Basement Renovation – Removing the Old Bar and Installing New Carpet

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Basement Renovation

As part of our basement renovation, we ripped out an old paneled bar. (We actually did that before we had the paintable wallpaper installed, that’s why the room looks a little different than the previous post in this series!) And, we had new carpet installed after the wallpaper. This post covers those two things!

Removing the Old Wood Paneled Bar

As I explained in the intro post for the basement renovation, we thought that this bar was a really fun feature when we moved into the house. However, it was in an awkward spot, and the space behind the bar just ended up kind of wasted.

Basement bar - before the renovation Basement bar - before the renovation

So, we decided to rip out the bar and install Ikea kitchen cabinetry in a more efficient layout. (More on that installation in the next post in the series)

First, we cleared out all the booze, soda, and other things we had stored in the bar:

Cleaning out the bar for demolition

Then, thanks to a crowbar, the claw end of a hammer, and a reciprocating saw, we were able to disassemble the bar within about 30 minutes! (Remember, we used the bar as a test spot for our paintable wallpaper installation, and to test paint swatches for the rest of the basement!)

Removing bar from basement Removing bar from the basement

Once we got the bar detached from the wall, we were able to move it … Revealing this green slimy sludge under the bar. YUCK!

Mystery green sludge

Then we just dragged the bar to our back patio, broke it down into smaller pieces, folded down any nails that were sticking out, and took it out to the curb on trash day.

Removing old bar from basement

The removal actually went much easier and faster than we expected. We thought it was a lot more “attached” to the floor and the wall than it actually was.

New Carpet Installation

Okay, sorry to jump around a bit, but after the paintable wallpaper installation (which I covered in the previous post in this series), we had new carpet installed in the basement. The old carpet was berber, and we were pretty sure that the previous owners installed the cheapest carpet possible to cover the hideous linoleum floor after their house sat on the market for more than a year. (You can see the old linoleum revealed when we ripped out the bar).

Old linoleum under the carpet

The berber carpet was constantly pilling, and if you vacuumed over a loose strand in the carpet, you basically ended up ripping up several threads of carpet. Oh, and the worst part was walking on it in bare feet. If the bottoms of my feet were even slightly dry, the berber carpet threads would like “stick” the bottoms of my feet like velcro. Awful.

So, we definitely wanted to nice, plush carpet for the basement. We even opted for thicker padding!

Here are some photos from the new carpet installation! For those local to the Northern Virginia area, message us if you’d like the flooring installers info! We’ve used them for three different flooring jobs in our house now, and we highly recommend them!

Carpet installation in basement Carpet installation in basement Carpet installation in basement Carpet installation in basement Carpet installation in basement Carpet installation in basement

It’s so much nicer than our old stuff! And we thought it went really nicely with the rest of the room’s freshly painted walls! Oh, and no more “velcro feet!” I can walk on the carpet with no socks just fine!

New carpet in the basement New carpet in the basement New carpet in the basement

The basement was already looking nice and finished at that point, but we still had one more phase … installing new Ikea kitchen cabinetry for storage and with a countertop as a “workbench.”

Using Paintable Wallpaper to Cover Wood Paneling

Covering Wood Paneling with Paintable Wallpaper
This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Basement Renovation


In my Basement Renovation introduction post, I outlined the COUNTLESS (okay, you can count them – five) options we considered regarding our faux wood paneled walls in our basement.

We ended up going the route of paintable wallpaper, and I cannot begin to tell you how pleased we are with the results! (P.S., We bought our paintable wallpaper from Amazon here.)

 

Covering Wood Paneling with Paintable Wallpaper

Once we decided on paintable wallpaper, I contacted three local wallpaper contractors that I found on Angie’s list.

  • The first contractor essentially laughed at our suggestion via email, saying that that wallpapering over paneling would not work.
  • The second contractor at least stopped by to provide an estimate. He said that he could wallpaper over the paneling, but that we’d still have to fill in the grooves with spackle or drywall mud. As I mentioned in the previous post in this series, that would have been a tremendous amount of time and work. I told the contractor that I thought the wallpaper would cover the paneling grooves well enough, but he said that it wouldn’t work. Whelp, that wasn’t encouraging.
  • A third contractor stopped by to provide an estimate. He said that he had never worked with paintable wallpaper, but he was willing to give it a try. Since, as part of our renovation, we were planning on ripping out our basement bar which also had wood paneling, he offered to put up a piece of wallpaper right there on the bar. If it didn’t look nice, it wouldn’t make a difference since the bar would be gone in a few days anyway. He wet the wallpaper in our laundry sink, waited a few moments, and then attached a small strip to the wood paneled bar. ** “Wow,” he said, “this is great stuff.” We could immediately tell that it covered the grooves just fine. We decided to proceed with this contractor. He took some measurements of the room and told us how many rolls of wallpaper to buy.

It’s worth noting that we had this work done in September 2015. So, as of the time of writing this, we’re now 17 months past the wallpaper installation. And it still looks just as fantastic as when it went in!

There are a lot more “before” photos in our intro post, but here are some of the paneled walls again, just for reference:

Basement wood paneling Wood paneled walls in basement

Then, the wallpaper installation began.

Covering wood paneling with paintable wallpaper Installing wallpaper over wood paneling Wallpapering over wood paneling Contractors hanging paintable wallpaper Paintable wallpaper installation

It was an incredible transformation to witness. Even before the wallpaper was painted, our basement looked like an entirely new room.

Room with paintable wallpaper - not yet painted Room with paintable wallpaper - not yet painted Room with paintable wallpaper - not yet painted

I’m not sure how necessary this step is, but just thought I’d share it in case others are considering the same option. After the wallpaper was up, the installers decided to cover the seams of the wallpaper with a little bit of caulking. I think this was to help in case the wallpaper shrunk a bit as it dried.

The instructions on the wallpaper said to give it 72 hours to dry before applying paint. So, three days later the contractors showed back up to paint the wallpaper!

Painting the paintable wallpaper Painting the paintable wallpaper Painting the paintable wallpaper Painting the paintable wallpaper

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it’s now been nearly 18 months since having this work done, and it still looks so fantastic. Just for absolute disclosure though, there is one teeny tiny portion of paneling that is visible under the wallpaper. So, I never had looked very closely at our paneling, but apparently paneling is installed in pieces that are several feet wide. Where these pieces “join,” there is a slightly larger groove than the normal part of the paneling. THAT thicker groove, every 5 feet or so, is ever so slightly visible under the wallpaper.

Here’s our attempt to photograph the deeper groove:

Visible groove in wood paneling under wallpaper Paintable wallpaper

But seriously though, that’s probably only visible to us because we know it’s there. It still doesn’t change our mind that the paintable wallpaper was the easiest and most cost effective option (for the style impact it has) for our basement! And we haven’t had any trouble with the wallpaper settling into any of the regular grooves.

** Here is the sample that the contractor installed on our wood paneled bar before we removed it. We also then used that spot to identify paint samples we’d eventually want to use on the walls.

Paint samples on paintable wallpaper

If anyone is in the DC / Northern Virginia area and would like to pursue this option, message me and I can send along the contractor’s info.  They were great.

Do you have a 1970s era wood paneled room in your house? Did you do anything to cover or replace the paneling? What option did you use?

 

Covering Wood Paneling Using Paintable Wallpaper

Basement Renovation (Introduction)

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Basement Renovation


A while after we had finished installing the recessed lights in our basement, Ken and I started to seriously consider a major basement renovation. But, we wanted to keep the budget pretty small. Here is what we wanted to do:

  • Remove the basement bar. Although it was a fun conversation piece, and we thought it was fun when we first moved in, we never really used it for entertaining. It was at an awkward spot. We couldn’t really use the area behind the bar for anything, since it was meant for people to stand there and serve drinks I guess? After living with the basement bar for nearly 7 years, we decided that it was a fairly big waste of space. So, it was time for it to go.
Basement Renovation | Before Photos | Basement Bar
  • Create a dedicated workspace / workshop table. As you can tell in our previous posts, like our DIY DVD shelves or our Ikea Barn Door Hack, or when installing our recessed lighting, our “worktable” consisted of a plastic folding table and an old black metal table that used to serve as Ken’s desk way back in the day. Since we don’t have a garage, and hardly any yard space, our finished basement is consistently our workspace, and we wanted to have a more finished looking spot to do our work!
Basement Renovation | Before Photos
  • Get a nicer, softer carpet installed. The carpet in our basement was berber, and the texture of it drove me NUTS. There were always little strings getting loose and getting caught on things. Vacuuming the carpet was always a gamble, because a single thread pulled into the vacuum could cause like a 1/4“ strip of carpet to completely unravel and basically disappear. Plus, if the bottoms of my feet were even the slightest bit dry, sometimes the berber would like ”stick” to my feet. It was a yucky feeling!
  • Somehow update the wall paneling. This proved to be the most problematic issue. Keep in mind that our paneling is not real wood, it is a fake vinyl-type wood. So that was a major factor in considering our options. We considered:
    • Ripping down the paneling and installing drywall in its place.
      • Pros: A fresh start on the walls in the basement, getting rid of the paneling once and for all.
      • Cons: VERY expensive. Also, ripping down the paneling meant that our entire baseboard trim would have to be ripped out and redone (since the drywall would be a different depth than the paneling). Further, we’d likely have to redo our entire drop ceiling, since the “grid” of the drop ceiling was attached to the paneling. Every time we heard more and more problems with ripping down the paneling and replacing it with drywall, all we heard was money rapidly draining from our savings account. This option would cost us $10,000+. Not exactly within our “small budget” desires.
    • Drywalling OVER the existing paneling using thinner drywall (like 1/4 inch).
      • Pros: Saving labor costs of ripping down paneling. The drop ceiling grid would likely NOT have to be redone, as some sort of moulding option could have been added to hide where the drywall met the ceiling grid.
      • Cons: We weren’t sure how the moulding option would look. Also, We’d STILL have to redo our baseboard trim since the new drywall would now protrude beyond the baseboard. Furthermore, the addition of the new drywall, no matter how thin, would make the drywall almost flush with the doorway frames in our basement (like the doors to the basement bathroom and to the laundry room.) We DEFINITELY knew that would look weird.
    • Painting over the paneling (without filling in the grooves.)
      • Pros: Relatively cheap and we could DIY the paint job.
      • Cons: Labor intensive (lots of sanding, oil-based primers, and many coats of paint). Also, I was afraid that the finished look would be a bit too “country cottage” for my taste. (I found tutorials here, here and here).
    • Painting over paneling (with filling in the grooves with wood putty or drywall spackle or caulk). (I had read tutorials for this method like here and here.)
      • Pros: Relatively cheap and would avoid the “country cottage” look of painted paneling that still has grooves.
      • Cons: EXTREMELY EXTREMELY LABOR INTENSIVE. Plus, there were questions about whether filling in the grooves would end up being smooth enough to paint over. Our basement is quite large, and the thought of filling in every single one of those grooves and then having to sand them down (in addition to all the “normal” prep work that would go along with painting paneling) made me shudder!

So, what option did we go for to handle the wood paneling? It wasn’t any of the above! I’ll talk about the option that we FINALLY selected in a subsequent post in this series. But it IS AWESOME!

For reference, here are some “before” photos of our basement! (Looking cleaner than it ever has!)

Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos

Notice how dark the basement is with the wood paneling, even after installing our great recessed lights!

Here are our ugly, non-dedicated work areas:

Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos

And the bar which, while fun, was a waste of space.

Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos

And, our “home theater” area with our couch, TV, and projection screen that comes down.

Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos Basement Renovation | Before Photos

The next few posts will show all the steps of renovating this basement to a more modern space!

DIY Recessed Lighting Installation in a Drop Ceiling (Ceiling Tiles), Part 3

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series DIY Recessed Lighting Installation


DIY Recessed Lighting InstallationDIY Recessed Lighting Installation | The Process so Far!

Now that the actual lighting fixture was installed, it was time to rinse and repeat, over and over again, for each fixture we wanted installed.

As a reminder, this was the layout that we were following to install the lights (each box with an L indicates where we were going to install a light).

Diagram of Recessed Lighting in Drop Ceiling

We had it printed out and consulted it continuously throughout the installation process.

Recessed lighting drop ceiling installation layout

As a reminder, we decided to have three “zones” of lights in the basement. Each zone would be controlled by an individual switch. We had those three switches installed by an electrician before we started the DIY portion of this project. Here are the three switches that we had installed by the electricians:

Switches installed for recessed lighting

We repeated the process that we followed in Part 2 for each of the light fixtures, connecting them together and setting them up.

Installing recessed lighting housing

 

Installing recessed lighting housing

 

Testing that the Recessed Lighting Housing was Set Up Correctly

And now it was time to play god and proclaim LET THERE BE LIGHT. Just kidding, it was just time to install the lightbulbs temporarily to make sure that everything was wired properly.

Halogen lightbulbs for recessed lighting Installing lightbulb during recessed lighting installation Installing lightbulb during recessed lighting installation

After we confirmed that the lights turned on (meaning that the fixture was properly set up), it was time to close up the fixture box with the cover plate that came with the fixtures. We waited until the very end to do this, after we had confirmed that all the fixtures were working.

Installing panel enclosure on recessed lighting housing Installing panel enclosure on recessed lighting housing Installing panel enclosure on recessed lighting housing

 

Cutting Holes in Ceiling Tiles for Recessed Lighting

Now it was time to actually make those lights look pretty in the ceiling. That involved cutting holes in our ceiling tiles.

Ken created a template to make cutting process easier.

First, he took a ceiling tile and drew an X on the back of it, using a yard stick to keep things straight. This marked the exact center of the ceiling tile.

Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting | Creating a template How to center a hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting installation Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting | Creating a template

Then he drilled a small hole at the center of the X that he had just marked.

Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting

And now it was time to put our template into action. We had a lot of ceiling tiles to cut holes in!

Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting

We laid a new ceiling tile on the table.

Using template to cut holes in ceiling tiles for recessed lighting installation

Then we placed the template (the tile that we had just drilled the hole in) on top of the ceiling tile.

Using template to cut holes in ceiling tiles for recessed lighting installation

We lined up the two tiles evenly.

Using template to cut holes in ceiling tiles for recessed lighting installation

And, we just drilled a hole through the existing hole in the template, all the way down to the new ceiling tile.

Now, that meant that the center of the new tile had been marked precisely without having to get out the yard stick. (Which would’ve gotten very tedious because we had so many ceiling tiles).

Next up, it was time to break out the hole saw. Our lighting trim was 4 3/8″ in diameter, so we bought this hole saw. Check out the instructions for your particular recessed lighting trim to determine what size hole saw you might need.

Hole saw used for cutting holes in ceiling tiles

We attached it to the drill.

Hole saw used for cutting holes in ceiling tiles

And then we were able to start drilling the hole precisely in the center of the ceiling tile, since we had just marked that using the template!

Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting Cutting hole in ceiling tile for recessed lighting

So now it was time to place the ceiling tile where one of the fixtures had already been installed.

Putting cut ceiling tiles back in ceiling around recessed lighting housing Putting cut ceiling tiles back in ceiling around recessed lighting housing Putting cut ceiling tiles back in ceiling around recessed lighting housing Putting cut ceiling tiles back in ceiling around recessed lighting housing

This took a little bit of maneuvering to get the fixture to plop precisely in the ceiling tile hole. But, it finally got there! For the trim piece that we were using, the light had to be slightly above “flush” with the ceiling tile. The positioning might vary depending on the trim style that you choose.

Recessed lighting housing in ceiling tile without trim piece

Installing Recessed Lighting Trim Piece

But, of course, it wasn’t quite done yet. Next we needed to install the trim piece. (We talked about the different trim options we considered back in Part 2).

Here is what the trim parts looked like.

Trim parts for recessed lighting

Those two metal pieces were basically little tension rods that would keep the trim piece in place. Then, there was some minimal assembly required.

Trim piece for recessed lighting

Notice the wingnut pictured here in the housing. We ended up taking it off (but while it was in the ceiling) to make the socket moveable, which we needed to do for the type of trim we were using.  So, after removing the wingnut, the socket part started to dangle.

Trim piece for recessed lighting Removing wing nuts from recessed lighting housing Socket dangling in recessed lighting housing

We discovered that, depending on the trim pieces you use, you may not have to do this step. We also discovered that some recessed lighting housings do not include “moveable” sockets, in which case you’d have to buy something like this, a socket extender.  One of the reasons we liked these housings is because it allowed the socket to be moved. So, that avoided the cost of having to buy extra extenders.

Now, we could finally install the trim piece!

Installing recessed lighting trim Installing recessed lighting trim Installing recessed lighting trim Installing recessed lighting trim Installing recessed lighting trim

Then, that was it (well, for that ceiling tile anyway!) It was just time to repeat the process for all the other ceiling tiles that would have lights! (Oh, and install the lightbulbs of course!)

Putting lightbulb in new recessed lighting fixture Final recessed lighting view Final recessed lighting view

The lighting in our basement now is SO much brighter with these recessed lights. Because we were installing so many lights, and because it was a learning process as we went, the installation process did take quite a while. Probably a month or more (just doing it in our spare time after work and on weekends). But, we estimate that it probably saved us $3000+ in electricians’ fees. (The electricians estimated it would be about 15 hours work for them at $175/hour). So, it was definitely worth it for us!


DIY Recessed Lighting Installation

DIY Recessed Lighting Installation (Part 2)

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series DIY Recessed Lighting Installation

So, after removing the old, ugly light fixtures that we didn’t want anymore, it was time to start fresh with our new fancy recessed lighting!

Keep in mind that we are NOT electricians! This is just the process we followed for installing the lights.

We bought our recessed lighting mounts from USA Light. We started out by buying the “housing,” aka the fixture, and a few different kinds of recessed “trims”, including recessed light trims that only point down, ones that you can point in different directions, and “wall wash” trims.

We ultimately decided on the ones that just point straight down. We didn’t really have any need for the directional ones.

Here’s what one of the fixtures looked like as it sat on our table: Seriously, if somebody had asked me what this was before I actually knew, I don’t think I would’ve ever guessed. I had no idea this is what recessed lights looked like. For what it’s worth, these types of fixtures are called “new construction” recessed lighting fixtures (as opposed to “remodel” fixtures, which are used in pre-constructed drywall ceilings).

Recessed light fixture for drop ceiling Recessed light fixture for drop ceiling

There was a small box on the one side of the fixture that we needed to work on before the light could ever go in the ceiling (It wasn’t totally necessary to work on it before putting it in the ceiling, but it was easier to work on it on the table instead of over our head!).

Box on the side of the recessed lighting fixture

The box had some cables in it, which Ken pulled out to make it easier to work with.

Wires inside the recessed lighting

Then, he turned the fixture to the side and removed one of the little round tabs.

Preparing recessed lighting fixtures for installation Preparing recessed lighting fixtures for installation Preparing recessed lighting fixtures for installation

(Note the wires coming out of the fixture. Those came pre-installed with the fixture. This is important because we refer to it later in this post. Those things on the ends of the wires are called “push-in connectors.”)

Then he flipped the fixture to the other side and removed the top round tab.  Keep in mind that it doesn’t really matter which of the tabs we removed. We just removed the ones we thought would be easiest to work with when we were wiring. Basically we needed two of them removed so that we could put wires going “in” to the fixture, as well as wires going “out” from the fixture to the neighboring fixture.  If this was the last fixture we were installing, we’d just punch out one of the tabs for the wires coming “in.”

Preparing recessed lighting fixtures for installation

Those round tabs he removed had to be replaced with these things called clamp connectors, which we made sure matched the size of the tab holes on our fixture. These were important to have because the hole where we removed the tabs were quite sharp on the edges. It also wouldn’t do much to secure the wires (from moving around) if you don’t have the clamp connectors.  Wires and sharp edges don’t sound very safe, so we definitely wanted to use the clamp connectors.

Installing clamp connectors on recessed lighting fixture

They’re actually two parts, and he unscrewed them because each part would have to go on opposite sides of the hole.

Installing clamp connectors on recessed lighting fixture Installing clamp connectors on recessed lighting fixture

Voila.

Now it was time to position the fixture in our ceiling and do some initial wiring.

Putting recessed lighting fixture in drop ceiling

The fixtures have these little slots in them that allow them to sit perfectly on the drop ceiling grid.

Putting recessed lighting fixture in drop ceiling Putting recessed lighting fixture in drop ceiling

Next, we took some wire called Romex 14/2 wire. Ken had figured it all out the type of Romex wire we needed. We wanted 14 gauge, and 2 (14/2) for the number of wires not counting the ground inside the wire.  Since, for this part, we weren’t wiring the fixture directly to a switch (just light fixture to light fixture, the wiring to the switch had already been done by the electricians), we didn’t need one of the “3” Romex wires.

Romex wire

(Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of the wire in the bag, so this crumpled up photo of the bag is all you get:)

Romex wire

Ken and I fished up the Romex wire into the ceiling, just roughly where it needed to go.

Installing romex wire during recessed lighting installation process

Then he took some wire strippers to cut off the outer sheath of the Romex wire.

Installing romex wire during recessed lighting installation process Installing romex wire during recessed lighting installation process Installing romex wire during recessed lighting installation process

The inside of that wire consisted of three thinner wires: one white, and one black, and one “bare” (copper) wire. Ken pulled those three wires (still attached to the white sheath), through the hole where he had removed those tabs from and had subsequently affixed the clamp connector to.

Wiring recessed lighting fixture Wiring recessed lighting fixture

Then he attached tightened the clamp connector, ensuring that the wires are secure and don’t move. (There were screws on the clamp connector to do this).

Now it was time to connect those new wires (from the stripped sheathing) to the existing wires that came with the recessed lighting fixture.  (The wires that we pointed out to remember in the earlier picture 🙂 )

He cut off the sheathing from the black and white wires (the insulation of the wires). Then, he matched “like with like” by inserting the freshly unsheathed wires into the “push in connector” of the wires that came with the fixture. So, he put the wire that had the black sheath in the push in connector that had the black wire on the fixture, the one with the white sheath to the white push-in connector, and the bare wire to the “green” wire push-in-connector.

Wiring recessed lighting fixture

Whew! Okay, I think that’s enough for Part 2, what do you think?  We’ll talk more about the next steps in our process in Part 3!

DIY Recessed Lighting Installation