DIY Disaster, or how I spent fourth of July weekend

The Basement.


You remember a time when you were in college (or after college, or currently), going to look for an apartment, finding something great, signing the lease, and THEN realizing that you’ll have to do your laundry in the scariest, spider infested dungeon the “management” is passing off as a laundry room (those bastards). OR owning a home with an OK basement and not really wanting to spend any money fixing it up because, well, it’s just a basement. That’s the way we felt about our basement.

I suppose it could have been worse (read: I have seen and lived with worse), but since this is an area that we share with our tenants,  we started looking at it through different eyes. The laundry room just started feeling creepier and dirtier every time we went to the basement. We would duck under spiderwebs and have to make sure we didn’t track dust and dirt back into our unit. As the time came to start showing the house for new tenants, we decided that now was the time to makeover the basement (ok, well… at least the part everyone uses on the regular).

Andrew had the brilliant idea of painting the floor with valspar garage paint. Since our floor is uneven and the laundry room gets regular use we decided to go with the valspar/epoxy kit that has little color flakes that would hide the uneven spots on the floor. In order to apply the paint, the floor needed to be cleaned and degreased. We bought an extra container of degreaser (read: not part of the kit) to tackle some of the tougher stains we had on the floor. After 2 rounds and 2 bottles of degreaser were used, the floor was still gross.


We couldn’t even get tape to stick in certain spots. So back to Lowes went the Valspar paint and we picked up a greyish solid concrete stain (and transparent coating… and clear coat) instead. We talked to some people and felt pretty confident that the stain would take to the floor even though there were some different textures (oil, grease, rogue laundry detergent) going on. This stuff is for outdoor use after all. The semi transparent stain to go on top of the solid stain was an attempt to try to hide the uneven areas, it was a dark brown grey color.

I should mention here that after degreasing (or attempting to degrease) the floor we cleaned both the walls and the floor with TSP. This is recommended for outside spaces, basements, and anywhere you need to clean before painting. It is supposed to cut through grease, dirt blah blah blah… basically we did what we were supposed to do. After cleaning with TSP we primed and painted the walls. Then we applied the solid concrete stain. Here’s an in process shot:


It was great.

WRONG. After the solid stain (which lets face it, is basically paint) dried, we went to add the semi-transparent stain. This is thin stuff that is supposed to be sprayed on with a paint sprayer or a spray bottle. We started in one corner of the room and started spraying…. and it just looked gross and dirty. Disappointed face. Trying desperately to press control z at this point, we started washing the floor again to get the semi transparent stain off… just using water and a broom, no soap, no chemicals. It worked…. sort of. The semi-transparent stain did get removed and washed down the drain. Unfortunately, the water and the scrubbing with the broom removed some of the solid stain. Eeek! Control Z, CONTROL Z! Huge disappointed face.


Back to Lowes we went. This time we bought a bonding primer and a porch and floor paint. Before applying though, we had to scrape off what we could of the compromised stain. After scraping a huge amount of stain off the floor, we decided that just to be safe, we should sand the floor too… with a hand sander. Awesome.


Andrew and I took turns at sanding different parts of the floor (Pro tip: if you’re looking for a sander, buy one with a shop vac attachment, also wear ear plugs) and scraping with a 2” wall scraper (took for-ev-errrrr). In the end, we applied the bonding primer, following instructions on the can, held our breath and applied the paint. Miraculously, the paint stuck beautifully (insert huge sigh of relief). Each coat really only took us about 2 hours to cut in a roll. The clear coat went on great and that night we watched Game of Thrones (this was Friday). On Saturday we woke up all happy that the floor was finished and would have some time to cure before we hooked up the washer and dryer again on Sunday (note: our current tenants all happened to be out of town for the week that this was happening. They also had a full weeks notice that the washer and dryer would be out of commission).


Look at how awesome it was looking.

How naive we were.


Like almost everyone else in Cincinnati over the 4th weekend, our basement started to leak. Often with older homes the basement will leak when the ground is saturated. Generally speaking, this is the type of thing that happens maybe 2x in 10 years. The previous owner disclosed to us that there had been minimal leakage one time in the 6-8 years she lived in the house, so this wasn’t unexpected or worrisome IF WE HADN’T JUST PAINTED THE FLOOR.  In the end, we had some slight discoloration on the clear coat in a few areas (giving the floor the mottled look?) that we decided were too slight to re do. This is how the basement looks now:




Here’s what is left for this project:

Phase One:

  1. Paint laundry area walls
  2. Paint Laundry area Floor
  3. Paint support columns
  4. Clean standing sink
  5. Add some area rugs to keep dust downstairs
  6. Change table to shelf for detergent
  7. Add treads to basement steps

Phase Two:

  1. Remove linoleum from steps (to 3rd floor)==> In process
  2. Paint back step walls
  3. Paint back step woodwork (doors, stair risers, windows)
  4. Remove tile from “storage area”
  5. Prime and paint walls of “storage area”
  6. Paint Floor of storage area to match laundry area
  7. Add shelving units for tenants stuff

These 2 phases should cover the areas that our tenants access. We will also probably have a phase 3 and phase 4 to finish up the remaining parts of the basement and make everything look cohesive.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s