The Classy Man Cave...Welcome back for the next entry in the Before & After Envy series, where I stare admiringly at the amazing renovations my friends have pulled off in their homes. Last week, Shannon talked about how to update a half bath from the 80's look to a very modern style.
This week, April will be joining us to share 5 tips she has learned while updating her basement into a lovely, casual family room and Penn-State-themed man cave with her husband. April reminds us that on home projects, your mindset and expectations can be just as important as the hammers and nails.
The terrors of home ownership
There was the time the main sewer line clogged. The time I realized the “flying ants” I kept seeing in the living room were actually termite swarmers (I kind of had a meltdown over that). The time we found a foreclosure notice on our front door just days after buying the house (apparently paperwork hadn’t caught up to the appropriate people to let them know of the ownership change). The time we were given 24-hours’ notice to remove all the trash the previous owner had left sitting at the curb (including a pooped-in, rained-in cat liter box). The time a local utility insisted the previous owner’s outstanding bill was our responsibility because we are the current property owners. Are you noticing a trend with the previous owners?!
The time our kitchen sink clogged again despite our best efforts to keep the drain clean. And the time there was literally a hole in our house, caused by a combination of termite damage and water damage. I remember writing a very dramatic Facebook status saying, “There’s a hole in my house and my heart.” It was such a sinking feeling to find that the house we had put so much pride and money into was crumbling beneath itself.
It really wasn’t as bad as we thought but was disheartening nonetheless. Thankfully two days of DIY repairs left our house whole again.
The beauty of home renovation
When we first bought our house, I put pictures on Facebook and detailed our plans for each room in the comments. Things like “hang crown molding,” “paint sage green,” and “lay laminate hardwood” never happened, but we pretty much stuck to the plan for our basement (pictured below during our initial walk through).
I wrote, “We're going to put up dry wall to get rid of the nasty wood paneling in the basement rec room. We want to build a small bar and buy a bar table and stools for our parties! We picked out a futon for the basement, which will double as a sofa and a place for drunk friends to pass out. Matt wants a Penn State theme in the basement.”
Since my husband did all the labor, I can’t comment too much about the work involved with our project, but I can share some advice I gained from the experience:
1. Start small.
2. Be patient.
The wood paneling needs varnished, the grout needs sealed...oh, and did I mention that the laundry room and the potential office/bathroom/playroom space have yet to be renovated?!
Baby steps... It was by no means a two-year project, but since my husband was working solo and often not motivated to come home and do the same thing he did all day at his job, the project was very slow moving. I looked forward to seeing the finished product but was respectful of letting him work at his own pace without pressure or nagging.
At left is our basement after my husband removed the old carpet and wall paneling. At right, he began framing in new walls to hide exposed ductwork.
3. Be supportive in any way you can.
4. Trust your better half!
My husband had more extravagant plans though, and the result was far better than I could have imagined. I had also argued that we should just keep the old blue carpet on the basement steps since it would match our Penn State decorations, but my husband insisted on an update--one I'm very thankful for.
5. Make the most of it!
Still, it was undeniable to me that our basement, finished or not, was a special space to share with our friends and family.
Throughout the renovations, our basement was not what I'd consider "guest-ready." It was an embarrassment. It wasn't a place where I wanted to entertain, but we needed the space and I knew our friends would understand its potential despite its grim look at the time. And to my heart's delight, there amid the red floor and exposed ductwork, we made memories with our loved ones. I vividly remember sitting on the basement steps during a party, taking it all in as I watched our friends laugh and smile and drink. It felt like home even if it didn't look like home yet.