Home Goals 2017

Alright. It’s officially time to start looking ahead. Time to share my Home Goals 2017.

Unusually, I’ve not been thinking about these for the past few months. Some of them have solidified over the last few weeks–one of them even started just before the end of last year. Some of them came together just as I was writing this post.

I think we’re getting to the stage where more things are done around the house–and the things that are yet to come are biggies. As in so big we’re not ready to tackle them yet (although I really, really, really want a garage).

However, there’s still enough to keep us busy for another year. Here’s what’s on the list.

My office

Turquoise and brass file cabinet from DIY Mommy

Source: DIY Mommy

Ahhh. My office. Finally a room of my own (thank you Virginia Woolf–not an affiliate link). I don’t know as I can convey the monumentalness of this project–except by making up words. Five years ago we moved to the farm. Since that time, moving boxes have been stacked against the wall in my “office.” I want to unpack and truly have a functional office. Finishing off my office will finish off another milestone for the house: the final bedroom.

The transformation is already underway. This is the project that Matt and I started right at the end of December–gotta keep up our holiday tradition of scraping a stippled ceiling.

Clean up the pond shore

Property clean up has been on my list every year. And every year I end up working on whatever spot shows up in front of me. This year I want to be a little more plannful. This year, I am cleaning up the pond shore–how’s that for an emphatic statement.

The pond is my favourite place on our whole 129 acres. And I haven’t been able to easily access the shore the whole time we’ve lived here. I’ve considered enlisting professional help, but I think if I put out a call, I should be able to find a few family members willing to wield chainsaws and weed eaters for a weekend.

Vegetable garden

The vegetable garden was our major project last year, and as a result I feel like we’re in very good shape to start this year’s growing season. However, there are a few things I’d like to add this year, like rhubarb, a second row of berries (maybe raspberries, maybe something else) and maybe some more grapes.

Most important, this year I am going to keep the weeds under control–another emphatic statement. I’m hoping a deep mulch will help me not spend my whole summer weeding.

Flower gardens

Last year our flower gardens were entirely neglected as the vegetable garden consumed all our time. This year I want to give them at least a little bit of attention.

I’ve dumped plants randomly in two beds at the front of the house, and they need a bit of organization. I’d like to add some more shade tolerant flowers to the turnaround.

I’m also planning to remove the flowerbeds at the back of the house (there are only so many hours in a day, and mowing is easier than weeding).

Basement

I’ve said it before. The basement has been hanging around long enough. This is the year we’re going to finish it once and for all–including fun art.

New barn cat

Ralph the barn cat

This one may be more of a farm goal than a home goal.

We have an outstanding barn cat in Ralph. So outstanding that we’d love for her to teach someone the wisdom of her ways. I’m not sure exactly how we’re going to go about finding her an apprentice, but we’re going to figure it out.

So there you have it. Six goals. Two inside, three outside, one alive. Some big, some small, one with a tail. Some easy, some tedious, some furry.

We’ll see how this goes.

Time to get started!

Do you have any goals for this year? What would you like to accomplish at your house? Any tips for introducing a new barn cat? Anyone want to help clear the shore at the pond?

Looking back at Home Goals 2016

I have to be honest. I’m on the side that is glad to see the end of 2016. It was not my favourite year.

But there were some bright points. And before I look too far ahead into 2017, I want to take a look back at my Home Goals 2016.

I really enjoy laying these goals out at the start of every year. And I find them very helpful throughout the year to keep me on track.

This year was kind of a mix. We accomplished a lot, and I am really happy with what I can cross off the list. However, some little finishing details continue to hang around, and I couldn’t summon the motivation to finish them.

Here’s my review.

Start to plan for the big reno

I started last year by sharing some of the floorplans that we’ve been playing around with for our long term vision for this house. Through that process, I think we landed on a plan that will work best for us.

We also met with a contractor, got his input on the plans and got some very rough numbers from him about how much things will cost.

We also realized that we can easily break our plans–and our budget–down into several phases. I like knowing that we don’t have to do everything and spend all the money all at once.

The big reno, even just phase one, is likely still a little ways away, but it seems more real now that we have some drawings and numbers.

Guest room

Robin's egg blue country guest room

You know I love crossing a whole room off my list, and the guest room has been one of my favourite projects so far.

A few family members visited us in 2016, and they all liked it too. My one nephew said it was like a bed and breakfast–the kid knows how to make his aunt happy.

This is a project where one niggly finishing detail is still hanging around. I stripped the paint off the old metal bedframe way back in the summer, but I never repainted it. So this will have to go on the list for 2017.

Finish the basement

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

The basement was our very first project when we moved to the farm, but four years later I still had some niggly finishing details hanging around. The biggest detail was Matt’s bathroom, which is alllll done–and so, so pretty.

The basement ended up being the focus of an unexpected reno this year when we had to waterproof the foundation in a few areas. It was tough to redo already redone areas. I’m keeping my fingers crossed we don’t have any water seep in this spring.

While I had planned to focus on just a few small things, after redrywalling the areas that were waterproofed, I also built a new closet in the laundry room. Closets were a theme of the basement. We added a tonne of new shelves to the cold cellar and built shelves in the closet under the stairs. These areas have given us a lot of extra storage. It was great to dig out the Christmas decorations without digging through a pile of boxes first.

So there was some good productivity.

But on the niggly details front, I continue to struggle with art to finish off the basement. I know what I want and I even have frames. I just haven’t taken the time to find the pieces I’m looking for. I did make 16 personalized Scrabble tiles for the pingpong room. Having each of our family member’s initials is a touch that I really like. The rest of the art will come in 2017. I promise!

Furniture

90s bookcases as china cabinet

I didn’t buy a whole lot of new furniture this year, but what I did has been on the list for a loooong time.

Finding a third matching cabinet for the dining room was definitely the thrifting score of the year. I think it will be hard to top that one.

A close second, though, is finding a china cabinet for my office. I’ve been looking for a pretty specific piece for a long time. This hunt was a lesson in persistence and the importance of carrying furniture measurements with you everywhere.

The two other pieces of furniture on my list for 2016–making a new coffee table for the living room and reupholstering a slipper chair for my office–will carry into 2017.

Vegetable garden

Vegetable garden

The garden was a huge project this year. We invested a lot of time in it, and we saw the results.

In fact, everything that I wanted to do on my original Home Goals 2016 list, save for planting rhubarb, we did.

2016 was about a lot of the infrastructure for the garden. We finally hung the gate, put in curbs around the outside edge, built raised beds, built trellises for raspberries, tomatoes and squash, planted some perennials like grapes and asparagus, tried our first cover crop of winter rye, experimented with a deep mulch of straw, and last but absolutely not least ran a waterline out to the garden.

This year’s harvest was again fabulous. I feel like we’re starting to settle into our gardening groove.

And thanks to all of the work that we did in 2016, I feel like 2017 will get off to a much faster start and we can focus on growing, not building, the garden.

Outdoor clean-up

Burned lawn

When I look at the farm, I feel like there’s so much that needs to be tidied up. In adding outdoor clean-up to my list last year, I knew I was going to have to pick a spot.

However, when I reflect on the last year, I realize that we actually ended up doing better than just one single spot. We cleaned up a scrap lumber pile behind the barn and another big one at the edge of our centre field. We picked up rocks, so I’m able to mow along the north side of the house, although I would still like to add some more topsoil and pick up a couple of patio slabs.

And the biggest area is the one pictured above on the south side of the garden, which was cleared for the first time this year–a controlled burn is the way to go–and then mowed by Matt all year.

There’s still a lot more clean-up to go, but I have to remind myself that we have a 129-acre property and we have made good progress.

And that’s a good word to sum up 2016 as a whole. Progress.

I feel good about what we accomplished, and, even better, I continue to enjoy the process of making the farm and the house ours.

What were your accomplishments in 2016?

Ready to reno… something… anything…

I’m getting antsy for a project.

I have to admit, I loved the little lull we had after garden season ended and we started spending more time indoors. Summer was busy and I always felt like I was eight steps behind all of the work that I should have been doing outside.

But now, I’m ready to get moving again.

I like to have something to work on, I love how our house looks after I finish, and plus it gives me some good content to share here with all of you. (Confession, I’ve felt like things have been a little dry this fall).

When I was cleaning the bathroom the other week in preparation for our annual Christmas party, I thought to myself, “Can I just rip out this linen closet? Even just the top part?”

Main bathroom before

Uh. Yeah. That sounds like a good plan when you’re having 15 people over for a full Christmas dinner.

I was able to restrain myself and returned to my scrubbing. (Anything to avoid cleaning the bathroom, right?) I’m usually not the type to just dive right into a reno without thinking it through and planning it out. That might mean projects happen more slowly around here, but it works for us.

I think I will likely end up leaving the bathroom alone. I want to tackle the whole thing at once, not just the linen closet.

Instead, I have my eye on my office, or our third bedroom. It’s the last bedroom that needs to be painted, and I think it would make a great project for the Christmas holidays. Then there’s the storage hutch makeover and finally unpacking the last of our boxes… only five years after moving in.

VIew from my office doorway

It’s become a tradition over the last two years that we scrape the stipple off the ceiling of one room over the Christmas break. We can’t break with tradition, right?

… Although I just saw Aniko’s (Place of my Taste) bathroom makeover with her chunky DIY shelves and the linen closet is calling my name again.

What would you do, office or bathroom? Do you ever antsy for a project? Are you a planner or a “let’s-get-this-party-started” kind of person?

Basement bathroom details

Small black and white bathroom

Today is about diving in to all of the details on our basement bathroom that you saw on Friday.

This is a small space–5 feet by 7 1/2 feet. But it makes a big statement, if I do say so myself.

As you saw, what we started with was not great. We ripped everything out right back to the concrete. We reframed the walls, our plumber ran all new waterlines, our electrician fixed the unsafe wiring we uncovered, we had sprayfoam insulation added, and then we put up drywall and cement board.

Along the way, Matt broke up the concrete floor so that we could reposition the shower drain and toilet (a lack of insulation in the original walls made them very thin. Once we reframed and reinsulated, we had to bump the toilet out from the wall by a few inches).

We also flipped the plumbing in the shower so that the shower head was on an interior wall rather than the exterior one.

And the other change was a small bump out into the hallway outside the bathroom. We have a very wide hallway leading to the laundry room–7 feet wide. So we borrowed about 2 square feet of it to make a little storage nook in the bathroom.

Here’s the floorplan.

Bathroom floorplan

And here’s how the bumpout looks from outside the bathroom. It’s not obtrusive and gives us a nook perfectly sized for a storage cabinet just outside the laundry room.

Storage bumpout for the basement bathroom

Let’s step inside and take a look at some of the details of our new basement bathroom.

The shower is big (3 feet by 5 feet), beautiful (marble! white! clean!) and has a few special features that I’ve always wanted (the soap niche and bench).

The main tile that we used is a 4 inch by 2 inch white subway tile–a bit bigger than the standard. It runs up half the wall behind the toilet and then floor to ceiling in the shower. Inspired by Lindsay Stephenson and her beautiful DIY shower, I added an accent band of grey marble mosaic tile. The shower floor is also a grey marble mosaic of little hexagon tiles.

The niche and the bench are two things I knew I wanted from the start. The niche is 12 inches wide by 15 inches tall and the bench is 32 inches wide by 16 inches deep by 18 inches high. On every horizontal surface, I used a solid piece of marble to protect against leaks. For the curb and the niche, we were able to find marble at Home Depot. For the bench, it took awhile, but we eventually found a remnant that was big enough for the top.

White subway tile shower with a marble seat

It may sound funny, but the shower curtain is what pulls it all together for me. Early in the bathroom project, I fell in love with Cole & Son Woods wallpaper. It was an organic pattern that would be a bit of a rustic element in the bathroom. Since moving to the farm, I’ve come to want to incorporate something rustic in all of my interiors. However the fabric version–like the paper–is way more $pendy than my budget.

I considered all kinds of alternatives, but nothing panned out. Then this summer Jen at Rambling Renovators posted about a Woods knock-off. And it was from a Canadian company and already made into a shower curtain. Before I finished reading her post, I had already placed my order. It’s perfect.

Someday we might add a glass enclosure (there’s extra blocking in the wall to support glass), but that’s more money than we want to spend, and Matt’s satisfied with the curtain.

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, we reused the original vanity and sink that were in the bathroom. We didn’t have a lot of space, and they fit perfectly, so there was no reason to reinvent the wheel. Looking at these photos, I see the finish of the vanity looks very creamy next to the white toilet and tile. However, in real life, it doesn’t bug me.

Matt selected the faucet, and his choice was driven purely by budget. If it had been up to me, I would have chosen something square, like the towel holder and light fixture, which I picked. However, in hindsight that might have ended up being a bit too many squares. The faucet matches the hooks that we chose and the variety of shapes work well.

Small black and white bathroom

There were two things I wasn’t sure about in this bathroom: the black paint and the huge mirror.

In a small room, I was worried the black would be too much. But it’s only one wall, so the black doesn’t overwhelm the small space (it’s Wrought Iron by Benjamin Moore). The contrast with the white tile and fixtures is dramatic.

In a small room, a big mirror is a no-brainer. But sheet mirrors like this aren’t exactly in style anymore. Running it from the corner right over to the shower and from the vanity up to the ceiling modernizes it a bit. Installing the light fixture on top of the mirror also modernizes it–although the process of measuring and hanging this mirror was nerve-wracking. But the mirror does its job of doubling the light and appearing to double the size of the room.

Small black and white bathroom

With limited wall space, we didn’t have a lot of room for towel bars. Two hooks behind the door–each with three individual hooks–give Matt space for his bath towel and clothes–although pants still end up on the chair in the family room outside the door. Argh.

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

Even if the hooks don’t work quite like I intended for storage, the built-in works very well.

The closed cabinet on the lower part hides the less decorative things in the bathroom. Plus the cabinet door that I found at the Habitat Restore is a perfect match for the doors on the vanity. Originally, I’d planned to build a drawer inside the cabinet, but some dollar store baskets are much simpler and work just as well to organize Matt’s toiletries. The guy’s deodorant collection is ridiculous.

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

The upper part of the shelves gives more storage and a spot to decorate, which makes me happy. The back of the open shelves is lined with barnboard–that I actually went out and cut off the side of the driveshed. It’s another rustic touch that I love so much.

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

This might be a stretch for anyone except me, but I had a loose chess theme in mind when I conceptualized this bathroom. We have kind of a fun and games thing happening in the rest of the basement. Matt’s game–although I’m not sure you can really call it a game the way he plays–is chess.

When I thought about going black and white for the bathroom, I thought of a chess board.

That also led me to incorporate a photo of Matt’s grandpa, who was an avid chess player. And to ask my Dad to make a large rook–Matt’s favourite chess piece–on his wood lathe. (Beware, any time you play with Matt, he will always castle his rook and king).

Built in shelving in a small bathroom

For all of the time that Matt and I have shared a house, we have not shared a bathroom (aside from the short time span when this bath was under construction). So this room is all about him.

Happily, the finished product is something that works for both of us.

Basement bathroom before & after

This post has been a long time coming. Loooooooong.

I first posted befores of the basement bathroom on April 12, 2012. We had owned the farm for a month.

We have now owned the farm for 56 months. That’s four years and eight months.

And we’ve finally finished the bathroom.

It’s been pretty much done for most of those 56 months. Matt’s been using it quite happily.

However, I had three pieces of trim to install, one cabinet door to rehang and I still hadn’t found the perfect shower curtain. Those niggly finishing details that dog you for four years. Ugh.

The perfect shower curtain was found this summer when Jen at Rambling Renovators posted her mood board for a modern farmhouse bathroom. That was the impetus to finally finish the rest of the bathroom.

Are you ready for our most dramatic before and after yet?

Who am I kidding? This isn’t the most dramatic before and after yet. This is the most dramatic before and after we’re going to have at the farm.

Before:

Basement bathroom before

After:

Black and white bathroom

We called this the psycho shower.

Shower in our basement bathroom

It was tiny, orange, and for some reason built up on a platform. Everything was just all around gross.

Psycho shower on a platform

But no more. This is definitely not a psycho shower.

White subway tile shower with a marble seat

 

Gross was also the theme for the sink and vanity.

Decent sink, but ugly faucets and some spray issues

But with a good cleaning and a new faucet, they were redeemed.

Small bathroom sink and vanity

Above the sink we started with a small mirror, an off centre light and a random vent. If I’m recalling correctly, I think the vent was an access panel for either plumbing or electrical. It was not actually acting as a vent.

Off-centre light

After reframing and reinsulating the whole exterior wall, we held our breath and hung a huge mirror. The light fixture, which is centred over the vanity, sits on top of the mirror.

Small black and white bathroom

 

Along the way we fixed our exhaust fan issues, including evicting the snake my Dad discovered in the vent.

Broken exhaust fan

Disposed of the old toilet including its cushy illustrated toilet seat.

Cushy toilet seat

And added all kinds of storage by bumping out a small shelving area.

Built in shelving in a small bathroom
Aside from the bumpout, we kept the layout the same. But what a change.

Looking back at those before pictures I can’t believe we bought this house.

I’m so proud of what we were able to do with this bathroom, though. This was a huge DIY for us, and really pushed us–tiling that shower was a daunting task that still has me questioning whether I ever will tile again.

The design was a stretch for me too. Four years ago, dark colours weren’t as popular as they are now. Taking the plunge to paint a small windowless room black was a bit daunting. I love the black and white design so much and how it and all of the other little touches came together.

I’ll be back soon to share all of the details on this little bathroom.

Is there anything you’d like to know more about? Feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to answer it in the next post.

Five standout houses from homify

I’ve been writing for homify.ca for a few months now. As a home reno and decor junkie, I love going behind the scenes on amazing houses from all over the world.

Here are a few homes that I’ve written about that stood out so much that I had to share them with you.

I love the idea of being involved in a barn conversion–especially when the result is as beautiful as this barn in the Netherlands.

country Corridor, hallway & stairs by reitsema & partners architecten bna

 

The tiny house movement is not something I can see myself participating in, but it was neat to see how every “room” of a house could fit into a single shipping container.

rustic Houses by Cristina Menezes Arquitetura

 

Container homes are very much not my style, but this one from Northern Ireland came with sheep and a cow, so it appealed to the country girl in me. Plus it has an amazing suspended bathtub that looks like a hammock (!).

modern Houses by Patrick Bradley Architects

 

I love a good before and after, and this Portuguese home was full of them.

translation missing: ca.style.schools.eclectic Schools by SHI Studio, Sheila Moura Azevedo Interior Design
translation missing: ca.style.schools.eclectic Schools by SHI Studio, Sheila Moura Azevedo Interior Design

 

And my most recent post, a restored rustic farmhouse in Northern England, complete with a beautiful country kitchen.

by Linda Joseph Interiors

 

Check out all of my homify.ca posts.

Country or modern, rustic or sleek, what home styles appeal to you?

How to make a DIY carpet kick – Free plans

Early in your life as a DIYer, you learn that having the right tool can make the job much easier. However, sometimes you don’t want to go buy a new tool for a project that you’re only going to do once, maybe twice.

Laying carpet is one such job in my opinion. Likely–hopefully–you’re not laying carpet every year. However, if you do want to tackle installing carpet yourself, there are a few things that can help you get a nice finish on your floor and make the end product look more professional. One of those things is a carpet kick.

How to make a DIY carpet kick

Unless you’re a professional carpet installer, a carpet kick is not likely a tool that you’ll use very often. If you’re a professional carpet installer, I expect that you will go buy your own professionally made kick. However, for a DIYer you can easily make your own carpet kick out of scrap wood.

How to make a DIY carpet kick

Download the plans to make your own carpet kick

Materials:

  • 2×4 approximately 14 inches long
  • 2×6 5 inches long (you’ll cut it to a 5×5-inch square)
  • 3/4-inch plywood (also cut to a 5×5-inch square)
  • Two 3-inch screws
  • Two 1 1/2-inch screws
  • Eighteen 1 5/8-inch drywall screws (or other screws with a coarse thread)
  • Scrap piece of carpet (about 12×12 inches)

Cut each piece of wood according to the plan. Screw the wood together using the 3 inch and 1 1/2 inch screws.

If desired, paint your kick–I recommend a stylish baby blue.

How to make a DIY carpet kick

Once paint is dry, wrap the butt end of the kick in the scrap carpet and staple in place. You’ll likely have to trim the carpet to make it fit. This is like wrapping a really awkward present.

How to make a DIY carpet kick

Screw the drywall screws part-way through the kick plate so that they poke out the bottom. These “teeth” are what will grip the carpet and stretch it over the tackstrip.

How to make a DIY carpet kick

And that’s all there is to it. Now you’re ready to install your carpet.

How to reuse old carpet

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How to reuse old carpet

A few weeks ago you caught a glimpse of our redone basement. We put it back together after our waterproofing contractors finished their work.

Wall repaired after waterproofing

Fortunately, the carpet and underpad were not damaged  by the leaks, so we were able to reuse them. (Although they could use a good cleaning).

Our contractors had folded the carpet back out of the way while they were doing their work.

carpetrep4

After giving everything–the carpet, the underpad, the concrete–a really good vacuum we were able to unfold the underpad and lay it back down over the concrete. The vacuum is critical. You don’t want to discover any bumps under your carpet once you’re finished installing it, so make sure everything is really clean and smooth.

How to reuse old carpet

The next step was to install new tackstrips, also known as smoothedge. The tackstrips are what hold the carpet in place. The underpad provides the guide of where to install the strip. Tackstrips come in two different versions–one for wood subfloor and one for concrete. Make sure you buy the right type for your floor.

Line the tackstrip up with the edge of the underpad with the little spikes pointing in towards the wall. Hammer the small nails in the tack strip into your floor. With our new concrete from the waterproofing, we found the nails did not want to go in. We ended up gluing the tackstrips to the concrete with construction adhesive.

Installing carpet tack strip

Once the glue was set, we unfolded the carpet and laid it over the tack strips. It’s important to stretch your carpet tightly. For this, you need a carpet kicker. I’ll share how you can make your own kicker in an upcoming post.

The idea is you lay your kicker on the carpet and using your knee you kick the carpet towards the wall. While the carpet is stretched tight, run your hands over the edge to press it onto the tack strip. You should feel the carpet catch on the spikes. As you get towards the corner, kick on a bit of a diagonal to push the carpet towards both walls.

How to reuse old carpet

You’ll notice that we installed the carpet before we put the baseboard back on. Usually you will have baseboard or trim in place already. In those spots, use a chisel to tuck the carpet in under the trim. (You can see some of the water damage we have on the base of the door trim. It has since been covered with fresh paint.)

How to reuse old carpet

And that’s all there is to it. I’m so grateful that we were able to reuse the carpet. This carpet goes through the whole basement, so redoing this one area would not have been an option. Plus installing it ourselves was a quick and easy DIY.

Have you ever installed carpet yourself?

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The results of our basement waterproofing

Today is supposed to be the last post about our big summer project: waterproofing our basement.

Here are the previous posts if you need to get caught up:

However, I can’t wrap up this project because a week ago we had a torrential downpour and we had puddles in the basement. Wah-wah.

The first leak was in the laundry room and the second in the cold cellar–two places we’d waterproofed.

In the cold cellar, it appears to have come up through the shiny new floordrain.

Basement floor drain

In the laundry room, it somehow somewhere came through the wall. The rain was an extraordinary downpour, but nonetheless, my expectation from our waterproofing is that we would be waterproof.

The big selling point of working with our waterproofing company is that the work came with a lifetime guarantee, so we’re working with them now to make sure our leaks are truly fixed.

In the meantime, I can share some of our progress. Here’s the biggest illustration–and one area that doesn’t leak anymore:

Before (ish)

Spray foam insulation

After with framing, insulation, drywall, paint, carpet and baseboard all redone.

Wall repaired after waterproofing

I think the thing that frustrated me the most with this project–aside from the fact that the leaks are not actually fixed–is that we ended up basically back where we started. We shelled out a bunch of money, put in a bunch of work and it all looks the same.

But looks aren’t everything.

With home ownership, what’s behind the walls matters a lot. So that’s why it’s so important to us to fix our leaks, not just cover them up or ignore them.

Last week’s rain was a bit extreme. Up to then, we had a few other rainfalls without issue. In fact the night the crew left, we had our first big rainstorm of the summer. Matt and I were sitting in the living room, and I said, “I think I hear the sump pump.” Sure enough, rain was falling hard enough that the water was flowing through the weeping tile around the foundation and filling the sump pit. Talk about timing.

We love the assurance of our new sump pit and pumps. There are two pumps in our pit. One is a regular pump that is plugged into a regular electrical socket. The second is a back-up pump and it is plugged into a giant marine battery.

Back up sump pump powered by a marine battery

If for any reason the first pump gets overwhelmed or stop working (like the power goes out), the second one will kick in automatically. Considering that power outages are a real possibility during rainstorms, we feel very good about our back-up system.

The pumps have two alarms. The first will sound if the back-up pump comes on and second very, very loud alarm will go off if both pumps for some reason fail.

Sump pump alarm

I also appreciate the finish both inside and out. In the cold cellar, the dirt and footings around the perimeter are gone in favour of clean smooth concrete. And the crew did a great job of making the new concrete nice and even with the existing floor. Where the exterior waterproofing happened outside the laundry room, again the wall looks super clean, even though we appear to still have some problems here.

At the doorway to the cold cellar, where I always did a little hop across the dirt at the threshold, the floor drain is a nice addition. The floor drain ties into the weeping tile which in turn ties into the sump pit. Given the water we found in the cold cellar, I surmise that there was so much rain that it overwhelmed the weeping tile and spewed out of the drain.

So unfortunately, I can’t say we’re all done. We’re hoping we get there soon, and I’ll be sure to share when we do.Save

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How we waterproofed our basement from the inside

So far in recapping our basement waterproofing saga, I’ve shared a glimpse of the problems and the options we considered to fix them.

As I said in my last post, we decided to go with Omni Basement Systems, a company that would fix the leaks from the inside (for the most part… more on this below) and would guarantee the leaks would never come back (and never is a pretty long time).

Full disclosure, the basement waterproofing project was not sponsored. We paid for the work ourselves and didn’t receive any discounts or compensation.

We had three things we were looking to fix:

  1. Leaks along the south wall of the house and around the perimeter of the cold cellar that seemed to be coming from where the poured foundation wall met the slab of the concrete floor.
  2. Leaks in the laundry room where the bottom half of a former doorway had been bricked in to become a window (at the complete opposite end of the house from the other leaks).
  3. New sump pit and pumps (plural) including a battery back-up system for when the power goes out.

Numbers 1 and 3 were going to be tackled from the inside, while number 2 was going to be tackled from the outside.

The laundry room window/door was located very tight to a corner. There wasn’t space to access the seam of the old doorway from inside the basement.

Working from the outside entailed digging down to the base of the foundation, a tough job at the best of times, but particularly unpleasant in the intense heat and humidity that has been this summer. This job was made doubly tough as the crew uncovered the original concrete retaining walls that had bordered the exterior stairwell and the slab at the base. Because of all the concrete, water had nowhere to drain and was seeping through the foundation into the house. The crew had to break up the extremely hard concrete as well as waterproof the foundation.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the outside

Waterproofing involved filling the joint with special polyurethane polymer sealant. The sealant will never dry out or recrack even if the foundation wall shifts over time. A membrane called Blueskin was laid over the wall and then all of that was covered in “dimple sheet” and then the top edge was sealed with a thick line of tar. After that, the crew backfilled the hole. You can read more about the process on the Omni website.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the outside

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the outside

For the interior waterproofing, the first step was to access the foundation wall. In the long room (where our pingpong table lives), that meant removing the drywall. Matt and I did that ourselves, and I admit my heart broke a little bit after how long it took us to drywall the basement in the first place.

The crew then peeled back the carpet, scraped the sprayfoam insulation off the bottom of the wall going up about 16 inches, removed the bottom plate and cut about 16 inches off the studs.

With a clear shot to the cement floor, they started the jackhammer. The object of the game was to remove the concrete floor about 8-10 inches along the base of the wall and expose the footing.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

Breaking up concrete is dusty work. To contain the mess as much as possible, the crew went the extra mile, laying plastic over the carpets, pingpong table, piano, up the stairs and cordoning off the area where they were working.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

All of the concrete, dirt and gravel that was excavated had to be loaded into five gallon pails and hauled up the stairs out of the basement. Outside, it was dumped into larger garbage pails that were then loaded onto the truck at the end of the day. Such heavy, heavy work.

Brute garbage pails for a basement waterproofing project

The cold cellar is unfinished, so less prep work was needed and the crew could begin jackhammering right away. However, extra jackhammering was required as the cold cellar is the location of our sump pit. The old pit was described as a “farm-special.” We’ve encountered a few “specials” around the farm. They work, but they’re not always necessarily quite the right way to do things. The pit was thick, solid concrete, so it took a lot of work to get rid of the old pit.

Below you can see the pit and our new liner ready to be installed. Note the holes in the sides of the liner. These allow ground water to flow into the pit, whereas before with our solid concrete pit, water had nowhere to go and ended up seeping in through the joint between the foundation wall and the concrete floor.

Replacing a sump pump pit

As part of installing the new sump pump, the crew replaced our old discharge line and extended it far out into the yard. Previously, the pipe had just dead-ended underground, and it was only about 10 feet from the house.

Old sump pump discharge line

The new line extends nearly 50 feet, and the end is capped with a sturdy grill–a “LawnScape outlet”–that sits at ground level. Obviously, ground level is not below the frost line. The whole pipe is just under the grass. We weren’t able to lower the discharge line at all. We didn’t have any issues with our old discharge line freezing, and we’re hoping we don’t with the new one. The sump pump won’t kick in until temperatures warm up in the spring, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

(“You really want a picture of me, don’t you? I’m much cuter than some pipe.”)

New sump pump discharge line

Back inside, once the footings were exposed, the crew dug a small trench around the perimeter and started to lay new weeping tile around the foundation. All of the weeping tile flow to the new sump.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

Part of what led us to choose Omni Basement Systems to handle our waterproofing was that they used some different types of materials  and systems than other companies.

One of these was the WaterGuard Perimeter Drainage Channel. This channel sits on top of the footing, so it’s away from the dirt and there’s no risk of the line becoming clogged over time. However, it turned out that the WaterGuard didn’t work with our footings, so the crew went with traditional weeping tile instead. I was a bit disappointed we didn’t get the assurance of a channel that will never clog, but the warranty still applies.

Once the weeping tile was laid the crew added some membranes over the concrete wall (the white panel and black strip in the photo below). These membranes form a barrier between the concrete–and any moisture that may be running through or down the wall–and the studs and drywall. The membranes curl over the weeping tile, funneling water into the pipe, and then concrete is poured on top.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

The concrete is smoothed and leveled so that it lines up with the original floor.

Waterproofing a basement foundation from the inside

And after two and a half days of work, that’s where the job ended. Next, it was over to Matt and me to finish the rest of the basement by repairing the studs, insulation and drywall.

But that will be for the final post. Stay tuned for the wrap-up where I share the finally finished basement, the results of the waterproofing and our experience working with Omni Basement Systems.

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