Sunday, March 26, 2017

Paper Face-Off

It's amazing how quickly projects are moving at this point. I think my very favorite thing about tile is that installation MUST get done in one sitting (unless you want a bucket full of hardened mortar.) So pretty much no matter what, at the end of the day, you're done. It's extremely satisfying, especially after months of sloooooow progress and projects that will be hidden under floors and behind walls.

That said... we may have gotten a little overconfident on the tile. After we did the shower floor, we were feeling like mosaic ninjas. We knew our next project would be the much more expensive, fragile, and complex tile for the shower wall, but we were feeling ready.

What's that saying... something like "man makes plans and God laughs"?

So now, just like I have a favorite thing about tile, I also have a least favorite thing about tile. Or at least, one type of tile. I introduce you to my newest nemesis ... paper-faced mosaic.

Paper facing is used for clear mosaic tile. Normal mosaic is mounted on a webbed mat backing, but since this contains tiles that are clear or translucent, that webbing would show through. So instead of putting a mat on the back, these sheets are held together by a piece of paper glued to the front. The glue is water-soluble, so you install the tile and then wipe it all down with water to remove the paper.

Going in, we knew this meant that the mortar would have to be perfect, because you can see it through the tiles. We also knew the paper mounted sheets would probably be a little more brittle and harder to work with than the flexible webbing. We thought we were ready for all of this. We were not.

Some glass tiles come with a white paper backing instead of a removable paper facing, which eliminates all of these problems. But did we get that kind? Nooooo, of course not. Because we absolutely had to have this one, very specific, very fancy tile.

But here's what we missed. When you cut tile, you do it on a WET saw. A saw that literally has a steady stream of water running over the blade. Over the blade, and straight onto your water-soluble glue.

The first piece we tried to cut almost literally melted in front of our eyes. The paper promptly got soaked, lost its grip, and started shedding little glass tiles all over the place. The ones that didn't actually hit the floor still got knocked off-kilter so the whole thing looked snaggle-toothed.

An hour later, we were back in business after finding a video from the tile manufacturer that basically explained how to create a waterproof box for the tile before cutting it. Of course that slowed us down even more. Instead of getting through the entire tiling process that day, we ended up spending the whole day just getting the cuts done.

Install day did finally arrive, but as usual, we underestimated how long it would take by about 7000%. I think this photo was taken at 2am.  At some point I basically fell asleep on my feet, and Brett valiantly finished up by himself.

When we went to check on the finished wall the next day, several of the little tiles from below this point fell off completely. We had to buy more mortar, chisel out the gaps, and re-mount new pieces. Don't tile in the middle of the night, kids.

But, then it was finally done and we were ready to peel of the paper. Since we had done that so effectively by accident early on, we knew that part would be easy, right?

Note the giant pile of shredded paper on the floor. And the bits still stuck to the wall.
Several days and lots of very numb fingers later, we finally managed to get the last scraps cleaned off and the grout applied.

Which means we are... drumroll, please... done with our work on the shower! We'll order the glass enclosure and have the plumber come install the fixtures, which are both tasks we're leaving to the pros.

Leaving us more time to do the important things in life,
like taking adorable pictures of the dog posing with her matching pillow.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Prime Cometh Before a Fall

Today I'm prepping to install a shiplap wall in the bathroom. And first, I just want to say that we bought a house with shiplap siding before it was cool. Or at least before I knew it was cool. Take THAT, Chip and Joanna.

We talked about 9,000 different ways to do this on the cheap. Pinterest is literally riddled with faux-shiplap tutorials. Usually, they use MDF strips and spacers over drywall to mimic the look of tongue and groove. I was all for this approach, but we had a complication.

Our shiplap wall is in the bathroom, specifically behind the sink. It's going to get wet. And if moisture gets between the wood and the drywall, we would have all kinds of problems like mold or rot. So we decided on real tongue-and-groove boards, which wouldn't leave any drywall exposed. We also wanted wood grain to be visible, so we picked boards instead of MDF. We talked about using reclaimed boards, but ultimately we decided that a store-bought product would save us enough time and money that we should just cave and buy new.

The shiplap arrived a few weeks ago, and it's been acclimating upstairs. Pretty much as soon as it arrived, I was ready to prime it. The last thing I wanted was to get all the way to the point where we were ready to install it, mere steps away from totally finishing the bathroom, and have to stop to literally watch paint dry.

The boards were rough - much, much rougher than we expected, especially since the whole point of buying this product was to avoid having to do a lot of sanding and filling. But I figured, there isn't much a good coat of primer won't solve. You can stick that in your book of Auntie Audrey's Wisdom for the Ages.

Well, the paint dried and.... apparently there are things that a coat of primer won't solve.

The boards were just too tattered. Which meant we'd need to sand them - AFTER already having primed them once. And then we'd have to prime them again.


Today was the day to sand. I schlepped all the boards down the stairs and set them up on sawhorses outside. I grabbed the orbital sander, the coarsest sandpaper we had, and got to work. Then Brett came outside. It seems that the side I thought was the front because it was generally less ratty, he thought was the back because he liked the look of the grain better the other way.

Me: Okay... *deep, calming breaths* Well, at least you told me before I got too far. So... can I just sand the other side?
Him: Oh no, go ahead and sand both sides. Then everything will sit so nicely against the wall!
Me: Of course my dear, that's oh so very reasonable. *Silently wonders if it's possible to murder someone with an orbital sander.*

So, several hours later, I have so many splinters sticking out of my hands, and my fingers are so frozen in place from gripping the power sander, that I look like the child of Freddy Krueger and a porcupine.

But those boards do look darn good.

Hermie, on the other hand, is a mess.

What happens when you spend the first warm, muddy spring day outside and distracted. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017


The bathroom floor is done! IT'S DONE! DONE, I SAY!


(Can you tell I'm excited?)

The last few steps have actually taken a couple of weeks, but I've been too focused on powering through to stop and write about it. So this will look like a "yay, we finished it all at once" post, but that's not really how it all went down.

When last I left you, dear reader, we had just mortared down the main floor tiles. Our next step was to tile the shower pan.

The shower pan floor is the same material as the rest of the floor, but in a smaller 2x2 mosaic. Each little tile is mounted on a webbed mat to make a 12x12 square. I found it incredibly satisfying to set these - you plop down one sheet, and suddenly there are 36 perfectly-aligned tiny tiles in place.

Unfortunately, between the size of the shower pan and the unusual hidden drain system (see the tiled cover on the floor next to the shower pan), we had to cut practically every sheet in some way. We were a little worried about cutting the mosaic evenly, without chipping or knocking tiles off the mat backing. So, as we do whenever the world is an uncertain place, we turned to the collected wisdom of the ages known as YouTube.

We found a tip that said to tape the mosaic sheet to a full piece of regular tile, so the large piece serves as a stiff backing to send through the tile saw. Also, the tape all the way along the cut edge would help prevent chipping. I've used the tape trick before, so this made a lot of sense to me.

But there was one problem... we didn't have enough tile to waste whole pieces as backing. And most of our scrap wasn't big enough to fully support the mosaic sheets.

Here, our habit of never putting anything away came in handy. (See, I KNEW there was a good reason to procrastinate on cleaning up...) Brett spotted a stash of rigid pink foam insulation left over from an earlier project. It was stiff enough, plentiful, and wouldn't turn to mush in the wet saw.

By popular demand, a rare photo of me. Here, prepping a sheet of mosaic tile for the  saw.
By the way, Donald, this is how I #dresslikeawoman. 
This worked like an absolute charm. It cuts smoothly, the edges look great, and the sheet stayed together. We feel like total pros now. (Which is great, because our next project will be cutting really, really tricky and extremely expensive mosaic for the back of the shower, so now we're slightly less terrified.)

The shower floor uses a special epoxy mortar, to make it extra-super-duper waterproof. I believe that is the technical term.

When the shower pan floor was dry a day later, we cut tile for the sides of the shower pan. We mocked that up, along with the baseboard tile for the whole room. This basically took a day by itself.

Our Smaug-like hoarding of blue painter's tape finally pays off.

At this point I would have skipped over the bit about mortaring the tile in place, because you know the drill by now. But. BUT.

I need to pause at this point and explain a little bit about how our brains work. I'm great when it comes to words, ideas, and patterns. Need some creativity or synthesis? I've got you. Want a bunch of steps arranged in a logical order? On it. But when it comes to anything spatial...  I am not your girl. I could get lost in a phone booth. I heard an NPR show once on people who have some kind of brain damage that makes them get lost in their own house, and I almost made a doctor's appointment.

Enter Brett. I imagine the inside of his brain as some kind of 4-dimensional Jenga Tetris Rubix Cube. He's a smart guy all around, but spatially he is brilliant. The way he packs the trunk of the car for a road trip is literally art. He can tell you what cardinal direction he is facing at almost any moment, like some kind of human homing pigeon. Once, we were given a free freezer and I swear to God he got it into our basement despite it being taller than the ceiling height.

So, when it came time to lay out these intricately arranged tiles to mortar them back into place, he did this.

He unfolded the shower pan tile. Imagine starting at the bottom edge of the tile, closest to the shower pan, and hinging everything up and over so it would fall perfectly back into place.

This breaks my brain. He thought it was just the most obvious way to do it.

Another 24 hours of drying time later, my aching brain had recovered, and we finished by grouting the seams.

The floor is finally 100% complete. We're getting so close!