Sunday, June 19, 2011

Girlie Fingers

Have I told you about about my fingers? For years I have used hand cream to keep my hands soft. I always thought that was a good idea until now. Turns out manicures and soft hands do not fair well when tiling. You won't believe what happens to them during the tiling. Minute pieces of sharp sand scratch tiny nicks in my finger tips. Because these nicks are tiny you can't feel them right away. Only when the thinset (cement) gets embedded in these little nicks do you begin to notice them. That is because there is lime in the thinset and it BURNS. And did I say embedded? I really meant packed into my flesh. I cannot rinse it out, soak it out or dig it out. It eats away at the tiny nick until it is a hole. Then the hole becomes infected. I was tiling the back splash and kept having to wipe off this red stuff and I am saying to myself "What is that?" and "where did that come from?" Took a few minutes to realize it was blood (must be more of that fatigue leads to stupidness.) And of course, because it's my finger tips (which are loaded with nerve endings) it hurts like hell! As the work has progressed the number of Band aids has multiplied. I walk around like Dr. Killdare with my hands in the air, fingertips throbbing and burning. My husband asked "why don't you wear gloves to protect your fingers?" All those teeny weeny tiny itsy bitsy tile spacers and wedges is why I don't wear gloves. I have a new appreciation for professional tilers. The good news is I am almost done tiling. It's a good thing - I am now down to one finger that is not sporting a Band aid. 

I have one piece of quarter round trim left to install today. The quarter round was a pain in the *** to install.  I must have used a million tile wedges trying to keep the trim from slipping and sliding around. Finally I had to use painters tape to hold them in place. It's shocking the amount of thinset you have to use to put on a piece of quarter round. This was the hardest thing I have had to do, the mosaic tile and field tile were a piece of cake compared to the quarter round.

Another lesson I have learned.... If you're new to tiling only mix small amounts of thinset and grout. I mixed 4 - 6 cups at a time and kept a wet rag over the bucket to keep the stuff from drying out. A thorough stir every now and then and the stuff will stay fresh for an hour or two. Smaller amounts also made the bucket easier to carry when climbing the ladder.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I have been busy tiling the bathroom. So far I've made a number of mistakes - most due to my inability to measure correctly. I keep forgetting to add the 1/8" grout line when I am measuring tile for cutting to size. When the shower is 7 feet tall that's a lot of 1/8's to miss (total of 7/8".) So I've had to do some fudging  to work things out. Most people would not care, but I am a severe type A personality who likes things pretty close to perfect. My husband keeps saying I will be the only one who knows about the mistakes, other people won't notice. But I will know. So here's a photo of my fudging - not a pretty sight. The mosaic tile was 1/4" higher than the cement backer board so I had to do a little thinset buildup. Unfortunately, my fix was so soft the tile kept flopping over so had to devise something to hold them in place until the thinset hardened.

If you ever decide to do a DIY bathroom remodel here are some tips that I found to be invaluable. Buy Tile Wedges, they're tiny red, plastic wedges that can be used to shim tile for leveling, you can stack them together when the regular tile spacers are not quite the right width. They can be used to keep rows of mosaic tile aligned, etc. Here is a photo of the wedges - love these!

I also discovered new spacers that are amazing. They not only separate tiles from each other in 1/8" or 1/4" sizes, but they also align corners perfectly!  Since I have arthritis in my hands these spacers are much easier to grip and use then the tiny plastic x's contractors have been using for may years.

A good friend of ours loaned me something called a sanding stone. I used it to sand down the cement board joints that I had taped and thinset. Taping and thinset can leave an uneven surface, by soaking the stone and then rubbing it across the joint it really smooths and levels the joint. It was really handy in areas that I had to float because the walls were not quite square. Made work so much easier.

Probably the most important tool in my tiling arsenal is a level (s.) I use a small level to check each tile as I set it, then 30" level to check the row I am working on and a 48" level to check the final edge. The large level also comes in handy as a straight edge to check for high and low spots. I cannot stress enough how important it is to take your time and check level each step of the way.

Today I will finish tiling the shower and begin setting quarter round trim. Never used it before, hear it's tricky to install.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why do they call it Wonderboard?

In our ongoing effort to commit suicide by construction we spent all day today putting up sheets of cement board around the tub and shower. Why they call this product Wonderboard I will never know. It's very, very heavy, really rough, hard to cut and hard to screw to the walls.  Maybe it's name derives from the phrase "I wonder why I am doing this project?"  We still have a small piece of cement board to do tomorrow and then I can  tape and mud the joints while Jim finishes screwing the cement board to the wall. If all goes well I plan to tile the tub deck and surround tomorrow.

Today while Jim was grinding screw heads I sat down to sip my McDonald's iced Sweet Tea and take a break. At some point I heard a sound I could not place and finally located Maggie quietly sipping my tea! Who knew Basenji's like iced sweet tea?  Reminded me of our trip to Alaska and the floaties in my water bottle story.

Speaking of grinding screws, I thought Jim was trimming the edge of the tub deck. When I sat on the tub deck it was warm. So I asked "why is it warm" and Jim says "he was grinding screw heads." So remember this..... if you sit on something and it's pretty darn warm and someone mentions grinding screw heads don't be stupid enough to check a screw with your fingers! One of the things I've learned about projects like this is  fatigue leads to stupidness (I know that's not a word, but I think it's an apt description.)

You would think this level of physical labor would lead to a deep and restful night's sleep (NOT.) Instead of warm milk and a good book at bed time I am downing large doses of Tylenol and Flexeril followed by an hour in the hot tub. Then I limp up to bed where Jim lays comatose, moaning and groaning in his sleep.

It's almost time for drugs, more later.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Master Bath Remodel

I apologize for being MIA for many months. For a couple of retired folks we have been way to busy.   We've racked up 6,000+ miles since February visiting children and grandchildren.

We are home now and have begun remodeling our master bathroom (or as I have come to think of it "OMG, are we trying to kill ourselves?") We did have a small dressing room and an even smaller bathroom. We tore out the wall between the two rooms and made one big bathroom. Since Murphy's Law ALWAYS applies to Massie projects it won't surprise you to learn the wall turned out to be load bearing. The good news was our house is post and beam construction so we only needed to add a new beam. Unfortunately, the beams in our house were custom milled so we had to wait for the lumber mill to cut us a new beam! Once the old wall was removed we also discovered the original contractor must have gotten a really really really good deal on nails since he used at least a million nails to hold the wall in place!

Once the wall was gone Jim cut the old vanity in half and removed it, took down the mirrors, demolished the linen closet (amazing how much junk we had crammed & jammed in there.) Jim and brother Bill sledge hammered the bathtub/shower tile surround into oblivion and unseated the toilet. Friends came over to help pry, chisel and scrape the old floor up and haul all the debris away.

Then came the fun part, getting the really heavy (300 pounds) cast iron bathtub out of the bathroom, down the stairs and out to the curb. Only took four men to drag the thing to the stairs, connect a rope and slide it down the stairs, tip it up on a dolly and wheel it out the front door. Kept expecting Henry to get crushed by the tub careening down the stairs! 

While all the hard work was going on I did my part by shopping for the new bathroom!  The Internet was a wonderful place to get great deals on everything.  My friends thought I was crazy for buying everything sight unseen but I did lots of research first and then price shopped. Saved a bunch by not having to pay California 7.25% sales tax. Plus all the orders shipped for free (hooray.)  Amazing how much stuff you need for a new bathroom. Bathtub and drain, shower pan, sinks and drains, lots of faucets and valves, towel bars, towel rings, robe hooks, TP dispenser, sconces, chandelier, vanity, linen closet, field tile, mosaic tile, chair rail tile pencil tile, tile, tile and more tile! 

It was so much fun getting all the stuff delivered, just like Christmas - only better. And everything was  perfect, no damage, no disappointments. Love the Internet! Here's my pile of bathroom booty.

Once the demolition was done Jim redid the electrical and our good friend Bob did the plumbing. Then the new tub deck and shower were framed in and the green board was hung, taped and the wall textured. I spent several days painting the bathroom. The ceiling is about 15 feet high so it was a real pain to paint.

The new vanity was delivered and it looks great! It took me a few days, but I finished tiling the vanity and back splash. My poor hands will never be the same. The thinset (a type of cement used to adhere tile) has course sand and lime in it and any little scratch gets embedded with the thinset. Since the lime is corrosive it eats away at the tiny scratches until they're painful sores. So remember, if you need to clean up a drip or wipe off a smudge of thinset. use a rag not your fingers! When I planned this bathroom I was so excited about getting wall mount faucets and vessel sinks. Unfortunately I did not consider the level of difficulty required to tile around the faucets! I had to cut the sheets of mosaic tile apart so I could tile one itty bitty piece at a time all around the stubbed out faucets. It was really frustrating and slow work, thank goodness it's done now.

Have I mentioned what's happened to my house?  It looks like the Pillsbury Doughboy went berserk showering the whole house with flour! Yes, that's right - it's construction dust. Our bedroom has become construction central, the new soaking tub is sitting at the foot of  our bed, Jim's power tools are stacked against one wall and all the faucet paraphernalia and shop vacuum are stacked against the other side of the bedroom. It's become a real challenge getting in and out of bed. Our dog Maggie is spending a lot of time upstairs with us and she finds it difficult to find a place to lay down and watch.  And speaking of upstairs, as part of the demo we had to disconnect the toilet, so it's just sitting in the middle of the bathroom right now. The midnight call of nature has become a real challenge as we try to weave our way through the mess to get downstairs.

Next is grouting. The back splash has glass, marble and travertine tile so I'll need to use unsanded grout so I don't scratch the glass. Once I finish this, it's on to the bathtub and shower. This work should go quicker since it's mostly 12 X 12 field tile.