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Hide and seek

To turn “quick-and-dirty” into “presentable” you should redo it to better standards. Or, you could just hide the dirty part.

I’m very proud of my basement shop, which takes up maybe 3/4 of the available space on one side of the steps. However, up till now I’ve done little with the remaining space where the water heater, furnace, PEX manifold, etc., are located. Frankly, I don’t care that much about an area dominated by household utilities and some storage. But with the shop mostly done, I’ve begun improving the appearance of the utility space.

A coat of cheap white paint on all the concrete walls and inexpensive white hardboard on the back side of the shop framing has done wonders. With just a small amount of work, the utility area has been transformed and actually looks pretty nice. The last part to do, though, was covering the framing on the steps.

The original contractor enclosed and finished the inside of that stairway, but never covered the outer sides. I redid the shop side some time ago, but it’s still bare studs on the utility side. I’ll use the same hardboard here, but the builder wasn’t particularly careful in cutting the studs to length when he left the steps open underneath. The problem, then, was figuring out how to do the trim on the lower part when hanging the hardboard.

If I were ambitious, I’d overlay additional 2x4 material on the existing framing to extend shorter studs so the ends were uniform in a straight line. (On the shop side, I extended the studs all the way to the floor. On this side, I still want the steps open underneath.)

But this is a basement utility area, plus I have other things higher on my to-do list so I took the easy way out. I cut a length of 1x4 pine to create a lower edge and simply screwed it into place on the bottoms of the studs. Three of the six studs were actually in-line, so it’s plenty solid. Then I just cut my 4x8 sheet of white hardboard to the needed angle on the bottom and hung it in place. The bottom edge of the hardboard is even with that bottom trim piece I attached.

Yeah, I covered up some quick-and-dirty with a bit more quick-and-dirty. I’d never do that in another part of the house, but for basement utility room cosmetics it’s more than good enough. I saved time, I saved money, it came out solid and it looks good – a huge improvement, in fact, over what it originally looked like – so despite the fact that I took the easy way out, I’m OK with that.

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