg enters the house right where the electrical panel is located. If I plan to wire the basement / first floor rooms for coax, where seems like the best spot to home run all of those cables to? Possibilities include near the electrical panel, in the equipment closet (under the stairs), or somewhere in the unfinished space. I've run into problems with my signal upstairs after splitting 4 -> 2 -> 2 (-14 dB drop), though I think that is because one of the splitters went bad. Still, after splitting 4 -> 2 ways, my cable modem shows a signal strength of -11 dB, which seems like it's right on the edge of not good enough, so I have some concerns about how much signal splitting I can do. Recommendations?
post #22 of 25
Is it feasible to extend everything into the basement by the electrical panel? that's the closest to the earth ground for your electrical service and should be the common grounding point for your cable and phone service drops. You are going to need an amp on your CATV signal judging by what you've seen for levels on your modem's diagnostic page. I would split the modem feed off with a two way splitter first, take the other output of the two way to a reverse capable CATV amplifier with 15dB or so of gain. If you only have -11 dB hitting your modem now, that means you only have around 0 dB hitting your first splitter. 4 way splitter loses 7 dB, 2 way splitter loses 3.5 dB, (FYI a three way will either lose 5.5 out of each leg or 7 dB out of two legs and 3.5 out of the third, shop carefully, it's usually stamped on the body of the splitter).
Here is an example of a return capable CATV amp. it adds 15dB to the incoming signal for channels 2-130 or so and only adds an additional 0.5 dB of insertion loss for the signal your cable modem or digital cable box sends to the headend to overcome. You might want to check the upstream RF value on your modem too, ideally you want don't want any more than 50-55 dB output, any more and you lose any margin for error and can drop offline.
-7dB to 0 dB should be ok for digital carriers on the forward portion of the spectrum. (incoming signal)
Mediacom used to install amplifiers for only $30 but the amount of arguing to get them to come and time off waiting for them to show up usually makes the deal a losing proposition.
Edited by weaselfest - 12/2/12 at 2:44pm
post #23 of 25
Thread Starter 
When I made that last post, I had intended to include this old electrical diagram so that my description of locations would actually mean something.

I think running everything from the vicinity of the electrical panel makes the most sense for a number of reasons, I just wasn't sure if it would be a big concern for interference from being in proximity to so much 120V wiring. The amplifier advice is definitely helpful - I had a feeling I needed something along those lines, but there are so many that seem suited to different purposes, I wasn't sure what the most appropriate option would be.

The next question I'm going to run into is now - given that I'll be wiring up at least 5 new runs of coax from that spot in the basement, but not likely using all of them (frankly I'm not sure I'll use any, but I figure they're worth running while I have access from below) - does anyone have recommendations/advice for a patch panel type setup for coaxial distribution? And since I'm now adding the coax distribution near the electrical panel, is there any reason I should re-think having the network distribution area in the equipment closet (under stairs in diagram) as currently planned?

It may be worth mentioning that the electrical panel is going to be behind a wall in the bedroom, so I'll have to come up with a creative way to cover it while maintaining access. Adding things like coax and networking distribution will increase the footprint for that creative covering, so that's always an additional consideration.
post #24 of 25
I would give the idea of a patch panel for coax a second thought. Coax is like plumbing, the more connections, the more likely you have a leak, allowing interference in and the CATV signal out, guaranteeing you an unexpected visit if Mediacom is doing a decent job of FCC testing compliance. Install your F connectors, connect the lines you are going to use, and leave the rest loose, tied back neatly. If you have more splitter ports available than you are going to connect cables, invest in some terminators, little caps with resistors inside that screw onto the unused port.
skip a stud cavity, or at least route your cabling to the far side of an adjacent cavity, you want 12" clearance at least from the electrical panel. If you can fabricate a little plywood box, especially against the foundation wall, it will give you a place to secure splitters and such.
Data distribution point should probably be dictated by where you can add cabling if need be ( realize you're a short timer relatively speaking), and where you can locate all the associated hardware. ( modem, router, wireless access points etc) Patch panel here makes sense because you want to land and test all your cabling now.
I'll try to scab together a CATV layout that will fit behind a 14"x14" access panel
post #25 of 25

Cable TV distribution for 1 cable modem and 4 TV locations. The 4 way splitter for TVs could easily be a 6 or 8 way, with the 15dB amp, I am assuming you aren't going to run over 200' from this point to any TV location.
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