Remodeling a Basement Family Room #8

Finally this basement remodel is moving into the stage that I as a woodworker, really enjoy; the finish work. Up to this point there has been a lot of work, some that shows such as replacing the paneling with the sheetrock and adding much needed lighting,  and some that doesn’t, such as upgrading the electrical systems in this room and the installation of the insulation behind the sheetrock. Knowing my limits, some of this work I stepped aside as others did their magic, such as the taping and the painting of the room.  But finally all of that is done and we can start applying the finishing touches.

Let’s start with the simple stuff, the baseboard molding. Along the perimeter of the original family room there is baseboard heating.   This molding stands 7 5/8″ tall. We figured that the use of standard floor case  work which measures only 2 2/3″ to 2 1/2 ” tall would look very silly where it met up with the baseboard heaters. Another issue was that the baseboard heaters are a 1 1/2″ deep.  The conventional store bought molding is only 3/8 ” thick, again this would really look small and out of proportion with the baseboard heaters.

My solution was to make my own molding that better matches the  baseboard heaters.  My molding consists of a 3/4″ thick 7 ” wide piece of MDF plywood.  Atop of this molding I added a store bought piece of 3/4″ cove molding.  My choice of MDF over other materials was made for several reasons.  First MDF is extremely stable, add to this that its smooth surface accepts paint easily.  Another reason is that MDF is somewhat impervious to water.  It is the same material that is used for many road signs which must endure the harsh weather that nature applies.

There are, however, a couple of negative factors when using a product like MDF.  Chiefly it is HEAVY.  This is one product that it is wise to use two people to move. Forget the macho stuff, save your back and get help moving these sheets.  Second is that any and all milling operations that involve MDF, also involves massive amounts of very fine sawdust, the type that coats everything including you and your lungs.  I would not cut this product inside of a home, a shop with a good dust collector is a much better option.  A good dust mask is also not a bad idea.

MDF is available at most DIY centers, and comes in the standard 4’x 8′ sheets. MDF is workable with standard woodworking tools, so no special or new tools were needed to cut the MDF into 7″ strips. But because of its heft, I decided not to try ripping it with my site tablesaw.  I was concerned that its weight would over burden the saw, and I was concerned about the safety of using this light saw to cut the heavy material.

So I took several sheets of MDF back to my shop, and used my full size tablesaw to rip the MDF.  Beyond the heft of my Delta Unisaw, there was another reason why I elected to use this saw, it is equipped with Ezee-Feed in feed and out feed tables. The Ezee-feed system is ideal for a task like this.  A further benefit of using my shop, is that the table saw is also connected to a good dust collector.  But even with that running, I came away from the ripping operation covered in a fine layer of brown sawdust.

Back the work site, the 7″ strips were cut to their proper lengths using my miter saw. Then it was a simple matter of attaching it to the walls, using a combination of construction adhesive and finish nails.  I used my pneumatic finish nail gun for this purpose. A couple of reasons, the first is rather obvious, the simplicity of use.  The second that the use of conventional nails would have required that I hand set each and every nail, before filling the nail hole prior to painting.

The 3/4″ cove molding that sets atop of the MDF was purchased pre primed. While this costs a little more than the none primed stuff, the time savings is well worth the extra costs.

One of the design issues for anyone who is redoing a basement is what to do with the support columns that help support the center beams of the house.  Most, including the ones in my daughter’s home were simple red steel posts that are attached to the floor on one end and the center beam on the other end.  Most are simply painted, and to be honest, very necessary while at the same time being very ugly. In an attempt to hide the ones in our daughter’s home the previous owner applied a very unique treatment.

Original ColumnPictured at the left are the columns as we found them. It appears that the previous owner applied either tiles or a tile patterned sheet goods to the columns, totally covering them from top to bottom.  A very nice job, I couldn’t find a seam anywhere along the covering. But as I said, Ugly.  So we needed to come up with a better covering.

Back when we were applying the sheet rock to the walls, we also applied sheetrock to cover the center beam as also seen in the picture to the left. A top of the this steel center beam the builder had installed a 2×6, which he used to attach the floor joists to.  We used this same 2 x6 as the upper support for the sheetrock. Construction adhesive and sheet rock screws were used to attach the sheet rock.  If you’re interested, on the bottom of the steel beam, we relied solely on construction adhesive to attach the bottom pieces of sheetrock.  I used small woodworking clamps spread between to two vertical pieces of sheet rock to help hold the vertical piece in place while the adhesive set.

The covered beams looked great, however, they now made the ugly support columns appear to be really undersized. We realized that we needed to make the columns appear more massive.  Replacing them was not even considered. Our fix was to built a box completely around the support column. The box would be built so that they made the columns appear “beefier”, more in proportion with the width of the covered center beam.

The question now was how to secure a square box to a round column.  I started by attaching two pieces of the same MDF that we had used for the floor molding, to the front and back of the columns.  For sake of discussion, I am calling the front and back of the columns as the faces that go all the way to the ceiling.  The sides therefore, would be the faces that run only fromNew Column the floor to the bottom of the beam. The tops of the front and back faces are attached to that same 2×6 atop of the steel center beam with 3″ long sheetrock screws.  Where these faces meet the covered steel beams, I also applied construction adhesive. I installed one screw in the center of these faces, simply to hold the face in place.  Then after verifying that the sides were plumb, the second and third screws were installed. Along the bottom of these faces, I then glued spacers between the inside of the face and the edge of the columns.  These were sized so that the face of these pieces were plumb vertically. These spacers were also glued to the floor.

Between the front and back faces, I then added side panels. These were glued and screwed to the front and back panels. This produced the boxes that now encased the columns. The next step was to add the trim to the columns.  The picture at the right shows the beginning of the trim work.  A simple two step flat molding was added where the box now met the bottom edge of the center support beam.  It consists of pieces of 3/4″ MDF cut 2″ wide.  the bottom of the two pieces was installed with the flat 2″ wide face against the face of the box. The top piece was installed horizontally atop the first piece..  The corners of all of these pieces were mitered, and connected with more glue.  To help keep the corners tight while the glue set, I used Spring clamps on each corner. Beneath the upper piece I then added the same 3/4 round that I used atop the floor molding.

top of new columnThis 3/4 round was not added until after I had installed the next step. At each corner I cut and 2 more pieces of the MDF.  These were cut with a 45° miter along one edge.  They were cut so that they ran all the way from the top trim piece installed above, and the floor. After each corner was assembled, glued and nailed into place, blocking was installed between the corner pieces.  The picture at the left may help you visualize what I’m trying to say. In this picture we have already started to paint the columns.  The area above the horizontal trim piece will be painted the same green as the sheetrock.  This will make the MDF above the bottom edge of the center beam, disappear visually. thus making it appear as if this large square beam is holding up the center beam.

At the bottom of each box, I added another layer of trim.  This one sits proud of the box itself.Bottom of new column  It is more of the MDF, and cut to be the same 7″ tall, just as the trim along the walls was cut.  Along the top of this added trim, I also added more of the same 3/4 round that sits on top of the wall molding. The addition of this layer, just makes the columns look wider at it base than at its top.

Like I did in the last posting, I wanted to give you some idea of how far this project has come.  The two pictures below show the family room as it originally looked and where we are at today.  We still have a ways to go, the windows still will be replaced, a new floor and ceiling installed, and new railing will be added for the stairs.  But for now take a look at the before and after pictures.  I hope you like the changes. I know that we certainly do.


Basement before remodeling













Before Remodeling began

And Now!

Halfway through remodel

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