Tag Archives: basement

Interior porch enclosure

I detect a theme here: From simple to increasingly complicated.

Like I mentioned in the last post, I started with the west wall, which was very simple to build. On the south wall, I had to integrate windows, and on the east wall I had to deal with doors.

The last piece of the puzzle was completing the thermal enclosure of the basement space between the stairs leading up the the first floor, and the stairs leading into the enclosed basement space.

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And a puzzle it was! Dealing with railings. Fitting the framing with enough wall cavity for the required insulation. Trying to avoid thermal bridging. Thinking about air tightness. Finding the right spot for the door. You name it …

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My head started to hurt, and the framing showed it. But it did the job! I was ready to close everything up with sheathing, and in the process I used drywall adhesive, caulk and foam to seal all of the gaps.

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That concluded the enclosure of the the basement space. To turn it into a thermal enclosure, I need to add some insulation.

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Basement kitchen bragging

Oh yes! I will once again invoke my bragging rights and tell you how much of a cheapskate I really am…

The big secret: You don’t need to buy new. If you schedule it right (by leaving yourself enough time to go scavenging) you can save a lot of money and resources by turning to the salvage and reuse market. You can begin to reshape your own footprint.

Take the wall and island cabinets. The former was a steal we found on Craigslist, while the latter was purchased at the ReBuilding Exchange. Ok, the island cabinets needed some work (cladding on the back and side). But I took care of that with our salvaged old growth lumber.


While I am on the subject of salvaged old growth lumber: It also provided us the material  for the open counter top base to the left and right of the stove.

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The stove was a Craigslist purchase, whereas the dishwasher came from the ReBuilding Exchange.


As you have recently read, the solid surface counter top was a purchase from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The heavy duty, cast iron sink with white enamel also came from the ReBuilding Exchange, while the backsplash stone tiles were a salvage item from our 1st floor kitchen installation. They were also bought from the ReStore.


Some items are more difficult to purchase from the salvage and reuse market than others. This can be due to scheduling constraints (i.e. I need that thing now!), or availability. Here is a list of the items that we had to purchased new:

The items we were able to source from the salvage and reuse market are:

We spent an estimated $1,880 on materials for the basement kitchen! If I add the miscellaneous hardware items, we may have spent as much as $2,200.

That is our kind of price tag and our kind of kitchen!

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Buttoning up the basement kitchen

With the counter top installed on the sink base, it was time to get the leftover stone tiles from the 1st floor kitchen and start installing the tile backsplash. I was in a hurry to get to it so that tile thinset had time to cure before we got to the grouting.

In the mean time, we glued the remaining counter top pieces to the plywood base and clamped them down until the low VOC adhesive had set.

Next on the list was some plumbing. We needed to extend the hot water line by five feet for the dishwasher connection. I decided that hard piping was the safe route to take.

By now a day had passed and we could start with grouting the tile backsplash. Because the stone tiles are porous, I had to seal them. I still had some of the low VOC sealant left over that I could use.

Installing the sink was next, followed by completing the dishwasher installation, putting the cabinet doors back in place and cleaning up. I now could put my attention to a couple of details.

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I dug up a nice piece of old growth lumber that I milled down and intended to use as a cantilevered mini shelf right above the tile back splash. This will be a useful storage surface, and a nice finishing edge to the top of the back splash


I also got a handful of the salvaged maple hardwood floor boards out, cleaned them up and sanded them so that they were nice and smooth. These were perfect pieces for the cabinet toe kick.

Et voilà, we finally have a finished kitchen in the garden unit!


I now have to find an answer to an important question from Cathy: “Why couldn’t we have had a nice kitchen like this when we lived here?”

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Countertop fitting

Despite the awkward angles, our two open couner top bases fit right into place. I put it down to the cardboard templates we used, and which will come in handy again.

We also put the sink base and island back into place and started cutting and fitting the ¾ inch plywood support. It sits on top of the cabinet or open bases, and under the ½ inch solid surface counter top. The plywood adds extra stability and is the medium to which we glue the counter top.

Cutting and fitting the solid surface counter top material took a little research. The recommended method we came across was using a circular saw with a triple chip saw blade. And that indeed gave us smooth and chip-free cuts. To cut the sink opening, we used the jigsaw with a metal blade.

Our cardboard template proved to be indispensable when it came to cutting the counter top for the two open bases. It allowed us to get the angles right and a square connection to the sink base and island.

We ended the day by glueing down the sink base counter top and backsplash. That would allow us to get started on the tile back splash the next day.

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Open counter top base fabrication

L-shaped kitchens are nice, but I find U-shaped ones to be even more functional. And the basement kitchen space has U-shape written all over it. One could sort of detect the beginnings of it when we moved into the garden unit.


We had two functional plywood counter top spaces. But to complete the U-shape, we need counter tops left and right of the stove. And this is where it gets unconventional, due to my favorite topic: moisture management.

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Maximizing air flow

I did not want to use base cabinets left and right of the stove. I am concerned that they would restrict air flow across our exposed limestone foundation wall. If so, that section of the foundation wall may have a difficulty drying out. And that in turn increased the potential for indoor air quality (IAQ) issues and mold.

Instead, I had planned for an open counter top base and wire shelves, thus maximizing the potential air movement across the foundation wall. That means I have to test my carpentry skills and fabricate an open base, which is nothing more than a table without the table top. Well, there is the awkward angle shape on the ends…

Resource efficiency

“Cradle to cradle” comes to mind. Years ago, when we deconstructed the basement, I saved all the old growth lumber because I had been told it is good material for furniture making. Now I can clean up those studs, de-nail them, and mill them into the needed shape. The de-nailing part is somewhat tedious, because it has to be done very diligently, or it will dull our saw blades during milling.


Building the base

Drew found a simple table base template online that suggested to use a combination of wooden dowels and screws. We cut and fabricated the legs and horizontal connectors and used a cardboard template to make sure the base was assembled correctly and at the right angles.

We had a little difficulty getting started, but ended up cranking out two bases in no time. They turned out to be a surprisingly sturdy construction. Next step: taking them into the basement kitchen to see if they fit.

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