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I am not sure how well I will be able to describe this challenge (or even represent with snapshots). When we built this house in 2011, we put in a 2 step sunken family room on the first floor. The 2nd step was a suggestion from the builder with a recommendation to sink the corresponding floor in the basement. I thought this was a cool idea. Since the house has been built, I have been struggling with how in the heck I would finish this space someday. :banghead: Someday has arrived.

So, the issues are as follows. In the perimeter of this sunken basement floor, there are 3 columns. Actually, there are 4, but 2 are in the same place and will get boxed in together. I would prefer to sink 2 of them into walls to make them disappear.

One of the many things that have baffled me along this way is how I transition flooring from a concrete slab to another concrete slab. I plan to reduce this problem by closing in 2 of the walls and half of the third. So I will have a step down that is about 8 feet wide. The thought now is carpet in the lower area and laminate in the upper. I figure we can wrap the carpet up the face of the concrete, but I am not sure what to do with the edge of the laminate! I need to decide on a flooring and see if they recommend/support the gluing of a bullnose stair edge of some sort. The problem is the distance, I have seen some that are 3-4 feet long, but nothing that will do 7-8'.

From there, I plan to run walls on the transition lines. But how? I will post some pictures below. If I run the walls on the top of the steps, it is easy to pick up the columns. But, how do I finish the walls in the inside of the sunken room? If I run the walls with a bit of overhang over the step edge, the drywall could just hang in daylight. Would this haunt me? How would I attach base trim. I have considered running 2X6 walls with an inch of overhang and then during some sort of furring strip down the face of the step to attach the drywall. This sounds like a PITA to me, and may not look right. I also considered just doing two 2x4 walls, one high, one low. It will make a thick wall, but will be easy framing. AND the price of 2X6s is almost double the cost of the 2X4s. I have a 9'foundation, so the "upper wall" is close to 9' high. This would further increase the price of the 2X6s.

Here are some pictures. Don't mind the awful mess. I keep moving crap around as I work and I swear the pile gets larger with every move.

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IMG_20170320_205346316.jpg
IMG_20170320_205418803.jpg
 

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Odd idea

It's a bit unorthodox but consider framing your wall with 2x4 conventional framing on the top side and then running 2x4 flat down the studs to the bottom of the low side. Use a power nailer to nail the flat studs into the concrete and/or construction cement. You could accomplish almost the same thing by running furring strips down instead of the flat 2x4's but I tend to over build things. I would also consider if you ever want to place an electrical outlet on that transition area. If so, you need enough spacing for at least a slim box. (Great spot to plug in a vacuum.) Whatever you use could be continued across the step down which would give you a place to attach the bullnoze, carpet or whatever you want in the transition.

Just attaching a furring strip to the top and bottom of the concrete will work as well. I don't think you want unsupported sheet rock although some people would just put construction cement on the concrete and nail it to the studs. Even in a dry basement, I'm leery of attaching sheet rock directly to concrete but it's certainly been done.

Treefarmer
 

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I cannot give much advice on how you should do things because there are too many unknown details that the pictures do not show.

This is why there should always be a plan. Your builder talked you into making a snap decision that you are now going to have to deal with and it is now going to cost you more money than it should have.

What about setting the walls inside the lowered area & then putting a box around each post & beam?

A floor plan drawing with sizes & locations of posts, beams & intended openings would be a lot of help.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
It's a bit unorthodox but consider framing your wall with 2x4 conventional framing on the top side and then running 2x4 flat down the studs to the bottom of the low side. Use a power nailer to nail the flat studs into the concrete and/or construction cement. You could accomplish almost the same thing by running furring strips down instead of the flat 2x4's but I tend to over build things. I would also consider if you ever want to place an electrical outlet on that transition area. If so, you need enough spacing for at least a slim box. (Great spot to plug in a vacuum.) Whatever you use could be continued across the step down which would give you a place to attach the bullnoze, carpet or whatever you want in the transition.

Just attaching a furring strip to the top and bottom of the concrete will work as well. I don't think you want unsupported sheet rock although some people would just put construction cement on the concrete and nail it to the studs. Even in a dry basement, I'm leery of attaching sheet rock directly to concrete but it's certainly been done.

Treefarmer
I like the idea of the 2X4 furring strip. Although, since you mention the below grade concrete, the rule of thumb is that any wood touching concrete should be treated. This increases the cost of any furring strip option and honestly wasn't on my radar until just now. The complete double wall idea seems like such a waste of space, but when it comes to cost, may end of up being a wash. The continuation of the inside wall would definitely provide a great place to attach a transition, as well. I hate to sacrifice square footage, but we are talking about 4" on each side of the room here. Considering the return on investment for finishing basement space, I might just need to roll with that. Of course, it is also more walls to frame, but easy walls compared to any sort of creative engineering I have been considering.

Lee
 

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I cannot give much advice on how you should do things because there are too many unknown details that the pictures do not show.

This is why there should always be a plan. Your builder talked you into making a snap decision that you are now going to have to deal with and it is now going to cost you more money than it should have.

What about setting the walls inside the lowered area & then putting a box around each post & beam?

A floor plan drawing with sizes & locations of posts, beams & intended openings would be a lot of help.
I am not sure I would call it a snap decision. This design change was drafted in the original building plans, approved my the county and executed. At the time, though, we did not contract the builder to finish the basement. If I was paying him to finish the basement, I am certain that he would have a plan for this. I have a great relationship with the builder (even 6 years later) and even considered asking him to come out and discuss how he would do it. But, the reality is, I respect that he is in the business to make money. He is not in the business to come out and give me free construction consulting. That is why I have you guys! :good2:

I have the original construction plans, but all that are on them for the basement is notional basement layout. Just like the builder would, I am looking at the cost in the big picture. From a drywall and finishing perspective, burying those columns into straight walls reduces drywall installation labor and finishing costs. I also have to deal (although maybe difficult to see in the photos) with the floor joists from above. Walls only on the inside will mean more soffit work which, again, increasing drywall complexity. The more I write, the more I am thinking I just need to make double walls around this space. It pains me, but is really the easiest thing to do.

I can post a copy of the construction drawing tonight. I only have a PDF here and I don't believe I can post PDF on the site.

Lee
 

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I am not sure I would call it a snap decision. This design change was drafted in the original building plans, approved my the county and executed. At the time, though, we did not contract the builder to finish the basement. If I was paying him to finish the basement, I am certain that he would have a plan for this. I have a great relationship with the builder (even 6 years later) and even considered asking him to come out and discuss how he would do it. But, the reality is, I respect that he is in the business to make money. He is not in the business to come out and give me free construction consulting. That is why I have you guys! :good2:

I have the original construction plans, but all that are on them for the basement is notional basement layout. Just like the builder would, I am looking at the cost in the big picture. From a drywall and finishing perspective, burying those columns into straight walls reduces drywall installation labor and finishing costs. I also have to deal (although maybe difficult to see in the photos) with the floor joists from above. Walls only on the inside will mean more soffit work which, again, increasing drywall complexity. The more I write, the more I am thinking I just need to make double walls around this space. It pains me, but is really the easiest thing to do.

I can post a copy of the construction drawing tonight. I only have a PDF here and I don't believe I can post PDF on the site.

Lee


I was referring to your plan for future finishing of the basement space. If you had a plan for that, you would not be having these issues. You keep bringing up that ideas are going to cost more.
It is going to cost more to do it right. There is no low cost fix for this.
 

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Have you thought about an epoxy coated floor with vinyl chips.

Our builder just did his basement floor with this and it looks great. And is very durable. You could paint the floors one color and the do the riser of the step a different color.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Have you thought about an epoxy coated floor with vinyl chips.

Our builder just did his basement floor with this and it looks great. And is very durable. You could paint the floors one color and the do the riser of the step a different color.
Flooring is definitely still an open discussion! Although some people can't fathom doing a basement the way I do (this is my 3rd house designing the basement as I build) I have seen many benefits to making the decisions as things come together. I have already added a closet that was not planned as I looked at how the corner of the bathroom was coming together. On paper, the bathroom would have been smaller, but the complex ductwork and other utilities, made moving the wall out much more efficient. In the end, this made an area that lent itself to a closet that I expect will be very useful. Cost is also a major factor for us, we shop materials as we go (including building materials auctions) and grab deals as we come across them. I have already bought a shower panel for the bathroom that was not in the plan, but needed to be decided before I rough in the shower plumbing. I am keeping detailed financial records on this one since I have always wondered what my final cost was when I have done my basements this way. Finishing a basement is so different than most other construction. You already have a shell that provides all of the structure. My biggest problem in this basement is the immense amount of utilities that come with a modern energy efficient home. I have way more ductwork in this ceiling than any house I have ever owned. I get to play with sprinklers, yay! And this sunken floor/ceiling fun....

Lee
 

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One of the many things that have baffled me along this way is how I transition flooring from a concrete slab to another concrete slab. I plan to reduce this problem by closing in 2 of the walls and half of the third. So I will have a step down that is about 8 feet wide. The thought now is carpet in the lower area and laminate in the upper. I figure we can wrap the carpet up the face of the concrete, but I am not sure what to do with the edge of the laminate! I need to decide on a flooring and see if they recommend/support the gluing of a bullnose stair edge of some sort. The problem is the distance, I have seen some that are 3-4 feet long, but nothing that will do 7-8'.
The major laminate flooring manufacturers all have 8' long bullnose stair moldings for their products. If you go buy your laminate at someplace like Costco or Walmart you may run into problems but any major lumber yard should be able to order the stair molding for you that matches the laminate they sell. I know for a fact that Lowe's and HD can do this on the name brand stuff they sell.

From there, I plan to run walls on the transition lines. But how? I will post some pictures below. If I run the walls on the top of the steps, it is easy to pick up the columns. But, how do I finish the walls in the inside of the sunken room? If I run the walls with a bit of overhang over the step edge, the drywall could just hang in daylight. Would this haunt me? How would I attach base trim. I have considered running 2X6 walls with an inch of overhang and then during some sort of furring strip down the face of the step to attach the drywall. This sounds like a PITA to me, and may not look right. I also considered just doing two 2x4 walls, one high, one low. It will make a thick wall, but will be easy framing. AND the price of 2X6s is almost double the cost of the 2X4s. I have a 9'foundation, so the "upper wall" is close to 9' high. This would further increase the price of the 2X6s.
Are you willing to get a little creative? Just looking at it, if it was my basement, I'd building the wall down on the lower level. Then I'd box in those posts. To hide the posts a little I'd line that side of the wall with built-in shelves the full length of the wall and make the shelves the same depth as the boxes around the posts.
 

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The major laminate flooring manufacturers all have 8' long bullnose stair moldings for their products. If you go buy your laminate at someplace like Costco or Walmart you may run into problems but any major lumber yard should be able to order the stair molding for you that matches the laminate they sell. I know for a fact that Lowe's and HD can do this on the name brand stuff they sell.

Are you willing to get a little creative? Just looking at it, if it was my basement, I'd building the wall down on the lower level. Then I'd box in those posts. To hide the posts a little I'd line that side of the wall with built-in shelves the full length of the wall and make the shelves the same depth as the boxes around the posts.
Jim,
I was looking briefly at a brand name bamboo flooring and called the manufacturer directly. I was surprised to learn that they only had the 4' lengths. I did not research this with a laminate flooring vendor. I am glad to hear that is not standard practice.

As for the built-in shelves, I like that idea a lot. That would be a lot of shelves, but definitely offers a value for the decision to box in those columns. One of the walls will be enclosing a spare bedroom, so the shelves could be a feature/storage in that room. The other two walls are more or less partitions (and ways to reduce the step hazard/transition) so I was already planning to open the upper halves for a ledge. We did something similar with a partition into the sunken space upstairs. See picture. Now that we are talking about this, I could leave open space below that ledge for knee space and put stools there! This is the kind of gears turning that I was looking for when I posted this.

IMG_5261.jpg
 

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Jim,
I was looking briefly at a brand name bamboo flooring and called the manufacturer directly. I was surprised to learn that they only had the 4' lengths. I did not research this with a laminate flooring vendor. I am glad to hear that is not standard practice.


Lowe's carries an engineered bamboo flooring product.
https://www.lowes.com/pd/Natural-Floors-by-USFloors-3-78-in-Natural-Smooth-Traditional-Bamboo-Hardwood-Flooring-23-8-sq-ft/3050915

And they carry a 78" (6.5 ft.) stair bullnose that goes with it.
https://www.lowes.com/pd/Natural-Floors-by-USFloors-3-62-in-x-78-in-Stair-Nose-Floor-Moulding/1000111489

(They carry the same stuff in other colors too.)

I personally HATE bamboo but if that's something you want to use, stick with laminates. Engineered bamboo is just a nightmare. Do your homework if you want to go with bamboo.
 

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I personally HATE bamboo but if that's something you want to use, stick with laminates. Engineered bamboo is just a nightmare. Do your homework if you want to go with bamboo.
Come on man, if I wanted to do homework, I wouldn't have posted here! What is your experience with bamboo. Honestly, we have an overall good opinion of laminate. We don't have any in this house, though. I am doing tile in the bathroom down here, but my wife likes the idea of laminate for the rest of the "main level" space to include the "kitchenette" area and bedroom. I considered an engineered hardwood. We have finished-in-place hardwood in much of the first floor of the house. We really like the smooth continuous feel (and look) of that flooring. Most laminate comes out very smooth as well. Engineered hardwood (basement moisture concerns aside) always has a bevel.

Thanks again,

Lee
 

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Come on man, if I wanted to do homework, I wouldn't have posted here! What is your experience with bamboo.

The issue with bamboo is that it is very temperature and humidity sensitive. If you install it you HAVE to maintain temps and humidity in a very narrow band.

If you look at the installation instructions for that flooring I posted the link to, they have a "How to maintain your floor" section where they mention:

"Natural flooring reacts to the conditions in the environment.
Natural flooring plank systems expand and contract in response to
fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Controlling the environment,
maintaining an adequate temperature and relative humidity, will
minimize the visible effects of normal contraction and expansion.
Optimum recommended temperature is 70°F and relative humidity is
30% - 50%."


They aren't kidding. If you install bamboo and get anywhere away from those temps/humidity range, the flooring shrinks and then swells. A few days of rapid changes will cause it to buckle completely. So you have to maintain temps and have both an automated humidifier and dehumidifier to keep everything perfect.

Their warranty has some exclusions. One of them reads:

"Problems due to moisture, mildew, alkaline substances, hydrostatic pressure, expansion and contraction between
planks/tiles, or humidity levels above or below those recommended.
"


Every manufacturer of bamboo flooring has the same sort of wording in their documentation and they absolutely use it when your floor buckles. They will all immediately deny any warranty claims.

Honestly, we have an overall good opinion of laminate. We don't have any in this house, though. I am doing tile in the bathroom down here, but my wife likes the idea of laminate for the rest of the "main level" space to include the "kitchenette" area and bedroom. I considered an engineered hardwood. We have finished-in-place hardwood in much of the first floor of the house. We really like the smooth continuous feel (and look) of that flooring. Most laminate comes out very smooth as well. Engineered hardwood (basement moisture concerns aside) always has a bevel.
Laminate avoids all of the issues that bamboo has. The way it's made makes temps and humidity pretty much irrelevant. It usually doesn't like standing water but pretty much all wood flooring has that issue. You have to install your vapor barrier under it if installing on concrete but that's easy enough to do.

Other types of engineered flooring gets away from most of bamboo's problems too. That's because of how they are each engineered. Bamboo isn't a wood product. Bamboo is a grass. So they break down the bamboo stalks, heat them, apply glue and pressure and form them into planks. With other engineered hardwoods, they essentially build a piece of plywood with the finish grade product for the top layer. Because of the plywood structure, they won't expand and contract.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
The issue with bamboo is that it is very temperature and humidity sensitive. If you install it you HAVE to maintain temps and humidity in a very narrow band.

If you look at the installation instructions for that flooring I posted the link to, they have a "How to maintain your floor" section where they mention:

"Natural flooring reacts to the conditions in the environment.
Natural flooring plank systems expand and contract in response to
fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Controlling the environment,
maintaining an adequate temperature and relative humidity, will
minimize the visible effects of normal contraction and expansion.
Optimum recommended temperature is 70°F and relative humidity is
30% - 50%."


They aren't kidding. If you install bamboo and get anywhere away from those temps/humidity range, the flooring shrinks and then swells. A few days of rapid changes will cause it to buckle completely. So you have to maintain temps and have both an automated humidifier and dehumidifier to keep everything perfect.

Their warranty has some exclusions. One of them reads:

"Problems due to moisture, mildew, alkaline substances, hydrostatic pressure, expansion and contraction between
planks/tiles, or humidity levels above or below those recommended.
"


Every manufacturer of bamboo flooring has the same sort of wording in their documentation and they absolutely use it when your floor buckles. They will all immediately deny any warranty claims.



Laminate avoids all of the issues that bamboo has. The way it's made makes temps and humidity pretty much irrelevant. It usually doesn't like standing water but pretty much all wood flooring has that issue. You have to install your vapor barrier under it if installing on concrete but that's easy enough to do.

Other types of engineered flooring gets away from most of bamboo's problems too. That's because of how they are each engineered. Bamboo isn't a wood product. Bamboo is a grass. So they break down the bamboo stalks, heat them, apply glue and pressure and form them into planks. With other engineered hardwoods, they essentially build a piece of plywood with the finish grade product for the top layer. Because of the plywood structure, they won't expand and contract.
Thanks for taking the time to reply. This basement is a walkout with the entire back wall above grade. I have worked really hard to try to manage the climate down there in preparation of this effort (and to protect other stuff stored downstairs). I am really opposed to the generic "just run a dehumidifier all of the time" philosophy. In the winter, especially, I am working to humidify the upstairs and just can't fathom spending the money to then dehumidify the downstairs at the same time. I am in the process of setting up temp/humidity monitoring in different parts of the house so that I can monitor and track a trend of this data and see how well I have done. With that said, although I may give into the losing battle, I surely do not want to install something that is extremely sensitive to humidity. That seems like a bad idea.

Thanks again for your input.

Lee
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Update: Now that I am finally ready for drywall this week, I thought I would share an update. I ended up doing a double wall.

IMG_20170812_141837677.jpg
IMG_20170812_141935924.jpg

In one section, I left a dead space to bury a column. It is a walkway that is plenty wide and losing another 3.5" is negligible.

IMG_20170812_142001005.jpg

I also opted to extend the lower wall across the step to give me an easy place to attach the flooring bullnose and the riser for the step.

IMG_20170812_141901677.jpg

Lee
 

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I like to use an stair landing treads like pictured from my house. I don't install it until I have my wood. I notch the back to fit perfectly over the wood floor. And the carpet can just run right up underneath it.
Sorry if I missed if you have it all figured out. I skimmed over everything.

Let me know if you need more pictures from underneath or anything. And I'll try and help with future questions
 

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I like to use an stair landing treads like pictured from my house. I don't install it until I have my wood. I notch the back to fit perfectly over the wood floor. And the carpet can just run right up underneath it.
Sorry if I missed if you have it all figured out. I skimmed over everything.

Let me know if you need more pictures from underneath or anything. And I'll try and help with future questions
I like that approach. I have not committed to a flooring for the upper area yet although LVT/LVP is on my radar. Since this opening is just a tad over 8', none of the flooring I have considered has a matching bullnose that long. Your approach is an interesting alternative. In this case, since it is only the one step it doesn't need to match any other steps. I am also undecided on the flooring in the sunken area. I was originally planning to carpet that area but may just continue the hard flooring once we commit to something.

Either way, talking to my flooring supplier, we both agreed that having the wood framed structure would give us a more stable base to attach whatever we decide to do.

At this point, I am running the drywall across the face of that wall. If I carpet I can wrap that up onto the drywall. If I leave it bare, I have to decide if the drywall will tolerate being kicked! For a single step, I really don't see it taking that much abuse (famous last words....)

Either way, thanks for the input. I don't intend to do any elaborate trimwork in this basement. I am doing precased (3-1/4) prehung doors to match everything upstairs. The windows and exterior door will get the same casing. The floor will be a one piece base. The only thing I have not decided is how I want to trim/cover the one exposed column. It is in a lousy location and I want to keep it as small as possible. My gears are turning on that one.

Lee
 

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Well. Not sure how handy you are but just buy a 1x4 a little over 8' long. Once the floor arives notch it out to sit on the floor. And rout the outside edge to a round over. If no router then sand the corner over as much as possible or run that outside corner through a table saw to get rid of the point.

It's only one step but I'd never run the drywall there. Trust me. Unless you have no kids, grandkids, friends, and you are the only one ever in there and will be walking up that step lol.
Personally I would step that wood in an inch. Sheetrock around the corner and then put a 3/4 kick plate. If that's to much at this point which it would be for me lol. just stop the Sheetrock and put a 1/2 or 3/8 wood kickplate so the kickplate don't look goofy sticking out. Another words you will have 1/2 Sheetrock and a 3/4 board will stick out a 1/4 or more. I'm just. Dry particular that is all :)

You can try to stain everything to match the flooring. Or just paint kickplate and bullnose to match the trim. Or go green and yellow for John Deere lol. That would be funny.
 

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A couple updates to this thread. I ended up doing the LifeProof Luxury Vinyl Plank in the main floor area. I swung for their matching stair nose. When I looked at the design I realized that it depended on weight bearing support on the side opposite the flooring. The recommendation was to cut a 1/2 strip of the flooring and use as a spacer under the molding. The problem there was that it would be resting on a drywall edge (that was not completely even to begin with). So, I ended up cutting out about 1-1/2" of drywall and replacing with a piece of 15/32 plywood. I set this piece up the thickness of the flooring so I did not need the shim, the plywood is now the structural support for the matching stair nose. In the end, I am not sure it was easier than doing the routed 1X4 options suggested above, but it is done.

IMG_2616(1).jpg

Back to the original dilemma about the step down in general, this is out the final drywalled and capped walls ended up looking. Overall I am pleased/

IMG_20180220_184617501.jpg
IMG_20180220_184827882.jpg

Thanks for following along.
 

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Great job and looks good. If you are pleased then that’s all that matters :thumbup1gif:
 
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