Game of the week – guess what’s holding my basement stairs up!

Before we get to the basement, let’s resolve the insulation issue. The contractor fixed everything I complained about without giving me any trouble at all. I have to hand it to them for that. It’s still lumpy, but there’s now a good air seal everywhere, I think. And if not, they’re coming back a fifth time. The 3 windows that I ordered with the contract are supposed to arrive in late February, and after they go in, they will set up a blower door to depressurize my house and then do more air sealing.

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The bay closest to the camera had a draft, and now no more, and the cavities are all sealed to the drywall. Considering that I got this at a similar price to other bids for batt insulation, I think I got what I paid for, but here’s a photo of my new friend Amy’s spray foam job. She has more photos of it going in on her great blog, Vivacious Victorian, which I’d encourage you to look at here.

Also, I love how much more this room looks like a room now! The walls are even light enough to get a decent photo:

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Is it better than when I bought it yet? Considering that the radiator is in the middle of the room and I wasn’t wearing a sweater when I took this photo, I think so! And for comparison:

Back bedroom

Back bedroom

I also think you can see how much bigger the room is now that the bathroom is out of the way.

Now onto new work. Very exciting, I can work without a deadline! Though the bathroom is now on the radar, I decided that it’s high time I got the basement cleaned up. There were piles of wood covering the floor and prodigious amounts of construction debris in and under everything. And… wait for it… I’m going to rip out the wall between the living room and the basement stairwell to get the washer and dryer in. And even then, I will need to have the dealer dismantle them in my living room and reassemble them downstairs. This means I am limited to certain brands and dealers. Probably a conventional top loading Speed Queen from a mom and pop South Philly store. I Googled “washer narrow stairway” and what’s the first hit? A discussion forum started by a South Philly resident! Our stairways are world famous! So I plan to get them at the next minor holiday that people only know because of appliance sales. That would be Presidents’ Day toward the end of this month.

Anyways, I got down there and what did I smell? Wet cardboard! Yes, the floor was damp. No, this had never happened before. And yes, the only part that wet also happened to have cardboard in it. Nothing major so I think I dodged a bullet. But while I was clearing the place out I pulled down the flimsy thin plywood and acoustical ceiling tiles used to finish the underside of the stairway, and with everything exposed it ain’t pretty:

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As for the title of this post, if you guessed those two wooden stilts, you would be correct. The new rule is one person at a time on these until they’re reinforced. Which will be soon. The good news is I think that this, um, whatever you’d call it has held up since the 1950’s or 60’s. At that time, the doorway to the basement was moved from the kitchen to the living room and the stairs were re-rigged like this. I won’t call them built.

On the other side of the basement, I have a tangle of pipes. Though I still love it as much as ever that I’m not banging my head on them in the middle of the room, I’m also tired of seeing them. I’m thinking pegboard over all of them. It’ll take about a foot of floor space away from me but give me so much more in return. I also have the kitchen cabinets, which are officially not going back in, but they will hopefully be useful down here.

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5 thoughts on “Game of the week – guess what’s holding my basement stairs up!

  1. Mary Elizabeth

    Great news, Chad! Sounds like these installers are great guys. It’s really fun when they do the vacuum test. When our condo was done, we made a lot of changes, such as new windows and insulation. When our little ranch was done, they cautioned us not to put in any more insulation than we had, or the house would be too tight and thus unhealthy.

    The term for how the basement stairs were constructed is “jury-rigged.” No, that doesn’t have anything to do with corruption in court. It is a sailing term for an improvised sails or rigging in an emergency, such as your mainmast just blew off in the wind and you have to substitute another mast. Hence, it refers to anything that is hastily and temporarily constructed from whatever is at hand.

    If you don’t mind buying imports, ASKO washers and dryers from Sweden are smaller than the American counterparts and might fit down your stairs. They are made for small European apartments. My daughter and son-in-law bought a stacking pair to fit in a half bath in their house. The other thing you can do while rebuilding your stairs is to take off the railing temporarily so the washer and dryer can be lowered down with ropes. But you will get more ideas from your local online discussion, I’m sure.

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    1. Chad's Crooked House Post author

      I’m not going to worry about buying European if the American brands don’t make anything that works for me. I think the countries with high blue collar wages are all in it together anyway! The basement stairs never had a railing. My dad had a good idea that I’ll write about soon. I kind of took a week off, and now still at it with cleaning out the basement, so a tile (!!!!!!) and laundry planning post is called for.

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  2. Jo

    Our laundry room is on the second floor of our house and we have very narrow stairs with walls on both sides but the men were able to deliver full size washer and dryer. Can’t wait to see the laundry post. Our current house has no basement to speak of so I couldn’t have my laundry there even if wanted to (and I don’t). Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

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    1. Chad's Crooked House Post author

      Well I just wrote a bit more about the laundry. I considered putting mine upstairs but the plumber said that where I wanted them it wouldn’t be feasible. And anyway, I’m 26 so I’ll be able to go up and down stairs for a while.

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