Incremental progress continues

I finally feel like some progress is being made on the basement again. I got all of the outlet boxes mounted (hammering in the nails to mount the boxes convinced me even further that the nail gun was THE best tool purchase I made for this project).

Let me tell a little story on myself about the outlet boxes. I didn’t buy any for a long time because I could not find the ones I needed. I needed boxes that would attach directly to the studs. All I could find were ones with rotating tabs to secure to drywall. Neither Lowes nor Home Depot had what I was looking for. Finally, I discovered why. When you look at these kind of boxes, they are labeled one of two ways: Old work or new work. For some reason, either something I read online or something I “figured out” on my own, I thought “old work” meant electric and “new work” meant low-voltage wiring like speakers, ethernet, cable and phone lines. I was wrong. Old work signifies boxes for renovations, work done after a room has been finished. New work signifies boxes for new construction (or new finishing projects like the one I’m undertaking).

Once I realized that, finding what I needed was ludicrously simple. D’oh!

This bore bit won’t reach through the nearest stud.

And, while I’m telling tales on myself, I ended up probably putting in more outlet boxes than I need because I misunderstood the code. My understanding was that you should have an outlet every six feet along a wall. In fact, what the code says is that no spot along a wall should be more than six feet from the nearest outlet. That means you can actually put outlets 12-feet apart (which makes a lot more sense given the fact that outlets have to be attached to studs, and studs are generally 16-inches apart, meaning that there are rarely two studs six feet apart from one another). In any case, that’s not a horrible mistake to make, especially in a basement that will end up having a fair amount of electronic equipment – surround sound amplifier, AppleTV, DVR, several computers, guitar amps, keyboards, etc. – plugged in. Better to have too many outlets than too few.

Taking the long way ’round.

Running cable is time-consuming, but not terribly complicated. It involves drilling a lot of holes in studs to run the cable through. The biggest problem I’ve run into is drilling those holes in places where the studs ended up very close together, like near the end of walls or where the new framing met up with some of the existing framing in the basement. There’s not enough room to get the drill with a wood-boring bit between the studs to start drilling the hole.

With a long enough drill bit, I can start at the next stud over and drill through. That worked a couple of places, but not in others. One place, where new framing met existing framing simply was not going to work. A long enough drill bit wouldn’t fit between even the widely spaced studs.

So, I had to take the wiring up and over, then back down, as you can see to the right. It’s a waste of wire, but I didn’t see any way around it.

Another inch, and it would make it.

There’s a corner I’m working on that should be doable, but I may have to give it up. I got a longer bit and an extension, but even that, as you can see in the photo below, is just about an inch shy of making it. (You may need to click on the thumbnail to see the larger version to see the hole I’m trying to reach so I can pull the wire through the corner.) A longer extension would make it too long, so I’m just going to try to to keep an eye out for a slightly longer drill bit. Otherwise, I’ll have to do the up and over thing again. [Update: A friend and adviser on this project dropped by yesterday to see how things were going. He had a second short extension that enabled us to get the hole drilled. Problem solved.]

In addition to the wiring, I also got the framing in for the fireplace. My first delay on that was trying to figure out what to do with the framing behind the fireplace. I figured it ought to be insulated, but even with a zero-contact fireplace, I didn’t think having the insulation against the hot fireplace was a good idea. I looked for some foil-backed insulation, but all I could find was cardboard paper-backed insulation. So I put that up, then went ahead and put drywall over that.

The framing for the fireplace is done.

The framing itself was a little harder than I thought, mostly because I was having trouble thinking in 3D. I didn’t have any trouble getting the opening for the front of the fireplace framed in, but I wasn’t sure the best way of supporting the rest of the heavy fireplace.

I think this will work fine. The next thing I need to figure out is how (or whether) to attach the fireplace to the framing. It has tabs that pull out on the side for nailing it to the framing, but the fireplace needs to stick out about two inches from the framing to leave room for the drywall and faux stone we’ll be putting up on that wall, and the tabs are in place for flush mounting.

I figure finishing the wire, including the lighting, will take through November, easily. I need to call the heating guys to have them come in and hook up the gas for the fireplace, and I need to call the cable company to make sure two lengthy runs of cable that come down to the basement are actually good. With any luck, then, I’ll be ready to put up drywall in December. I’d hoped to have the basement done by Christmas, but I don’t think that’s feasible. March is probably a more reasonable estimate at this point.

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