Levelling the Basement Floor with Levelrock

Many years ago, we applied to be on one of those home reno shows and they chose to renovate our basement! – or so we thought. In the planning stages of the reno, the show’s contractor discovered that the slope of our basement floor was too steep to build on. The floor was inconsistent and out of level by over half a foot in some areas! There wouldn’t be enough time in the production schedule to fix it properly so they were going to have to take a pass on us.

At first, we were disappointed: who wouldn’t want a crew to come in and take care of a major renovation while we sit back and let them do all the work? But on the flip side, as avid DIY’ers, it was going to be hard to give up full control of the project. In the end, it worked out in our favour because there’s no sense in finishing a basement when there’s still things to renovate on other levels of the house (i.e. our kitchen still needed to be renovated). You really need open access to the plumbing and electrical in the basement before closing those things off forever once the basement is done!

Anyway, since we had cleared our stuff out of the basement for the show, it seemed like a prime opportunity to level the basement floor and get it over with. Once that was done, we could take our own sweet time to renovate the basement ourselves when we were ready. But with 700 square feet of space in our basement, it wasn’t going to be something that we could tackle ourselves. We needed an expert.

After researching our options, we settled on a product called Levelrock and brought in a licensed contractor to apply it. Levelrock is a self-leveling gypsum underlayment that provides a smooth, crack-resistant surface that accepts virtually all types of floor coverings (it’s not to be used as a finished floor). It was a great solution for us for two reasons: we used the ‘green’ version of the product and it left the door open to a choice of many floor coverings before we finally settled on the engineered hardwood we eventually installed.

Before the actual levelling could take place, there were several things we had to do to prepare. The first order of business was moving our water heater. This wasn’t necessary with respect to the floor levelling per se, but the builder installed it in an area that was going to encroach on our finished laundry room. All that needed to be done was to shift it a few feet to tuck it in beside the furnace. Since we were renting it, we paid to have it moved.

Once the water heater was moved and the two appliances were side by side, It wasn’t really practical cost-wise to have them both raised to the level of the new floor so we did the next best thing by creating a ‘step down’. Hubs built a frame around what was going to be the furnace room to provide a barrier against the levelling compound.

Here it is from two more angles:

See that jog in the wood bracing by the water heater?

We eeked out every inch of space and turned that into a niche to showcase my collection of antique irons (show below), but I digress.

Back in the unfinished basement we had another dilemma: the water drain was in the furnace room and it was going to be closed off to the rest of the basement. What if we had a flood: how would the water drain?

We brought a plummer in to consult and he suggested trenching a new drain from the laundry room to the furnace room. But after we got a quote and he went away, we realized that we didn’t need to trench at all! Our solution? Since the pour was going to be deep, hubs installed some ABS pipe directly onto the concrete, through the wood bracing and lined up over the floor drain in the furnace room. Since it would be buried in the new underlayment anyway we didn’t see any reason to trench it.

Although it’s hard to tell, we angled the pipe on a downward slope toward the existing drain. We ensured that there was extra pipe above the level of the new floor so it could be cut even with our finished flooring later. Before the new floor was poured, we stuffed a rag into the opening. If you’re following our series on installing a floating hardwood floor, we’ll be showing you how we finished off the ‘new’ drain in the laundry area in an upcoming post.

Here’s an overview shot of the pipe leading up to the drain in the furnace room.

Hubs installed another wooden barrier in our cold storage room so he could move our upright freezer in there.

He then plugged the freezer into an outlet and temporarily sealed off around it with plastic. On the downside, the cold room floor didn’t get levelled, but at a least we didn’t have to lug the freezer up the basement stairs!

Speaking of the stairs, the part that rests on the floor got lifted onto blocks (on blue moisture proof wood). We couldn’t remove the stairs because we still needed a way to get up and down afterwards. Raising them on blocks made them functional and also allowed them to be removed at a future date for eventual replacement.

Unfortunately for us we had already done insulation and drywall around the perimeter of the basement. If you’re going to level a basement, I suggest you do it BEFORE completing any other work. All we could do was remove the bottom layer of drywall and seal the plastic moisture barrier well around the perimeter with tape and construction adhesive.

My only contribution before the levelling took place was adding graffiti on the floor below one of the posts. Even though it got buried, I still know it’s there 🙂

We’re Going to Level With You

On the day of the pour, the crew came in and marked all the high and low spots with blue spray paint.

Outside the house, their equipment monopolized our street for the better part of the day. It’s always a good idea to get a street permit so the neighbours can’t complain.

Countless bags of Levelrock went into the hopper to be mixed with water and pumped into our house through a hose positioned in our basement window.

On the inside, the level rock was pumped in starting in the far corner of the basement (in the laundry room).

A long float was used to spread the material out. You can see how our new drain pipe is sticking out above the new floor level.

Here you can see the Levelrock flowing around the barrier hubs put up around the furnace room.

They gradually moved toward the stairs, levelling with the float as they went….

… and adding more as needed.

Levelrock can take about 2 to 3 weeks to dry depending on drying conditions and also the depth of the pour. A dehumidifier can help speed up the drying process, so 3 hours after the crew was done pouring (when it could handle foot traffic), we plugged in our dehumidifier and left it running while the floor dried. Levelrock should be completely dry before placing any furniture on it; we let ours dry for about 2 months before our ‘stuff’ started to trickle back into our basement.

Levelrock can be used for more than just basement applications. For anyone wanting to use it on an upper level, the product can be used over a wood subfloor, but should be poured at a minimum thickness of 3/4 inch. It can be a saving grace when you run into noticeable variances in level and want a cohesive subfloor before applying a new flooring finish.

Unfortunately we never did get pictures of our completely empty basement with our newly levelled floor because our camera broke. By the time we got a new camera, we had moved some of our stuff back in.

Once the floor was dry, hubs removed all the wood bracing around the water heater/furnace area. Below, you can see the step down and also the new drain.

Moving the two appliances side-by-side allowed us to extend the wall to separate the laundry area from the furnace room.

Here’s the view looking back from our staircase. The floor is perfectly smooth and the basement is ready to put up walls.

We could finally start planning our reno!

Before we started building, hubs added caution tape around the perimeter of the step down.

Then he was off to the races with the walls and rough-ins.

Thanks to a lazy builder, we were not only robbed of an opportunity to have our basement renovated on HGTV but the unseen costs that went into our basement reno added up to quite a chunk of change! Looking back however, we’re happy with the outcome. I had fun planning the layout and we learned so much during the build, like how to tile a backsplash, do our own electrical (with a permit of course) and use ready-made Ikea Pax units to add storage in the craft studio.

Basement Plan (mancave not shown)

Our basement reno is an accomplishment we’re proud of and it all started with a consistent foundation:) In the end, we built a laundry room, a mancave and a craft room from the (level!) ground up – all custom designed by us to suit our needs.

If you’re following our flooring series, we have two more posts coming up soon: how to prep for installing floating engineered hardwood and finally, the actual how-to install.

You can follow Birdz of a Feather right here (link in the footer) or via Bloglovin’ (click the button below). You can also follow us on Pinterest and on our Youtube channel.

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How to Install Engineered Wood in the Basement – Shopping Tips (Pt. 1)

If you’re thinking about installing flooring, whether it’s below grade or above, an engineered wood floating floor is the way to go – especially if you’re planning on installing it over a concrete slab. Nothing adds beauty and warmth to a home like hardwood. In this first of our series on how we installed engineered hardwood flooring in our basement (a part of our broader Homeowner DIY Series for 2018), we’re exploring how to shop for it first. We wondered if engineered hardwood would be as good as solid wood and were surprised to learn that neither one is better. Only by weighing the pros and cons of each can you determine which one is a better fit for your own situation.

If you’re not really sure about the differences between engineered and solid flooring, engineered wood is produced with three to five layers of plywood topped by a wear layer of real wood. The wear layer can range in thickness; thicker layers can be re-sanded just like a traditional solid floor. Each layer is stacked in a cross-grain configuration and bonded together under heat and pressure to make it dimensionally stable. As a result, engineered wood flooring is less likely to be affected by changes in humidity and can be installed at all levels of the home. As far as installation is concerned, there are far more methods to choose from with an engineered product: you can staple, nail, click or glue.

Fusion Flooring Classical Elegance Oak Baroque / Dimensions: 9/16″ h x 7 1/2″ w

The picture above shows a cross section of the engineered hardwood flooring we ultimately chose for our basement. It’s a rustic-looking wire brushed fumed oak which gets its colour naturally from the smoking process (there’s no stain or dye-lots).

Fuzion Floors Oak Baroque

Solid wood on the other hand is milled from a single piece of wood (notice that you can see the ring formations of the tree on the cut edge below). Because of its thickness, a solid hardwood floor can be sanded and refinished many times over generations of use (the wear layer is typically around 1/4″ thick). Solid wood flooring expands and contracts with changes in your home’s relative humidity but doesn’t stand up well to moisture. It can be nailed or stapled.

If you plan to install over concrete, which is prone to dampness, solid wood isn’t an option: you must use an engineered product to ensure structural integrity. It’s less likely to warp or flex than solid wood if it comes into contact with moisture. For us, engineered hardwood was the perfect choice for our below grade application: it has the look of wood (because of the real wood top layer) but it’s especially practical for basements because it can hold up to some moisture exposure. You can increase it’s durability even more by installing an underlayment as a moisture barrier too. Here’s the one we used (more about it later):

DMX 1-Step Moisture Barrier Underlayment

Before You Shop

Before you shop, you need to make some decisions. There is so much more to consider than just how much you want to spend (although budget is, of course, a big consideration). What else is important to you? Do you want to purchase a sustainable product? What about health standards: do you want something that is manufactured without solvents, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or formaldehyde and meets the strictest health standards? Off-gasing can be toxic and when you consider the totality of square footage of these materials in your home, it’s something you should give serious thought to – especially if you have young kids.

What about the look: wide planks or narrow? Dark or light? Rustic or smooth? Those are decisions you can think about then narrow down once you are out shopping.

Determine Layout and Square Footage

Start with a blank layout, then add the dimensions for each room so you can calculate the square footage. If there are lots of jogs in the floorpan (like our basement example below), break it down into manageable rectangular areas, multiply the length and width of each and add them all up to get the total square footage. Our total square footage came to 794 square feet, as shown in our floor plan.

After calculating square footage, don’t forget to factor in an additional 10% for waste (or more if you are laying on the diagonal or in a herringbone pattern) to determine how much you need in total. Most flooring has a dye-lot so if you run out and have to buy more, the difference in colour can be noticeable. Additionally, if you run short and the floor is suddenly discontinued you’ll be completely out of luck!

To calculate square footage, multiply length x width

We ended up purchasing a total of 875 square feet of flooring for our basement. It’s good to know your measurements before you go shopping because a higher quantity can affect the final price. For instance, buying for an entire level could qualify you for a lower per-square foot price vs. only one room. Knowing this before-hand will help you accurately calculate your final spend and keep you on budget. Alternately, if you were planning on staging your renovation and doing different rooms with different flooring over time, you might want to consider using a consistent floor and buying it all at once to save money.

Splines

The next thing you have to think about is the flow of the flooring. Are you installing hardwood in just one room or an entire level? If the flooring is going into multiple rooms and you are laying it yourself (like we did), you’ll likely need to purchase one or several splines. A spline can help you change direction as flooring moves through doorways from one room to another.

As you can see on our blank plan below, the red line represents where we will need to insert a spline so we can change direction. We ended up making our own spline, but they should also be available where you get your flooring so know how much you’ll need to purchase. I’ll explain more about splines in my next post (Part 2) on installing engineered hardwood.

Shopping for flooring can be daunting. Here are our shopping tips for finding your floor and getting it for the best price.

Shopping Tips

  1. Start early. It could take weeks before you decide what to purchase so give yourself enough lead time so you have it when you need it. This is especially important if you’re working with a contractor (time is money!). Most wood is already kiln dried, so it may not be necessary to let the wood sit in your home to acclimate before it’s installed. However, check to see what the manufacturer recommends: I would still plan to leave the wood in your home for 48-36 hours before installing if you can, so factor that time into the schedule.
  2. Map out flooring stores in your immediate area (yes on a map!) and make a list. You will cut down on gas and the time it takes to drive around in circles by mapping out your plan of attack first. Browse stores as time allows to determine what you like and don’t like. Check off the ones you’ve been to and only expand your search area if you can’t find what you want. Believe me when I tell you that being organized and knowing where you’ve already looked will help keep you sane 🙂
  3. In addition to your layout/square footage calculation, if you have a story board, take it with you. At the very least, make sure all your paint colours and other finishes are already selected before you start shopping (you can throw paint chips and pictures of items, such as cabinets, into a folder so you have an idea of what colours will work with your decor. It will help you rule out some of the choices once you hit the stores.
  4. Take a camera with you (or phone) so you can photograph flooring samples. Pictures are a great way to remember what you saw and be able to find it again once you’re ready to narrow down the choices. Don’t forget to take close-up pictures of the labels  on each sample board too if there’s something that catches your eye. You won’t remember what it was just from a picture of the wood alone!
  5. Ask questions! Sales people are there to help. When I was a hardwood newbie, I didn’t realize that certain types of wood are harder wearing than others (i.e. a hardwood such as Oak is more durable than a softer wood such as Pine). With further research, I discovered that woods are rated by the Janka hardness test which measures the resistance of a sample of wood to denting and wear. The standard hardness for a traditional hardwood floor, such as Red Oak, is 1290. Exotic species such as Brazilian Walnut are 3684. Here is one example of a Janka scale chart you can use to compare different woods:
  6. Know what you’re getting! Flooring always looks wonderful on the sample board but what are you actually getting in the box? Some manufacturers have a good selection of varying lengths, while others have nothing but short boards which might ruin the look you’re going for. Consider asking to buy or sign out a few actual floor boards too so you can lay them out on-site. As you can see below, you can’t get a good idea of the plank lengths just from the sample boards (which are all a consistent size within each store for display purposes). If you’re lucky, the floor you like will be laid out in the showroom so you can visualize it. Withstanding that, you need to see the actual length of the wood planks.
    The flooring we purchased had four different lengths, the largest of which was 73″. We loved the overall look of the proportions. In almost the same view of my craft studio shown above, below you can see how the various lengths are staggered in the finished space.
    Here’s an illustration of the dos and don’ts of staggering the joints. You never want ends to line up side by side.
  7. Select the colour. Some collections have an overwhelming number of colour choices making it hard to narrow them down in the showroom. Once you settle on brand and type of wood, sign out sample boards and take them home to see which colour looks best (if you didn’t already cover that off in #6). You may have to put a returnable deposit on them, but it’s well worth it as long as you don’t forget to return them on time! Seeing samples in your home will help you determine how the floor will look in the setting once it’s installed. As you can see in the first picture, there isn’t enough light and there are no finishes in this room to compare against.
    This next picture is better: we moved the samples into the laundry room and added additional lighting so we can now compare the floor against some of the actual finishes in our space.It might even be helpful to hold samples right up to your cabinets. The one shown below was eliminated this way.
    The picture below shows our finished laundry room/craft studio. The engineered hardwood we chose looks great against the other finishes; it’s neutral enough to work with everything.
  8. Consider an underlay. An underlay can act to limit noise tranfer and provide optimal water resistance. In condos, there are even regulations that require you to install an underlayment for noise abatement. Know what your particular regulations are. A dimpled membrane, such as DMX 1-Step, deadens noise, is a great choice over concrete or subfloors, and makes the floor warmer with the all important peace of mind of moisture and mold protection (it’s waterproof on both sides). All you have to do is roll it out leaving a quarter-inch gap between the wall, tape the seams and cut around obstructions. As you’ll see in Part 2, it’s easy peasy! If you are a regular reader, you’ll know that our underlayment was put to the test when we had a water leak in my craft room right after finishing our basement. It passed with flying colours and we would highly recommend it (and no, we don’t get anything to say that).
  9. Be wary of too good to be true pricing. When stores offer super cheap prices, the product is probably a second. There will likely be flaws in the boxed product, vs. the beautiful sample you see in the showroom, that you can’t live with. Again, be sure you find out what you’re actually getting before it’s too late. Where flooring is concerned, you really do get what you pay for.
  10. Comparison Shop!! Once you’ve made your selection, go online to search for the website of the brand you’ve chosen to see what other stores distribute it. Once you find out all the distributors, make a list of each store in your City, then call each one to compare pricing. Some won’t give pricing over the phone so you may have to visit in person. By doing this, we found drastic fluctuations in price and were able to save hundreds of dollars on our final purchase. Don’t forget to also ask about the price of delivery and factor that in too – it all adds up! We paid $130 to have the boxes delivered right to our basement. Some companies won’t bring the delivery further than just past the front door so it was worth every penny to us for the convenience of not having to lug the boxes down the stairs ourselves.
  11. Look on Craigslist. You never know what you’ll find! A friend of ours purchased a whole house-worth of high-quality flooring and then changed his mind about installing all of it. He had to drastically cut the price to get rid of the portion he decided not to use. Someone’s loss could be your gain.
  12. Purchase/Rent Accessories. Once you’ve settled on your engineered hardwood floor, you might think your shopping is done, but it’s not! If your subfloor needs repair or replacement, put tongue and groove plywood on the shopping list. For above grade installation you can rent a pneumatic nailer and buy nails to suit the thickness of the flooring (however if you found an engineered hardwood with a ‘click’ floor system that is designed to lock into place, you won’t need additional fasteners or adhesive).If you’re installing in the basement however, as we did, we suggest floating the floor by gluing the tongue and groove together along the seams (not to be confused with glue you use to completely adhere the planks down to the floor). The glue we used is shown below. Purchase an adhesive that’s specifically designed for the installation of engineered floors over cured concrete; it should be moisture resistant and easy to clean from the surface of the wood if you get drips. We don’t suggest buying this type of glue in bulk. The applicator bottle makes quick work of applying it to the seams (and there’s no chance of spilling it while trying to transfer it from the bulk container to an applicator!).To work in conjunction with the glue, we used 3M painters tape to hold the planks in place as they dried.
    The next accessory is a ‘must have’. Buy a thick memory foam kneeling pad, like the one shown below. It’s far better than knee pads! Hubs has tried just about every knee pad on the market and can’t stand the straps; they are painful and restrictive to use.Lastly, buy an installation kit, as shown below. Lucky for us, we were able to borrow one from our brother-in-law. The tapping block (bottom) will keep the wood from getting damaged when it’s struck with a rubber mallet (which you’ll need too). The pull bar allows you pull planks together in tight areas – such as installing the last plank up against the wall. Although it’s made for laminate, it works perfectly for engineered hardwood as well. The kit also comes with spacers, but we made our own out of MDF (as you’ll see in Part 2).

Here’s another view of what our flooring looks like installed above ground – from the manufacturer’s brochure. The natural light and expansive space makes it look even more beautiful! Stay tuned for the DIY tutorial on how we installed it as a floating floor in our basement.

Source: Fuzion Flooring Baroque Oak

If you enjoyed this post, please pin and share.

In the meantime, if you’re curious to see more examples of how the flooring turned out in our finished basement, check out the reveals of the mancave, craft studio and laundry room.

If you’re an avid DIY’er, like we are, you’ll want to follow the Homeowner DIY Series we launched this year.  Along with the second part of this post (How to Install an Engineered Floating Floor), we’ll be giving you tips on water leak prevention, getting a professional look for mudding drywall (how to achieve a level 5 drywall finish!), installing baseboards and finishing a basement.

In case you missed it, check out our post on installing a frost proof faucet.

You can follow Birdz of a Feather right here (link in the footer) or via Bloglovin’ (click the button below). You can also follow us on Pinterest and on our Youtube channel.

Oh My Goth (Part 2) - Make a Halloween Tombstone | Birdz of a FeatherOh My Goth (Part 2) - Make a Halloween Tombstone | Birdz of a FeatherThis Is How We Roll Thursday Party

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Valentine’s Paint Stick Pallet Art

Birdz of a Feather will be on Hiatus soon, so with Valentines Day just a month away, I’m resurrecting an old Valentine’s project – which will be new to recent subscribers 🙂

I wanted to make a little something for my sweetie that would have meaning on multiple levels. Since we’ve done so much DIY renos together, I was inspired by a pallet. In keeping with our mission to lead a more sustainable life, and keep things from landfill, I repurposed paint sticks and 1″x2″ lumber to make a miniature version of the pallet that hubs could easily display in his office. It turned out to be a great way to use up old paint sticks amassed over years of painting and renovating past (and present) homes.

I started by designing an 8 1/2″ x  11″ picture using the charicature we had done for our wedding. I superimposed it into a ‘puzzle piece heart’ I drew with the words ‘you complete me’ – the perfect sentiment for any soul mate!

Of course, if you choose to make your own Paint Stick Pallet, you’ll use your own personal artwork to make it unique to you! Watch the quick two-minute video below to see how easy it is (and subscribe to our YouTube Channel while you’re at it!)

Let’s Get Started

I first determined how many paint sticks I would need. Ten was the perfect number for an 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of paper. I printed it out on my colour printer using regular paper.

Paint Stick Pallet Wall Art for Valentines 011_bof.jpg

I could have gone for a more straight-laced picture from our wedding like the one below, but given the choice between serious and humour, I’ll choose humour every time!

Wedding Digital 038_bof.jpg

I took packing tape and applied three strips across the back of the paint sticks to keep them all together and flipped it over.

Paint Stick Pallet _6.jpg

Then I mixed up a ratio of 50:50 glue to water. I had some leftover glue from the hardwood we recently installed in my craft studio, so I just used that (glue only has a shelf life of about one year).

Paint Stick Pallet Wall Art for Valentines 013_bof.jpg

I used a foam brush to lay down a thin layer of the glue mixture on the paint sticks. The trick to keeping paper from bubbling when you decoupage is to keep the application of glue thin and let it dry a bit until tacky. Then you can lay down the paper and smooth it out.

paint-stick-pallet-wall-art-for-valentines-017_bof

To disguise the white boarder of the paper, I outlined around the edges with a marker in a coordinating colour after the glue was dry.

Paint Stick Pallet _5.jpg

I applied a coat of water based varnish, let it dry overnight and then applied a second coat to seal and protect it.

Paint Stick Pallet _3.jpg

Once the varnish was dry, I cut around the edges of the picture on my bandsaw. I removed the packing tape on the back of the paint sticks, then I cut each individual piece apart.

Paint Stick Pallet _1.jpg

I assembled my paint sticks and added in spacers in between (using another paint stick on it’s side) so I could measure for the length of the 1″x2’s”.

paint-stick-pallet-wall-art-for-valentines-042_bof

I cut three pieces of 1″ x 2″ and turned them on their sides. I glued the paint sticks on top leaving a gap in between until they were all glued onto the lumber.

paint-stick-pallet-wall-art-for-valentines-044_bof

I added some scrap paint sticks on top and weighed the whole thing down with my vintage irons as the glue dried.

paint-stick-pallet-wall-art-for-valentines-047_bof

Once it had time to dry, I measured and cut 4 more paint sticks to apply underneath the ‘skid’  with finishing nails. I was going to add the finishing nails onto the face of the skid too, but I couldn’t bear to detract from the picture. As an option, if you want the look of nails on the surface of the boards, you could take a silver sharpie and add two little dots to each one to mimick the nail heads.

On the back, I added picture hanging wire between two screw eyes to hang it up. I can’t wait for Valentines day to arrive so I can give it to hubs; I hope he likes it!

Paint Stick Pallet Wall Art for Valentines 059_bof.jpg

Don’t forget to pin and share if you enjoyed this post.

With the paint stick pallet complete, I guess we’ve got a real ‘paint’ theme going on at Birdz of a Feather craft! Most recently, we just completed this paint bucket water feature:

paint-bucket-water-feature-124_bof

And remember this paint chip portrait I did of hubs?

C_Opening_FINAL_bof.jpg

For another fun craft idea that isn’t paint-related, check out my blue jean planter 🙂

standing-planter-095_bof

Check out some other great Valentine’s Day ideas at DIYIdeaCenter.

If you love upcycling as much as we do, you’ll love my newest creation made of humble tuna cans! It’s a storage tower that swings out to reveal your office supplies, jewellery or you can even use it as a coffee/tea station! Check out my SwingOut Catchall.

Follow us right here on Birdz of a Feather (link in footer) or Bloglovin (click button below) and you’ll get an e-mail next time I post a new craft project. You can also follow us on Pinterest and on our Youtube channel.

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Water Leak Repair (Part 1) – Install a Frost Proof Faucet

Happy New Year everyone! For our first post of 2018, we’re getting down to some serious home repair issues.

Some of you may remember the reveal of my craft studio in our newly finished basement. I was also supposed to reveal the mancave right on its heels, but there was a good reason why that didn’t happen for a long time. One morning I went into my craft studio and noticed a swooshing sound coming from the area carpet underfoot; not a good sign. I then found this on top of my dresser:

The cup was supposed to be empty and now it was full of water! Then I looked around and saw that all of our perfectly fitted and caulked baseboards had warped and popped off the walls.

Patches of paint were cracked and peeling on hub’s once-flawless drywall.

Eeeeek – we had a water leak!! But what caused it?

I noticed that the path of the water was near the window, however the drywall damage was right up against the edge of a cabinet which suggested that the water might not have come in from the window itself.

It was right underneath the end cabinet where the water had gathered in the cup on top of my dresser. I opened the cabinet door and discovered that all my books were soaking wet. I removed them and when I looked up, I saw the access hole for the shut-off valve to our outdoor faucet and suspected a leak in the pipe could be the culprit.

Once I determined that the leak wasn’t currently active, there was nothing more that I could do to until hubs got home from work; I didn’t want to disturb the ‘scene of the crime’ until he was there to help determine where the water had come from. Finding the source was going to require some investigative work to rule out a myriad of possibilities.

Once hubs got home, we took down the cabinet to investigate further and get better access to the water shutoff.

Although there wasn’t an active leak, there was dampness. We had to act quickly to prevent mold damage, so we turned our attention to clearing out the room. In part 2 of this series, I’ll show you what we did to remediate mold.

The Culprit

So what actually caused our leak? Our frost proof faucet burst. Below you can clearly see the split in the pipe. Before we could proceed to put my craft studio back together, hubs had to remove the frost proof faucet and replace it with another one.

We were scratching our heads wondering what could have caused our frost proof faucet to fail when it’s guaranteed frost proof. Are you wondering too? Well, a frost proof faucet is only foolproof AS LONG AS YOU DON’T FORGET TO REMOVE THE HOSE. You can get away with not turning off the water, but you have to disconnect the hose before winter comes! We’re not 100% certain, but there’s a good chance that hubs forgot to detach our water hose last fall. When winter settled in, the water probably back up from the hose, froze in the pipe and caused the split. Then in the spring, when he went to turn on the tap to fill the pond in our backyard, we got more than we bargained for. In retrospect, I now realize why it seemed to take longer than normal to fill the pond last spring: some water was going into the pond and some right into our basement!

What’s that – more questions? You might also be wondering “why didn’t you just call the insurance company to come take care of the repairs?” For one, we have a deductible. Since hubs initially did all the work to begin with, he was able to do the repairs himself for much less than the deductible would have been. But it wasn’t just a matter of the money; hubs was so proud of the work he did in the basement that he didn’t want any old contractor slapping it back together. It had to be just as perfect as it was before and the only way to do that is to do it yourself. Secondly, we didn’t want our insurance to go up either when we had the capability to make our own repairs; we’ve never made a claim, but who knows?

The only drawback to fixing this mess was that it took a long time and I was without a craft space in the interim. Actually, there was more than one drawback: lets not forget how exhausted poor hubs was after renovating the basement single handedly in the first place. All he wanted to do was finally sit and relax in his mancave but then the leak happened – poor guy! He barely had a chance to enjoy the fruit of his labour and now he had more labour again than he ever bargained for.

The picture below demonstrates the forces of nature: you can see how frozen water burst open the stem of the sillcock (as compared against the new replacement).

By installing a frost free outdoor faucet, you will decrease the chances of having a pipe burst in your home (just don’t forget to remove the hose in the fall!).

Here’s our new replacement.

By the way, the plastic wedge that we removed below is provided to compensate for lap siding installations. It slips between the frost-proof flange and the siding to form an attractive finish and solid base for mounting. Since ours was a brick application, we didn’t use it.

A properly installed frost-free sillcock will have a slight downward pitch (as show below), so that when the water is turned off, the water will all drain out of the stem. If you fail to do this, the water will sit inside the stem of the sillcock even when it’s turned of and you’ll end up with the same burst pipe as you saw above. This is something we double checked when we replaced our old one (and why we enlarged the bottom of the hole as you’ll see later)!

Source: http://www.startribune.com/a-few-little-tricks-to-make-sure-your-outside-faucets-don-t-freeze/137470183/

The first order of business is to find the shutoff valve and turn off the water. In our house the shutoff is in the ceiling, but if you have a newer home, the valve is typically located right next to the main water valve.

If for some reason you don’t have a shutoff, you’ll need to turn off the water main until the new installation is done. If you have a plumber doing this work for you, you might want to ask him to install a shutoff for future convenience.

Once the water is turned off inside the house, open the outside faucet to allow any water to drain. You need to drain whatever water might still be in the pipe so you can de-solder the pipe connections to remove the old one.

To de-solder the connections, you’ll need some gloves, a wrench and a propane torch. To prep the area, put a piece of tin foil against the joists so you don’t catch the wood on fire – you don’t want to burn your house down in the process of preventing further water damage, do you? As you can see by the scorch mark above, the contractor that built our house didn’t bother with this step!

Put on your gloves, hold the pipe with a wrench and apply heat to the joints to ease them apart. Remove the old sillcock from the outside.

To ensure a better downward pitch, hubs increased the length of the hole.

It gave him more leeway to adjust the pitch. He did a dry fit with a level to ensure that the sillcock would indeed have a downward pitch.

Note that if you were working with siding instead of brick, you would use the supplied plastic wedge behind the flange before inserting the sillcock into the hole. You would then secure it to the siding with wood screws before soldering the connections on the inside to keep it perfectly level.

Source: http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/skills-and-know-how/plumbing/how-to-install-a-frost-free-sillcock

Back on the inside, hubs cleaned the copper pipe with some fine sandpaper to make a solid new connection to the silcock. You need to ensure the pipe is clean of any debris or the solder will not seat properly.

Before soldering, make sure the new sillcock valve is in the open position to let hot gases escape and avoid burning the rubber seat washer (you could burst the pipe again). Hubs then added some flux and soldered it all together to make the new connection.

While hubs was soldering, I was holding the pipe on the outside with heavy duty heat proof gloves to keep it level. It would have been best to secure it to the brick with tapping screws but we didn’t want to take a chance they wouldn’t hold – or make our hole even bigger. (If you don’t find a way to keep it level, it will likely twist while it is being soldered. It’s important to keep it level (but still on a downward slope) or it may not drain properly – and the last thing you want is to potentially cause the leak cycle all over again!).

To test whether the soldering job was successful or not, on the inside you can add some liquid soap around the joint, then turn the water back on. If there are any bubbles, you have a leak and must start again.

To finish off, we used a quick set concrete.

We first moistened inside the hole around the brick with water to prepare for the concrete application.

We mixed up the concrete in an old container with some water.

To fill the gaping hole and keep it neat, we scooped the concrete into a ziplock back, then cut a hole in the bag and squeezed it into the hole:

Don’t be tempted to merely use caulk on the outside instead of cement; the hole is too big and will be an invitation to critters, like mice, to find their way into your cosy home if it’s not sealed properly with cement. You can however, use some caulk on the inside to seal the pipe to the rim plate before you re-insulate (as you can see in the before picture – 7th from the top).

By the way, if you have an older home, have never turned off the water before winter and have never experienced a pipe burst, that’s probably because all your heat is escaping through the rim plate and keeping your pipes warm (instead of you!). You’re probably bleeding money on your heating expenses! Proper insulation combined with a frost free faucet can save a lot on heating bills! I learned that the hard way too – with my very first house.

The concrete repair of the hole turned out beautifully and we could water our garden once again! Once the concrete dried, we installed screws to keep from shifting.

Back on the inside of the house, we re-insulated the rim space before we closed up the ceiling again. Next time in this 3-part series, I’ll be explaining how we did mold remediation after the leak and how to get a ‘level 5 finish’ on your drywall repairs so you can achieve a flawless finish too.

We can’t laugh about this episode quite yet, but mistakes do happen and things are only fail-proof to a point, so it’s a hard lesson learned. Anyway, our pain is your gain, because if you live in a colder climate and don’t already have a frost proof faucet, you should install one!

Remember, if you have a standard sillcock, you MUST turn off your water AND disconnect your garden hose in the fall. With a frost-proof sillcock you don’t have to turn off the water, but you DO have to disconnect the hose.

Why make the same mistake that we did when you can learn from our mistakes? Pin and share this post to save for later; you’ll be glad you did!

Here are a few projects we finished in our basement prior to the leak:

Check out our ultimate guide to tiling a laundry room backsplash. We also added a new countertop:

We transformed part of the basement into a mancave:

Lastly, here’s my craft studio reveal. You’ll also find a project on how to create the one-of-a-kind VW storage cabinet/desk shown.

If you’re interested in following the water leak repair series but haven’t already subscribed, follow us here on Birdz of a Feather (link in footer) or Bloglovin’ (button below) for upcoming DIY home & garden projects, crafts and recipes! You can also follow us on Pinterest and on our Youtube channel.

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