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The Basement

August 27, 2010
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I never thought of myself as a writer … and perhaps I’m still not one but blogging is addictive and quite fun! It’s not as much fun as working on the house but it makes for a really nice departure when I’m physically tired and worn out! 

Since Karyn had previously written about the attic, I thought it fitting for me to write about the basement. Karyn tells me that the basement will be interesting to some folks, especially friends and family in the southern states who typically would not have basements. That’s just bizarre to a “Yankee” like me (Note, I am not a Yankee fan … I really don’t understand most organized sports) who grew up with New York basements all my life. 

I mean … where else do you keep your monsters, boogie-men and goblins to scare the kids with? 

Almost half the basement

As a very young child I was fascinated with my grandmother’s basement. Some of my earliest memories as a toddler was of my Uncle Conrad and Aunt Donna telling me that I couldn’t go down there because there was a huge lion living in the basement. This of course made me both afraid and curious wanting access to the basement! I can remember looking for the lion and never seeing it … 

I wonder what they did with that lion …. 

In all seriousness, our basement is pretty cool … literally! I LOVE the basement because all summer long it feels like it is air-conditioned. If I get too warm I can just go down for a tool or to “check something” and cool off! We do need to run a dehumidifier on the most humid days of summer but otherwise it is perfectly cool and comfortable … just how I like it! Mold and mildew can be a problem for many basements. We are lucky to have a fairly dry, mold-free basement. There was evidence of moisture in one small section of the basement. Rain runoff was collecting near a low spot outdoors and seeping through the basement wall however that has been remedied by new rain gutters on the house. 

Indoor stairs to basement

And It of course has that old house musty smell which makes it the perfect setting for my wood working shop, storage for pellets for our pellet stove, a paint station for all of our paints, vanishes and coatings for fixing up the house as well as a small room that will someday be turned into a small wine cellar!

The original access to the basement was changed at some point in time; likely soon after owners of the home no longer had servants. The house layout was designed so that house servants could be isolated from the entertaining and living areas easily. Servants could cook and clean and navigate from basement to attic without interrupting most of the daily living space. This included a staircase from the kitchen to the basement and a second staircase from just outside the kitchen to upstairs. The second staircase going upstairs was removed which left space to create a larger and safer staircase to the basement. 

There’s also a door to the basement from the driveway making access from outside very easy and convenient for loading and unloading items. 

Stone walls surrounding my wood storage area

 

The basement wall construction is stacked stone and mortar. This is very common for the age of the house and the region. These stones were likely local stones cleared from farm fields. You can still find stone piles in hedgerows between fields here and there in rural NY. 

The original coal bin / room is still in place. Someone had removed the door and relocated it about 10 feet closer to the stairs so a new oil tank could be installed. Someday this will all be cleaned out and turned into a wine cellar but for now it’s a treasure trove of old moldings to use in the house renovations! 

Looking up at the subfloor you can see that the subfloor boards were all installed at a 45 degree angle to the floor joists. The angle makes for a very sturdy and stable floor construction. Our house is over 200 years old and the floors barely squeak! 

The absolute gem of the basement is an original copper, double walled hot water heater. While the burner portion is no longer in place, the stand and tank are and they are still plumbed and being used as a holding tank to the modern electric hot water heater. This tank is a unique antique and is hard to find one like it. Many have been scrapped for the copper. I’ve had two engineer friends over and they both have just drooled and stared at the tank. Total tank envy! 

Another antique is a double basin slate utility sink. The sink is in amazing condition and is useable. There is hot and cold water at the sink however it is not plumbed for a drain … a future plumbing project indeed! 

Never enough tools, never enough space!

My shop is in half of the basement. It’s far from being organized well so I’m a little embarrassed of the space but it’s coming along. There were odd built-in work surfaces there when we moved in that had I mostly removed to make room for tools and tables. The metal racks were here, unassembled and brand new. They are dog food racks for a pet store but work great as tool racks. While it’s not quite a furniture shop like I want, it’s perfect for the work we’re doing on the house. Perhaps much later I’ll turn it into a full-blown furniture shop. 

Table saw with outfeed rollers

The reason there were dog food racks left behind is that the previous owners owned a pet store in a nearby small city called Vestal. Much of the damage to the interior of the house was done by the store’s inventory. We’re told that when their store was closed, they had roughly 30 dogs and several caged birds left. All were brought to the house until they could be placed in homes. The dogs did significant damage to the floors and we’re just about done finding bird “artifacts”. 

Karyn bought me a new table saw for my birthday last year. I have that set up near the back of my shop space as it has a long enough opening for ripping longer boards. The saw is really great and works very well. It’s the safest saw I’ve owned and has some really great features that make woodworking more enjoyable! 

Paint and Coatings Center

Karyn made a really great little paint center out of some shelves and an old sink and countertop that were already in place. She’s so organized. The only reason there might be a little mess here is because of me! I need her help in my shop! 

So all in all, a pretty cool basement with no boogie men found yet … but we’re still hoping!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Aunt Donna permalink
    August 27, 2010 10:50 am

    Bill,
    I had forgotten about that ” big old lion in the basement” story. I haven’t seen him recently either, but I will keep on looking. Thanks for reminding me about him.
    Aunt Donna

  2. Aunt Donna permalink
    August 27, 2010 10:53 am

    Uncle Conrad just reminded me that the “lion in the basement” came from a movie called “The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight”. I think it came out around the time you were little. Aunt Donna

  3. donna jean permalink
    August 27, 2010 11:48 am

    wow- there is a lion in my moms basement !!! they never told us!! probably did not want to tramatize us like they did to you:-) you were the first born and all ……..
    love the basement– but love the stories about the servant quarters and how there were separate stairs more.. just so cool…..

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