Plans all wrapped up in pretty red tape (Townhouse #2)

We chose this house because we thought the basement could easily be converted to hold another bedroom and a bathroom. At first I had wanted to extend the family room all the way to the back of the basement, but then I learned that excavating that might entail new footers, underpinnings, drain fields, sump pump, etc. NO THANKS.

So change of plans #1. I pulled my plans back to a more modest scale and drew the family room boundary back to where the worst of the sloping started. I was thinking something along these lines:


I figured whoever sleeps in the bedroom would never want to go up two flights of stairs in order to take a shower, so the bathroom should have a tub/shower. Since it’d be pretty much only that person regularly using this bathroom, that it should be made part of a bedroom suite instead of apart – hence the Jack-and-Jill layout.

Except the way the HVAC returns are set up there causes all kinds of problems. There’s nowhere to run the pipes, especially the big sewer pipe, and nowhere to exhaust the fan. I explored every single way of doing it – moving the returns and squeezing the bathroom in next to the staircase like a hot dog. Putting the bathroom under the staircase towards the back. Putting the bathroom on the other side of the bedroom.

In short, nothing worked very well, and all the extra moving of HVAC ducts, pipes, etc that are already down there caused the price to go up too high to fit in our budget. So, no bathroom. Which means… it’d be really weird to have a bedroom down there. And that even if we do put in a 1/2 bathroom up on the main floor, it’s not going to be enough of a change to refinance and get our money back out like we did with the Beach House.

SO. Sigh. Change of plans #2. Just do the bedroom without the bathroom?

Unfortunately, a big fat NO to that too. The city we’re in, unfortunately, requires an egress window for any closed , windowed room in a basement. So despite our having a great big lovely 24×52″ window…


it would still have to be twice as big. We’d have to excavate out below the sidewalk, dig down the bottom of the window about 12″, put in a window well and either some kind of drainage/sump pump or a special hard-cased closed window cover so that rain doesn’t flood down in the newly excavated hole and pour right into the basement.

It’s fairly expensive by itself, and even more so if you consider that an inspector would then have to have access to the basement, so we would likely also have to rectify a number of other not-to-code issues down there. Depending on how detailed he wanted to get, it could easily spiral into some major projects. Considering the pretty small bump in rent that we’d get for having an extra bedroom-with-no-bathroom, the high cost just isn’t worth it.

Believe me, I did consider just making it into a bedroom in secret and leaving the window as-is – after all, this window was considered above average only last year! But a) this city requires rentals to be registered (really heavy fines if you don’t) and b) in order to be registered they require annual inspections… and one of the checkboxes on the inspection pass sheet is that every closed room in a basement has a new egress window. Since we can’t prove when the room was finished, since it was done without official permits, we can’t get grandfathered in, and we’re stuck.

SO. CHANGE OF PLANS #3. GODDAMNIT. I guess we’ve got no choice but to leave the window the way it is and eliminate hope of having a bedroom down there. Instead we’re going to rent it as a three-bedroom and play up a huge, beautiful family room downstairs. (Click to embiggen.)

1744 Webster HD final basement plans

I’m going to leave half the wall that was there – but move it backwards to make the family room bigger. It’ll visually divide the space in case someone wants to have an office or playroom separate from their hang-out space, but the gap will be wide enough that it’s obvious you couldn’t just stick a door there. I’d LOVE to put in a gas fireplace – this place has natural gas! – if I could find one for less than $2k, and really play it up with maybe a stone accent wall or something posh (I can find stone veneer at Second Chance for very cheap). I mean, if we’re not spending that money on an egress window and a real bedroom… I guess we should put it into playing up the features that we do have. :/

Lastly, I’m still not sure about the laundry area and how I would prettify that. I had planned to leave that half of the basement alone as Unfinished Storage so I could get away with not fixing it up. Remember, if we tried to level the floors back there with the highest corner, there would only be about 5’5″ of ceiling height.

So I’m thinking … maybe I’ll build a platform of some kind instead. Something just the size of the laundry area so that the floor height doesn’t have to come up that much. Put down PT sleepers cut to contour, top them with 3/4″ plywood, and at least end up with a nice little laundry nook even if the rest of the area still looks like a cave floor.

laundry level

I dunno. Worth it? It certainly doesn’t look welcoming right now – I wouldn’t be delighted to do laundry there – but I’m not sure how important it is.

I recently got a part-time job that I’m really enjoying, but it limits me to about 4 days a week (including weekends) of construction time. And I do try to take at least one full day of family time each weekend (heck, I don’t actually enjoy doing this kind of work myself) so that makes it 3 days a week I can work on this house. Which means, I guess, that all my potential construction time is like 50% more valuable than it was before? Maybe? Is that a thing? At least that’s what it feels like. Anxiety/stress/overwork, anyone?



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