The Other Basement Thread
Green Wizard lp, started a thread asking,
"If you had a large, semi-finished basement space, what would be your dream scenario for that space? Indoor root cellar? Storage for canned items? Space for boarders or tenants? A clothesline? Other than making sure the space didn't flood, what else would you do to ensure that the basement is usable without modern conveniences like a/c or dehumidifiers?"
...which has been a good discussion. I expect that as society winds down and economic conditions get worse, more and more people will consider co-habituating in a density they would have never accepted a decade past. I live alone in a two bedroom duplex (with full basement), which could easily house 8-10. I also expect more people will look at their basements and spare bedrooms as ways to expand the space for more people to live with them and share expenses as things get tighter.
Rather than co-op lp's thread, I decided to start a second one. As I've mentioned before, I'm approaching retirement and have decided to move in with my single sister to jointly live in her small home here in St Louis. I plan now to retrofit her basement into a small studio apartment, and have a exterior workshop and office. Since the first renovations will involve the basement area, lets look at that.
THE BLANK CANVAS:
This is a picture of the house from the driveway. There are several huge trees in the front yard and this shaded the ground so much that she had a hard time getting grass to grow. A few years back my sister decided to just plant shade loving ornamentals instead. I'm not a big fan of growing something I can't eat but I have to admit she's gotten a pretty nice flower garden started now.
At some point I wouldn't mind having a single hive of bees in the backyard, and she's definitely got a great pollinator garden developing. Since I also companion plant flowers around my raised beds the brood should have a good supply of food. While I don't eat honey (too sweet for my elder tastes) having a steady supply of wax would be useful for candles. I expect energy prices to surge in the coming decade and being on a limited income, having inexpensive lighting will be nice. I suspect that "de-electrifying" my sister's lifestyle will be an ongoing and head shaking task throughout my retirement. She is a firm believer in "Its hot, turn on the AC!"
The house is typical for the older suburbs of St Louis, small houses on large lots. The first floor is about 4 feet above the ground, with a basement. You can see the porch, with the flower bed in front of it. I'd like to get rid of the evergreen bushes in it and plant some flowers. Under that is the small room where the furnace oil tank is.
Here is a picture of the stairs and porch. Notice the tiny little garden bed up against the house. At some point that had flowers until the trees shaded the house in. The fuel oil tank room is under the concrete slab of the porch and is perhaps 10'x8'. I keep going back and forth on what is the best usage for it. I'll get into that more later in this thread.
Here is a picture of the driveway side of the house with its two basement windows. There are two, similarly placed on the opposite side of the house. One of the things I want to do is replace them with double pane one's that I can open during good weather.
Here is a shot of the back of the house. It originally ended at the left of the picture with the wall the yellow hose hangs from. The previous owners built a room extension, which is currently the dining room we never have dinner in. I'm going to try and talk my sister into turning that room into the living room. Its bigger than the front room she uses, has three huge windows and a big plus, it has my father's old Franklin Stove which is functional, though my sister doesn't like using it. I do and I love a fire. I'd like to rack in a couple of cords of wood in the backyard as a backup heating supply, which will happen when we begin dropping trees along the fence line in prep for the third side of the privacy fence.
The stair well to the left leads to the basement where I want to build the small studio apartment. It really restricts what you can get into the basement though. The air conditioner above the stairs was once used to cool the room addition but doesn't work now. Inside the room, there is a closet above that air conditioner. Long term, the air conditioner needs to be removed.
A SMALL BASEMENT UNDER A SMALL HOUSE:
My sister would kill me if she sees this thread, her basement is full of junk, lol.
The dark brown door in the center right leads to the fuel room under the porch. I wanted to get a picture of it but the door seems to have swollen and I can't pull it open. Gonna have to take the pins in the door hinges off and pull it out to get access to the room to remove the tank. I'm leaning towards putting a pantry in the room, for food and household goods storage. It should stay relatively cool and dry even in Summer, and putting a sliding style door across the entrance.
That corner of the basement also has the furnace which means I can't wall it in too much. I expect we will have to replace/repair the current furnace sometime over the next 20 years of my life. Note the huge duct work, much larger than the ones in my more modern duplex. I should get those cleaned at some point.
The basement also has a low ceiling, typical of older 40s-50s homes. Not a problem, I don't mind small spaces.
The windows are very large in relation to current basement windows. Useful for natural lighting and ventilation. Means I need to focus areas that I'll be in constantly, around those windows to save energy.
Heading right, this is the laundry area and where I would like to install a half bathroom (toilet and sink) and a combination laundry/kitchenette. You can see the previous owner's shower. I'm leaning towards removing it entirely and installing a toilet over the center placed floor drain.
The problem is I'll need to bust the concrete to remove the P-Trap on the floor drain to install a toilet there. This may be very expensive and force me to consider other options. If i can install it there then I can construct a small bathroom that also holds the water heater and some removable shelving in case the water heater needs to be replaced or repaired. The bathroom wall would be a few feet left of the washer, and allow me to shift that appliance left so that I could build a counter in the corner with a sink.
Short cabinets could be then installed at the ceiling for food storage and enough counter space for a microwave for cooking. Larger meals would be cooked upstairs. I could also shift the dryer right a few feet. There is a "in wall dryer vent" below the window so I can't go too far.
If I can't affordably have a toilet installed over the floor drain where the old shower sits, then I'll be forced to have a up flush toilet installed at the sewer stack below the upstairs bathroom. In that case I may keep the shower but seriously rebuild it. You can also see that they put the electrical junction box near the water pipes! Like that isn't dangerous, lol. If I go that route then I have a short space for additional counter top to the side of the dryer. If not, then I can put a larger counter top with space for my dorm refrigerator.
I have a 7 cubic foot freezer and my sister a 5 cubic foot one. If I make the fuel tank room a pantry, I'll put the bigger one in there and the smaller one next to the refrigerator.
The area from the stack to the far wall will be turned into storage. The door to the outside seen in an earlier photo is just out of frame to the right. I may build a small "wet room", a double door entrance to save energy and minimize cold and hot air from entering the basement.
I'll get a better picture of that wall this week.
The house itself is supported by an large I-Beam in the center of the floor plan, and a cross beam which you can see here. The center of the floor also has a deep well around the floor drain, perhaps a 6" drop around it.
Until I rip out the shelving to the left of the furnace and see how the duct work is situated, I'm not going to be sure how I can proceed. I'd like to use the area to the left of this picture as my micro apartment but I'd prefer that to access the washer and dryer not mean my sister has to disturb me walking thru my bedroom. That means rerouting the stair access to turn right not left and walk past the furnace on that side.
You can see better the restrictions I'm facing in this photo.
The base of the stairs is very small. I'm thinking of building a landing at the 2nd or 3rd from the bottom stair height with a 90 degree turn. It will depend on the head spacing if I do this.
There is also the short concrete wall in the picture and the vent at its base. What is that for? Can I remove it and reroute the downward path that way?
Lots to consider before I swing the first hammer.