What’s Happening in the Basement

We’ve been trying to make sense of the basement for years now. The worktable project came out great — durable and useful. But a couple of months ago a new opportunity came up. A kitchenfull of nice cabinets was given to us, free. Some good folks up the hill were renovating, and their better-than-average cabinets had to go to another good home, and E. jumped.

The first pic is the bare wall. Formerly occupied by the frame of a large storage closet — the one the doors for the worktable came from. Just a battleship grey, enormously heavy wooden box squeezed between floor and ceiling, wall and steampipe. It must have been there for 50 years, and they made things strong back then, when men were men and 2x4s were two inches by four inches. I wish I had photos of the process, but using a crowbar we finally managed to dismember the thing and get rid of it.

The beginnings of placing the cabinets is visible in the background. All told there were about 13 base cabinets, including two corner units with lazy susans inside, plus a number of wall-mount taller cabinets.

Getting them to “stick” wasn’t easy. It’s a basement floor, dammit, and it’s not level and was never intended to be. So each cabinet had to be laboriously shimmed to make it level and plumb, and as we worked down the wall the floor sloped so that each successive one had to be shimmed a little higher

Like our countertops? Yes, those are just doors — undrilled 24″ flat panels were just the ticket.

But as soon as you started to move the next one into place, if you merely tapped the previous one all of the chain would slip and go out of line. I grew to quickly love the Tapcon system. You buy their custom carbide drill bit, which goes into cinderblocks like butter, and their hex-head blue bolts slot right in.

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Also, screwing them internally to each other with regular wood screws.

Now we’ve got the corner into place, all the countertops/doors have been stained and polyurethaned, and secured to the cabinets. E. has most of the wall painted a sunnier shade of golden white. The semigloss throws a lot more light around the room than the flat grey navy paint that covered everything.

After that, we can start to position the cabinets on top. We’ll bolt those to the walls too with the same Tapcon screws, and sideways to each other. Oh — notice the water meter on the wall? We’re going to put that into one of the cabinets. We’ll cut a mortise out of the back so it slides right over it.


I also moved the whole shelf holding my LP collection. Just to move it back and over a foot required unloading it, moving it, re-leveling it, and re-leveling it again. It’s counterintuitive, but moving it closer to the stairs behind it actually let more light in.


There’s still a lot to be done, especially sorting through all the stuff that used to be up against that wall. And that usable worktable? Piled with storage bins and unreachable. And we’ve got to fix the floor. And move the shelves and file cabinets we displaced. And on and on.

But for now, at least the old open sloppy pantry area is history.

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