Saturday, August 11, 2012

Creation of a Mancave: The Beginning

While I never liked the window in the shower of our bathroom, Jeff and I loved the basement in our first house. It really wasn't anything special, but it was the place the two of us and our young dog spent most of our time. In the three years that we lived near Gary, IN, two of which were in our first house, we lived in Indiana and every day I drove towards Chicago to teach on the far south side and Jeff drove the opposite direction to Michigan. We were young and childless and by the time we both crashed at home, we frequently cooked something easy, or probably more often got carry out, and took our food to the basement to eat dinner and relax before crashing in bed long before we do now. Our house had a living room and a dining room that were rarely used. Instead, the table upstairs became storage for my school work and bills and the basement became our dining and living room. We started to devise grand plans for the basement, but we moved away from the house long before we had the time and money to do anything significant with it. But those dreams stuck with Jeff and appeared to haunt him for the five years we lived in our basementless house in Indianapolis. We're from Michigan, and we had both grown up with basements. My parents have never lived in a house without a basement, at least not as far as I remember. And Jeff wanted his man cave, a place where he could put up all his sports memorabilia, have a bar, and just hang out and watch movies and sports and play video games. It would be his space, but to have that in Indy meant either risking flooding due to the high water table or spending considerably more on a house. When we moved to Fort Wayne, a basement was a must on our list. We wouldn't even look at a house if it didn't have a basement. Luckily for us, our 1950s tri-level also has a good-sized, usable basement.

And what a basement it is. Our first glance at the basement was dim. The house did not have electricity, so we had to use flashlights and the flash on our digital camera to get any idea of what the basement looked like. As we became familiar with the house, we used our eyes and anecdotal evidence to figure out what happened down there. At some point, most likely when the power was out, the basement flooded, causing a significant amount of damage to the paneling in the main room and the cabinets in the "utility" room. The carpeting on the stairs going into the basement was disgusting, only this time the damage was due to water instead of cats. The basement was an ugly, scary mess. But like the rest of the house, we saw potential, and Jeff saw the man cave that he so desperately desired.

The only work that we have done in the basement is destruction. The first weekend we moved in Jeff and a friend tore out the cabinets and started on the paneling, trying to get rid of anything with water damage. My dad continued the work on the paneling during a visit to work on the floors in the guest room and what would become the nursery. By the time we moved in, the ceiling tiles, weighed down by the trapped moisture in the basement, covered the floor and were picked up and taken to the trash. In a matter of weeks, most of the damage was out of the basement, a new water softener was installed, and we had a dehumidifier working overtime. Eventually Jeff rigged the dehumidifier to drain directly into the sump pump which meant we never had to worry about emptying it.

For the most part, we have left the basement alone for the last two years, but with the bathroom done, Jeff needs a new project and so he is moving on to the basement while I put the finishing touches on the bathroom and move on to the living room. In the last two weeks he has torn apart the last section of yuckiness that needed to go. The previous owners had put a wall around the water heater and a separate basement furnace. Since we had never seen this before, we weren't sure what to make of it, but I did know that the moldy drywall made me wary enough that I usually didn't encourage people to check out the basement. And while the carpet had come off of the stairs, the tack strips remained, making the stairs not only dangerous, but incredibly dirty. Now Jeff has removed those problem areas, and now the dreaming grows.

Current discussion surrounds what to do about the cedar closet in the corner of the room that will be the entertainment room. I want to rip the closet out and save the cedar for a future bathroom remodel. Jeff wants to turn the closet in the bar, reasoning that with the door we will be able to lock the kids out. I think that it's an awkward placement and I was looking forward to a strip of cabinets, a fridge, a microwave, and countertop that would serve as great entertainment space as well. The picture below shows you what we are working with.

Of course, that is a decision that needs to be made before the more expensive decisions like entertainment system and seating, which is a little further off than Jeff would like (of course, he would like the whole project done tomorrow).  Also to be decided is the fate of the fireplace, which became the master work of some previous occupant, and the now tack-free stairs, which I either want rebuilt or at the very least I would like to see new stair tread.


But this work in progress will hopefully see some progress in the next year, and I will blog it all along the way. In the meantime, here is a picture of the pile from the wall surrounding the water heater and basement furnace.

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