We will buy your condo
or house TODAY!
Note: Click on thumbnails for expanded images!
When we bought this Cape Cod house, the attic was "sorta" finished off with 2 rooms and a half-bath. I say "sorta" because it was a terrible job - 1/4" plywood ceiling over fiberboard for insulation. The plywood was then covered with white paint that had been mixed with play sand for that oh-so-luxurious textured look. The knee-walls were knotty pine. The height of the room was just over six feet, so you had to be careful not to bump into the light fixture. Oh, and the light fixtures were controlled by a low-voltage relay panel. It was freezing cold in the Winter and unbearably hot in the Summer. Sounds great, eh? We basically used it for storing our junk.
I decided that a complete tear-out and rebuild was the only way to make this space habitable. Since there was going to be a lot of debris, I rented a 15 cubic yard dumpster and had it delivered to my driveway. Wow - These things are big - Look how it fills the driveway! This was easier for me than loading up the pickup and making a bunch of runs to the dump. It cost about $350, but the time saved made it pay for itself!
After moving all our stuff out of the attic to the basement, the fun part of the demolition could begin. Those first few swings at the wall feel the best! After a few minutes of hammer-play, the real work began. Pieces of wood were pried, pulled or tugged from their homes. The Sawzall® earned it's keep as well, making the chunks small enough to fit into trash cans and hauled out to the dumpster. After the wood, out came the lame excuse for insulation. It was just sandwiched layers of aluminum foil and paper...maybe R-1 insulating value? All told, it took about 4 hours to tear out the old stuff and cart it into the dumpster.
With all traces of the old construction removed, the attic looked huge! Plenty of room to stand up straight, walk and turn. Still hotter than Hell up there, as we were doing this work in July 1999 with an outside temperature of over 95 degrees! Look closely at the picture on the right, and you can see the rack of 2x4's just waiting to be nailed up.
The next step was to frame up some new 48" high knee walls. These go up pretty quickly. Notice how each vertical frame member is located square under a rafter. This helps make sure that the wall will not flex or bow if we encounter a heavy snow load.
Now that the knee walls are in place, it's time to button up the room with some insulation. Think of the attic insulation as a system. There's more to it than simply slapping up roll of the pink stuff. By providing a barrier against the outside, the insulation helps keep the upstairs warm in the winter and cool in the summer. But the underside of the roof needs air circulation to keep it cool. So the trick is to install baffles to retain an air space between the roof and the insulation.
My roof rafters are 2x6's. You can stuff R-19 insulation in between 2x6's, but you leave no room for air circulation. So I installed R-13 insulation (made for 2x4 framing) with baffles to provide the air space. First, remove all the old insulation from the underside of the roof as seen here to the left. Next, staple the baffles to the underside of the roof as seen on the right. The baffles provide a 2" air gap between the underside of the roof and insulation.
Here's a close up shot from behind the knee wall, showing the gap retained for air circulation.
For the wiring, I'm running "12/2 Romex" (12 guage, 2-conductor plus ground non-metallic sheathed) wire from the basement breaker box to the first receptacle for each room. Each room (2 bedrooms and the bath) gets it's own 15 amp circuit. From there, I branch out with 14/2 Romex to the additional outlets. I also ran an a dedicated circuit using 12/2 Romex to an outlet under the window in each bedroom for window-mounted air conditioners. Here's some tips if you are doing wiring-National Electric Code (NEC) calls for outlets every 6' of running wall, in order to reduce the usage of extension cords. Plastic outlet boxes are nailed to the studs with the bottom edge of the box 12' from the floor. Plastic wall switch boxes are nailed with the bottom edge of the box 48" from the floor. The wire must be secured to a stud within 12" of exiting a box. Anywhere the wires pass through a stud, metal "nail protector" plates are installed to prevent damage to the wires from drywall screws, etc.
Once all the electric stuff was in place, I was able to finish installing the insulation. The attic feels nice and toasty now (January 2000), and I'm sure it will stay cool in the Summer as well.
Up with the drywall!! This is where the rooms start to look finished. I rented a drywall lift for about $20 from the local shop, and bought 12 sheets of drywall from the Home Depot. I was suprised to see "Made in Germany" on the sheets of drywall...I guess we import some of the stuff now! I recruited my Father to help me as well since he is cheap help...he works all day for just a few donuts and a sub for lunch! Using the lift, we installed the ceiling sheets first. Then we put up whole sheets on the walls wherever they fit. We also put up a few smaller pieces before calling it a day.
It turns out I am no good at estimating how much drywall to buy. I had to go back to Home Depot for 4 more sheets to finish the upstairs. I probably could have finished by using up a bunch of smaller pieces, but I hate doing any more mud-work than I need to. I have now finished installing all the drywall in the bedrooms and in the hallways. I also installed some of the outlets and light switches to reduce the number of extension cords that I had to trip over.
It's late in April of 2000 now, and I just finished putting the 2nd coat of primer on one of the upstairs bedrooms, and the hallway between the bedrooms, including the stairway.
Here's a couple of photos that show the difference between walls with the first coat of mud, and finished walls with 2 coats of primer. Next up is to pull that nasty looking green carpet off the stairway!
The ceiling and walls now have 2 coats of paint, so it's time for the new doors. Things really start to look more finished with those installed.
In the picture to the left, you can see where I had to cut into the floor to run plumbing for the bathroom. The open section on the wall is the access panel for the bathtub shutoff valves.
That's it for now! The final step before carpeting gets laid down is to install and paint the base and window trim.
Last Updated: 4/25/2000