How To Unfinish A Basement (Part 1)

Our house was a steal of a deal any way you slice it. Homes in rural Nova Scotia tend not to break the bank unless they are outlandishly sized or on really large lots. Our little bungalow on its half acre came at a great price, and one key selling point was its large, newly renovated basement. The upstairs was dated to say the least, and would (eventually) need new flooring, trim, paint, etc. The basement, though, looked pretty good. It had freshly painted walls, new doors, and lovely laminate flooring. It was live-in ready.

We never got to live in it. It completely flooded before we managed to move in. And even as we forced ourselves to see the silver lining of not having lost any of our possessions to water damage, it was still a hard pill to swallow that the finished basement we had only seen once was already gone.

With help from my Dad (and a few of his pals), we managed to address the flooding problem. We dug a trench and created a new drain to usher water away from the foundation, and it seems to have done the trick. We’ve had plenty of rain and thaw in the months since the new drain was added, and our basement is still bone dry.

Thanks, Dad!

It was no fun to spend money on boring things like PVC pipe and excavator rentals when we wanted to be buying paint and flooring. Still, our unfortunate basement situation wasn’t without its benefits. Before we bought this house, I had no clue about how one might handle a flooding problem. Now I’m a person who knows how to strip a basement down to the studs. I’d like to share that process here, step by step, from my newbie point of view.

Step One: Draining The Water

Before we could do anything else, we had to get rid of the water that had accumulated in the basement. It was a few inches deep, and pooling in one spot. We have a sump pump, but it was poorly placed; most of the water was rolling away from the pit rather than towards it. We discovered that the easiest way to push the water where it needed to go was by scraping our plastic snow shovels along the floor. So we did! And it worked!

Step Two: Pulling Up The Laminate

The laminate flooring was extremely waterlogged; certain sections of it would ripple when we walked on it. The first few pieces came up with very little coaxing. For the more stubborn sections, we had the hammer. The pieces were interlocking, which made it tricky to pull a single piece out. The easiest way to separate them was to hammer a plank towards you until it snapped away from its buddy. The method was simple, but tiring after a while. Kate and I took turns breaking planks apart and bringing armfuls of sodden wood outside. When we were done with that (and done removing the thin layer of slimy foam that the laminate had been resting on) we were left walking around on wet, speckled plywood that smelled unmistakably like mildew.

Step Three: Removing The Baseboards

It would have made more sense to remove the baseboards before the laminate (the floor planks nearest the wall had been the most difficult to pull up) but hey, this was a learning experience! We used the hammer to wedge the pry bar between the baseboard and wall, and then we pulled the pry bar back, popping the baseboard off with it. Wedge, pry, repeat. We decided the baseboards weren’t salvageable (they were made of cheap material, poorly painted, and banged up from the removal process) so we tossed the unwieldy strips on our mountainous scrap heap, and scanned the room for something else to break.

Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion (probably later this week), where we delve into how we finished this surprisingly satisfying process of unfinishing.


One thought on “How To Unfinish A Basement (Part 1)

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s