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How-To Basements
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Trans 1) Lower Level Planning Trans
2) Plumbing & Fixtures
3) Framing
4) Veneer Plaster Walls
5) Lighting
6) Finishing Details
7) Fun Extras

Lower Level Plumbing

If you're planning to add a bathroom, it's likely that some concrete will need to come out. Be aware that it's easy to break drain pipes when busting up the floor. So, if you're not experienced with this sort of work, you may want to hire a plumbing contractor.

It can also be difficult getting fixtures, like a bathtub or one-piece shower unit, downstairs. So if you do the work, get a few friends to help with the hauling.

Plumbing Under Slab

Using a jack hammer to chip the concrete awayPlumbing is always a difficult part of remodeling even when it's not buried under 4" of concrete, but that's what we had to deal with.

Drains and vents for a basement bathroom had been roughed in when the house was built, but we went with a center-drain tub instead of an end-drain style and that meant extending the drain plumbing.

We broke up the concrete by scoring the surface along the edges of our planned cuts and then rented a jack hammer to chip the concrete away.


It's a job that always demands extra care and protection for the eyes, ears and lungs, but our task was also complicated by avoiding the radiant floor heating tubes buried in the concrete.

Gluing ABS Drain PipeAfter clearing away the debris, we glued new ABS drain pipe to the original stubout to extend the new drain to the center location.

CAUTION: Codes may require licensed plumbers to handle this work. So be sure to check that before starting for your own health and safety. If you're planning a whole new service that requires tapping the main drain line, you may want to hire a pro anyway.

Just before pouring fresh concrete over the new pipe, we noticed the new drain placement would put the drain against the wall and be difficult to access. So we rented the jack hammer again, cut a new hole, relaid the pipe, then covered it with concrete.


Installing Steam Shower Unit

fiberglass shower Before framing the front wall of the new bathroom, we moved in a couple of big plumbing fixtures which wouldn't have fit through the door opening. The first fixture was a one-piece, acrylic steam shower unit.

We first framed an opening that included short side walls jutting into the bath a few inches and a new soffit. The unit was 48" wide x 34" deep x 84" high but we framed the rough opening dimensions according to the instructions. We extended the soffit over the vanity area to provide a chase for the water supply pipes.

installing fiberglass showerBefore inserting the unit, we also prepared the drain trap in the floor and secured the drain to the shower unit. Then we set the unit in place, working it back into the opening and lifting as needed to get the drain situated properly over the trap. It's critical that the opening NOT be too snug at the top so you've got a little room to lift the drain into position.

framing around showerOnce the unit was in place, we plumbed and leveled the unit, shimming the bottom as needed. Then we secured it to the framing by screwing through the holes cast in the flanges around the rim of the unit.

We drilled holes in the unit (after carefully measuring) for the shower valve, the shower arm and the steam generator output, using hole saws, then roughed in the plumbing for the shower.

steam generatorWe secured the steam generator alongside the unit, making sure we'd have access to it through a utility closet opening on the other side of bathroom wall. For plumbing, that requires one water line coming into the generator and a second line coming out of it to run steam into the unit. We used 3/8" copper tubing.

Installing Whirlpool Tub

framing whirlpool tub The other big fixture we had to deal with was a drop-in whirlpool tub. We planned to surround it with a tub deck, but the tub weighed in at about 530 lbs. So we weren't going to be "dropping" it into any pre-built deck, but we didn't figure we'd be able to build the deck around it either.

We decided to first build the back half of the deck, using 2x4 plates and cripple studs to form the short wall in back.

marking hole in plywood for tubWe used plywood to frame the deck surface, but we had to first mark the required opening for the tub on our 4x8 sheet and that was a bit of a challenge since there was no cutting template...just dimensions for the width, length and each end radius.

We marked off perpendicular lines representing the center lines of the opening's width and length, measured back from the end points on the length for the depth of the radius (19"), hooked a tape on a nail at each mark, set a pencil at 19" and scribed a half circle with the nail at the fulcrum.

cutting tub hole in plywoodWe used a jigsaw to cut the opening after starting the cut with a drill and spade bit. And we cut the resulting piece in half, took the back half and nailed that over the back of the deck framing.

The tub deck was 52" wide overall, and the plywood sheet was only 48". But we took care of the difference by nailing in a strip 2" wide along the back and a second 2" strip along the front after the tub was in place.

installing tub in new frameWe got 4 guys (including Dean!) to slide the tub in against the back half of the tub deck framing. By the way, the tub does rest on its own legs--not on the tub deck. Once we had it straight in the opening, we leveled the tub by shimming where needed with metal plates under the tubs legs.

Then we built the front of the deck, securing the short wall and nailing the front half of the deck over that. After that, we roughed in the drain and the water supply lines, and finished framing the door wall.

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