Category Archives: basement

Big Week of Bloggy Fun Ahead

bob the builder or Hitler youth tattoo?

I thought a Bob the Builder tat would be a fun way to mark my blogaversary, but it looks more like Bob the Hitler Youth Guard. Crud.

Like my friend Tracey, I missed my blogaversary. I started Reluctant Renovator just over a year ago, a few nervous weeks before we closed on our house. What a year it’s been! But honestly, I don’t have time for a starry-eyed link-filled year in review post. I’m coming off of nearly two straight weeks of end of year performances, parties and events at night, work deadlines, not to mention a week-long biz trip for the hubs and a couple of local trade shows for me. The next couple of weeks bring a certain child’s 8th grade graduation(!), end of school for two kids, a synagogue retreat, a TV appearance for me(!), more work projects and a chance to be a fly on the wall citizen journalist at the upcoming Clinton Global Initiative meeting.

And let’s not forget a garage sale I very much hope will  take place on June 9– just in time to keep the growing pile of cast-offs from taking over our basement.

{deep, cleansing breath}

Anyway, about that blogaversary. It’s time to par-tay.

Virtually, of course. Hop on the happy train by taking a moment to de-lurk and reassure me that someone (something?) other than spambots frequent this blog.

The fun will continue this week with photos of me in a bathing suit (rawr) and chance for you to win a fab suit for your fine self. I’ll also be hosting other giveaways through the end of the month, so stay tuned!


April Showers…

If Mother Nature cooperates, it will be raining when you read this. Check out my April post over at Angie’s List to learn how Chicago-area homeowners can combat the basement flooding that often come along with April rains.

The One That Got Away

The one that was left behind.

When you’re doing a renovation, especially on a house in which you’re not currently residing, people, usually workers, but occasionally angry neighbors whose trash did not get picked up because your plumber’s truck was blocking their garbage cans, come and go as they please. In fact, the only people who even bothered ringing the door bell during the last few months were the Jehovah’s Witnesses who stopped by to chat.


With all the traffic, all the workers: HVAC guys, plumbers, electricians, drywallers, painters, floor guys, tile guys, trim guys, window guys, roofers and five other categories that I’ve already forgotten, our house has been a busy and hectic place.

And I’m not the type of person who wins awards for her high level of organization in the best of times.

So it’s not surprising that a few items might have gotten misplaced during the course of the Plan A Reno. Some things, though, seem to have walked away. Not that any of the guys would have taken my bottle of Dawn dish soap.

Or maybe they would have.

It’s not that I think we have a kleptomaniac in our midst. More likely, someone accidentally took this or that when it was laid down next to their stuff. But even more puzzling than the missing dishwashing detergent or extension cord is our missing shop-vac.

Because even though our shop-vac went missing, somebody left one in its place. Frankly, I’d be just as happy with a yellow one as our old orange one, but our attachments don’t fit.

We didn’t notice the swap out until about 10 weeks into the reno at which point it was impossible to even know who to call about the potential mix-up. We’ll just have to call our trust old orange friend the one that got away.

Have you had anything walk away, get swapped out or truly stolen during a home repair?

Overhead Sewers Explained Thanks to a Special Christmas Guest

When we were looking for a home, we knew that overhead sewers were a useful feature given the amount of flooding in the Chicago suburbs, but we didn’t know exactly how overhead sewers work to prevent flooding. Thousands of dollars in the plumber’s pocket and a messy front yard later, we get it. And now I’m here to share how overhead sewers work to prevent basement floods of the most disgusting kind–sewer back-ups!

A special holiday visitor stopped by to help me explain.


So there you have it. Good thing we’re “function over form” people, huh?

Now tell me, how much would you pay to keep your neighbor’s from flowing into your basement during a heavy storm?


I Am SO Not Grounded

old water service


This is a blast from the past, relatively speaking, but I’m bringing it up because it’s an opportunity to learn from our mistakes. Thankfully, this didn’t turn out to be as expensive as I feared.

You know the age old question about whether to vacuum before you dust or dust before your vacuum? Well, we should have questioned which to update first, our water service or our electric service.

The water service upgrade was mandated by our village code. It was a costly ($10K!) and not very sexy upgrade- the kind of thing that makes a homeowner cringe because the investment will never be recouped.

The electric service upgrade was an important piece of modernizing our home.

We did the electric upgrade first, thinking that was the most useful to the contractors who’d be coming in and out of our house with equipment that demanded a high level of power. Part of the electric upgrade included a new grounding wire leading to where the water service pipes enter the house.

So when the water service location moved as part of that upgrade (because it needed to be a certain distance from our sewage pipes, per newer codes), we were no longer grounded. The house, I mean. But I was pretty rattled, too.

The water service  location switch made the grounding location a bit closer to our new electric panel and the electrician was able to re-use the pricey grounding wire and conduit he put in place the first time he did the job. He made the switch for less than $200; I had feared the cost would be more than $1,000.

He might have given us a price break because he took pity on us. I don’t know, but I’ve been recommending him to friends and one of them has already hired him, so it’s all good.

updated new water service with copper piping

Freshly grounded with shiny new copper pipes.

Waste Water Wednesday

 pipes in the master bath

The master bath- where it all begins.

Looking for the least popular meme on the whole freaking internet? Look no further than Waste Wate Wednesday at the Reluctant Renovator. I’m going to give you a little tour that begins as pictured on the right on the second story of our house in the master bathroom.

From there the waste pipes lead down to the kitchen, but no worries, everything is all sealed up. (I  certainly hope!) There’s a whole maze of pipes visible on the open kitchen ceiling. Some are due to the laundry room that will be above it and others are from the master bath, which is partly above kitchen.

We’re planning to add sound buffering insulation to the kitchen ceiling in an effort to reduce the noise from the rooms above. Our contractor has warned us that we may still hear a bit of water wooshing above us, but agreed the insulation should help. And we’ll have to make sure not to throw in a load of laundry before company comes over.


waste pipes as they travel through the house.

The kitchen ceiling.

And finally, the pipes lead down to the basement. It’s worth noting that I took this picture before they were connected to our overhead sewer system. I’d hate to give you the impression that all of the waste water simply spills onto our basement floor.

waste water pipes in the basement

Stayed tuned for next week’s Waste Water Wednesday and prepare to be amazed–there will be video! than