Long Term Home Remodel Project

Phase VIb - Finishing the Den, Part II / Floor, Laundry & Bar


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With the shed finished just before winter, we will be taking a break from construction to work on other projects until spring. At that time we will start this last step of the den remodel. We will raise the floor to match the new stem wall and the rest of the house, add the partition to separate it from the master bedroom closet and add the laundry and bar. Meanwhile, we found some nice laminate flooring at the Habitat for Humanity outlet that we really liked for the den and purchased it to be stored until ready for it.


. . . Another (Shorter) Long Pause . . .


As often happens, plans and reality don't necessarily match. Instead of "next spring" it was spring but a couple of years later. I finally determined that if we were ever going to have the room finished, now was the time to get it done. Working on the floor does not agree with my arthritis a lot these days so I would need a lot of help from my carpenter son.

The first step was to raise the floor to match the rest of the house. Remember in a previous phase we built a false stem wall around the perimeter to match the main foundation then rebuilt the walls on it. This is not part of the den, of course, but I also wanted to cut a hole through the south wall of the living room to construct an alcove for the piano that does encroach into the new walk-in closet that is part of the den remodel. A concrete slab for the alcove had to be done before we could raise the rest of the floor so it is mentioned here. The slab was poured first then the rest of the alcove was built after installing the sub floor for the den. It is described more fully here.

Plane Shavings All right, back to the den. The old slab floor was a porch so it had a slope to the back of about 2 inches. We would cut 2x4s to set on the slab, tapered to make their tops level and flush with the existing slab in the rest of the house. I figured we could measure the depth at both ends then cut a straight taper between the ends for the new sub floor to set on. Unfortunately, this was not the case. After preparing a couple of them we tested for fit. The slab also has a significant but unanticipated crown near the center that varies from one joist to the next. After custom shaping the first ones with a hand plane, I finally figured out that we could set a 2x4 on the slab, scribe it to fit the curve and cut it on the band saw for a nearly perfect fit. Then we could mark both ends and cut a straight line for the top and the sub flooring would fit perfectly. This was still a slow job but much better than the first attempts. The sub flooring material is rated for joists on 24 inch centers but I thought 16 inch spacing would give a more solid feel. At 32 feet, that is a lot of lumber to have to custom fit. There were some other challenges along the way too, like keeping everything flat and level and being sure we ended up at the right height for the patio door since we started at the other end. Finally, I always thought the room was 32 feet long by 10 feet wide so four sets long by 1-1/2 wide of 4x8 sub-flooring panels would be perfect. Actually, it turned out to be 32 feet, 3 inches. This photo shows the result on the floor of hand planing just one 2x4 joist. It was a tiring job and I do have a very good and sharp plane.

First Section Last Section After shaping the 2x4 floor joists to fit the existing slab, we glued and screwed them to the concrete. After completing each 8 foot section of joists, we then glued and screwed the tongue-and-groove sub flooring panels onto them. The room is just slightly under 10 feet wide so a sheet and a half fits with very little waste. The left photo shows the first section finished. We started at the east end which will be the master closet eventually rather than den but the floor needed to be continuous from end-to-end. The other is the last section, showing the custom fitted joists, ready for the sub flooring panels.


After finally finishing the sub-flooring, we took a break from the den and finished the piano alcove here.. Judy was tired of the living room being an unusable jumble.

Laundry Laundry The next step in the den was the laundry closet at the far end. Since we purchased this house, the laundry has been in the kitchen with the dryer venting into the garage. This, of course, causes not only a significant amount of lint in the garage, which doesn't look particularly good on a black car, but also raises the humidity in the garage to a high level. With my woodworking tools moving to the garage, that was not going to be acceptable. In Phase 6 we discussed the plumbing that was contracted for the new laundry. Now it was time to build the closet surrounding it. I built the walls and storage shelves and tiled the floor. Then my son helped move the machines. It has now been tested and works perfectly. The closet is a little tight for access to all the shelves but it is workable. Here it is first roughed-in then finished and ready with the machines and shelves installed. There will be louvered doors to close it in after the rest of the walls and floor are finished. The stackable Bosch washer and dryer are fine machines for sure. That area on the right with all the stacked moldings and the window air conditioner will eventually become another glass block window with a wet bar below. We are still "under construction" at this point.

Well, we got a break between other stuff and decided to install the glass block window for the bar before winter comes. Here it is seen from inside the den as well as outside. The last photo tries to show its relationship with the older three windows at the garage. Wall Inside Window Inside Window Outside Wall Outside


The next step is again not in the den but still had to be accomplished at the same time. The old laundry area in the kitchen had to be reconfigured for the secondary refrigerator that had been in the den since being displaced by the original kitchen remodel. That process is also described fully here.

Now, with those "aside projects" done maybe we can finally finish the den. Check back soon as we intend to finish as soon as practical.

Oh, wait! I almost forgot that there has to be a wall dividing the old 32 foot area and separating the "den" from the master bedroom walk-in closet. I have to do at least the major construction in the closet area before building that wall; otherwise, construction access will be much more difficult. Therefore, we will take yet another side-trip into the Master Bedroom & Walk-in closet phase.


Window Frame Door Frame Now with the closet, still not finished but at least usable, I can return to the den. Moving the large lowboy into the closet made room to move the exercise bicycle from the den to the bedroom. After moving more smaller tools to the garage, some other stuff to the shed and some others to the dumpster, I almost have room to work in the den. I started by sanding and finishing sheetrock joints that had not been done. I finished around the windows with a typical sheetrock face cut very carefully to fit tight to the window with metal outside corner where it meets the walls. This did not seem like a practical solution for the door, however. The distance from the door to the wall was just over an inch. Trying to cut that narrow a strip and then nail it to the frame so close to the door just seemed unlikely to succeed. I opted to use wood instead. That meant no metal corner was needed and I could use the brad nailer that close to the door frame without danger of damage to it. But I then had to scribe it to match the wall. These photos show the result with the blue painter's tape to protect the metal frame from sheetrock compound and left in place for later primer. With primer now on the raw sheetrock of the east and south walls, they are ready for the paneling. This will reduce some of the clutter and make more working space in the room.


Finally Time for Inside Finishing

The rest of the den required several months. I just can't seem to work as many hours in a day as I could 15 years ago. By this time we had decided that bead-board paneling was the right thing for the walls. We searched all over town and all we found was rough, ugly stuff that looked like yellow pine. Finally, one day we were at Lowes, where I am certain we had searched before, getting something else when Judy noticed a small stack of what looked like bead-board. It turned out to be a really nice unfinished birch veneer, full 1/4 inch thick, 4x8 sheets with lap joints at either side. The product name was "Patriot Bead" from Patriot Timber Products, Inc. I had calculated that we needed 11 sheets but to be safe, I bought 12. They were closing this item out and there were only 15 sheets left so they gave me all of them. That turned out to be my good fortune as I used them all. I have several small cutoffs left that I might be able to use for some cabinetry in the closet and one full width sheet but short by a little over a foot. So much for my estimating.

My original idea was for a sort of white-washed look on the paneling but we finally decided on a natural finish with just a couple coats of clear polyurethane finish. It took a while to get the paneling installed as I pre-finished everything first. Due to working in the rather small room with father large panels, I was typically limited to three pieces at a time. That is "cut pieces", not necessarily full sheets. It takes a day to apply the natural stain and wait for it to dry then another day for two coats of poly and wait for it to dry then the third day I could fit and install the pieces. Fitting and installation was complicated slightly by the fact that the panels were still 4 feet wide but reduced by the 3/8 inch lap joint when installed, making a challenge in consistently aligning with the 4 foot stud spacing.

East Wall South Wall I started on the east wall which was fairly straight forward except for the ceiling slope. The south wall was next and its only special considerations were the window and patio door. these photos are of those two walls finished. I did have to fit in a small Laundry Wall piece over the door to avoid cutting another full sheet. This required hand making one side of the lap joint. Then, after paneling both walls around the laundry, I decided to not panel the wall behind the bar. I thought a break in the design with some appropriate wallpaper or something else would look nice. That proved to be a wise decision since using a sheet on that wall would have left me short by one or at least I would have to piece something together to get it done. This last photo is of the laundry wall, also finished. Yes, there is also clutter but, although we are getting closer, this is still a "construction zone." The clutter is temporarily stored in the area the bar will eventually occupy. It consists of tools still needed, doors and other minor bits and pieces that may or may not be useful at some time.


Passthrough Piece Fit at Chimney Finally I got to the the north wall, the one with the kitchen passthrough. I started at the west end of the wall and quickly realized I not only had to line up with studs and the opening but also fit tightly around the extending counter top and corbel and provide for a "'ship's light." The photo gives an idea of complexity of the final piece. Then there are three corbels supporting the counter top that land on panel joints and had to be fit closely. At the other end of the passthrough is another piece much like a mirror image of the first one. It had the additional problem of wanting to butt against the "chimney" for the kitchen range vent. I wanted a tight fit so no moulding would be needed. This other photo shows that fit. The other side of the chimney was similar fit-wise but the only other obstacle on that end of the wall was another door.

With the paneling installed, it was time to pre-finish all the trim woodwork and mouldings. I had to get that done before laying the flooring or it would have to be done outside or at least in the garage but certainly not over that new floor. These mouldings included inside and outside corner for the paneling, crown, base, shoe, window stools and aprons and cap moulding for where the paneling doesn't reach the ceiling. Again, there was just too much of it to finish in one session and, like the paneling, it was at least two days for each session. The extending factor here was an almost constant rain storm for our wettest September on record. Many days were lost waiting for suitable humidity.

High Wall Corner Block Low Wall Corner Block Then, with all trim pre-finished and stored, I started installing the crown moulding. The ceiling slope is only 10-1/2 degrees so not as severe as a typical cathedral ceiling so I hoped that I would be able to cope the corner joints. Well, as luck would have it, the moulding is too complex and wide enough that I just couldn't make it fit acceptably. My fit was all right for a flat ceiling but I was not satisfied with any fit I could make at the required slope. Yes, I studied the tricks proposed on YouTube but did not like any of them. I finally opted for inside corner blocks. They are not as obtrusive as I feared. These photos show one at the high side of the ceiling and one at the low side. Notice that the roset above the laundry had to be custom fit around the corner block. The corresponding Outside Corner outside corner block, however, was an entirely different matter. It was so large it would have overpowered the wall, maybe even the whole room. It was not acceptable so I spent considerable time carefully fitting the outside miter at the outside corner of the laundry closet. This was done by experimenting with the angles by trial-and-error. There are actually four angles involved. It is not perfect as it, of course, cannot be perfect but close enough and looks a whole lot better than the block would have. This last photo is the final result and also shows the corner block above the bar window.

Since the paneling doesn't reach the ceiling on the north half of the room, I installed cap moulding and painted the walls above. To cover the raw edge of the plywood paneling around the window, passthrough and chimney I installed outside corner moulding. The corner mouldings for the paneling around the patio door and, of course, the base and shoe will have the wait until after the flooring is down. I did temporarily lay a piece of the flooring at both the doors into the living room and the laundry so I could install the door case but left the plinth blocks at the bottom off for now. Speaking of the door case, door jamb width matches a 2x4 wall with half-inch sheetrock on both sides. My walls now have another quarter inch of paneling on one side. In order for the case the meet the jamb, I had to rip quarter inch strips to glue to one edge on the back side of every piece of case, plinth blocks and rosets. This also meant leaving a one inch space at the corresponding edges of the paneling around the doors to accommodate that strip.

Chimney Top Passthrough Underside Detail We decided to continue the paneling on the chimney to the ceiling. This photo shows the detail of trimming it out, including fitting the corner moulding into the crown. The little framed panel to the right is a cover for an electrical junction box that was necessary during the early stage of wiring. It also gives a good view of the paneling cap moulding. Another minor problem appeared under the passthrough counter top. There was an angled structural piece that extended out beyond the wall. I covered it with paneling then closed the gap below with cove moulding as shown here. I do have that little piece of Formica that appears to be missing at the end of the counter top. And I still need to paint the underside of the counter top. Now, it is finally time to clear out all the left over materials and tools and lay the flooring.

Floor before base Having recently done the closet, I expected the flooring to be hard on my old body and I was right. It took a total of 10 hours, spread out over 4 sessions, with a lot of help from Judy. She pulled boards randomly from three cartons at a time and laid them so I could stay on the floor installing them. That way I only had to get up to cut the last one on each row then the first one for the next row. That did save a lot of getting up and down. I forgot to use knee padding the first day and my knees will take much time to recover. Starting at the north wall, the first half of the floor with the bar area at the far end, the flooring runs were 20-1/2 feet and each plank was just under 4 feet. You can do the math or trust me, that makes a challenge to avoid too short pieces and joints too close together. The south half was a little easier, being 19-1/2 feet. The only complications were notching pieces at the laundry door and getting the last 2 rows down where there is not enough distance from the wall to swing the hammer. I trimmed 1/4 inch off the width of the last row, except at the patio door where I decided it was worthwhile to again notch for a better finish at the door. And here it is before installing the base but with plinth blocks. Now that requires another recovery day.


Chimney Bottom Corner Detail Okay, maybe a couple of recovery days. Installing the base was relatively uneventful except for a strip under the chimney which is now only 1-1/4 inch above the flooring. You can't really see it, even lying on the floor, but I thought it best to still seal the wall to the floor. Actually, a little more work went into the base corner blocks and fitting the paneling corner mouldings. First, I decided to add outside corner blocks on both sides of the patio door. Of course, the local sources had changed the style they stocked now with some fancy gizmo on the top since my original purchase. I decided to just cut that off to look almost like the inside corners I had and preferred. Then the cutout on the back to fit around the corner was not nearly deep enough so I had to correct that. Finally, paneling corner mouldings set on top of all the corner blocks and one has to meet a crown corner block at the top. All that had to be shaped to look like it really belonged there. The photos show the tight fit under the chimney and one of the inside corner pieces fit to the crown corner.