Friday, April 27, 2012

The Back Hall: It's Kind of Gross

I've mentioned before that when we moved into this house we fully intended to demolish and rebuild the back hall. A well respected contractor quoted $15,000 last summer, and we decided we didn't want to spend that much money on unlivable space. So, this summer's big project is to "fix" the back hall to the best of our DIY abilities and attention span.

The back hall is a decades-old enclosure for the basement stairs, so removing it entirely is not an option. The landing at the bottom of the basement stairway is large enough for the litterbox, and that is where it will stay. Even though I scoop every day, I really like not having it in the house.  The back hall is also the most direct connection between the house, specifically the kitchen, and the back yard. Therefore space for shoe storage and a dog towel are required.

Door to back hall from the kitchen.

Looking toward the back door.

Looking back toward the kitchen.

There were no codes considered what-so-ever when this structure was built. You can see that the space (where the dog is) is pretty tight. Those are 19" FLOR carpet tiles, so we have about two feet clearance below the railing. Some band-aid projects in this space include rebuilding the railing, replacing the flooring with some as-is IKEA laminate, filling and sanding all the holes, replacing one window sill, and replacing the back door twice. The back door is an absolute headache and probably deserves it's own post. The biggest problem is that it opens over a two-level landing. Not safe!

Back door, landing and top basement step. Gross.

Looking down the stairs. More gross.
(Mostly mineral deposits or mold, I'm not sure which.)

View from basement. And more gross.

Oh the things you live with for far too long. So stay tuned. This will take months to complete and much more than just a fresh coat of paint. We may need some help with the jack-hammer, though. So who works for beer?


  1. Talk about a narrow space! I think you're on the right track, do what you can to make this space comfortable, usable and presentable (if not livable) without spending a lot.

    Are your basement stairs poured concrete? If they are you have the option of re-building the landing in front of your back door to encompass the top landing of the basement steps to make it all one single-level landing. If the new height discrepancy is too tall, you then have the option of framing out and building risers on top of the existing concrete stairs.

    On the other hand while you could jackhammer (or cement drill) the landing out you run the risk of compromising whatever structure is attached to it. However, for all I know it could be a cold pour with zero real attachment to anything but itself. depending on what it looks to be you might want to have a pro come and look.

    If the stairs are not poured cement (or brick etc) but the landing is cement you could always rip it out entirely and re-build a proper landing with adequate stairs, you know to try and circumvent the whole falling to your doom thing. ;)

    As for your mineral deposits/possible mould there are a few things I would try. It looks like the affected area is painted concrete or cinder blocks, if so you really don't have to worry about what chemicals you put on the surface. If it's something else then you'll want to be sure that whatever solution you use is okay for that material.

    A 1:1:1 ratio of white vinegar, bleach and boric acid (in a sealed container/spray bottle) will shred the cellular walls of mold spores, and make it so they cannot reform as long as moisture & humidity are mitigated.

    If it's just mineral deposits I'd opt for some heavy-duty rubber gloves, a bucket of hot water with CLR (or similar deposit remover) mixed in and a scrubby sponge to attack the stains on the wall.

    After it's clean and dry, I would patch any cracks with Redi-crete or hydro-seal (pre-mixed quick setting, hydrophobic concrete fill for plugging leaks in cement--just add water and spread) then after the 24hr curing period paint it with a membrane-forming cement paint. The stuff is fume-tastic, but it should help block any moisture seepage and deposits from reforming.

    I know exactly what you mean about living with certain things for too long! If I lived closer I would be able to point you in the direction of some very able-bodied young folks with strong backs who will work 12+ hour days for free beer. :)

    Good luck!

    1. Thank you for such a helpful response, truly! I really appreciate the time and effort it took, and I feel much more motivated to get started now that I have some direction that I didn't have to google :)

  2. haha! you have to wonder what they were thinking when they built that area??

    1. So many times we've scratched our heads and said "If only they had done it right the first time!"