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  1. #1
    Mike Bates's Avatar
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    My basement darkroom project

    I've "broken ground" on my basement darkroom project. I'm documenting the progress here to keep me motivated to actually finish it in a reasonable amount of time. I'm also interested in the thoughts and suggestions from others as I go along.

    This is a compromise design at best. My basement is a finished walk-out with windows and a door. For marital bliss reasons, I won't be building any walls to enclose the darkroom into a dedicated dark space. I'll have to deal with temporary solutions to blackout the windows of the entire basement and probably work after dark. I have some ideas, so more on this later.

    I also can't make it super ugly. So, no exposed 2x4 sink stands or miles of exposed plumbing. Of course this requirement competes with yet another constraint of a limited budget. On the other hand, I'm reasonably handy and I'll use this opportunity to practice my skills at cabinetry, plumbing, and maybe some ceramic tile. I've remodeled other parts of our house, but always left the high skill stuff to the professionals. Practicing my skills in the basement, where the finished product needs to be good, but not great may give me the confidence to tackle our master bathroom remodel all by myself in the future. (Or it may convince me to hire professionals.)

    The general idea is to build a general purpose slop sink useful for paint brush cleaning and other odd washing jobs plus have some features useful for darkroom work. The sink is a $100 Craigslist find from a local restaurant.

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    It's 4 feet long and 30" wide (45" x 27" inside dimensions). The bowl on the left is 8" deep and the right side is 3" deep. It's sitting on some chairs for perspective. I plan to build base cabinets that extend a counter top to the left by at least 24" and to the right as much as the angled wall will allow. I'll make the counter top 36" high for easier work while standing. As much as I'd like to have an 8' long sink, there isn't room along the wall where I need to put it. I have a three-tier rack that holds trays up to about 17x25 in a staggered stack for tray processing. The rack and stacked trays will fit in the 24x27 right side of the sink. The largest prints I'll make regularly will be 11x14 with the ability to stretch to 16x20 on occasion.

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    I've started removing the carpet and trim from the wall where the sink will be installed. The back side of the wall is bathroom, so there's lots of access to existing plumbing right there. The next step is to remove much of the drywall to gain access to the house plumbing. After that, I'll need to draw a simple plan and file a plumbing permit with the county. They required such things as vented drains (for good reason) and I'll have to get it inspected before I close the wall back up. I also plan a new electrical circuit to add GFI outlets above the counter top level and additional lighting about the sink. That's another $50 permit. Might as well do it right.

    In addition to the faucet on the sink, I plan to run a tempered water panel ($$ Intellifaucet $$ I hope $$) above the right side of the sink. I'll finish it off with a long shelf above the sink and built-in drying racks in the base cabinets below it.

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    The overall space is a niche in the corner of the basement. The double doors are access to crawl space storage, so I can't block them. I'll probably move the refrigerator (almost dedicated to film storage) and install a set of base cabinets along that wall for a long counter top. The rest of the carpet will be removed in the niche and some type of vinyl flooring will go down with a transition strip to the carpet in the rest of the basement. This is where I'd like to build a wall with a door to enclose the area, but I can't. I've considered some type of blackout curtain arrangement, but I haven't found anything that looks decent and is affordable. Making everything dark is still a design work in progress.

  2. #2
    frank's Avatar
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    Sounds like you have a good handle on things already, even if given some harsh restrictions.

    Do you have a corner available to build an L -shape counter into? One arm dry, the other wet.
    Make the counter height to fit your stature, don't automatically go with standard height.
    My blog / photo website: http://frankfoto.jimdo.com/

  3. #3
    Mike Bates's Avatar
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    I don't have a corner, but I plan the "dry" space counter top along the wall where the refrigerator is now. The two counter tops won't be connected, but they'll be parallel to each other and about 10 feet apart. The enlargers will be in the middle between them as they are in the pictures now.

    Just like sinks, I don't think you can ever have too much counter top space.

  4. #4
    frank's Avatar
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    Absolutely.
    My blog / photo website: http://frankfoto.jimdo.com/

  5. #5

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    Considering that I print in a bathroom that is probably 10 sq ft of floor area (the rest is the toilet, the tub, and the sink area), your "niche in the corner of the basement" may as well be the Taj Mahal! And is that white carpet I'm looking at and TWO enlargers??? Wow!

  6. #6
    APUGuser19's Avatar
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    File for a permit? Inspection? Man oh man. I wonder if a judge would rule these as fixtures or property. I don't think you need a permit. Further, if you filed for a permit, you are bound to install or renovate to code, which would be greater than your budget. Don't go overboard. I can't think of any amateur darkroom needing more than 15 amperes total. And if you block doors, the building inspector won't issue a C/O, and may encumber your C/O for the rest of the house, depending how self-important your bureaucrat is.

  7. #7
    Mike Bates's Avatar
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    The sink will be a permanent fixture. Once you open up the plumbing and permanently tap in, I don't think I can claim otherwise. I plan to build it to code anyway. The plumbing code focuses on drain slopes, traps, and vents. It's interesting to me the plumbing permit is actually issued through the county Health Department, not the regular building code compliance department. It's a $50 permit and the inspection process isn't onerous.

    I'll have two new electrical circuits, one for lighting and one for outlets. The outlets above the counter top and serving the sink area must be GFI protected. I've installed small electric circuits before without a permit, even though I followed the code requirements. In this case, the work is extensive enough that I'll get the permit, especially since I'm already getting the plumbing permit. Its another $50. No big deal.

    Any light blocking of windows and doors will be temporary, as in a a black plastic covered frame that can be inserted and removed by hand. Those won't cause any inspection problem. I've found the county inspectors to be quite good in the past. They're sticklers for code compliance as they should be, but they've also been helpful and fairly easy to work with.

  8. #8

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    What are your local effluent regulations? Around here (California) domestic levels seem to be a blanket 5 parts per million for every element. I suspect this may be as much because it is an easy baseline for cheap absorption spectroscopy as anything else. So spent fixer gets bottled for reclamation or hazardous waste. I doubt that any inspector would consider this space as a commercial installation. One advantage of the domestic multi-use condition!
    I feel, therefore I photograph.

  9. #9
    paul_c5x4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Bates View Post
    Any light blocking of windows and doors will be temporary, as in a a black plastic covered frame that can be inserted and removed by hand.
    I use blackout fabric (available from most good fabric stores) with strips of self adhesive velcro around the edges. A matching strip of velcro is stuck around the window frame and holds the "curtain" in place. No light leaks, can be quickly removed when needed, and reasonably low cost. Also have a similar arrangement around the door.

  10. #10
    Christopher Walrath's Avatar
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    Yeah, I would keep it on the QT as well, Mike. Besides, the brass in Columbus is going to be too busy celebrating the beating of Oregon in a week to care much about your darkroom.

    Good onya.
    Thank you.
    -CW

    "Wubba, wubba, wubba. Bing, bang, bong. Yuck, yuck, yuck and a fiddle-dee-dee." - The Yeti

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