Wednesday, March 14, 2007

On Foot Dragging & Tile Grinding

I’m in the beginning stages of making plans so that I can start the preparations for the final stages of the initial plans for starting the installation of the Subway Ceramics Tile. In other words, I'm foot dragging. It’s not that I don’t want to start the tile installation, it’s my fear of failure kicking in. I go through this with every project just before I start some major finish work. The idea behind the foot dragging is, if I never start, then I can never screw it up.

I actually did accomplish some things today, just not as much as I wanted. The room is clean. All of the tools, garbage, lumber, and other assorted crap is gone. The only thing in the room now is the itty-bitty little claw foot tub. Really, you hardly notice it, and it doesn’t matter, because it ain’t going no where.

The other thing I did was make sure the walls were level. One of the benefits of a mud job, which I’m not doing, I’m using cement board, is you can fix any irregularities in the walls. Normally, of course, framers don’t care about tile installers, and tile installers don’t do framing. If a stud is bowed or sticking out a bit, this is the sort of thing that can be fixed with a mud job. What I did today was went around the room with a factory edge of a piece of MDF and held it against the studs. It wasn’t too bad. There were two studs that I will need to shim a bit, and one that needed a not so gentle tap with a sledge hammer.

Tomorrow I have a little bit of framing left and then I will go and buy some cement board. Once I get the cement board I will begin mapping out my strategy for beginning the planning stages of the initial phase of my plans for installing the cement board. It’s going to be a long day. I wonder how many times I can check my email in one day? Is there any kind of record for that?

In other news, I tested out the new toy I bought over the weekend. This was the bench-top belt sander. I gave it an initial test with just a few of the salvaged Oberon Saloon tiles on Sunday when I bought it, but yesterday I really opened that baby up, and the results were less than encouraging. The unit shipped with one 80-grit sanding belt. It took off the mortar, but it was very slow.

I went back and bought a 50-grit belt, the most coarse belt offered for this model, and it worked much better. It took about an hour to do one box of 6.25 sq ft. It sounds like a long time, I guess, but I’m actually encouraged. It’s a lot of tile with a lot of sides and a lot of grout. The 50-grit paper works well.

The best part is, I didn’t damage any tile. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if it’s possible for me to damage this tile. I had feared I would chip the edge of the tile on the sander. I started by making very, very sure that the work surface against the belt was a perfect 90 degree angle. At first I was cautious with the tile. I would ever so gently ease the tile in to the moving belt. Not too fast. Easy does it. After the first few dozen I realized there is no need for caution. After discovering how durable the tile is, it’s amazing to me how much loss there was during the removal process. The tile must have been under enormous stress when being pulled up from the floor.

When I press an edge of the tile against the belt I can feel the roughness as the 50 grit paper grinds away at the mortar. Once it’s all gone and the tile is in contact with the belt it feels very smooth. The sandpaper belt just will not grab a hold of the tile. It’s just too hard. It got to the point where for pieces with thick or stubborn grout on the tile I would repeatedly bang the tile against the moving belt to try and knock the grout off. At one point I swear I heard the tile giggle a bit as if it was being tickled by the 50 grit paper. Of course, it's possible I had just been in front of the belt sander too long. I guess we'll never know.

Once all of the grout is removed there is a very subtle light show that appears on the tile's edge. It’s not like sparks are flying, but something is going on. I’m not sure what it is. The tile heats up a bit, but not so hot that it would be glowing. It’s strange. Maybe they are sparks but they are just right at the edge. I came across one badly chipped tile and really tired to damage the edge just to see what it could take. It took a lot. After several repeated blows in to the moving belt, and after holding it firmly against the belt at an angle, I was able to remove less than a 16th of an inch of tile. I just barely rounded over the corner. This stuff could survive a nuclear blast.

Box One of Cleaned and De-Grouted Tile
(There is a lot of grout dirt on the tiles from the grinding)


Kathy said...

Quit dragging your feet! I can't wait to see the finished floor. How far apart do you plan to space the tiles? Does the wall tile go on first? What did the fence post guy say about the redwood? Answering all my questions should delay the start of your project for awhile.

Anonymous said...

You might be feeling guilty (or whatever) about not getting on with the project, but "foot dragging" is usually a good sign that your brain is still analyzing the project -or just coming to terms with all possible results. Relax, and grind some tiles while your brain makes peace with its tile demons. When you hear the little "ding", you'll know its done.

Greg said...


You know, I was just going to ask Keith at Subway Ceramics what spacing they suggest. I've going for very tight grout lines because that is the way it was done way back when. And yes, I will do the wall tile first. I think they is the best.

We're still in a holding pattern on the posts. It took him 4 years to bring me the first 3, so I'm not pressuring him.


I think you're on to something here. After I read your post, I started to think about it. Even if the foot dragging isn't happening on a subconscious level, it still has it's benefits. There is nothing wrong with taking the time to think things through. I do that a lot and often times I come up with a better way of doing things. Or at least I think I do.

Kathy said...

I'm happy you're planning to go tight with the floor tiles. The photo of them close together was what prompted the question, they look so good close together. They are really beautiful tiles.

derek said...

In my limited experience, I've found doing the floor first is easier, then you don't have to leave the exact spacing for the floor. I used a Kerdi membrane as well, just to make it all more waterproof.