Dream Shard Blog: The Scintillating Adventures of Our Household

Choose a Topic:

Jun '10

Generic Updates


A couple weeks ago Wes and I spent the morning at my sister’s house and we had a gourmet picnic lunch in the backyard.

My sister made us PB&J (and a special microwave toasted cheese sandwich for Wes) with diced peaches and string cheese. The wet marks on Wesley’s shorts are from the peaches he was eating.

Wes likes to get a reaction from animals by waving things in front of them. He does this a lot with our cats at home. It makes him giggle. Here he is trying to get a rise out of Casper the Horse, but I think Casper assumes Wes is giving him a snack.

We had a fun picnic, and afterward Wes fell asleep in the car about two minutes after he was buckled in.


We’ve been shopping around for carpet and tile for our basement. Wes is a big help (NOT), so sometimes the majority of my time browsing is actually spent keeping Wes out of trouble. At one store they had a room full of sample books that kept him happy.

And a toy car he was semi-interested in.

We haven’t decided on carpet yet, but we picked out some great Italian porcelain tile that’s on closeout and a terrific deal. We also think we’ve found some slate for the kitchen and fireplace. On Monday the tiling starts!


Wes doesn’t like a lot of candy, but he likes M&M’s. It’s the only candy he’ll ask for. The other day he saw the bag of M&M’s out and asked for some by making a sound and trying to sign something. I realized I didn’t know the sign for “candy,” so I looked it up and taught it to him. Here he is showing off his new skill. And yes, now he asks for candy ALL the time–breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and in between.

May '10

Adventures in Finishing a Basement

One thing we found attractive about our house when we bought it in 2005 was the unfinished basement, which meant we had room to grow our house as our family grew. The basement was framed for a large living area, two bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a furnace room. Fast forward to 2010: Enter Baby #2, enough savings to work with, and a contractor, and now we are on our way to a finished basement.

We’re two weeks into it. Let me tell you some things I’ve learned already about remodeling your home:

1. Things always take longer than you first think.

2. They cost more, too.

3. Suddenly you have to make a zillion decisions that would seem simple (chrome finish, or brushed nickel? dark countertops, or light? crown molding, or not?) but the more you think about them they more life-consuming they become.

4. Your house is not your own anymore.

5. Jackhammers are loud.

6. Strange men use your bathroom, and you have to clean up after them.

7. At the end of each workday you get to go downstairs and see what’s been done. It’s like unwrapping a new present every day.

The first thing we found out was that the existing framing had to be torn out and redone. So then we had the chance to rethink the layout and change it a little. We’re still finishing a large living area with two bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a furnace room, but the hallway is now shorter and more narrow, allowing more space for the two bedrooms. The second bedroom includes a small bonus area that could be a sitting room or hobby area. The hallway had some empty, unused space at the head that we turned into a storage closet. The bathroom is maybe a little smaller than when originally framed, but there’s still enough room for a six-foot tub, toilet, and vanity.

We’re still in phase 1, which is getting the basement ready for the city’s four-way inspection. This includes framing, electrical, plumbing, and heating and air conditioning. Pretty much the least fun parts of the whole deal. And, as it happens, one of the more expensive. In addition to needing to reframe, we learned we needed to upgrade our furnace for the added space. And if you’ve ever had to buy one of these yourself, you know they’re not cheap.

We also bought a gas fireplace. We knew we wanted one for the basement, and it has to be installed before the four-way inspection and before the sheetrock or drywall goes up. Turns out these guys aren’t cheap either.

The last thing we had to get prior to the four-way was a bathtub. But at least this I can say we got a great deal on from a local dealer who had it in stock and with free delivery.

Here are some photos depicting our progression so far in phase 1.

The Fireplace
This is in the living area.



The Ductwork
We’re grateful to our contractor for his idea about this. Before, our furnace ducts were hanging low on an already low ceiling. Finishing the ceiling with them there would have meant low head clearance and a less open feel.

He called in a structural engineer who gave detailed instructions for running the ducts through the rafters. Usually this isn’t a good idea because the rafters act as supports for the floor above and cutting holes larger than a dollar bill (or so) isn’t allowed. The engineer directed the building of reinforcements for the rafters around the ducting, so now everything is kosher and we won’t hit our heads on the heating ducts.




Here’s a better look at the reinforcements.

Hallway Entrance
This is the site of future french doors to close off the living area from the rooms in the back.


This is the original framing of the first bedroom that was later torn down.


This is the start of the new framing, which includes a new closet on the right side next to the first bedroom.


The Hallway



We shortened the hallway and brought it in to add space to the bedrooms. The furnace room and bathroom are to the left, the first and second bedrooms to the right and at the end.


Standing in bedroom 2 and looking towards bedroom 1


This is the start of the new framing.


The Bathroom and Sitting Area


You can see the framed outline for the new furnace room (left), bathroom (center), and sitting area that’s part of the second bedroom (right).


The bathroom is on the left (with new bathtub!), and the pile of dirt is in the sitting area, leftover from digging to set up the plumbing.