This update is clearly way overdue but the summer modeling doldrums hit hard this year and I ended up spending most of my free time working on outdoor projects and other things I can only do when the weather is nice. That said, I did manage to complete the basement renovations and am only one small push away from getting the backdrop hung on the wall.
A lot of the stuff I’ve been working on was identical to the stuff I highlighted in previous posts so this update will be shorter than normal but there were a few unique challenges to solve and hopefully this will be a good capstone to this phase of the layout.
Last fall we had fiber internet installed in our house and the installer had placed the ONT on the left side of the outlet, which would make it inaccessible once the valance goes in, so I rerouted a few wires and moved it to a more convenient location.
The new railing doesn’t quite reach the door Adding brackets. It was not easy finding the stud at the top due to the plaster and lath wall. Here’s the railing and post that needed to be removed. All gone, nice and open now! In order to proceed with the final trim above the stairs I needed to remove the board that had passed for a railing over the last 50 years along with a vertical post that served only as a mounting point for the railing. First I thought I ought to add a proper railing along the other side of the wall though. Unfortunately I found that the old railing I had salvaged wasn’t quite long enough. At the time I didn’t have anything else so I went ahead and installed it.
With everything ready in the basement I got to work prepping the trim. This is from late March or early April and since my work from home setup is in the basement I didn’t want to be doing a lot of sanding down there. Fortunately the weather cooperated.
Boxes complete. Getting ready to attach the face trim. Only the window at the front was painted… The other two were left in primer because… They’ll be painted to match the backdrop. I started with the window casings which I built as units, custom sized to each opening, same as I did in the workshop.
These unfinished pieces of floor trim are a good example of how poorly the concrete was leveled when the basement slab was poured.
The most difficult part of this process was trimming out the electrical panel. Scribing the boards to the wall and getting everything attached and caulked was difficult in such a tight and oddly shaped spot.
The only way I could get everything in place was by making two sub-assemblies and securing them with pocket screws which I plugged later.
Clamped up for testing. The different walls made for a somewhat hodgepodge result but it’s good enough. Most of the ceiling trim was straightforward but the area around the stairs took a bit of planning.
The red paint indicates where the hinges were for the under step cabinet. Here’s I’ve removed a tread so I can put the new riser in. Fortunately I had a piece of scrap that was perfectly sized for the riser. With the trim done I started on the stairs. First I eliminated the weird cabinet that someone had built under one of the steps, it was an interesting idea but I found that it only collected dirt and debris. Next I replaced a riser that we had removed when doing some other renovations back when the house was purchased.
Moving right along, the stairs appear to have been built as an afterthought with whatever crap wood was lying around. In many spots the back of the tread does not meet the riser. Some are just open, others had been caulked poorly. The oscillating saw made quick work of the old caulk.
Patched up. Poorly mudded and poorly sanded Painted… could be worse. When we put up the new wall next to the stairs we built it as a unit on the floor with sheetrock on the back and pivoted it up into position. This left a bit of a gap though where the two new walls met. Since I didn’t want to see the exposed studs I added some more sheetrock, mudded and sanded everything smooth. I also primed the stairs which had been painted brown and a light gray.
Getting ready to add the plywood. Plywood attached. This made painting a lot easier and dressed up the stairs nicely. I added a piece of corner trim to the visible edge after this photo was taken. Stairs painted and ready for carpet. Finally I ran some 2×3’s across the stair stringers and nailed a piece of 1/4 inch plywood to the underside to make a nice smooth “ceiling”.
Before I put any carpet on the stairs I decided that I should paint the floor first. With all the benchwork assembled I could only do half the layout space at a time. Here’s the first half all finished. The way it makes this space feel complete is really amazing
And here we have a new railing that I picked up from Home Depot. You can also see the concession I had to make with the trim to get everything to fit properly. It’s nice to finally have a real railing here. Much safer.
Finally I found some fabric/rubber stair tread material at Lowes that I cut and stuck to the steps. It looks a lot better and is nicer to walk on. I tried a few different adhesives none of which did a particularly good job of sticking to the rubber backing so I also tacked the steps down with some small black nails that I had lying around.
The last major thing to do is to replace this door. It doesn’t do a good job of keeping the cold or insects out and heat in. So it has to go.
Here’s the new door. It’s insulated and will seal against some weatherstripping attached to the frame.
The entire old frame was ripped out and a new one built with PT lumber on any concrete or exterior surfaces. Weatherstripping mounted to wood trim was placed around the perimeter.
In order to seal the bottom of the new door to the exterior stairs I had to build a form and pour some new concrete . That worked pretty well though there were a few voids that needed filling. Once the concrete has curred for about a month I’ll paint it with epoxy floor paint and add the weatherstripping.
And here it is. The new door is nearly three inches thick and is fully insulated. I painted it the same gray that I painted the trim and got some new brass hardware for it. The slide locks work well to hold the door against the weather stripping and I’ve noticed far fewer drafts.
That pretty much wraps up the basement constructions. I still have a few things to do in the laundry/utility area but those won’t affect layout progress and won’t be terribly interesting so I decided not to include them in this write-up.
Once I get things cleaned up and all my tools put away, I’ll get the benchwork in place and start to plan out the location of the backdrop, lighting and valance. I spent the summer buying up a lot of the stuff I’ll need to make progress and have a nice stockpile that should allow for construction to proceed uninterrupted by shipping delays.
What WILL affect layout progress is the small child that my wife gave birth to a few days ago. I’ve found some time here and there to get down to the basement but I don’t expect to do as much this autumn as last. I do plan to spend a lot of time watching ’90’s railfan video’s with my daughter though (got to plant the bug early) so the next few months should be fun regardless of how far I get on the layout.
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6 Replies to “Building a Model Railroad – Part 5: Finishing the layout space.”
Way to leave the best news for last. Congratulations on the new addition to your family. That’s simply wonderful news.
Stepping through the work on the basement, you’ve accomplished so much and it looks terrific. I’m often surprised at how a job that’s simple to describe can be much, much more complicated. Those challenges made secret by the fine finish in the space you’ve created.
Thanks, Chris! I’m really glad to have finished this phase of the project just in time. I think the amount of time I took to complete everything will be worth it going forward. We went from having a utilitarian basement to what is essentially an entire new floor’s worth of living space.
You buried the lede! 😉 Congratulations on the new addition. I hope everyone is doing well.
Your basement improvements look great!
Thanks! We’re doing great.