Progress: Basement Demolition and Discoveries

4 min read After a long winter of being distracted by design work and other projects, I got back to the fun of tearing apart the house again a few weeks ago.

[Actually I began some exploratory demolition by pulling down a few ceiling tiles at the end of January, only to be delayed by a the sudden memory that the building inspector hadn’t NOT said that the ugly acoustic tile ceiling could contain asbestos.  I decided to play it safe and took a sample over to the Wisconsin State Lab of Hygiene for testing to confirm that it was safe.  Thirty eight bucks and three weeks later I got the all clear and was ready to head back down the basement stairs.]

Since then I’ve been spending a few hours most afternoons, taking a prybar and hammer back to the faux wood siding and odd dropped ceilings of my dear, dated basement.

Here’s the progress in one corner of the “bed” room that isn’t currently a legal bedroom.  It currently features both an odd low ceiling area of duct work and access portal for the bathroom upstairs and a new defunct corner closet that used to house an oil tank for the furnace.

Here’s a shot from my first visit to the house – a 60’s “finished” basement classic!

The acoustic ceiling tiles start to come down.

Without a SawZall on hand to cut nails, I needed to basically demolish in reverse order of construction, pulling off trim, then each panel, header and then jack studs etc.  I got this far and then was a little stuck until I remembered I could un-bolt the floor plate and then kick it out of position in order to get access to the cripple studs under the bookshelf.

I left the bookshelf unit intact – it was very sturdily nailed – and may just donate it (with the moveable shelves) if I can’t find a good place to repurpose it.  Painted white, it would be attractive as well as functional.

You can see the location of the old oil tank in the paint on the walls.  I find the original green and yellow color scheme very pleasing in a cheerful kindergarten kind of way.  But I’ll probably end up repainting the un-finished parts of the basement a uniform, tidy white.

I’ve been doing very tidy demo, stacking ceiling tiles and corner round trim in trash bags to go out with curbside pickup and hammering stray nails out of trim and wood sheathing so that it can be safely stacked in the room corner.  Some of this trim may be ReStore worthy  and the 2x lumber can be reused in other parts of my project (although not for structural framing).  Some of the more wildly nailed 2x2s used to frame the dropped ceiling portions, I’m just piling in a corner.  They can be dealt with later, possibly form fodder for a bonfire.  A professional crew would probably do a lot more smashing things up with sledges and piling it in a dumpster but since I don’t have one of those (yet?) I’ll keep de-nailing and stacking tidily and keep my landfill contributions to a minimum.

Pulling apart the basement has confirmed that it was “finished” by the first owners some time after the original construction date in 1952.  I know at least that the acoustic tile ceiling went in sometime during the 1960’s, since when I pulled it down I found three Madison Public Library books from the local Sequoya Branch hidden above the tiles, none published earlier than 1963

I wonder if I should try to return them.  But the library has probably given up on them by now and I certainly don’t want to be stuck with their late-fees!