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.

Done!
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.

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