Thursday, February 28, 2008

A little wall repair

About a year ago, when my home improvement shopping exceeded the rate at which I worked on Actual home improvement, I bought a box of pre-mixed joint compound, and proceeded to use, well, about a cup of it fixing spots around the cutouts from our wiring updates.

I am quite pleased to report that after a full year of sitting on the shelf, it's just as good as new, unlike that evil Thinset.

This is such a handy thing to just have around. Every day after work, I can just scoop a little out of the box, and swipe another coat over the former trim section needing repair. It's not an involved, complicated process - just 10 or 15 minutes a day.

Even I can manage that during the work week.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fashion Friendly Earplugs

My Super Burly MK Diamond Tile Saw cuts through tile like butter, but makes enough noise to violate OSHA regulations.

I get the pack of foam earplugs for my projects, sold in bulk in Safety Yellow.

So imagine my excitement when I found Lowe's carrying them in Fashion Fluorescents!

At least, I was excited, until a quick swipe with a Q-tip after tiling activity revealed a disturbing Earwax Color.

One can imagine my now bright multicolor eardrums now that I've polished off the full pack.

This can't be good.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Chair Rail Height Dilemma

As you can see from the "before" photo, the bathroom in its original incarnation had wood trim supporting an inexplicably large quantity of towel bars. In this picture, I'd already removed 2 bath hooks and a towel bar in the interest of not losing an eye while showering, but you can see the residual mounting hardware.

Naturally, I removed trim and towel bars alike prior to beginning this project. Which brought me to my next design struggle. Do I put the Chair Rail at the same height as the former trim, thereby allowing me to skip the wall repair step?

It's quite tempting, but the former trim location is too high, and I'm concerned that the equivalent subway tile wainscot will leave the wall with that fashion-forward look of an old man with his pants hiked up to his armpits.

I think I will just buck up and do the wall repair, and put the trim where I want it.

And this conveniently lets my tiling progress as far as putting up some gratuitous trim today, even though I didn't work as diligently on it as I did yesterday.

Maybe I can even get a bit of chair rail up during the week.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Saturday Tile-A-Thon

Not interested in the dull commentary and just want to cut to the chase? The progress photo is at the bottom.

Want the verbiage? Then read on.

Progress was pretty rapid after the tiles requiring serious cutting were complete, so I'm up a whole 10 rows. Some of the cuts worked with the tile saw, some needed my new Makita and the nifty Carbide Hole Saw.

I'm tempted to grout my 10 rows and start taking baths....but then we know what would happen. I'd lose Momentum, and spend the rest of the year with half finished subway tile.

And I can see it in the mirror cool is that??

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Thinset too old

My Depression Era grandparents always impressed me with their waste not, want not mentality. The sum total of their monthly, yes MONTHLY garbage could be contained in a 20 gallon container. They composted, recycled, fed food scraps to animals, and If it burned, they burned it to heat their house.

I'd always admired their efficient, minimal waste lifestyle, even as I knew I could never emulate it (if for no other reason than that the frequency of King County Burn bans make using their regular source of heat unlikely).

With the old fashioned Thrift and Conservation Values I grew up with, when I went to start my tiling project, I started with the leftover thinset from the kitchen project. Oh sure, I'd heard that thinset has a shelf life, but I don't want to think about my thinset being too old for's a slippery slope really. Today, we realize the thinset has no useful life left, tomorrow, we realize the same thing about ME.

In putting on the first few tiles, I discovered that the mixture Instantly bonded and hardened into its full cement-y goodness, allowing no second chances for tile adjustment. No amount of water seemed to change this instant adhesion between thinset, tile and wall, although lesser amounts of water didn't wait for the wall for bonding.

I strugged through the rest of my batch, then gave in and opened a new bag of thinset.

My grandparents probably would have kept going until they finished the old.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Don't Quit Your Day Job

I am fixated on tiling the bathroom with a single mindededness bordering on OCD.

Every day, the piddly three rows of completed subway tile taunt me each time I use our now merely 1/2 bath. The naked, exposed cement board begs me to cover it up: "At least could you put up a shower curtain and give me some Privacy!" says the HardieBacker.

Would anyone notice if I simply slipped out the back door, went home early, and fired up the tile saw? Is OCD a form of illness and should I call in a sick day so I can tile? Throw Caution to the Wind and take a day off?

But as a responsible, hardworking employee, I don't do any of these things. I just wait for Saturday.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Sunday Tile-A-Thon

After acquiring all of my measurements and considering the slope of the floor, slope of the tub, length of the tub wall, height of the sink, height of the trim above the sink, and length of the sink wall, I determined that No Possible Tile Pattern would make the universe (or the tile in my bathroom) align properly. Martin would suggest that I approach it at the speed of light. Or hire a Quantum Mechanic.

It seemed the best way to go was to start with a full tile height at the lowest tub spot in the back corner, and tile out from there. I put up a little leftover cement board to hold up the tiles beyond the tub.

The Tub Slope from Hell meant I had to cut trapezoidal tiles following the bath slope. Every. Single. Tile. Needed. To. Be. Cut.

This severely hindered my progress, and I was not able to accomplish my self-imposed Tile Quota, which in my fantasies had the tiling Complete by end of day today. My fantasies also included being on a beach in the Carribean sipping a drink with an umbrella in it, and winning the lottery so I could hire someone else to finish up. But we can't all get what we want, now can we.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Extreme Chaos Project : Bath Edition Day 5

Not a lot accomplished today, what with feeling like I Lost the battle between Rebecca and the Cement Board, and needing to attend my niece's 15th birthday celebration. (15! She's going to be driving soon! That should scare everyone in the greater Seattle area!)

I did finish taping the cement board seams, and I'm starting the tile math to determine how to lay out my subway tile (Home Depot - $.19 per tile - woohoo!).
Remember that episode where we discovered that Ballardia is the construction equivalent of a D Cup supported by a Training Bra? And Carpenter Jim jacked up the middle of the house with his 20 ton car jack, put in some new structural members and left his index fingernail to commemorate the project?

It seems he may not have cranked quite far enough.

The East-West walls are nicely level, but the North-South wall is off over an inch over the length of the tub. Perhaps someone wanted to be able to have extra suds in the bath without sending water down the overflow drain?

Is this due to settling? The living room also slopes downhill towards the middle of the house, but it's actually supported by the Original Pony Window Wall. So maybe - just maybe - the house was not level when built.

As this is Ballard, it would not surprise me.

Friday, February 15, 2008

That which does not kill us makes us stronger

Whatever gave me the idea that I have the upper body strength to hang my own cement board?

This is much like the impulse I had 17 years ago to buy my first manual transmission car, which I didn't know how to drive. My thinking was that I knew Plenty of people who were less intelligent and less coordinated than I was who could operate a clutch; therefore, I concluded, it couldn't be difficult. The flaw in my logic became apparent after lots of stalling and honking, but in a few unpleasant months, I improved - or at least figured out alternate routes to avoid all the hills. Two cars later, I'm still driving stick.

I can imagine, 17 years from now, saying "Two houses later, I'm still hanging my own cement board". Please just shoot me now and put me out of my misery.

Oh, it's done. But I'm too tired to take a picture. Maybe tomorrow when I tape up the seams.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Love My Makita with an 'M' because it is Marvelous

What ARE you doing Blogging on Valentine's Day? I hear you ask. Well, after 9 years together, we are Secure enough to cut the commercial crap and stick to the basics: Chocolate.

And nothing says 'I love you' like fixing the shower.

So my Makita, the cement board, and I are making some progress this V-Day.

I have used 1/4" cement board before, but this is my first adventure with the 1/2" thick variety. And it may well be my last. Do you have any idea how heavy 1/2" thick 3' x 5' cement board is? Neither do I. But years of faithfully going to the gym has not prepared my decrepit spinal column for this.

At first, I foolishly assumed that the traditional score and snap process might not be the best thing with the 1/2" thick cement board, so I got out my Very Cheap Jigsaw, put in the carbide blade and sawed away. Ahem. Mistake.

Score and snap still seems to be the way to go. Who knew.

My new true love, the Makita, hooks up nicely to my Carbide Hole Saw attachment to make these cute little holes in the backer board which - if I am Very Lucky - might even match up with the bathroom's plumbing.

No, I'm not going to finish hanging the cement board tonight. I am tired, I worked a full day before even starting on this project, and chocolate cupcakes are calling my name.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Extreme Chaos Project: Bath Edition, Day 2

You may have noticed that Day #1 and Day #2 are not consecutive. Quite observant of you. Ever tried getting a contractor to show up on the date of your choosing? I've begged. I've pleaded. I've even offered my firstborn, though who are we kidding.....I'm past the age where anyone wants my eggs

But I digress. Again. The Day 2 bath task is swapping the remains of my galvanized plumbing for the replacement shower/tub faucet that I purchased back in December. And Jeff the Plumber arrived this morning to do just that. But his venture into the tub was met with the unpleasant discovery that my Furry Friends have decided that the unused tub, with its discreet plastic curtain, meets acceptable criteria for Kitty Potty. How embarrassing.

Perhaps this is backlash for moving the Litter Box downstairs, or retaliation for our weekend getaway sans cats.

No, I am not going to post Cat Excrement photos.

But I will post a picture of my shiny new plumbing.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Return the Element and No Questions Will Be Asked

I need some cement board for the Extreme Chaos Project. It's also time for a dump run.

Hauling has always posed a small challenge for us, since we do not own a pickup, an SUV, a minivan, or even a Manwagon. We are Volvo people. Or rather, I am a Volvo person. In November, through a series of events competely unrelated to this blog, Martin defected and became a Chrystler driver.

The Chrystler is in fact as big as a whale, and it does actually seat about 20 very small people, but it doesn't haul construction materials.

But no worries, we are Flexcar members! And we have our very own Flexcar right at the end of the street! And it's not just any old Flexcar - it's a Honda Element, a utility vehicle with 77 cubic feet of cargo room. Works great for small dump runs, perfect for picking up materials.

You can imagine my shock when I went to the Flexcar website to reserve my neighborhood Element, and discovered it was Missing. No longer at the end of my block. In fact, there are no more Elements anywhere in Ballard. I HAVE TO GO ALL THE WAY TO QUEEN ANNE TO GET MY @#$%!! ELEMENT. Flexcar, how could you do this to me? What about ME? What about MY NEEDS?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ballardia takes a Mini Vacation

Since we might as well take some time off while waiting for my new Makita drill, we have chosen to dry out in the greater LA area this weekend. And by dry out, I mean Visit a Warm, Sunny Climate; we still drink. Though not while operating power tools.

We are instantly recognizeable as the very pasty white people slathered in SPF 70. Martin applies it well, but somehow I manage to get streaks of it staining my clothing like deodorant marks.

We're staying at the Venice Beach Suites, which is conveniently located and appropriately named. It is in fact in Venice, CA. It is also on the Beach. And our little Suite has a kitchenette as well as a bathroom that would make a Motel 6 proud.

Our room comes with a complimentary bottle of wine and two glasses.

Some people stay at Fine Hotels offering free champagne. We stay at the Unpretentious Inn with the 2 Buck Chuck.

And while I'd love to give it a fresh coat of paint and fix the spot where the smoke detector ought to be but isn't, the room has wood floors, very cool exposed brick, nice staff, free WiFi, and best of all, we can rollerblade right out the front door, and into the sunshine.

Who cares if rollerblading is now passe. So, it seems, am I.

martinizing - not just for dry cleaning

Since Martin doesn't seem to want to write his own blog entry about his current project, I am going to flog him mercilessly until he does do it for him.

Martin's project is a Mission to spread whiteness and uniformity throughout the universe - well, at least the Ballardia universe of outlets and light switches.. So while I am Queen of the Power Tools, Martin is crowned King of the Volt meter. What else do you do with a EE, really? Except spell 'gEEk' of course.

Pre-Martinized outlet:

Post Martinized outlet:

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Extreme Chaos Project, Bath Edition: Day I

The bath project has begun, starting with the demo of plaster, lathe, and the careful removal of Icky Yellow 1950's Plastic Tile.

The Before Picture:

Demo projects take me some time - most of a day in this case - as I do not use power tools. I live in fear of finding New Discoveries in walls or inadvertently sawing studs in half, so I stick to the mallet, chisel, crowbar, and handsaw. Despite my careful proceedings, I had a few moments of panic when the lights went out when I stuck a chisel in the wall. After uncurling myself from a fetal position and investingating further the Case of The Missing Lights, I discovered that Martin was working on An Electrical Project during my demo and had flicked off the circuit breaker. Sigh.

The After Picture:

I did a little web surfing before I started and discovered that there seems to be some market for vintage plastic tile (who knew?), so I made an effort to save about 3/4 of it, and it should be showing up at the Re-Store sometime next week, should anyone want it.

Now for the real question. Why was there 1950's plastic tile in my 1930 house?
After pulling it off, it quite appears that prior to the plastic tile, there was.....may I have a drumroll tile at all! For the first 20-odd years it seems that they just tossed the kids in for a soak in the Ballardia tub, no showering allowed.

Speaking of showering, I hear you ask, "How are you attending to your Personal Hygiene needs while the bathtub is gutted?" Simple. We are carting our towels and scrub brushes to the guest bath at undisclosed location X. Since I designed it and did all the tile work, we have Lifetime visitation rights, though I seriously hope our bath will be done before then.

Location "X" guest bath:

Friday, February 1, 2008

Put Down that Black & Decker Drill or Somebody's Gonna Get Hurt

Back when we had our most recent basement flooding event during Seattle's 2nd largest downpour ever, my Trusty Black & Decker Drill drowned. Oh, I wiped it off and kept on using it, rust and all, but it was clearly Seriously Wounded. I've used and abused that drill for probably 8 years now, and it's survived everything except being submerged.

It now appears that one of the thingies (technical term) which holds the drill bit won't retract and is loose to a degree where it appears ready to fall off at any time. Thingy ready to break + high rpms = eye loss potential. Serious safety problem. So it's time for the drill's retirement program, and I need a new one. Fast. Progress may stop until drilling is possible.

We've decided that it's time to Upgrade to cordless. This is Martin's idea as he believes that the cost or convenience of said power tool will prevent me from leaving it on the floor, making it unlikely that any future tools will need to learn to swim.

I have a handy subscription to Consumer Reports, so I can check out the ratings on lots of cordless drills which have been pre-reviewed for me. There are two categories, 'general use' and 'tougher job', probably the equivalent of 'consumer' and 'professional'. I suffer from the delusion that despite my intense DIY proclivities, I am still a 'consumer'. Martin suggests it's time to be 'professional', if for no other reason than that parts may be more widely available when it's time for a replacement battery.

Consumer reports has a conventient chart outlining brand/model, price, volts, and rating speed, power, run time, charge time, handling, and noise. It also lists weight and recharge time. This is quite handy since I'm shopping on price and weight. The 'general use' category ranges from 2.8 to 5.7 pounds. The 'tougher job'caterogy ranges from 4.9 to 7.2 pounds. Perhaps this explains why
professional contractors burn more calories per hour than DIYers. It's the weight of their tools.

Now it's not that I'm a wuss (at least not ALL the time), but am I really going to be able to wield a 7.2 pound DeWalt for a significant time period? I think not.

I finally settled in on a fairly well rated Makita 6347DWDE. At 5.4 pounds, it's one of the lighter 'tougher job' drills in my sub $200 price range. Of course, I don't pay $200, as this is a great Ebay opportunity.

And now that I have no drill and am awaiting the shipment of my new one, it seems that EVERY project I need to work on requires a drill.

Maybe it's time for a vacation.