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Subterranean odyssey, part 2

March 14, 2016

[Special guest blogger Eric continues his saga of transforming the unspeakably gross basement into a usable workspace.]

Halfway there!

When you have a room full of stuff and no storage space, what do you do? Make storage space, of course! But what do you do with all the stuff in the room when there is no other place to put it while you make storage space? Pile it up in one corner while you work on the other. Or better yet, go to the Flower and Garden Show and then go to the Seattle Home Show. In my last guest post I said I felt like Billy in the Family Circus. Ah yup. Here is how projects work at our house.

Cartoon of circuitous route from start to destination

We’re distracted by anything shiny.

The first step in creating my new workshop was, I thought, to repaint the walls a brighter color. Like white. Removing the dark color in a basement without much in the way of windows and replacing it with a light color just seemed the right thing to do. That meant removing some of the wood crate shelving so I could paint behind it. As I emptied the shelves, I sorted. Stuff for the dump here … stuff to keep there…unidentified stuff somewhere else. I was quickly running out of space to pile stuff. Two five-pound lead bricks could be used for something someday. So I put those on top of the foundation wall next to the little wooden Japanese sandals that a long-ago owner must have made for his daughter. Let the next owners of the house wonder where they came from.

Green wooden geta sandals for a child

D’Arcy found these Japanese geta sandals on top of a beam in the basement.

The solution to the storage problem? Take out half the wood crate shelving along the south wall, paint, and then install some new cabinets for storage. Fill the cabinets and the repeat the process. That was my plan. Here is what I started with.

Panorama of crowded, dusty worbench and tools

From wine to air-conditioner.

The first real step was to find a place to temporarily stash a few bottles of wine. The new wine cabinet will become a storage unit after I build a new wine rack or we drink all the wine, whichever comes first. One bottle a day and we will be out of wine sometime in late July or early August.

Tall, narrow white cabinet holding wine bottles

Red or white?

The fanciful paint job was actually fun to look at. But it made the room really dark. The dirty metal cabinet on the right is the original base for our vintage kitchen sink. It was rusted beyond use, so I chucked it … but I saved the Art Deco pulls.

Ols sink cabinet and workbench with leaves painted on wall

Elvis’s jungle room had nothin’ on this.

I decided on bright white paint. I first put Zinsser primer over the top of the painted wall. One coat was enough to cover the paint below. Of course, I had washed and wiped down the walls to remove the many-years-old dust and dirt that might be there. It seemed solid. But as the primer dried, the existing paint bubbled in places. And it flaked off in other places.

Bubb;ed and peeling white paint

Not a good sign!

It was then that I realized that the base coat of old paint (under the foliage design) was nothing more than a whitewash. So that meant scraping and wire brushing the walls to remove any newly loosened paint. A good lesson learned there. A new coat of primer went on. I made sure it was a version that had mold inhibitor and would cling to cement and masonry. The white semigloss went over that.

When I had cleaned and painted about half the wall I stopped and bought a couple of inexpensive storage cabinets at IKEA. They were two inches too tall. I had to trim them down so they fit under the floor joists. Now I had a place to put hand held power tools and accessories. A good start!

Two tall, white IKEA cabinets

IKEA to the rescue!

When the walls were all painted white the room seemed so much brighter! If there was any OCD within me I would have put a skim coat on the rough foundation walls to make them smooth. But what the heck? It is a basement, after all, and no matter what I did to the walls and floor, it would still be a low-ceiling basement! Harumph …

New white paint on one wall, original paint on the other

Before and after

My next task was either to buy or manufacture some sort of new worktable for myself. I wanted a lot of drawers and counter space. I figured 28” x 78” was a good size for a worktop. It would go under the east wall and window. Since the closest worktable I could find for purchase was roughly $850 and was not everything I wanted, I decided I would build one myself. Wouldn’t it be great if I had a fully functioning workshop to build something like that?

Stack of boards on basement floor

Future workbench

For $63 I purchased all the wood I needed for my workbench. Fir 2x4s and 2x8s were pretty much what I started with. That and some 1×6 pine boards. These days, a nominal 2×4 is actually 1.5×3.5 or so (plus or minus a sixteenth of an inch from board to board). That is something that is a constant reminder in our 103 year-old home, where the 2x4s really are 2×4. It always makes the remodel and repairs here interesting. I milled the 2x4s to1x3s and milled the 2×8 to even, squared thicknesses to create the tabletop.

Lumber for wrokbench cut to size

Cut down to size

At first I thought of making 15 wooden drawers for the workbench and then decided to go a totally different way. IKEA sells plastic drawers that are the perfect size and only a couple of dollars each. I picked up a few other things while at the Swedish superstore that would wind up in the basement.

The bench is done and works well. The entire workbench cost me less than $120 and many hours of labor. But it will work until I make one out of quarter-sawn oak or other really hard wood.

Wood workbench with colorful IKEA drawers

New worktable with IKEA innards

With the workbench done, I had the storage space and workspace to get the rest of the room cleaned and sorted. The pegboard is full of tools, the cabinets are in place and full, and all the bench tools are in their resting places. My old center island worktable and all the bench tools are on locking casters so they can be moved around as needed. That helps when you have a small workspace.

Hand tools hanging on white pegboard wall.

A pegboard for tools, like everyone’s dad used to have.

Tall black metal tool chest and rolling tables for bench tools

The black tool chest is where the old sink cabinet stood.

What’s next? I still need to add outlets and another new LED ceiling light. And I need to seal a few more floor cracks and run some leveler on the floor, too.

When those last few items are done I will move to the other side of the basement. There is an old workbench over there that is still great. I plan on using both side of the basement. The side I am finishing now will be the area where we do the heavy work of sawing, milling, and sanding. The other side will be for the detail stuff and will hold more storage for household needs and some hobby things. And mostly spider free. The adventure continues.

View of other half of dark, dirty basement

More to come …

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it

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From → Basement

14 Comments
  1. Much improved. I would have liked to see side by side before and after pictures, though. I can’t tell where things are, which means you did a great job! Is the new workbench where the old one was?

    • That’s a really good idea, Jessica. I’ll pass it on to the guest blogger. He’s not done down there, so he’ll have another chance for before-and-afters! The old benches went around a corner (two walls). The new one is one one wall, with the IKEA cabinets on the other.

  2. Africadayz permalink

    Great post! So you’re BOTH good writers…. Particularly like the peg board with all the tools. And I do so wish we had Ikea here. I am very familiar with them from London but they have not braved Africa yet. I wonder why?

    • Thanks, Jacqui! I wish IKEA had been around when I was a young adult. I could have lived in style for cheap! 😉

  3. Like this post a lot, especially the first graphic. If only DIY were a straight line from “think it” to “have it”. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

  4. I think this is coming along nicely. I would love to have a basement. Or maybe just a wine cellar since neither Mr. B or myself are particularly handy!
    How was the home show?
    Karen

  5. Oh, Karen, I don’t think you want a basement quite like this! 🙂 It’s loaded with, um, “potential” … and spiders!!! If you had a basement, it would be neat and tidy and finished!

  6. Tom and Judy permalink

    Well you may have procrastinated, but when you got going, the brilliant results are evident. I too love the peg board. It can accommodate so many tools that take just take up lots of shelf space if you don’t have it. Tom put it in the garage and it sure helps. The Ikea drawers was a genius idea. Love reading both of your blogs.

  7. I can’t believe how many hammers and saws you have – I have that many and I was planning on giving most to Habitat… but there must be a reason to keep them I don’t know about … and although I know it was time to paint the flowers, they did add character to an already character-laden basement 🙂 Nice job!

    • Haven’t you figured out by now that we keep EVERYTHING?? That’s what gets us in trouble! 🙂

  8. wow, that sure is a lot of hammers! and other assorted poundy things. great job, eric! the basement is coming along so well. love the workbench with the ikea bins… going to have to scope those out next time i’m there!

  9. Thanks, Alison! Can’t have a shop without a lot of poundy and sawey things!

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