Soliciting Thoughts On A Basement And A Kitchenette

johnliu_gwJuly 18, 2011

Yes, this post is kitchen-related, it just happens to be about more besides :-)

The drawings below show my basement. SWMBO asked me - well, here is how it went.

Her: ''Would it be possible to build out our basement, someday in the future?''

Me: ''Of course!''

''Can we have a little one-bedroom unit for guests or aged parents?''

''Easy, look at how much room we have.''

''And my pottery studio?''

''Anything for you, my cherie!''

''Your daughter wants a darkroom.''

''Um, I guess, sure.''

''And we'll want the treadmill and rings and other exercise stuff to stay here too.''

''Really? Geez, that's . . . ''

''Oh, and some storage.''

''Um, how much storage?''

''Plenty of storage. Well, that should do it. If I think of anything else, I'll let you know. Tra la la!''

Our basement is 1,100 sq ft with 8 feet from floor to joists, nice and dry, and it has always seemed plenty big. Until now. Shrinkage seems to have occurred.

Has anyone experience in such things, and some possible ideas about how we might fit in a (1) little 1 bedroom in-law unit with full bath and kitchenette (see, I said there was kitchen content), (2) a pottery studio big enough for a wheel, a slab roller, a worktable, and some shelves (say 8 ft by 10 ft or similar area), (3) a small darkroom (needn't be more than 4 ft by 8 ft or similar area), (4) a laundry room (we already have the washer and dryer down there), (5) and ''plenty of storage, tra la la''???

Limitations - for this to be doable even in the future, the main and secondary plumbing stacks, electrical panel, HVAC, and fireplace foundation have to stay where they are. The water heater should stay too, although it is theoretically relocatable.

The existing windows can be cut deeper and set in wells to satisfy egress requirements as well as generally to permit life, liberty and the pursuit of light. The only place where a new window can be cut is between the fireplace foundation and the closest corner, where I've labeled GRASS YARD - actually, a walkout door could be put there.

The concrete floor can be trenched for a drain line to connect to the existing main drain, though it would be nice to minimize how much of that is done, so it would be helpful if the kitchenette and bathroom are next to each other. Electrical and water supply lines can be run anywhere before the walls and ceiling are finished off.

The kitchenette would be more than a dormitory fridge and a hotplate, but need hardly be ''reveal-worthy''. Enough for a aged parent to cook a simple meal, a few burners and an oven.

The hope would be for an in-law unit that feels like it was part of the original house, with trim and materials similar to the upstairs, and lots of artificial light - not an underground hole that you get to through the laundry room.

I know this is tough, but I'm fishing for any sort of idea. Basically, I need to figure out if this is something we should plan on doing someday; or if I need to kill the idea in the nest.

2D view

3D view

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I forgot: (6) room for a pair of exercise bikes and a set of hanging rings.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 10:19PM
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Arrgh, I forgot this too.

The posts are not easily moved - better call them unmovable. So it would helpful if those posts could be worked into the location of walls. Each post is about 8'' x 8'', with a concrete footer that is about 12'' x 12''. That could be concealed in a ''column'' or a built-up doorway, or in a 13'' thick wall that could accommodate built-ins.

The west side of the basement (top of the 2D drawing) is where almost all of the overhead ducting is, so when and if that part of the ceiling is finished off, it will be a rat's nest of soffit-work. It is also where most of the electrical cables are routed. The east side has an almost unobstructed ceiling, with only one duct overhead. So, the ceiling on this side will look nicer.

The egress requirement for a basement is that each habitable room must have a large window (>20'' wide, >24'' tall, >5.7 sq ft: big enough for a person to climb out) starting not too far from the floor (max 44''). So imagine that the windows can be about 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall, start about 3 feet from the ground, casements opening to a largish window well that can be prettified with plantings and additional illumination.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2011 at 11:24PM
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john, how old is your daughter and for how much longer will she be living with you and developing film under your roof? Also, in my experience, aged parents don't like or do stairs very well. How often do you have unrelated guests coming to stay, and for how long?

I would give serious thought to concentrating on the spaces that you and Ayesha would make the most use of yourselves, for the rest of your time in the house -- pottery studio, storage, and exercise room. Perhaps a small kitchenless guest space (maybe the exercise room could be dual purpose and double as guest room), with above-stairs kitchen privileges.

Less might be more in this case, also easier and more affordable.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 4:18PM
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Ayesha? Hmm.

We have guests a lot, it seems. And exchange students. And various family members dropping by. I guess we host someone every couple of weeks. I hear you about keeping it simple, though.

Interior walls would not be hard or costly for us (DIY) and neither are electrical circuits (DIY) or water supply or gas lines ($1-2K). Trenching and drain lines will be spendy. I sure would like another bathroom in this place, though.

Daughter is 15 y/o. She and I both would like a darkroom. Son is 11 y/o. Not sure he's a darkroom sort.

You think it can't all be fit, gracefully? I admit I don't see a way.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 10:42PM
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Eck. I can see how maybe to fit it all in, except one thing - either the exercise room, or the pottery studio, or the dark room, or the storage, has to go. Otherwise it is all creepy and maze-like, sort of a ''Silence Of The Lambs'' thing.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 11:28PM
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john, maybe the best thing to do is to decide who in the family gets a vote, then those members rank the choices. And probably see how to double up on room functions.

Do you need a room in which to exercise, or just a place to store exercise equipment which isn't used as much as people would like?

I can't see why you can't bring this one over to the other side to get more opinions -- would love to see what some of the creative types would come up with.

(PS In H. Rider Haggard's novel "She", short for SWMBO, the title character is Ayesha)


    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 11:39AM
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Thanks, Becky. I wasn't sure it was really okay to ask about a basement in the main KF discussion forum, even with the fragment of kitchen content. I will mull this over and then maybe I will repost over there.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 1:26PM
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I'd give it a try, john. You *are* trying to fit a kitchen in there, even if it's a small one, and worst case scenario if the moderators say no is that members will know you have the original conversation over here and can follow you back to continue the dialogue. Either way you get more people involved and more ideas...


    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 9:44PM
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One note on the egress windows. What you listed is the opening size, so make sure you take into consideration the frame size. The hinge on a casement window can also impact what the actual opening is.

You could bring it over to the Building a Home side. There are some very talented people over there.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 4:27PM
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Oof, I read more on egress windows - need a significant well, I think 36'' from window to wall of well. That could be a problem, in some of the locations. I need to study up on the habitability codes and ask at the Building forum. I need almost all the space to be permitted/habitable, or the financial math doesn't pencil out to make this worthwhile.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 1:33AM
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Double check to see if your area requires egress windows in all basement rooms or just basement bedrooms.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 11:22PM
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Hi John,

We did a similar project on our basement a few years before we embarked on our kitchen reno, for us it was well worth it -- mainly because we love our neighborhood and really needed the extra space. But -- it's good to know up front how much it will mean to you and your family because in terms of resale it will bring a mere pittance compared to what you spend doing it. We found that out when we brought a realtor in while deciding whether to reno our kitchen, thinking moving might make more financial sense, and we found the basement, while it impressed the realtor, only raised the proposed asking price by about 1/4 - 1/3 of what we spent on the project, of course that could vary from area to area and also depends on how much you DIY (we had a not-inexpensive contractor do most of it -- we love to DIY, but it was too much work for a weekend here and a weekend there to get it done before the kids were grown and gone, anyway. If you love where you are at and plan to stay there a while, then consider it -- it's just good to know up front what you're saying "yes" to in terms of likely recoupment of your costs should you need/decide to sell. Maybe our case was a little different because we had a lot of expenses upfront moving plumbing, putting in a french drain, enlarging windows, etc. in addition to using a contractor.

That said, like you we put in the kitchen, full bath, laundry room and storage (this area is still unfinished) -- we have loved having the set up and while it hasn't been used as an in-law suite yet, it has housed many people short term. As we could see in the next year setting it up to house a returning college student as well while she saves for her own place. It's been very versatile -- having the full bath and kitchen has made it so, I'm also glad we have an outside entrance for the times when we've hosted longer term guests (interns, etc.).

Some of the things we're glad we did based on how we used it:
- full bath (including a tub)
- full kitchen (we put the wiring in but left the stove out for now, code doesn't allow it)
- laundry room is in an area accessible by both us and whoever is staying down there
- large windows
- lots of insulation in the ceiling (sound rated)
- plastered ceiling
- closets under stairwell
- pocket door to living area (usually open except when guests are staying with us

Hope this isn't TMI.

Good luck with your research/decision making phase. Would love to help you brainstorm layouts if you move forward.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 10:47AM
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Thank you so much. That seems like exactly the way I need to analyze and plan this.

I'm going to check w/ some realtors about what $/sqft people seem to get for well-finished basements. I've been guessing a basement sq ft is worth 1/2 the main house sq ft, but haven't any real basis for that guess.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 10:51AM
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late to seeing this, but some of the best $2000 I ever spent was on an architect to plan my basement remodel. We have a slightly smaller basement but have the office/bedroom (14x14), TV room/library (20x12), kitchenette (14x8), bath with shower, exercise room (20 x 12), and storage room with utilities (20x 14), She was able to squeeze in the bath under the stairs somehow with a little bumpout into the storage area for the shower. Everyone marvels at how much we were able to put into the basement. Since only the office/bedroom , sortage space with utilities,and bath are fully enclosed (with pocket doors), the basement feels very airy and open when you walk into it.

Also another wonderful thing we did was install an egress window (basically a 4x5 foot casement that was the right height above floor level) and a scapewell egress window well. The light floods that room and makes it seem above grade. The polycarbonate cover for the window well provides privacy from our neighbor's deck that would otherwise be in the line of sight.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 2:13PM
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Don't have time to review your plan, but take advantage of these space-saving appliances:

12" wide cooktop with two burners (15" width also available). Some of these have room underneath for a drawer directly below the cooktop.

GE Advantium wall oven, preferably the 240 volt version. Serves as a fairly large microwave oven, a regular thermal oven, and a great high speed oven or broiler, all in a compact package. Over-the-range version also available, although it's 30" wide and not as deep inside.

If you must have a separate oven, choose a 24" or 60cm wide model; several have space for a 6" tall drawer above or below the oven.

18" wide dishwasher, or the single-drawer DishDrawer from Fisher and Paykel which is 24" wide but allows for a drawers above and/or below it.

A narrow-width sink that stretches from the front to the back of the countertop, combined with a wall-mount or corner-mount/single hole faucet - basically a common 22x25" sink turned sideways. Drain in corner or at least off to side is best, since it saves space below the cabinet.

Tall 24" wide refrigerator with bottom freezer. Can't remember who has the best one now.

If you need laundry appliances, go with stacked 24"w units with a front-load washer (Bosch 240v washer with their dryer above it recommended), or a single-tub machine that washes and dries the clothes in the same tub from LG (large but 120v - slow) or Fagor (small but 240v - fast).

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 10:44AM
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