Subterranean odyssey, part 1
While I’m toiling away with endless plaster repair (or, alternatively, lolling in the Barcalounger ), I need to come up with something to entertain the five people who read my blog. Fortunately, the living room walls aren’t the only project around here. I’m making a mess upstairs, but Eric is in the dungeon—a.k.a. the basement—turning it into a functional shop. He’s doing such a great job, I asked him to write a few posts about it. Put on your hazmat suits, folks–Eric is taking this blog where it’s never been before!
I feel a little bit like Billy in the Family Circus. D’Arcy is taking a short break from her blog as she works on our living room walls and I get to fill in for her. Patching and filling and sanding and painting a 103 year old room has its ups and downs (mostly on a ladder) so it takes a bit of time to get it all done.
So, what project in our house do I have to write about? Well, we have a small basement in our house. It used to contain the boiler and heating system for the home. Old pipes for the radiator system that used to be in the house are still present and capped off to provide a real plumber’s nightmare (especially when not all the pipes were capped off properly many decades ago).
Piping for new-fangled items like washing machines made for interesting challenges for someone in the past. The drain for the basement sink (no longer functional) and sump pump go out through the foundation wall at about two feet up from the floor and come back in again at five-and-a-half feet. Oh yes, our washing machine drains into the sump. At first I thought that was a bad thing. Then I realized that during the long dry spells we have in the summer, using the washer actually runs the sump pump regularly to keep it working properly.
[Ed. note: I heard this was a common setup in older Midwest houses, but not many houses on the West Coast have basements, so it’s an oddity out here.]
We live in the Green River valley. That means that the water table at our house is about two feet below the surface of the yard in wet weather. The basement floor is five feet below ground. When it really rains the sump pump is very active. With a 103-year-old cement floor, there are bound to be small cracks. There are patches upon patches on the floor. Water is always trying to seep in, but that is what the sump is for. I will have more on the sump and plumbing another time.
We have only a partial basement—under the kitchen and our bedroom, on the east end of our house. The bottoms of the floor joists sit about 65″ above the floor. Wiring, ducting, and piping go through and along the floor joists. There are few windows to the outside world from the basement. The furnace, the sump, and the water heater are on the north side of the basement. The stairs come down the middle. The north side is storage and is full of bicycles, cat carriers, and stuff from many decades. Well, the whole basement had a lot of stuff in it. That would include spiders. That would be why my wonderful wife doesn’t go down there.
So why bring all of this up? This is where I decided to create my workshop. There used to be a workshop there. Oh, by the way…I am 73″ tall.
The workspace that was in the basement when I moved into the house served a purpose for a former tenant. It did for me too, for a while. But then I decided to make a change so that it worked for me. Isn’t that what ALL guys do with projects, anyway?
The original arrangement of the workshop was just an open space next to the stairs. The foundation walls had been spray painted in a colorful, but dark, jungle-like theme. The shelves were made from old floral bulb pallets (a clever reuse of materials). But they didn’t provide the best storage space for me. The countertops were sheets of heavy chip board. They sagged in a few places (as do many things that are older). There were a lot of extension cords hanging in the rafters to provide electricity and light. They all came off of the same outlet. As long as only one thing was plugged in at any time what could possibly go wrong?
Bags and boxes of old project pieces, leftover hardware, and hundreds of parts to something or other had been here on a shelf since the last century. And of course I only added stuff to the mess.
I somehow managed to build, from scratch, an entire set of kitchen cabinets, a king-sized headboard and footboard, and many other things in this environment. So why make any changes? I set down my trusty old Reed and Price screwdriver somewhere on one of the counters and I couldn’t find it anymore!!!! I need better storage! I need better lighting! I need better ventilation! I need more outlets! I need a real workbench! Phew, I need a nap.
My next post will show what I did at the start the project.