Installing Basement Drains

We’ve had lots of small, necessary, mostly boring projects so far. Our first major step towards getting our basement finished was getting the drains installed in the floor, along with a big new well and grinder pump. We needed a total of four drains – one for the kitchen, one for the sink in the bathroom, one for the toilet, and one for the shower.

One of the difficulties in getting the plan right was the number of obstacles in the way. We had to account for the pump and the connection to the sewer (located in the center of the bottom wall), the four windows on that side of the basement, one of the poles holding up the house, and the electrical panel (located on the right wall). We also wanted to create a plan that made it possible to build a master suite in the future if we decide to rent out the home in the future as two apartments.We had many versions of the layout before finally coming up with a workable plan.
Though we do a lot of our renovation work ourselves, this was certainly a job we did not want to tackle. This work was too integral to the basement’s function,and to hard to remedy if incorrect. We took this opportunity to finally join Angie’s List, and hired Olis Construction to do the work.  We picked them because they were fine with just doing one piece of what will be a much larger project, allowing us to decide what to tackle next and when. Other contractors wanted us to do the entirety of the plumbing at once. Additionally, Mark Olis was polite, fast, and reasonably priced.
On day one, Olis and his assistant arrived in an unassuming pickup truck and got to work breaking up concrete. Lots and lots of concrete. The well they put in was 3 feet deep, so they also had to dig out for that. The ditches they cut out were much neater and narrower than I imagined. The jackhammer was exactly as loud as I imagined.

On the second day they laid the drains.

On the third day, they were covering up the ditches. with concrete That was it!

Naturally, this was dusty work and left a bit of a mess. We decided this was as good a time as any to get things cleaned up and organized around home, and save up for the next big project.


Osage Trees

I mentioned I hated yardwork, right? I’m quite ready for the winter and the frosty hibernation it brings to all of nature. Unfortunately, between then and now is fall, and a driveway full of Osage Orange fruit, known as hedgeapples.

What are those? The fruit of the tree of the devil, in my opinion. Some people love them, but I’m unimpressed. The wood from these trees is very strong, making for good fences and bows. I’ve heard from one of our neighbors that the ones lining the west side of our lot are protected, and cannot be cut down. In the spring, all the buds fall off and make a mess of our driveway. I used the blower to clear them off every day, a task that Aaron thought to be futile. In the fall, these trees litter the ground with endless hedgeapples. The squirrels go crazy for them, and will carry many of the early ones off the driveway. They are mostly inedible for humans, but they are known to ward off spiders and other insects if you place them in your window and near doors.

These are the bane of my existence from September to November. When they hit the ground, they usually remain intact, but when they split open they are a slimy mess. If we don’t get them off the driveway, we end up with mounds of goo everywhere. Last year I had an afternoon ritual of removing them from our driveway every day when I got home from work. I kept count of how many I cleared until I got to 200. By then it was just depressing.

One last fun fact about these trees is that when they are first growing, they have thorns like you wouldn’t believe, making clearing out of hundreds of square feet of honeysuckle all the more horrible. 

Clearing the Side Lot

I’m not sure exactly what came over me, but I took up the ambitious goal of cleaning out our side lot in late March. I think I just wanted to get ahead of the spring.

We call it the side lot, but it’s really just the extension of our driveway past where it turns toward our garage. It’s probably about 30 feet wide, and as long as our back yard. I cut down everything i could reach back there, aside from the giant Osage trees.

It took three evenings of work to get it done. It was WAY MORE than we expected, and still haven’t found a good way to haul it all off. My current plan is to wait till late fall, cut down everything that has grown back, and then rent a U-Haul to take it to the dump.

 Disappointingly, every type of weed took advantage of this newly cleared space and grew like the Amazon forest of Indiana. The picture below is from early spring, when they sprung up seemingly overnight. These weeds grew taller than the shed before we got around to knocking them down. It’s enough to make you want to pave the whole thing.


A few months back, we hosted a party for Aaron’s cousins. Having a theme was by no means necessary, but we chose Pirates all the same. The flag and statue are from Assassin’s Creed IV, and I just happened to see a gift set of Captain Morgan that came with cannonball cups. We made a pirate Spotify list (turns out there are a lot of pirate songs out there) found a bunch of rum drink recipes, and decorated the mantle. That was in march… and I’ve since added a pirate book and a bottle of rum to the mantle. I’m not sure what it says about who I am as a person that this still delights me greatly. Even better, Aaron has said nothing about taking it down, which is either a sign of his love or his indifference. I recently realized that whenever delivery people come to our door, their first glimpse in into the house reveals a gigantic black pirate flag…


The Meridian Kessler Home Tour

Home tours are an interesting concept – you pay a small fee to walk though a collection of other people’s homes. It’s like House Hunters with the pressure to actually buy a house. The Meridian Kessler Home Tour is features homes in the historic district of the same name. Most of the homes have been renovated and modernized over the years, making each one distinct. Honestly, it’s worth a visit to Indy just to go on this tour.

This year was a bit offbeat, with one of the homes being completely empty and mostly gutted (they intend to feature on the tour again when the home is complete) and another that was a music school, artists residence, and private residence in one.
They won’t let you take pictures, which is a bit strange considering hundreds of people will be walking through these homes. Because we have major renovations planned for our own home, it was helpful to see how other people dealt with renovation challenges. We could see some other finished basements and observe how they managed low ceiling heights, duct work, and other tricky situations.

Granny’s Porch

I wasn’t quite sure what to get my grandmother for her birthday when I had the good and possibly a bit ambitious idea to put down new flooring in her screened-in back porch. She had been complaining about her floor for some time, which was just peeling paint on concrete.

I used vinyl plank flooring, which I love for many reasons: It’s relatively cheap, it’s a floating floor that can be installed over many surfaces, and it installs quickly. We surprised her with the flooring one Friday evening after work, and were finished laying it by sundown. Once the new floors were in, it was clear that it could use a new coat of paint as well. I fully intended to paint the ceiling too, but she’s LOVING it all the same, so I figured I’d leave well enough alone for now and go back to working on my own house.

The Indianapolis Home Show

The Indianapolis Home Show was definitely better this year than last year. I actually ended up going twice: once on the weekend with friends when it was super crowded, and once on a weekday with Aaron when it was almost empty.

I felt that a lot of the smaller, less relevant booths were grouped together in an auxiliary pavilion, making the main pavilion more interesting. We saw some cool ideas, nice products, and the feature home was lovely. The master bedroom was especially impressive.


The feature home also made a shallow platform in their media room, which we might consider making in our basement game room

One company featured lighted tiles in a weave pattern.


Another company constructed a massive outdoor room using a covered, angled pergola.


One of my favorite features was an above ground pool with a patio and landscaping build up along the edge. The pool felt integrated into the landscape even though it was above ground. I’m sure that this was more motivated by the constraints of the home show, but I thought it was a great idea for a pool all the same.


City Sewer Connection

Our neighborhood was still on septic tanks when we moved in, but had a deadline to convert to the city sewer by early 2015. Luckily, the seller agreed to pay for this connection (which costs a few thousand dollars). It’s a little strange that homeowners are required to pay for the connection that will result in them paying the monthly sewer fee as well… but that’s the cost of living in the city.

The company that we had do this work for us was abhorrent. They took forever to come out, didn’t say so much as hello before digging up our yard, and left a gigantic pile of of dirt in our driveway for no stated reason.

That said, they didn’t have to run a pipe through the middle of our basement, didn’t need to move our deck and they were done with the work in a couple days. We haven’t had any issues, so they seemed to do a fine enough job. They didn’t return to regrade or re-seed the lawn. They happened to dig up a small bolder, which, out of indifference, we haven’t moved from where they placed it.

Painting with a Paint Sprayer

With a big new empty basement to paint, we decided to buy a paint sprayer to get the job done. We’d been thinking of doing so for a while, and thought it would make the job of painting the basement faster and easier.

First, let me say that using a paint sprayer is extremely fun. Its like a giant paint marker that instantly transforms everything around you. Its like being deBlob. And, it is lightning fast. I painted all the walls in the basement in about a half an hour.

That said, they are cumbersome and extremely messy. You will get paint everywhere, especially if you are painting the ceiling like we were. I wore an outfit most closely resembling a beekeeper, and had such a thorough dusting of paint I was soon unable to see out of my goggles. Everything that happened to be in the basement at the time was covered in a thin dust of ceiling paint. the entire floor was covered as well. We thought that it didn’t matter if we covered the floor or not, but this just made for more work when we went to sand it.Those lines on the floor in the picture below are from some tape that we pulled up after painting.

They are also annoying to clean. It’s not that it’s over complicated or necessarily difficult, but we’ve found that the process takes so long that it cuts into the time saved by using the sprayer in the first place. We probably should have gotten a much smaller paint sprayer, and just dealt with the frequent refilling. I’m sure the clean up would have been easier, and the process as a whole might have been a bit neater. 

Basement Floors

There is nothing Aaron wanted more than a pool table. In fact, we bought the pool table before we bought the house. As soon as we moved in, he wanted to get the floors ready so he could get his pool table delivered. (It was delivered by two guys in a pick up truck…. which is not what I expected.)

The basement is beneath the entire house, but  we intended to have different flooring on either side of the steps. This left 1000 square feet or so to be dealt with immediately. We considered vinyl flooring, tile before deciding to stain the concrete. Refinishing the existing concrete would be cheaper than any other floor treatment, and we did not need to know where every wall would eventually be. We bought a few different colors of stain, intending to create a mottled, mullticolored look.

First, we needed to sand the floors with a diamond sander. Renting this tool is rather cheap, but it’s a messy exhausting job. Aaron had the week off work to finish the floors, and I remember coming home to a dust storm in my basement so think i could barely see three feet past the stairs. For the record, if he had connected the sander to a shopvac, or watered the floor and sanded wet, this dust storm could have been avoided. At this time, he only had one thing on his mind, and that thing was a pool table.

Oh, I should mention that we also painted the walls. I’ll talk about that in a seperate post. In addition to nearly 60 years of grim, the floors were also coated in a fine paint mist from the paint sprayer. One the dust settled (litterally) and we cleaned up the floors, we tested the stains in an area we would later cover.

Maybe it was the colors we picked, or maybe the it was all the work it took to get the floors clean. None of the stand colors looked right to us. It just looked like the floors were dirty again. We decided to forget about staining the floor and just seal the newly sanded concrete as is.