Adding Self-Leveling Concrete to a Basement Floor!

This post is a paid partnership with Lowe’s! Thank you for supporting my sponsors!

If you caught my post yesterday, you know that I’m back at work on the long-suffering Bluestone Cottage, and that the first space I’m really tackling is…THE BASEMENT. I’m finishing a basement! This is a first!

This is where we started so many eons ago. It was awful for many reasons.

It’s made less awful by the addition of work lights, not to mention the passage of time, but it was really, really bad. Aside from all the junk, there was also a defunct oil-burning boiler, obsolete heat pipes, rotted posts, termite-damaged joists, and—to my surprise—a moldy falling-down drywall ceiling and CARPETING. WALL-TO-WALL-CARPETING. That carpeting probably tops the list of grossest things I’ve ever removed during a renovation, and that includes mummy squirrels, a tub that someone died and partially decomposed in, and an enormous pile of 90s porno mags for people with an affinity for extremely large-busted women.

When I was designing how this house would work, I decided it was just too small to dedicate living space to a washer and dryer, but I still wanted it to have both. That left one option: basement laundry. I’ll let that shiver leave your spine. I know that’s not most people’s ideal, but it’s better than no laundry at all and I’m determined to make it nice, finished-feeling, and an asset rather than a bummer. It’s 200 square feet of potential, and I’m going to try to make the most of it!

Finishing a basement in an old house makes me a little nervous. In part because I’ve never done it, and in part because back in the day, these spaces were never meant to be finished in the way the rest of the house was. A lot of old basements, like mine, are so clogged up with wiring and plumbing and support posts that the idea of finishing it feels borderline ludicrous. And since my own home renovation is such a long-term project, I frequently need access to the utilities as new work is added and old work is removed. The basement just can’t be a precious space in many old houses—but clean and comfortable and utilitarian all feel like achievable goals, especially here where all the utilities are brand new.

Totally different angle (that nook is over to the left, just out of frame), but this is where I started a couple of weeks ago. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but this does actually represent major progress, just not the beautiful kind. It happened in fits and spurts. You’ll notice a MESS of wiring waiting to get tied into the panel (all new, though!) and a bunch of new pex and PVC plumbing that will eventually make 1.5 bathrooms, a couple of hose bibs, a kitchen, a washing machine, and a hot water radiator heat system all function. LET. US. PRAY. Also, all the walls are now framed for insulation and finishes,* and the floor joists above have been reinforced and the old support “posts” have been removed. SO IT LOOKS LIKE GARBAGE but it’s actually a lot of money and work to get to this point of dungeon horror.

*We framed the walls in pressure-treated 2x4s. I learned later that this was maybe overkill—you’d definitely want to use pressure treated for the bottom plate as it’s in contact with the concrete, but vertical supports are typically done in fir or white lumber unless they’re actually affixed to the masonry. Oops. Now we know.

NOW LET’S START MAKING IT PRETTY. PLEASE. I NEED TO SEE SOMETHING NICE-ISH. It’s not good for your brain to have a job site look like this for long. As me how I know.

VERY CLEARLY, THERE IS A LOT TO DO. And I can’t be spending a ton of time or money on it, it just has to get done. So first order of business? Getting the floor in shape. It didn’t necessarily have to come first, but for my sanity it did, and also the machines are being delivered soon and I want to be able to have the delivery guys bring them downstairs because it’s going to be tricky getting them down.

So. Floor. On the bright side there was already a concrete floor, so we’re not starting COMPLETELY from scratch, but it was ROUGH. Very rough—think some crumbling, some cracking, some holes, various old patch jobs, and not remotely flat or level. I think part of making this basement laundry plan work lies in making sure all parts of it feel nice and clean-able, and the existing floor was anything but! It was well beyond the point of any kind of quick and easy solution (like just painting it, or an epoxy kind of resurfacer), so it seemed like a job for self-leveling concrete as a first step.

Now, I’ve used self-leveling concrete a couple times over the years, and I’d always been under the impression that it was all supposed to be used as an underlayment for something else—like a floating laminate, a stick-down tile, a ceramic tile, etc,—but not as a finished floor surface. And that does appear to be true for some of these products, but some sleuthing confirmed that Sakrete’s Fastset Self-Leveling Resurfacer can actually be used either as an underlayment or as a wear surface! I’m totally fine with a nice concrete floor for a basement, so my plan became to just seal the concrete rather than going through the time and expense of adding a whole layer of additional flooring. Groovy.

That being said, actually installing the concrete is a bit more involved than just mixing and pouring! There are a lot of products to compare and instructions for each to follow for best results. Note how I say best results—SOMETIMES it’s not possible to follow every single instruction or meet every single ideal condition, and you know what? SOMETIMES you just have to do your best. My experience with concrete has been that it’s more forgiving than package instructions might lead you to believe, and you can still get a very nice, long-lasting and good-looking result without necessarily achieving the OPTIMAL result or performance (we’re talking about cosmetic work here, not load-bearing). It’s ok. Sometimes you’re working in an unheated, uninsulated old house in upstate New York in January with a $100 propane heater, trying to make it work. FOR INSTANCE.

So here’s what I did:

STEP 1: PREP.

The most underrated phase of any project is the prep. It’s no fun but you can’t skip it. With self-leveling concrete (or really any kind of coating at all, like paint!), you want a clean and stable substrate for the new material to bond to—which in this case was a tall order.

I thought I could prep for the concrete in a few hours. It took like four days. I hauled—and this is not hyperbole—on the order of about 150 pounds of just DUST out of the basement. Dirt and dust and sawdust and other detritus captured by the Shopvac (I have a huge Shopvac, but I find that I really prefer this little guy when working in a small space). I swept. I vacuumed. I swept some more. I vacuumed some more. I scrubbed the really dirty areas with a wire brush. I vacuumed some more. I did my best. The instructions mention mechanically profiling the surface to promote adhesion, but I didn’t do that. I also didn’t use any special chemicals or anything, since I needed the floor to be dry enough to accept the primer and concrete—outdoors a pressure-washing or something might be a better option than for indoor work where there’s nowhere for water to drain. I just cleaned as thoroughly as I could and called it good enough.

STEP 2: PATCH

All of my cleaning efforts exposed a few areas of major damage in the floor—in severe spots, right down to the dirt underneath the slab! Yikes. This is not how you’d pour a slab today, ha! But it’s what I’m working with, and excavating it all out and installing a vapor barrier and gravel and a new few inches of reinforced concrete is very much not in the cards.

There are various products around for patching areas of damaged concrete, and I used this one because I had it! I’m pretty sure this came out of Anna‘s basement, meaning this 10-lb bucket of concrete dust has probably been passed around for about a decade now—ha! One of the joys of finishing this house is going to be using up SO MUCH STUFF I’ve accumulated either with this house in mind, or leftovers and scrap from other projects. It’s highly motivating.

Just follow the mixing instructions for whatever patch product you’re using and make sure you give it time to cure before moving onto the next steps! For this step, I used this concrete binding adhesive in place of water for extra security. The dark areas are what I patched.

STEP 3: PRIME

It’s probably a good idea to vacuum again right before priming. Again, priming will depend on the concrete product you’re using—mine called for the use of a self-leveling bonding primer, although it didn’t specify a specific product. Of course it didn’t!

After some hunting around, I landed on this MAPEI Primer T from Lowe’s, which appears to be for this very thing. It was actually back in the flooring section with thinset and grout and stuff, rather than up by the concrete in the building materials area. Just FYI!

For added excitement, the primer is hot pink! The package instructions said to water it down by about half for this kind of application, so that’s what I did. Watered down, it’s very thin and sticky, like a glue.

Thinning it in a bucket made it easy to just pour some on the floor and roll it out with a 9″ rough-nap roller to spread it, aiming for a nice even coat. This stuff is a little tricky—it’s dry and ready to go in a few hours, but you want to lay the concrete within 24 hours of priming or they recommend re-priming. This gives you a 20-ish hour window to pour all the concrete.

STEP 4: POUR

Following the instructions on the Self-Leveling Resurfacer, I measured out my water and mixed in my concrete—each 50-lb bag fits nicely in a 5 gallon bucket. The package specifies 2 minutes of mixing, which is not a short amount of time when you’re standing there controlling the drill, so it’s good to use a real timer.

Speaking of the drill, almost immediately I knew I had a problem! I thought I could get away with using my regular drill, which was a mistake (I do love that drill, though. All my Porter Cable tools have been such workhorses, and they’re really reasonably priced. Just not for mixing concrete). Then I thought I could get away with the more heavy-duty hammer drill that I have for occasions such as mixing joint compound, and before long that one was emitting smoke and not at all cutting it. So I got through three bags of concrete before calling it quits, and deciding I needed to pick up a more powerful mixing drill.

One tricky thing to keep in mind is that for a solid slab, as far as I understand, you really want to do the pour in one take. If you can’t for some reason (like if your drill is weak and Lowe’s is closed), it’s better to re-prime and re-pour over the section you already did than try to blend a dried pour with new stuff. Oof.

ANNNNNNNNND, curveball! The electrician finally got back to me. They could be there the next morning to finish tying all the rough electric into the panel (which I’ll need in order to close that wall), get the recessed lighting powered up so I could stop dangling work lights all over the place in this dark basement, and add a few outlets around the room since I wasn’t especially focused on the basement when they did the initial rough-in and didn’t specify them.

When the hard-to-get-ahold-of-tradesperson says jump, you ask how high and rearrange your whole life to accommodate.

That morning, the area I poured looked like this, which was VERY exciting. It was…relatively smooth (that huge hole was in the middle of that floor!). Solid. Dry. But also very…grey. And very…flat. Which is how it’s supposed to look, but I guess I was hoping for something with some more variation and movement. This was more like someone spilled a thick layer of grey paint on the floor. Hmmmmm. Something to stew on!

So the electricians did, in fact, show up, do all the things I asked, and it was a relief. Time to get back to work on this floor.

PSYCH!

ANNNNNNNNNNND, then the plumber got back to me. He could be there the next morning to finish a few little undone things with the rough-in, and take a look at re-routing some of the more lazily run pex through joists and in bays rather than on the surface of the joists, where I’d like to be installing a ceiling.

Floor can wait, I guess.

Morning turned into afternoon, and the plumbers showed up. They got to work. There wasn’t enough time in the day left for them to finish, so they’d be back in the morning.

Morning came. Midday came. Afternoon came. Plumbers cancelled. Next morning. Oy vey. I occupied my time by talking about my puppy.

The plumbing took all of the next day. And then he was missing a part, so he’d be back the next morning. I JUST WANT TO POUR MY FLOOR ALREADY EVERYONE GET OUT OF MY WAY. These things happen.

So, with everyone out of my hair: take two. Re-clean it all. Much easier with that layer of bonding primer.

Re-prime the floor. This was also easier the second time around, and used about half the amount of product because the concrete isn’t as porous with a coat already on it.

Like I mentioned, I really needed a more powerful drill to handle mixing the concrete, so I picked up this DeWalt hammer drill from Lowe’s which was on sale for $99! Not bad! It’s 10amps and didn’t struggle at all as I went through bag after bag, much to my relief. It’s fitted with this mixing paddle, which is recommended for this type of concrete.

I also decided I wanted to attempt something different than the solid grey look of the self-leveling resurfacer, so I bought some powdered cement pigment! I read in a couple of places that using regular latex paint in place of water to tint concrete also works nicely, but I figured I’d stick with the product that’s actually designed to do this job instead. I wanted to warm up the color—kind of an orange-ish yellow-ish brown-ish beige-ish, maybe?—so I got colors called Red, Terra Cotta, and Buff. I figured if I combined them I’d get something close to what was in my brain, and if I was a little inconsistent between batches I could blend as I went to get some variation across the pour. I used a 1/3rd cup measuring cup to measure my powders, and about 1-1.5 cups of powder per bag of concrete. I’d suggest buying more than you think you need of any product in this post including the concrete so you don’t run out, and then returning what you don’t use.

To mix the concrete, I found it easiest to measure out the water first, mix that with the pigment, and then add about half the bag of concrete and mix. This should combine quickly and easily. Then add the second half and mix for two minutes, pausing to scrape around the sides where powder may not be getting incorporated properly. It’s about the consistency of cake batter. It’s tempting to add more water but you really shouldn’t because it’ll affect the strength as it cures. A white film on top of the concrete as it’s setting is an indication of too much water.

If you can wrangle a second set of hands, I’d recommend it. If you have one bucket mixing while the other is pouring, the whole process will move faster and speed is pretty key here. Each bag has about 25 minutes of working time, and you want to keep a wet edge throughout the process. Obviously don’t work yourself into a corner, but try to start in the high spot if you can.

If you can’t wrangle a second set of hands, don’t despair. Someday we’ll both find friends who want to play concrete with us, just not today. You got this. Don’t need no man.

Now we’re cooking! I stand by my pigment ideas, but I wish I had spent time making up samples and letting them dry and adjusting as-needed—at this point my timeline was blown and I just wanted to get it done and I couldn’t tell whether the color would change a lot as it dried, or not, and I just kept moving and embracing the mystery of it all. Jesus, take the wheel.

(There’s also plenty you can do to change the appearance after the pour, so don’t freak!)

Working by myself, it took 3-4 hours or so to mix and pour all of the concrete start to finish. Then, at the end, I was feeling a little bonkers and like the floor was still looking kind of…flat, so I started using my hands to kind of fling droplets of water onto the surface for the splatter-y effect. This is…not part of the instructions. It’s called CREATIVE LIBERTY, OK?

Interesting. Very interesting. I’m not sure. The stakes are low here; I am not concerned.

Again, to be clear: the “self-leveling” part of the “self-leveling resurfacer” is only partially true. It levels out to a smooth texture on its own, but it doesn’t really level the floor on its own—it does kind of maintain the pitches and contours of the substrate. You’re also not supposed to apply less than 1/8″ or more than 1″—in other words, your floor already has to be fairly level if that’s truly what you’re after. One way to compensate is using a different concrete product to build up really low areas before using the self-leveler, and/or to lightly use a trowel or a 2×4 to skim and level as you pour, starting in the high spot of the floor if possible, although the instructions explicitly state that a trowel is optional and should be used sparingly if at all.

OR, you take my approach, which is basically that dead-on level floors don’t belong in old house basements anyway and clean-able was the whole goal here to begin with, and you’ve pretty much achieved it and that’s a win.

Now that it’s had a couple of days to dry out, I think I like it?! It’s not unlike the color of a bandaid, but the splattery effect came out kind of nice, and most importantly it’s smooooooth! It’s easy to sweep! It’s easy to vacuum! The space feels SO much brighter and cleaner already, and there still aren’t even walls or ceilings.

I went ahead and installed baseboards because I can still insulate with them installed, and it was something to do while I considered a third pour—partly to try again on the color, partly to try to continue to improve the leveling. I decided that 14 bags—a mere 700 pounds of concrete powder— was enough, though, and I’m just fine with this! I’m tired. That being said, the baseboards are level so you can see how the floor still pitches. I think I’ll cover those gaps with a shoe molding and call it a day.

Even though this basement is luckily quite dry, I’m still trying to take every possible precaution against moisture and mold—so for the baseboards, which seem the most likely to get wet should there be any water intrusion, I used PVC boards usually for exterior trim (which, woah, I guess are on major sale right now?! 75% off?!). Also? I ALREADY HAD IT! I was able to rip down scraps and use entirely off-cuts from work on my own house and a couple other projects over the years. It’s not an inexpensive material, so this worked out great—plus there’s one less pile of stuff in my garage! The Cortex hidden fasteners made for this stuff are amazing—screw, plug the hole with a little pre-made plug, and you’re ready to paint! A little spendy, but worth it.


I think it’s best practice to wait 28 days for the concrete to fully cure before adding a sealer, so I’m not trying to screw it up pretending they mean hours instead of days. I did want to get a glimpse of what it would look like with a sealer on it, though, by just wetting an area down a little with water. It does make the color nicer, I think! Still not sure. I want to see more things come together first. But now that the concrete is in place, there are so many options! It could be painted, stenciled, paint-splattered, stained, epoxied, or sealed with a number of different products.

Coming along! For now, I’m going to let the floor simmer a little bit while I move on to the rest of the space—insulation, walls, ceilings, storage, paint—eek! I think this might actually work!

P.S.— I don’t even really know how to begin to respond to all the genuine kindness and understanding and just all-around-amazingness that came my way yesterday after I hit publish on that big ole post. It was a difficult one to write and put out there, and I’m just so beyond grateful and lucky to have this community around me, and that we can all feel safe talking to each other about hard stuff. It’s an extraordinary thing to be a part of, and I cannot thank you all enough for creating it.


102 Comments

  1. I actually really like your sponsored posts fyi because they seem practical- like a really expanded product review or something!
    Also, as an oldest sister with 2 siblings around your age who has been following you since your very first (dorm I feel like?) apartment in Manhattan, you are doing fine, sweetie! It’s one thing to go out and be super successful (from a public facing perspective) when you have a job with parameters and leadership and all the stuff people who get hired for career jobs have; it’s entirely different to be completely self-directed and propelled into work that is very learn-as-you-go and still hit those goal markers. So being hard on yourself is really not realistic considering all you have truly accomplished!

  2. TWO POSTS IN A ROW! Daniel you are on fire!!!!

    Much love,
    Maggie

  3. As someone who lives in a ridiculously expensive 550sq foot apartment in Vancouver Canada, the idea of having a 200 sq foot room dedicated to laundry – not to mention an actual basement (or stairs!) – is a dream!

  4. As someone who has the crazy dream to one day own an old house and make it pretty again, I like these types of sponsored posts because it shows the work that actually goes in to bringing something back to life. It’s not all just pretty tile and paint! (Also if it makes you feel any better, at least you are not currently in a fight with your engineer who took forever to get drawings together for a small bedroom addition and still messed up the roof plan so badly you need new drawings and new city approval and now everything is taking way longer than expected!! Roofs are important dude! You’re an engineer wtf! UGH)

    • Thanks, Rachel! That’s SO frustrating with the engineer!! Yikes. Glad you caught it before it got built, but what a pain! Sometimes the things that seem like they should be the easiest end up being the biggest nightmares with construction!

  5. This looks so good. For some reason the speckled floor reminds me of candy? In a good way.

  6. I like sponsored posts too. It’s comforting to know that you are getting something tangible back. I recognise that doing the blog posts is a LOT OF WORK. I think you deserve any returns you can manage to get! This post was great. I’m (hoping to be) about to move into a very run down old property. Showing us the practical realness of works like this is encouraging. I’m surrounded by people tutting and sighing and throwing giant numbers at me for the work that may need doing. Really discouraging. Your approach cures that properly.

    By the way I loved your last post as well. So real. Incredible self-disclosure. Deep respect. And encouraging. Helps me see my own shambling progress through life in a more forgiving light! Deeply moved and grateful.

    • Agree with all of this ☝️ You are doing such a good job on these Lowe’s posts, I find them genuinely helpful in a way that many blogs (good blogs that I enjoy!) can’t seem to sustain with sponsored content.

      I love your blog and am so humbled by your authenticity. You’re a few years younger than me and a heck of a lot more self aware (and getting a shit-ton more done)

    • “Deeply moved and grateful.”

      Yes. You captured the essence of hundreds of comments from yesterday’s blog and Insta posts.

  7. Quite impressive. As a lover of before-and-afters + ocd inclined, I’m feeling seriously satisfied. And I would like to second what Christine said above so eloquently. You are doing great, Daniel.

  8. Woa! Two posts in a row, what’s the world coming to?!

    I kid but dang, I did NOT expect to see you drop a post on the Bluestone basement so QUICKLY!

    Looking good and ever so practically handled, something that you don’t always see on many blogs either and like you always do, kept it real by saying I’d not recommend this, but that instead in this instance and in my case, it’s good enough to best explain the situation here.

    Can’t wait for the next installment.

  9. It’s like you know I really should (need to) seal/level my concrete basement floor this spring. Can’t wait to see what happens with the paint / epoxy / seal situation so I can make my moves based on your expert advice. Actually, while I don’t want/need to finish my entire basement, this is going to be giving me some thoughts on how to make it much nicer. I have a small cabinet in the back of my basement that I think was meant for cold storage way back in the day? But all the paint, which I’m sure is lead based (WHO KNOWS) is flaking off, and I haven’t opened it in forever because it’s creepy AF. I either need to repaint it or just rip it out and possibly deal with all of the things (garbage) the prior owner left in my care that I have never touched…. because really who wants to deal with a murder closet!? NOT ME.

    (Also, Lowes, I know I shouted at you yesterday about giving Daniel more money. I meant it in the nicest possible way. I hope you realize when I tackle my floor project I will be spending my $ at your lovely store based on this man’s posts.)

    On another note, there is nothingggg more satisfying than finishing up the last of something you’ve had around. I don’t care if it’s a tube of toothpaste. Using up your stash of materials on this project is going to be so dang good!!

    • Murder closet!! I’ll do it! Lol. But if it’s nice and makes sense to keep, and you can scrape the flakes (following lead safety practices, of course!), this Peel Stop primer is pretty great for encapsulating what’s left and giving you a stable surface to repaint. It’s good stuff!

      Using up the stash—I KNOW. I’ve basically been hoarding all this stuff for years now, knowing I could put it to use at this house but not sure when. Actually getting it in over there and OUT of my garage/basement is goooooooooood.

  10. I wrote a big response to yesterday’s post, something about being a mom and wanting to hug you and encourage you and then it wouldn’t load. I took it as a sign that it wasn’t helpful or productive. Needless to say, I am happy to see Bluestone Cottage back on the blog and I now know more about leveling concrete floors that ever before. Congratulations. One step at a time……..

    • Aw, so sorry you spent time on a comment that wouldn’t load! I hate that! Thank you for trying and for this one, though! :)

  11. This is fantastic! I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the monstrosity that is my mudroom/ enclosed porch and this might just work!

  12. Lost it at “Don’t need no man.” :))
    I’m so happy Lowe’s picked you – I would never have thought this was a D.I. all by Y. project and you proved me wrong! Go Daniel! Meanwhile I’m patting myself on the back for recaulking around the trim all by myself. No comparison, ha! Speaking of trim, didn’t know PVC trim was a thing – that’s brilliant!

    And congrats on having such a supportive sponsor find you. Well deserved for even attempting to start with that basement. Oy vey is an understatement – carpet, really?! **shudders**

    Just sending internet stranger hugs at you and saying keep up the hard work! And I notice you’re on IG again too, so hello from someone who follows you on both platforms. Glad to have you back!

    • Hey—caulking takes time and practice and is important!! Good on you!

      The PVC trim is surprisingly great, considering I’m really not into plastic stuff generally for an old house. It’s heavy and dense, and cuts and routs and everything just like wood. As exterior trim, once it’s painted it just looks like nicely painted wood, it doesn’t rot or grow mold or invite pests, and it’s available in REALLY long lengths, and of course they’re perfectly straight and flat and knot-free and all that. Wouldn’t normally put it inside, but this application made sense!

      (and thank you! It’s nice to be here!)

  13. Yay, always look forward to seeing you post! I personally love the Lowe’s posts, because it’s one thing to read a review without context, whereas you detail the reno and highlight the products you use to make the magic happen. That’s all useful and inspiring, plus I like the fact that you also use up old supplies or donations. Waste not, want not!

    • Thank you, Claudia, that’s really nice to hear! I think that’s what all of this is about and why brands work with bloggers (at least, that’s how I try to approach it!), so I’ll take that as a sign I’m doing something right! :)

    • Hear!! Hear!!

    • Hear!! Hear!! (Exactly what Claudia said!)

  14. Damn, Daniel. That is some hard work! It truly does make an amazing difference. Well done! And I’m one of those people who read ‘that big ole post’ and just thought how human you are, how mental wellness is great but unwellness is real and very hard to overcome, and how much I appreciate your sharing your adventures with us. All of them. Thank you! XO

  15. I’ve been following you for EVER, and truly love your projects, design sensibilities and sometime even the process. I do not participate in social media much, and to be honest this is one of my first comments….like in my life time…like ever (yes, I am an established lurker). Your post yesterday was touching and a real window into your life, and I feel the need to comment and lend another voice to the Daniel support and appreciation network. Thank you and breathe.
    That said, and as my first foray into the web-es-sphere, I don’t want to reiterate your better written followers. I love your projects, love your love for Kingston/Catskills, appreciate the honesty, humor and reality. Your approach to sponsored posts is great, a realistic assessment of brands and materials and so far, so good.
    Your an inspiration. Thanks and keep at it Daniel!!

  16. Baseboards in the basement? So FANCY! Seriously though, that floor looks great and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of basement turns out.

    Last weekend I made my first trip to the heavy af section of Lowe’s (aka building supplies) for a retaining wall project. Somehow it never occurred to me until we were loading up trolley number two that once we got all this shit into the truck, we’d have to haul 10 bags of concrete, 24 concrete blocks, and 12 pieces of rebar up the 20 stairs to the house. So I can appreciate what it took to get 700 pounds of cement into the basement (ow). Renovations: not for the weak of heart (or back).

    • Hahaha, oh man—you got a workout!! The only kind of workout I really ever do!! Ha—wish it was a lie; it isn’t. (We ALSO had a TON of snow, and this house doesn’t have a driveway and the plows create these huge snow banks at the curbs, so each bag had to be brought out of the trunk at the street corner, down a half-block of sidewalk, through the front yard, and through to the back of the house. While also trying to not slip and fall in the snow with 50 pounds of concrete in your arms! TALK ABOUT FUN!)

  17. Dear Daniel,
    I wish I could adequately convey to you the joy your stories (posts) bring to me. Sponsored or not I find them to be authentic and genuine. I’m so proud of you for taking this chance on yourself with Lowes (and for completing that difficult but also wonderful Bluestone post) and I love Lowe’s for recognizing your creativity and worth. I have read every post. And even when I think “ok this might be boring” (such titles as: Bowls and Scales, or Hunting Radiators – which looking back might have been a precursor of things to come) I am (every time) blown away by how you can make the mundane an epic adventure and I literally end up reading every word of the post. Thank-you for sharing your experiences with us – we are blessed to have you. xoxo.

  18. Blessings on you, Daniel! I love your writing, the work you’re doing, and I also love if you’re making a living doing it.

  19. Your post yesterday really moved me and made me reflect on my own transitions as I work though this crazy thing called life.

  20. Daniel, your writing is always everything I want it to be and have come to expect from you — it’s winsome, thoughtful, funny and educational all at once. It’s a gift and you use it so very well. Thank you for sharing yesterday’s post and for continuing to entertain and inform us. I can’t wait to continue to watch your progress at both houses!

  21. “You got this. Don’t need no man.” <— Yaaass – this is literally my home improvement motto! Haha!

    Also: Hi Lowe's! Keep sponsoring Daniel, he's a good egg :) Never thought I would be this excited by watching concrete dry, but there you go.

  22. good god this is so satisfying!

  23. W
    O
    W

  24. OMG, I am beyond excited to see you here again! Yours is a blog that, if I see a new post, is the first one to be read. I don’t care if you update on a set schedule, or if you just update when you find the time between concrete pours – your posts are pure gold! While I don’t actually do any home improvement, this inspires to me to do so…and – dare I say – makes me feel like it’s actually possible for someone like me to take on a project the way you do!

    (Did you hear that, Lowe’s? Keep that sponsorship going; I’m an infrequent customer, but Daniel not only makes home improvement look doable for the rest of us but he also makes you guys look like rockstars for believing in him!)

    Daniel, give those two adorable pups of yours a good scratch for me, and don’t stress – you’ve got this!

    • Doggie scritch scratchities, done! They appreciate v much. Not as much as I appreciate this comment, but very much. :)

  25. That floor is looking good! your project is inspiring ideas for me about my own basement that I’ve been thinking about for years but not sure how to get started. Old coal room with nasty pitted concrete floor? I could fix that. Basement laundry plumbing and vent that are exposed on the foundation wall? Why build out a half wall when I could frame the entire width! Even around the windows and bonus I’ll get window sills out of it to put a plant or something on.
    I think the color with the sealer will be a good finish but a stencil where you use the marbled plain concrete as a background could also be really good. Like the stencil in the breakfast nook in Blake Hill House but on concrete instead of plywood.

    • Dannngggggg, that turned out great. Noted!!

      (Old coal room! cool!! I love a basement with rooms. So wonderfully eery.

    • I read yesterday’s post and wanted to hug you too — stupid life–full of hard lessons. You’re doing just fine. I have a lot of well-placed confidence in you. Go easy on yourself.

      I’m super thrilled with the sponsored content. Also, wall-to-wall carpet IN THE BASEMENT? So gross. I know you mentioned moisture, but are you concerned about flooding in the spring at all? I’m in Western New York, and everything is frozen right now. Is it the same where you live? We have a stone foundation, and there are a few wet spots every spring and during heavy rain.

    • Weird! My comment nested under here. I was just coming back to say, thank you, Ryan, for linking the breakfast nook. That was a pleasant surprise. :)

      • Haha, and *I* was just trying to find it so I could respond, and tell you that I was JUST looking at your stenciled floor and it’s gorgeous! OK, we’ve all found each other. ;)

        I’m not concerned about flooding—the house is almost on a bluff kind of?, and so the drainage away from it is pretty good. I’ve seen damp areas on the floor when it’s EXTREMELY wet (like, weird warm day after a ton of snow that then rapidly melts, and it starts downpouring), but even that’s mild compared to how other basements fare in the same conditions. Just the idea of water/moisture, though, is what makes me the most antsy about finishing a basement like this one at all, but I think with the right combination of products that can handle it *if* they get wet/moist, it should be fine.

      • I’m glad we found each other. Ha! Thank you for the compliment on the breakfast nook floor. It was fun to do, and it has held up beautifully which is what I care about the most. :)

        That is good news about the moisture. That’s one less major headache.

  26. Yay for double posts in a week! And that looks ten times better. AND! I am really excited you are working with Lowes because they are my favorite.

    Can’t wait to see what you decide to do with those floors!

  27. Daniel, the world is on fire on both sides of the Atlantic and anxiety levels are increasing everywhere. Don’t beat yourself up over Bluestone. Instead pat yourself on the back for getting going again and taking us along on the journey.

    I love your pantry – you have learned so much and you’re now teaching us all. Enjoy Bungee, enjoy the progress on Bluestone and take heart. You really are building the future and it’s a joy to follow you.

  28. man-oh-man!!!! this is incredible!!

  29. How can a person love a post about a crummy dirty basement floor so much? I just don’t know but I do.

  30. Looooong time reader, first time commenter (I think :) ). Really enjoying the frequent posts and your honesty. Please keep it up!

  31. Our house was built in 1939 and we have the laundry in the basement. You’re right that it isn’t ideal but I love that it maintains the character of the house to have it down there. Plus – space! They weren’t overly generous with space at that time. You had rooms that were needed and no more. None of this “bonus room” malarkey that just fills up with stuff.

    Can’t wait to see how things progress!

    • Totally! The only other option here would have been stacked units tucked in…somewhere, probably instead of a first floor powder room, but laundry is so nice as a ROOM! Or at least an area with a work surface. I think this one’s gonna be pretty lux, as old house basements go!

  32. i agree on all the positive comments about your sponsored posts: we all need to shop somewhere, and many of us choose between Lowes, Home Depot and other big boxes – and i’m personally happy to shop somewhere that supports you and my other favorite bloggers – but – especially You! Looks great! you got this!

  33. Lowe’s is the perfect sponsor for you. This is clearly not perfect and you can still totally do you in an authentic way. BTW-basement laundry is actually fine so long as it is clean, has a space to hang to dry, and decent lighting. Do I wish my laundry was upstairs, occasionally. Did it remotely occur to me to move my laundry when I redid my small upstairs bathroom or kitches-hell no. Looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

  34. There’s cellars, there’s basements & there’s “lower levels”. Mine falls solidly in the basement camp, so I’m really interested in seeing how you do yours up. Mine’s so dreary.
    Love the speckled floor!

  35. Totally band-aid-colored, totally better! Woop!

  36. Quoting Alison:
    “Also, Lowes, I know I shouted at you yesterday about giving Daniel more money. I meant it in the nicest possible way. I hope you realize when I tackle my floor project I will be spending my $ at your lovely store based on this man’s posts!”

    Agreed! And our basement is this spring’s project! So excited to use sound-damping drywall (purple!) now that I know about it from your blogging.

  37. Not sure how I first came across your blog, but I look forward to reading your posts. Also follow on IG. I admire your courage and tenacity. Thank you for the authenticity of in-depth posts. Hope you get more sponsors.
    Love the pups.

  38. Dude. Your “after” photos do not “LOOK LIKE GARBAGE.” Having recently got some areas of the cabin to that state, and knowing exactly how much work and money goes into it, it looks like heaven. Congrats!

  39. Daniel, you always inspire me with your sheer tenacity and perseverance. I’m glad to see you starting to be as kind to yourself as you are toward others.

  40. Congrats on LOTS of progress! I like the color of the floors. Huge improvement!

  41. This is awesome! I have a similar basement situation going on and have been waiting to replace my oil furnace and get rid of the oil tank this summer to fix it up and this is the perfect guide for when I get started!!

  42. Wow, two days in a row, look at you being productive! I love it

  43. I’m printing and saving this post, because our basement is also a horror and I didn’t know how to address it. Your step by step description of doing the concrete floor is really helpful. Thank you! And the PVC baseboards in case of mold/flooding are a great tip. I can’t figure out how to make our basement ceiling look semi-decent with all those pipes and wires everywhere. It seems to me installing a ceiling would cut needed access to any pipes or wires, plus give something for mold to grow on, so WWDD? (What would Daniel do?) I can’t wait to see!

  44. Just so you know (and Lowe’s does too) yours are really the only sponsored posts I read all the way through. You provide so much information that even a non-handy person like me is fascinated and as a bonus you make me laugh out loud. Do whatever you need to do to feel good about the blog/your progress with the houses etc. We’re with you!

  45. P.S. Re Lowe’s sponsorship (congrats!) it is genuinely helpful that you link to specific products on their site when you discuss using them. I walk into the store and am immediately overwhelmed. Even after reading 200 labels I’m still not sure I’m buying the right thing for my needs. So bless you for the road map, and it looks like I’ll be shopping at Lowe’s instead of Home Depot from now on!

  46. looking so good! doing double-takes on that concrete floor….soooooo good! you bring joy and life to tired, needy, frightening places!

  47. How slippery is the surface? I completely biffed it sprinting for the stairs on our self-leveler coated living room floor on Halloween. Smacked my shin right below the knee joint on the edge of a stair tread. Stuff has the same coefficient of friction as ice. The bruise was amazing and three months later I still have a faint purple spot at the point of impact. It wasn’t the kind of leveler meant to be used as a wear layer, though, and we had it tiled by Thanksgiving.

  48. I laughed out loud a few times. Thank you! It looks great. The nearest Lowes is too far to be convenient, but I would totally support them if they were closer. They are cleaner and nicer than Home Depot or Menards. I do stop at one when I’m heading to Green Bay to use the john and walk around and buy stuff so there is that. I’m glad you are stacking stones and it’s inspiring me to stack some of my own. I’ve been stuck for a couple years so I can totally empathize with you. Hugs!

  49. WOW–WOW–WOW! You’re doing a great job with all of this!

  50. Oh Daniel! what a great job. When I was about your age, and in another life, we lived for three years in a little row house with only a cold water tap on the outside wall of the kitchen, and the toilet was in a little hut at the end of the garden (on mains sewage but not mains water so you had to take a bucket of water down there every time) and NO MONEY! It was the worst of times, so I understand how difficult it has been to move on with this little cottage – but WOW – the floor! Well done, man. I can’t wait for more posts (of either building) from you, I enjoy them so much.

  51. Thank you Daniel for this post. And thank you Lowes! I’m not nearly as active with my house interior as you are — I’m garden crazy and seem to be at Lowes every day from April through October to pick up one thing or another. I really appreciate that you use stock items that even I can find on the shelves and imagine, if not execute, my own renovations. Example: 3am today….what floor should I use to replace a flooded laundry area? Hmmm, stop by Lowes tonight.

  52. This does look easy enough to be a DIY-job, which I wouldn’t have thought beforehand. Also, I love that you put a color in and added some pizazz :)

  53. Seriously, how many other blogs could make a post about self-leveling concrete interesting and super funny?! I would have skipped over the post on any other! Keep it up! ;)

  54. I was going to write to tell you that how excited I was with your news, congrats by the way!, tha I can wait to see the basement and then YAY another post! hurra!

  55. The basement is looking 1000x less creepy already! Bluestone was just waiting around for you to have the time and experience to bring it back to life. FWIW, I am a basement laundry fan. After years of having loud, shaky, stacked washer/dryer next to the bedrooms, I have basement laundry again (in a nicely finished, non-creepy basement). I love getting up on Sunday morning and starting a load of laundry without worrying about waking everyone else up.

  56. The basement is going to be fun to go into. When you get done, it will have so much style. And the lights and electrical wiring make such a difference–amazing that the wire bunch is all organized.

  57. I´d forgotten how terriflying the blue cottage was, is creepy, and also have forgotten how much work you have donne there, can´t wait for see it shine

  58. Been here many years & I always squeal when alerted you’ve posted! You are one to follow, your honesty & humanness is refreshing & why I’m still here! Not at all bothered by your sponsored posts because,see above, you are refreshingly honest & human!
    I certainly don’t feel like I received a sales pitch, just an honest review & experience.
    Wishing you the best as you keep moving forward, it’s exciting to watch! ❤️❤️

  59. Wow, two posts in a row! I feel so spoiled.
    Lol at “don’t need no man” I too tried this solo. In summer, in the dry blazing heat, with a tiny drill. Apparently it’s bad to let the smoke out of the drill. Who knew? We now have a bigger drill.

    It was crazy, and there was much cursing (and a bit of hosepipe action) trying to keep a wet edge, but ultimately it came out more or less flat, and was destined to be covered with laminate, so all good.

  60. Love your blog, and all your post. The dogs are wonderful! That basement floor looks great! As far as yesterdays post….give yourself a break, your in the game, a lot of people are just apathetic. Saw your suggestions from kitchen advice you gave to Kim and Scott and yellow brick home for their gardens apartment. You have real talent! More dog pictures PLEASE

  61. Wow! It’s looking so promising – a cleaned up electrical panel and water lines, framing and baseboard (You are going to explain how you’re dry-walling with the baseboard already in place, yes? inquiring minds want to know!) AND a floor. Between the floor and the real lighting that basement looks great already!
    On top of all this, I’ve been inspired to try to do a little thing each night to *finally* put my kitchen remodel punchlist to bed. Thank you!

  62. It looks fantastic! Thank you for sharing!

  63. Ooooh, I have been dying for a look at the basement since the first time you mentioned how hella creepy it was down there! *rubs hands together in glee*

    This is such a useful post & daaaaaaaaaang, what an improvement that new floor is! I can totally visualize a really nice laundry room down there now. I am bummed to learn that self-leveling concrete doesn’t actually level the floor, though. I need to re-tile my master bedroom closet, and there’s a major slope to that corner of the slab. I was kinda hoping I could just pour a bucket of self-leveling concrete & spread it out and be done with it. & then re-tile over the top. Oh, well.

    So excited to see this come together!

    P.S. Will now be muttering, “don’t need no man,” every time I’m stuck working alone on something that really could have used an extra set of hands.

  64. P.P.S. My aunt growing up had a laundry chute that went from the hallway outside the upstairs bedrooms down to the basement laundry, and I thought it was the most amazing thing ever. Plz plz plz tell me that you’re also feeling that retro laundry chute vibe for Bluestone? :D

  65. Go, Daniel, GO!!!
    I think you do one of the best jobs with sponsored posts, and I am so happy that Lowes has offered their support. I can’t wait to see what you do! I love your blog, the way you keep it real, and your humanity.

  66. So glad you’re blogging again; I have followed you for years and enjoyed your honesty about home renovations.

    FYI: your RSS feed no longer works. Not certain what the issue is, but saw that someone mentioned problems with #s in Feedly.

    Keep up the good work!

  67. I’m excited to see how this comes together! Nothing like taking a gross space and making it awesome. I have a laundry closet which is causing me difficulties because apparently washers and dryers have grown since 1983 when my house was built. My dryer (c. 2005) is busted and I think I will attempt repairing it because a new one that is small enough to fit is crazy expensive. The part is $50 and there are several you tube vids that show the repair. I had purchased one from Lowe’s ( they have a great selection of W/D), but stupid me, I was concerned about the width, but didn’t measure tbe depth. I measured one more time before delivery and realized it was too deep to fit. Anyway, I would love to have a dedicated laundry *room* even in a basement. Can’t wait for the next installment!

  68. I love your floor! The pigment was a genius idea.

  69. as a fellow old house owner I like the sponsored posts, its nice to be provide with a shopping list of Daniel approved items!

  70. I’m grateful that Lowe’s sponsors you. On a lot of levels.

  71. Daniel, you’re my favorite blogger…! Lowe’s is lucky to have someone with your talent and work ethic, I think. I hope that you’re able to get sponsorships that help you to feel more in control of your finances and help us to see your wonderful work :) I can hardly wait!!!

  72. “Jesus, take the wheel”
    I laughed so hard I scared the cat. Also here since 2010 and still enjoying your writing so much. Greetings form Athens, Greece
    <3

  73. Is it wierd to be super excited about your laundry room? Because I am!
    And it already looks so much better!
    :)

  74. Daniel! So amazing and such a useful tutorial / inspiration! I am 100% doing this in my own basement!!!

  75. I am downright giddy to have you back to work on the Bluestone Cottage! You’ve had quite the journey to get back here. Hopefully the worst of it is behind you. But, you know nothing can go smoothly all the time. Life would be boring if we didn’t have challenges to overcome every now and then.
    Lowe’s is my favorite home improvement store. I’ve found that the quality of their products is superior to the other big box home improvement stores. So I’m happy that they are now sponsoring your blog.

  76. Single girl here, finishing her house, too, and I am going to do this very thing–thanks for the inspiration! I loved the info and more, importantly, encouragement! “you don’t need no man!” ha, yes, sister, yes!

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