Friday, March 30, 2007

Oops! Ran Out Of Tile

It didn’t come as any big surprise, and the new tile I ordered from Subway Ceramics is on it’s way. It would have been nice to finish up this weekend, but that’s OK. There’s plenty to do around this feculant hell hole.

It really is getting bad. Even though I sort of took a day off yesterday from working on the bathroom to get the place cleaned up a little, I didn’t get that far. I’ve been tiling until 6 o’clock every evening and that doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

To be honest, a day off sounds kind of nice, but there is always the salvaged hex tile from Oberon Saloon to work on. I can hear it calling me now.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

De-Picking a Wall

I pulled the picks out of the sink wall today and they did not come willingly. I ended up needing to use a pair of pliers to get them out and it took nearly an hour to do the one wall. A half dozen or so broke off and I had to dig the remainder of those out with a utility knife. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it was more work than I thought it would be.

If I had to do it over I would not have spaced the base tiles by eye. Instead I would have used the toothpicks for those as well. The spacers for the tile pull double-duty. They space the tile evenly, of course, but they also support the tile from sliding down on to the tile below it while the mortar is setting up. The base tiles were resting on the floor, so there was no real need for spacing, but now the spaces are not quite as uniform as the wall tile. It is a very minor detail that know one will notice but me.

A wall de-picked

I now firmly believe that in those Girls Gone Wild videos they must be showing those girls pictures of Victorian bathrooms with flat, square edged subway tile. That’s the only thing I can think that explains their behavior. Hmmmm, I’m going to need to get a woman in here and test that theory.

I also finished the edge of the marble sill and got it installed. That was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. I must have honed marble and not polished marble because I only had to take it down to 320 grit to get the newly milled edges to look like the factory milled top. It was so easy I kick myself for not finishing the kitchen island marble. That is getting bumped to the top of the mile-long post-bathroom list of things to do.

After the tile is installed around the window I’m going to finish the back with a piece of half-inch quarter-round trim. There is a small scrap of it in the picture that was left over from another project. I’ll need to make more for the window.

You can also see that dent in the window sash. When I stripped the paint off of it I found that the window sash had been burned there. The odd thing was, it still had a lot of loose charcoal there. They didn’t even bother to sand it down or anything. It must have been a renter who caught the thing on fire with a candle or something. They just blew out the flame and then slapped some paint over it. I thought about filling it, but in such a wet environment, I was concerned that the filler would fail sooner, rather than later, so I decided to leave it. We’ll call it “character”.

Finally, in case anyone’s wondering, gypsum plaster tastes much better than thin-set mortar. Maybe it’s the Portland cement in the mortar that gives it its bitter taste. For pairing, if you get a dollop of plaster in your mouth, wash it down with a nice merlot. For thin-set, a chilled Pinot Grigio goes well.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Two Walls Done!

Boy, it feels good to write that. Yes, the two big walls are tiled and the best part is, they didn’t turn out a hideous mess. I made one little mistake, or maybe I should say, I’ve found only one little mistake so far, but the funny thing is, I kept loosing it. All day today I would forget where it was and then I would have to search it out so I could obsess over it.

I wrote a few days ago that I should finish by Tuesday or Wednesday, which in reality means Wednesday or Thursday. My prediction wasn’t too far off. I think if I had all of the tile here, and I got an early start after work tomorrow, I could finish the last wall. I don’t have the tile, though. I was in denial about having to order more and I put it off too long. It’s coming via UPS from LA, so it could show up before the weekend, but I’m not holding my breath.

The other reason I can’t finish tomorrow is because I still need to polish the end of the marble window sill. That needs to be installed before the tile. I’m embarrassed to say that I never polished the edge of the marble on the kitchen island either. Mainly because I really didn’t know how to do it, but also because the weather turned nice and I started painting the house last spring. So this will be a good exercise.

Sink Wall

Heater Wall

This mess is duplicated in other rooms. Lot’s to do tomorrow.

Of course, what is a blog entry without pictures. Above are shots of the two completed walls and the mess on the floor. Tomorrow, I’m going to work on the marble, as I said, but also clean up the mess I’ve made so far, and maybe take care of some neglected domestic chores.

Regardless of whether the rest of the tiles shows up before the weekend, I still have about 35 sq ft of field tile, and the quarter round needed for the window. I hope that’s enough to get me up to the window and to be able to tile inside the jamb. That way I can get the quarter round on.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Punk Rock Bathroom

I’m thinking about leaving the toothpicks in the wall and changing the theme from a Victorian Bathroom, to a Punk Rock Bathroom.

I could rig up a switch on the door so that when you open it you get blasted with The Sex Pistols or The Clash. I could do ripped curtains and paint everything black and white.

Dude, it would be so totally awesome!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Moments Of Doubt

You’re not paranoid if you really do screw up.

When doing finish work, I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I think there’s some crucial thing I’ve forgotten, or didn’t think through all the way. It seems to happen with every project. Part of it is that I’m a little paranoid, but the other part is that I hate to do things over, so I’m constantly trying to think three moves ahead so I don’t miss anything.

Yesterday I started to tile around the wall mounted heater. I got 2 and a half rows up around the base of the heater and that’s when I quit for the day. Last night I’m laying in bed and I thought that I should make sure the tile is close enough to the heater so that the face plate covers the tile ends. I had the heater body mounted in the wall and I just tiled as close to it as I could, right up to the edge of the mounting flanges on either side.

Well, today I tried to mount the face plate on and it wouldn’t fit. The screws were too short and they wouldn’t reach the holes in the heater body that was mounted in the wall. As I said, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I know something’s going to go wrong. I can just feel it. Immediately I begin to panic.

OhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGodOhmyGod. It won’t fit. It won’t fit. It won’t fit. This totally sucks. I’ve screwed up big time.

Then I took a breath and thought, no, I didn’t screw up, I just need to bring the heater body out some. It’s just like with electrical outlets after tiling. They need to be extended out so the face plates will fit on.

I had held the face plate up to the heater and saw that the tiles I had set would be fine, but just barely. The tolerances were very tight. I got a little irritated that the manufacturer didn’t leave more room. This is an antique Peerless heater. I was only able to make shims that were the same thickness as the cement board because the tile had to come so close to the mounting flanges. It was a little frustrating.

I made the shims and reinstalled the heater body and the screws still wouldn’t fit. I panicked again, and once again calmed down. I had to make another set of shims that were so small because the had to fit just behind the mounting flange. I started to make them and I didn’t feel good about it at all. Something was just not right here. Peerless made thousands of these heaters. They should not need this much tweaking for installation.

After several trial and errors with playing with the sizes of the shims it suddenly dawned on me that the shims I ended up with were exactly the thickness of the tile. Ding! The light goes off.

What I should have been doing is tiling all the way to the edge of the heater body and then the mounting flanges would sit on top of the tile. You then screw through the tile and in to the framing. It doesn’t matter how tight the tolerances are because the tile goes behind the mounting flanges.

So basically I wasted an hour today screwing with the heater. The first 3 rows are tiled just to the mounting flanges. I will need to use my screwy shims for the bottom two screws. The top 3 and a half rows will be done correctly.

Slap forehead!


Climbing the wall

Welcome to the jungle

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Design Changes, Real & Imagined

No matter how you look at it, making design changes after you started setting tile is not a good thing, but that’s what ended up happening today. In fact, there were two changes, one of which took place today, and the other of which, may or may not happen at all.

The first change – the real change - was one of those things that always kind of bugged me in a subconscious way, but when I started setting the tile it rushed to the conscious mind. I may have thought about this a while ago and either forgot about it, or decided to do it but never got around to it. In my rush to start tile setting I sort of blew past it. This has to do with the small corner cabinet.

Originally, or I guess I should say, at some point, I had a concrete plan to do a 36-inch wainscot of tile. I made the small cabinet roughly 36-inches high and the wainscot cap was supposed to go just around the top of the cabinet to meet the door. Well, I switched to a 48-inches wainscot of tile but never really bothered to think about what was going to go in that foot of space above the cabinet. I just always kind of thought plaster like the rest of the walls above the tile, but never really thought about how this would look.

Well, when I got the tile on I realized it would look pretty stupid to have this one small section of plaster below the 48-inch tile mark. So today I framed in the little area and added more cement board. I also had to raise the light switch because it was now smack dab in the middle of where the wainscot cap would go.

When I raised the switch it put it at a slightly uncomfortable 52-inches, but I felt it was better than having a bunch of slivers of tile around the switch. As you can see in the pictures below, it’s a very small are of tile. Only 3 rows (2 installed in the picture).

You can see how odd it would have looked to have the area just above the cabinet with plaster.

So I raised the switch and added cement board.

And then tiled above it. I considered remaking the cabinet to 48-inches and then quickly decided against that.

The other change that almost occurred today was the addition of a highlight row of some sort. As you can see in those pictures there is still one more row of 3-inch high tile to go on. The space remaining though, is 4 and a half inches. There is an inch and a half to add something in there. I went down to the home center to see what was available and it wasn’t much. They had several accent tiles to chose from, but very little that would have complimented this tile. I mean, things like river pebbles and fake distressed Greek facades are not going to work at all.

What they did have was a half-inch high solid color trim piece. They had about 8 different colors and there were two shades of green that may have worked. There were a few problems though. First, I need 56 pieces and they had maybe 25 in stock. When I asked if there was more available the conversation went something like this.

Me: Do you have any more of those trim pieces in stock.

Sales Guy: No, that’s it.

Me: Well, when do you order more.

Sales Guy: We only order when we run out of what’s there.

Me: So, if I buy everything that’s there, then when will you reorder.

Sales Guy: No, we only reorder when we run out of several of them.

Me: So how often is that.

Sales Guy: I don’t know.

Me: Can I order some special.

Sales Guy: Maybe, you’ll need to come back in Monday.

Ahhh, customer service. It truly is a lost art. Anyway, the other problems with those trim pieces are 1) they’re only a half-inch high. It would basically be a pinstripe on the wall and just wouldn’t look right. I could do several rows but that gets way too expensive. For one row I need 56 pieces and they are $2.99 each. With tax that comes to $179.58. Two rows or a 1-inch trim piece is around $360. That’s just not in the budget at this point.

The other problem is that even at 1-inch, that’s still kind of small of a trim for this high of wainscot. I would think something closer to 2-inch would look right. So that idea quickly went the way of the Dodo. I’ll just use that last inch and a half of space as a nailer for the cap. It should be fine.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Arbor Day

It’s like I’ve planted a tiny forest of toothpicks in the bathroom. I’m using the toothpicks as spacers on the Subway Ceramics tile on the walls in the bathroom. The toothpicks are a 16th of an inch in diameter and make for very good spacers. Because the Subway Ceramics tile has flat, perfectly square edges, I can get down to a very thin grout line for a historically accurate looking tile installation. I’ll probably use the same method when it’s time to put the Oberon Saloon tile down on the floor.

Being that I’m not a highly trained professional tile setter, I’m not sure that I’m the one to be giving tips & tricks for tile setting. Not being a highly trained professional has never stopped me before though, so what the hell.

I started setting tile on the least visible wall in the room. It’s a small bathroom, so really, everything is very visible, but I chose the wall with the sink and toilet on it. There is a learning curve to everything, so the logic is, when I get to the open wall opposite the sink and toilet I will be more proficient at tile setting.

The other thing I did was mix small batches of thin-set mortar when I first started. Using the notched trowel took a little getting used to. I’ve actually set tile before, but it’s been a few years. I didn’t feel as rushed with the small batches of thin-set and could take my time with the first few rows.

I set two rows at a time, so I snapped a chalk line 6-inches above the base tile as a guide for the first two rows. After the first two rows were in, I snapped another chalk line 6-inches above those rows, and so on. I made sure the base tile was level before I started, and then checked the tile again with a level after I finished every two rows. I’m dead on level after 10 rows. Whew!

I chose the transition from the 4-foot high tiled wall to the 8-foot high tiled bath surround as the focal point for the tile. It’s important to chose a focal point where the tile will look good. You don’t want to end up in a very visible spot and have a lot of odd sized pieces of tile. I didn’t want a series of 4-inch and 2-inch pieces of tile running up the leading edge of the bath surround. Choosing this as a focal point means that the leading edge on either side of the bath surround will have 3-inch and 6-inch tile as the first tile on every other row. It may not sound like that big of a deal, but it’s the little things that can sometimes stick out like a sore thumb.

I also laid down rosin paper (kind of like butcher paper) on the floor in the bathroom I’m tiling, and a path through the house to the working bathroom. The thin-set occasionally missed the mark and there’s no sense in tracking it through the house. Beyond that, setting the tile is a bit time consuming, but not exactly rocket science.

I was able to finish the base tile and set about 20 sq ft of the field tile today. I think that took about 4 or 5 hours. Working at floor level was slow, and I also had to cut tile to fit around the pipes for the sink. I think I can pick up the pace tomorrow. I think I might be able to finish this up by Tuesday or Wednesday, which in reality means Wednesday or Thursday.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Double Does

I officially started setting tile today. I couldn’t come with any more excuses to postpone it, so I had to start. I got kind of a late start so I was only able to get about 60% of the base tile in. Tomorrow I’ll finish up the base tile and start on the field.

I was going to use Keith’s String Theory to space the tiles a 16th of an inch, but I didn’t want to spend time at the store measuring string to find the right size. Maybe the spools are marked, I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. Instead, I’m using toothpicks. I had a box of toothpicks in the cupboard and they are exactly a 16th of an inch thick, so that should do.

I also broke down and ordered more tile today. I think I know what I did wrong. When I measured the area for tile I broke down the room in to a series of squares and rectangles. I measured those and then added them up. It’s a pretty basic way to measure an area. I looked back at my original notes and one of the numbers is 21 sq ft. However, the sheet is dirty and wrinkled - this bathroom is a construction zone, after all - and if you look at it a certain way it looks like 2.1 sq ft. There is no area that even comes close to being as small as 2.1 sq ft but my numbers are off by a little under 20 sq ft. So, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. If I run out of tile again, I’ll just make my own out of joint compound, ‘cause I ain’t ordering no more!

In other news, Mort is doing much, much better. A good indication of his health is how much he attacks me. He can be very aggressive. I wrote last week that he’s only drawn blood on me a few times in the past week or so, and that was no exaggeration. He’s not 100% yet, but he’s definitely getting there.

We have a thing we do on a regular basis. There is a window at the end of the hall that I like to look of and survey the neighborhood. Mort is usually under foot anyway so it’s not uncommon for me to scoop him up and let him take in the view. There are a pair of Huskies across the street and he likes to keep his good eye on them. He usually attacks me when I put him down and he hasn’t done that in weeks. I thought I’d try and catch it on tape, and here’s what I got.

Making up for lost time.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Oh, What The Hell

I decided to do the marble sill myself. This is the window sill that will be on the window in the shower. I had a piece of marble and the original plan was to cut out a piece slightly larger than the sill and then take it to a monument maker and have them finish it. After I cut it out, that seemed like a PITA. I figured in the time it would take for me to call them, explain what I need, drive the piece down there, give them my name and number, explain it again, and then have to go back down and get it, I could just do it myself.

The sill is 4X27 inches. The slab I cut from is much larger than 4X27. I worked from one corner, so after I made two cuts I would have a 4X27 inch piece with 2 sides cut by the professionals and then 2 sides cut by me. I used the carbide grit jig saw blade to cut the 4-inch side, but it didn’t work too well. The cut was very uneven and it took about 20 minutes to get through 4-inches. Obviously that wouldn’t work for the 27-inch side.

I got out the grinder with my trusty diamond blade and cut the 27-inch side free-hand. It takes a few passes and eventually it breaks with the last quarter inch or so. It’s sort of a score & snap method. The cut is not perfect, but it doesn’t need to be. This is the side that will go against the window. The pretty side cut at the shop is what will face the room. I then used the grinder to clean up the 4-inch jig saw cut I made. After I install it, I’ll goop up the back cut with caulk and hide the mess with a very small piece of quarter round wood trim.

So now I’m left with 3 straight sides and the back side that is slightly less than straight. While the cuts made by the pros, and my four inch cut are straight, they don’t look all that pretty. I went down to the hardware store and splurged for a $20 quarter inch rounder-over bit and finished the front top and bottom. The left and right side will mostly be under tile, so I left them straight. Sometime over this weekend I’ll sand up the leading edge with 600 grit and smooth it out some and then I should be able to install it.

I was also able to cut all of the shims for the base tile today, so tomorrow, in theory, I should start some tile installation. I am very nervous.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Friday, I Swear

I was able to get the cement board seams taped and mudded today, and I skim coated the lower half around the tub area with thin-set. You would think that I’m ready to start setting tile now, but that would be too easy. The problem is with the floor tile.

The Oberon Saloon tile is a half inch thick. It’s thicker than a lot of other tile, and maybe even thicker than most all tile made today. The Subway Ceramics tile is 3/8th of an inch thick, which is normal, I would guess. The base tile for the Subway Ceramics Tile has a 90 degree cove at the bottom where it meets the floor. So at this point where the Oberon Saloon tile meets the Subway Ceramics tile, the Oberon tile will be higher by an eighth of an inch. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but could you imagine trying to sweep dirt from behind that little ridge for the next few decades. It’s something that would drive you nuts in the first year, and you would be ripping tile out in year two.

The cove on the base tile sticks out ¾ of an inch. So tomorrow I need to cut a bunch of shimming material that is ¾-inch wide, and an eighth or maybe 3/16 of an inch high. I need to raise the base tile enough so it will be even, or a hair higher, than the Oberon Saloon tile. Otherwise it will drive me, and anyone else who owns this house, crazy for ever.

The other thing I need to deal with before I start laying tile is the marble window sill for the window that’s in the shower. I’m also thinking about doing a marble window sill for the other stained glass window as well. I think that would be a very nice touch. I have that big slab of marble the guys gave me from the fabrication shop, but I can’t really go back to them. I thought about cutting and routering it myself, but I’ve got too much going on right now.

I can cut the pieces ok, but my router bits are all too dull to work on marble, and then I would need to sand and polish the edges, and I just don’t want to deal with it right now. I’d rather set tile. The trouble is, I can’t go back to the fab shop that gave me the marble because I told them I wouldn’t be needing any more marble, and that’s when he gave me the big slab of marble.

Instead, I’m going to cut the two sills to their basic sizes and then call a monument place in town and see if they will finish the edges for me. If they won’t then I’ll just do it myself. I’m going to try using the carbide grit jig saw blade I used on the cement board to try and cut the marble.

So, if I can get all of the shims cut and nailed in place tomorrow, and get the marble cut and over to the monument shop, then that should clear the way for me to start setting tile on Friday. I also need to contact Subway Ceramics and order more tile. I should have done that on Monday or Tuesday, but I’ve been in denial over it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

House Ways & Means

Even when you try to calculate cost it’s easy to over look things. I added it up today and I spent nearly $350 on cement board, thin-set, fiberglass tape, nails, and a jig saw blade. I didn’t really figure any of that in to the cost at all. It makes me wonder what other hidden or forgotten costs are out there waiting for me.

The important thing is, it’s in. Today I finished installing the cement board, with the exception of the area under the tub. I’ve purchased the board, but it wasn’t installed on purpose. More on that later. Tomorrow, I think - I hope - I can start mudding the cement board. This is done with the thin-set and fiberglass tape.

When I went down to get the thin-set on Sunday they had 5 different flavors of Versabond thin-set to chose from. I walked over to the little desk and asked the guy which one is recommended for tub surrounds. He hops in to action and runs over and grabs me a caulking tube of Liquid Nails for tile. I looked at him and said, “No, thin-set for setting tiles. There are several types over there. Which one is best for tub surrounds”. He takes me over to the different stacks and says, “Well, let’s see.” One at a time he starts reading the instructions on the back. The guy had no idea what he was doing. I said, “Thanks, I’ll research it on my own”.

I tried to search on my own and found several different threads on Versabond Thin-set on many different forums, but no one ever says which one is best for what. The only distinction people seem to make is between white and gray, depending on which color grout you’re going to do. One was a quick-set, so I ruled that out. The one I went with was the most expensive. It is the premium grade white, rated for high bond strength and flexibility. Again, this is earthquake country, so the more things hold on to each other, and are flexible, the better.

In other news, I had to take Mort to the vet today. He has an ear infection and an upper respiratory infection. He’s been coughing, sneezing, and blowing little bubbles out of his nose for the past week, and he just really hasn’t been his same effervescent self. He's only drawn blood on me twice in the past week. That is well below par. At first I thought it was just hair balls or something, but it’s not getting better. He had the same ear infection less than a year ago. He’s getting ear drops and that pink bubble gum smelling antibiotic twice a day. That is loads of fun for both of us.

The really bad part is, the doctor thinks there is a chance it could be the on-set of feline AIDS. He told me 1 in 7 stray cats that live their lives on the street die from feline AIDS. Those are pretty sobering statistics. I’ve only had Mort about 4 years, and he’s well over 10 years old, so that means he spent most of his life on the mean streets of Eureka. The fact that the ear infection has come back so quickly, and it’s coupled with a respiratory ailment, has the doctor a little worried.

The doc said it takes 5 to 7 years from the time a cat contracts AIDS for symptoms to appear, so Mort is right in that sweet spot for seeing the first signs. I asked if living in a feculent hell-hole – I’m referring to The Petch House, not the mean streets of Eureka – could have caused any of the infections. He said that it shouldn’t bother Mort at all. That kind of makes sense really, cats live there whole lives a few inches off the ground and are constantly crawling in filth. At least mine are.

The plan is to use this current regiment of antibiotics for a week. If there is no change then we’ll try something stronger. If it still doesn’t get better in another week, then I’ll bring him in for an AIDS test and a feline leukemia test. Fingers crossed!

Monday, March 19, 2007


Without the full use of my thumbs I’m feeling slightly less than a primate today. I felt like Lobster Boy, or possibly Dr. Zoidberg this morning trying to tie my shoes with just my index and middle fingers. Then walking around with band aids on both thumbs makes me a feel a bit odd as well. I noticed a few people looking at my thumbs and not sure if they should ask what happened or not. I had a great story all ready to go. It was about how my gambling debts had gotten out of control, and about how a loan shark wanted to take my thumbs as payment, but then had a change of heart and only left me with flesh wounds on each thumb. No one asked, though.

I didn’t get much accomplished today. Partially because of my thumbs, but mainly because every day life got in the way. If the two wounds on the thumbs were any place else they would be of little notice by now. But the thumbs…you just don’t realize how much you use them until you’ve lost the use of them.

The one drilled thumb isn’t doing too bad. The swelling has gone down and the wound is closing up a little. It’s down far enough on the thumb that I can still use it some. The other thumb is just raw, though. The picture does not do it justice. On that whole entire side, all the way from the nail to the knuckle it is really soar. I think maybe the bleach that got in to the glove through the pin hole may have exacerbated the situation.

Also today I reevaluated the Subway Ceramics tile situation. After making the design change with the shower window I thought I would be in better shape, but it turns out just the opposite is true. I also screwed up a little in my calculations. I’m not sure what I did. I measured everything again, and then went and got my original sheet. I broke the room down in to areas and measured them, and then added all the numbers to come up with a square footage. On both sheets I had the same numbers, but I just added something wrong the first time. I usually add totals several times, so I’m not sure what happened.

With the window, I had to raise the height of the tile around the tub area because the window is so high. I thought I was going to get an extra 5 sq ft of tile because I won’t be tiling over the window. As it turns out, I’m actually adding almost 10 sq ft of tile, so it’s a net gain (or is it a loss?) of 5 sq ft. All told I’m going to need extra 25 sq ft of tile, and some more quarter round for the window. Oy!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

All Thumbs

I was able to get the cement board on the walls, but I didn’t get to the floor. It’s funny that on Tuesday when I got the email from Keith at Subway Ceramics I enthusiastically replied that I might start setting tile this weekend! Yea, well, that didn’t happen. I could have done the floor today as well, but Sunday has become tile cleaning day. This is The Oberon Saloon tile that needs cleaning, not the Subway Ceramics tile.

I really need to stay on the tile cleaning otherwise the whole project will grind to a halt for weeks because I will be stuck cleaning endless boxes of tile. I need to have all of the salvaged Oberon Saloon tile cleaned and de-grouted before I start the installation of the floor. Until it has all been cleaned and prepped I won’t know how much I have. It’s not like I can get more of this stuff any place. Last week I was walking through Old Town and I peaked in The Oberon. The remaining tile is all gone now. What I have is all there is.

So far I have 9 boxes of bleach cleaned tile and two boxes of de-grouted tile. I’m passed the halfway point on the bleach cleaning, which feels good, but there is still a lot of work to do. If I don’t do it a little at a time it will become this monster job that will drag on for weeks.

The next step for the cement board is to seal the seams. You finish the cement board in a similar fashion to sheetrock. You use the fiberglass mesh tape and thinset instead of joint compound. The carbide grit jigsaw blade worked very, very well for cutting the board. It goes through the cement board a little faster than a regular jigsaw blade goes through wood. It also makes cutting holes for outlets and pipes very easy. I highly recommend it. The dust is minimal and the edges don’t need to be cleaned up.

All of this productivity this week was not without a price, though. On Saturday I drove a philips head drill bit in to my left thumb. I had to put in some last minute additional blocking in the framing. I used 3.5 inch screws for this because it was a very tight fit to swing a hammer. I had a 19.2 volt drill at full speed with all of my weight behind it when the bit slips off the screw. The bit drives right in to my thumb. Major bummer. The damn thing has swelled up and the gash is nasty because of the spinning bit.

Then today, I wore a hole through my right thumb while cleaning tile. Remember The Two Thumb Method for cleaning tile? Well, it works great, but not without a cost. Last week I noticed a tender spot on my right thumb. It seemed as if my thumb print had been worn off on one side. I thought it was from the tile cleaning but I wasn’t sure. Then today I was about half way through the two pales of tile and it just started screaming at me. I wore a pin hole through the rubber glove and I had worn so much skin off my thumb it was now bleeding. Geez! I feel like one of those freaks that washes their hand so much they get sores.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

So, This Is Very Cool

I got an email this week from Marilyn over at The Hauser House. In her own words, she is a genealogist and history buff and when she gets bored she grabs a family and starts researching, and boy does she ever. She found the bit of information I had on my site that I had done for the Petch Family and just ran with it.

My brother is an avid genealogist as well and so I have some familiarity with what goes in to this. I can see how it can be a bit of an obsession. For me it was like that with stripping wallpaper. In the first year I was in The Petch House I stripped a lot of wallpaper. I just couldn’t stop. I would be innocently passing by a room and catch a little dog-eared piece of wallpaper out of the corner of my eye. I just had to tug at it. The next thing you know, four hours have passed and I can no longer see the floor because of all the wallpaper I had pulled off. I get the feeling searching a family history is similar.

Anyway, Marilyn sent me a GEDCOM file. In the genealogy world a GEDCOM file is sort of the industry standard for file formats for storing family history information. It is sort of like the PDF format in that it has become universal in the field, but it is not a static format like PDF. More than one program can open, read, and modify GEDCOM files.

As I said, my brother is a genealogist and he’s also a computer programmer. He wrote a program called UncleGED (clever, don’t you think) that takes the information in a GEDCOM file and spits it all out into a collection of linked web pages. So I used UncleGED to take all of the Petch family history that Marilyn dug up - and it’s a lot, and it’s very, very impressive - and I ported it all to web pages and posted on-line.

I’ve been so busy I haven’t really had the time to go through it all but the Petch family is big and far flung. I can’t thank Marilyn enough for the work she did. It’s just really amazing. If you want to take a look at it, click on the link below.

The Petch Family

Friday, March 16, 2007

Goal Tending

This is an official Petch House Goal. Everyone, please, mark your calendars for the date of April 13th, 2007. That gives me exactly 4 weeks to accomplish the following bathroom related tasks.

1) Install tile on the wall and grout.
2) Plaster the walls above the tile.
3) Finish cleaning and de-grouting the Oberon Saloon floor tile.

One and two are achievable, I’m pretty sure. Number three will be a stretch, but that is the whole point of goals, as I see them. You set the bar a little bit higher than you think you can reach, and then you try and reach it. If this were a prediction, then I would be screwed. Goals, on the other hand, don’t necessarily need to be met. They are just a point to strive for.

The reason for April 13th is that I’m expecting family the following week. If I can complete those items by the 13th then this will give me something to show off, and still leave me plenty of time to revert The Petch House from the feculent hell-hole state that it is currently in. In order to achieve those goals, the house must remain in a feculent hell-hole like state because there will be no time for the niceties of domesticated life that are needed to keep said house from being in a state of constant feculent hell-holiness. I except this fact, and to some extent, I wallow in it.

Peace - out.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Grout Thickness Determined

When you want the right answer, it’s always best to go to the source. However, in this case the source came to me. I got an email the other day from Keith Beineman, the GM of Subway Ceramics. He was just checking in to see how things were going and wanted to know if I needed any advice or guidance before the tile installation started. Advice and guidance I could always use, but maybe a tile installer would be nice.

Keith told me that Subway Ceramics tiles are being installed in a house in Oakland, CA at this very minute. The work is being performed by a master tiler who is a board member of the Tile Heritage Foundation. Yikes! It doesn’t get much better than that, does it? Keith told me that this person will be documenting his installation as he goes so that they may be able to share his knowledge and methods with other installers. Oh, how I would love to be a fly stuck in the thinnest on that wall right about now.

At the time of Keith’s email on Tuesday I couldn’t really think of any questions off the top of my head. I went over my preliminary wall preparations with him, mentioning how I would level the wall and finish up the cement board. He didn’t email me back in horror over what I wrote, so I’ll assume I’m at least headed in the right direction. Then I got a comment from Kathy asking how far apart I planed to space the tiles. It dawned on me that I never really decided that, so I sent Keith another email asking him what he thought. They are his tiles after all.

His advice came the next day. As he put it, the Subway Ceramics tile is able to be installed with 1/16" nominal spacing for that period style. Often the installers of that period used a length of string placed on the top of each course of tile they laid to space the tiles vertically and prevent them from sliding down on one another. He said that mortar will not hold a tile to the wall like mastic, but that I should only use mortar in a bathroom installation.

He went on to say that I can space the tiles horizontally by eye to match the horizontal spacing when using this string method. He advised that I “block the tile” (block of wood and a rubber mallet?) to even-up edges and to maintain an even, planar surface. Any lapping of tile will be accentuated since the tile edges are so square and flat, and the spacing is so tight.

So there you have it. Not exactly no grout, but a 1/16-inch grout lines. I love the idea of the string method. I would have never thought of it.

In other news, I finished up the framing and went and purchased the cement board. That stuff is as heavy as it is expensive. I was going to cut it today, but I never got to that. It was funny that while I was at the hardware store I looked a few books about tile installation. Mainly I wasn’t sure about the best way to cut and hang the cement board. Every book I looked in had a different approach. I settled on a carbide grit jig saw blade, for smooth edges, and a 2-inch galvanized roofing nail. I’m using nails instead of screws mainly because I live in earthquake country. Screws lack vertical shear strength and the heads can snap off. This is going to be a lot of weight on the wall and I would hate to see it come crashing down with the first 5.5 after I’m finished.

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)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bathroom Cabinets Finished

Whew! I never thought I’d write that! Now I can seriously start thinking about tiling the bathroom. I’m very nervous about starting the tile so I won’t talk about it anymore today. Instead lets look at the cabinets.

On the 2 built-ins I made, I left the interior the natural redwood and painted the outsides in the Queen Anne’s Lace. It is a very pale green. The interiors are finished in boiled linseed oil and turpentine, and then one coat of shellac. These are still waiting for a pair of matching antique cabinet latches, which are racing towards in the mail as I write.

On the larger corner cabinet, that bottom door is still a bit wonky, and after everything I went through with it, I might need to make it again. I'm not going to worry about it now, though. I'll get the latch on and let it sit for a while, and then see how I feel about it.

Both cabinets will get a 6-inch base molding, and a tiled top. I hope there will be enough of the 2-inch hex tile for the tops. I also want to extend the tops out and put either a 3-inch or 2-inch crown molding that will span the gap between the top and the base. If not the crown, then a fluted 3-inch trim of some sort.

On the salvaged medicine cabinet, I painted it inside and out with the Queen Anne’s Lace. The cabinet pull came from Van Dykes, and I’m not overly thrilled with it, but it needs something, so what are you gunna do.

After the pictures of the cabinets there is another shot of natures optical illusion. I thought it was so cool that I wanted to show it again. Also, someone yesterday requested a side shot just to prove it was in fact a flat board.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Legend of the Fence Posts

I was beginning to think this really was just a legend. You hear about these stories from time to time about how some old-timer has squirreled away piles of curly and burl redwood and doesn’t know what to do with it. These sorts of legends exists for anybody who is a collector or aficionado of something old or unique. When I was in my 20s I rode a Harley Davidson for a few years. My buddies and me would talk about the legend of the 1940s Knuckle Head Harley that’s been sitting in a barn since the day it was bought. In this fantasy the bike is in pristine condition and the old farmer just wants to get rid of it and he only wants $100 because it may not even run.

My boss at work whom I wrote about last week, the one who helped me do a test on cleaning the tile, has been telling me about these fence posts in his dad’s yard for more than 4 years now. The fence post story comes up from time to time, and each time he says the next time he’s at his father’s place he’ll grab few for me to play around with.

As the legend goes, his father bought the house in 1961 and “almost immediately” tore down the fence because he thought it was ugly. As evidence of the wealth of wood that was around here back then, all of the fence posts were made out of curly redwood, or so my boss said. I always kind of doubted it. I mean, who the hell makes fence posts out of curly redwood?

For those not familiar with it, curly redwood is very similar to tiger maple. I’m not sure if anyone really knows why it happens, but the grain in the wood goes hay-wire from time to time and you end up with a very beautiful wavy pattern in the grain. There is no way of knowing in advance which trees will have this grain. They look normal from the outside, but once you start to mill them you can see the grain.

After his dad tore down the fence more than 35 years ago my boss, who was just a young man at the time, told his dad not to throw away the posts because he was going to use them some day. Some day turned in to more than 35 years and the posts have been piled up in his dad’s back yard ever since. They were left outside in the corner of the yard and in the dirt and have been completely covered over with vines and growth. His dad lives out side of town on something larger than a regular city lot. I’ve never been to the property but I know there’s a barn there and some other out-buildings. It’s not too far of a stretch to imagine that the posts could have been forgotten about.

Anyway, “some day” has arrived. This morning when I got to work he told me he grabbed a few of the posts over the weekend. He brought me in three to play around with.

You can see from the picture that they are very distorted and convoluted pieces of lumber. Curly redwood can be a challenge to work with even when it’s a flat, milled board, but in this condition, this was going to be a challenge. I knew there would be a lot of waste. I told him from the outset we’d be lucky to get a 1X4 from each post.

I started by trying to rip one side flat on the table saw. I could then determine the maximum thickness and rip the other side. After that I worked on it with a hand plane for a few minutes and then ran each side through one pass on the planer (I need a joiner! Grrr!). I then sanded it with the palm sander with 100 grit. This was just a test, so I would spend a little more time with the boards if I wanted to make some cabinets with them. I picture using it for rails and stiles for cabinet doors. Anyway, here’s what I ended up with.

Believe it or not, that board is as flat as a pancake. It’s really amazing wood.

Here’s a close up of the grain. I’m going to take this in to work with me tomorrow and it will blow his mind. He told me there are 30 or 40 posts. {Grin!}

Sunday, March 11, 2007

New Toy

I went out and picked up the Binford 6100 belt and disk sander. I went and got it today because it was on sale, and as we all know, paying full retail is for chumps and losers. This is primarily going to be used for cleaning the Oberon Saloon salvaged hex tile. I need to grind off the mortar from all 6 of the lovely sides of each and every one of the 3600, 2-inch tiles. Let’s see, 3600 tiles, times 6 sides on a tile…..well I think that equals heaven, that’s what that equals. It should be loads and loads of fun.

Fortunately this is excellent tile cleaning weather so I can look forward to hours and hours of blissful tile cleaning as I listen to the calming hum of the motor on the new belt sander. It just doesn’t get any better. Siiigggghhhh!

I’m going to need to set up a work station so I can work at a comfortable level. Before I do that I need to clean up the shop, which is a horrendous mess. I haven’t see the top of the work bench or the floor of the shop in months because they are both covered with tools, debris, and sawdust.

I did fire up the sander and take it for a spin today. It did work very well. The amount of time it will take to clean one tile will vary depending on the amount of grout. When two tiles separated all of the grout seemed to stick to one of the tiles. Some tiles may only need a cursory bump against the sander, while others will require several seconds of grinding. The job is quite dusty.

Seriously, I can’t wait to get started, but I’m sure in a few weeks I’ll be having nightmares about tiles and be borderline suicidal. Yep, this is the life….Siiigggghhhh!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Zen and the Art of Tile Cleaning

I was in the zone today. With my new and improved tile cleaning method, officially known as “The Two Thumb Method”, I was able to clean a refill two tubs worth of The Oberon Saloon salvaged hex tile in a little over an hour.

I also noticed something interesting today. After emptying one of the tubs of tile I noticed that the bleach that was left behind was very murky. It was so murky that I couldn’t see the bottom of the tub through the 4 or 5 inches of bleach. I had to rake the bottom of the tub with my fingers to make sure I got everything.

The other tub was not so murky. Also, when I was doing this second, less murky tub I had a half dozen more Un-Cleanable Tiles. With the first tub there were none. This could be just a coincidence, or it could not be. I remembered when I bought the initial bleach some of it was a discount brand and some of it was a name brand. Also, in one tub I had to add water because the bleach didn’t cover the tiles and I was too lazy to go back to the store for more bleach.

I think you can see where I’m going with this. Perhaps there is a problem with the one tub. Less murky bleach could mean that I was cleaning less dirty tile in the tub, or it could mean that it’s not getting all the dirt off because the tub is filled with an inferior and more diluted bleach solution. This could be the cause of The Un-Cleanables.

Today after I emptied the tub of tile I also got rid of the bleach and refilled it with a fresh 3 gallons of bleach and I added no water. I put in a new box worth of tile and I also added those 30 or 40 tiles that didn’t come clean from the past two weeks. I’ll know next week how well this works.

I also measured again the two rooms that are getting tile. If I figure in a 5% waste for installation I need 88.5 sq ft. I’ve cleaned 39.1 sq ft of tile so far. If I’m able to get the same amount of clean, neatly stacked tile that I’ve been able to get from each box of haphazardly stacked, jumbled tile I’ve cleaned so far, I should end up with about 95 sq ft. It would seem I’m in very good shape.

The unknown part of the equation is, how much loss will there be when I start to take the grout off. That is the $64,000 question. Unfortunately, I m still several weeks away from answering that question.

Stay tuned.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Mob Rule

The mob has spoken. The window stays.

I took in another light in today just to see what it would look like in real-world conditions. As I suspected the violet light is much more subdued with more lighting in the room. My fears of a violet explosion were unfounded.

An added benefit of keeping the window is that I will have an extra 5 sq ft of tile as a buffer zone because I won’t be tiling over the window. I will need to contact Subway Ceramics for some more quarter round tile, but that’s not a big deal. They were so speedy with the last delivery of tile I will wait until I’m farther along just incase I need any other additional tile.

Another idea I’m toying with is to use the Victorian Cap along the base of the window. It would act as a sill and give me a little more room for a shelf area for shampoo and whatnot. I would need to make sure it is tilted a few degrees to shed water, but think it might look cool and work well.

Victorian Cap

Today I stripped the paint off the sash and tomorrow I will caulk it back to the stone age and prime, and then paint on Sunday. I bought Sherwin Williams Duration paint this time, because it was on sale, and I’m not entirely thrilled with it. It seems to cover well at first, but then things bleed through. I used their “odorless” (Yea, right! Do marketers just think we are all idiots?) oil based primer and then two coats of the Duration on all of the wood work I painted.

On the beadboard bathroom ceiling I had some old water stains. I sanded the wood, then primer, and then 2 top coats, and in some areas the water stains still showed through. I had to go back over it a third time. These were decades old water stains too, because I pulled down some 1950s sheetrock from the ceiling 2 or 3 years ago and I’ve never had a leak in the room.

I had a similar problem with the medicine cabinet. It is made of fir and the original finish was a reddish tinted shellac. I stripped it and sanded but didn’t bother to go all the way to bare wood. I just wanted all the paint off and to get a smooth finish. Even with that, some of the red shellac bled through! There was almost none left but in those little cracks and corners where I missed some I had to go over it a third time! Even after a third coat in some places I still have one small spot with red bleeding through. Next time, I go back to the Super Paint. I’ve never had a problem like that with the Super paint and the laytex primer.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Bathroom Window Dilemma

In the “Bathroom Before” video I shot the other day I showed a window that I said was going bye-bye very soon. Well, this wasn’t entirely accurate. The window happens to be in what will be the shower. Windows in showers just seem like a bad idea because they beg for rot.

The problem is, I can’t really just remove the window. There are issues on the exterior of the house, that I won’t go in to detail now, that makes it difficult to remove the window. It’s a unique situation, that would take a while to explain, so just except the fact that for now removing the window is not an option.

Anyway, the plan has been to put either very dark glass or a very obscure glass in the window and then board it over from the inside. It would be walled over with tile on the inside and become one wall of the shower area. On the outside of the house the window sits a little over 7-feet up on the wall and there is a large box covering a sub-panel just below it. No one would ever be able to look directly in the window. The reason for the obscure glass or tinted glass was so it wouldn’t be obvious from the outside that you are looking at the back side of cement backer board.

It’s a bit of a hack job, I’ll admit, and not something I’m proud of, but it’s not the end of the world either. The window is definitely not original to the house and there is nothing architecturally significant about it. It is a single sash in a jamb that doesn’t open and never has opened. The window was installed in the teens or 20s and the jamb is salvage because it has pulleys for window weights but there is just the one sash that has no place to go. There is evidence that there was a sink on this wall at one time so they must have taken a double hung window, taken out the bottom sash, and raised the sill up.

So yesterday I went back to Stafford Glass to pick out some glass for the window. When I was in there last week getting the Florentine glass I spoke with them about it then. They showed me some dark tinted glass, but it only came in quarter-inch thick glass. Normal window glass is an eighth of an inch thick. This was that kind of glass that was very popular in the 70s & 80s for making those glass front stereo cabinets. Remember those? Ugh!

The other options were the myriad of obscure glass that they had to offer. There are more than 40 to chose from. Prices start at around $10 a sq ft and go up to about $22 a sq ft. Not cheap as far as glass goes. I need 5.5 sq ft to do the window. I needed something that would really obscure the view, and wouldn’t you know it, the nicer looking glass that really obscures the view was up in the $15 to $20 range. We’re talking around $100 to put new glass in a window I’ll never be able to look out of.

As I said in an earlier post, Stafford Glass is a small shop run by a husband and wife team. It was the wife who was showing me the glass samples and as we looked at the different samples and figured the price I let out the appropriate guttural sounds of someone who doesn’t want to part with $100 for glass. As we were looking she mentioned to me that her and her husband were retiring and the shop would be closing for good in 18 months when their current lease runs out. It’s a great loss for the community.

She finally suggested we go out in to the shop and look at remnants. They are eager to begin to clear out inventory instead of ordering new glass. We started going through the glass and either nothing caught my fancy or the pieces were too small. Finally she pulled out a piece of purple glass. She called it violet. It was heavily textured with….well look at the picture and come up with your own description. She said it was a piece of salvaged glass and she would let it go for $5 a sq ft. If you’ve read my blog for more than a week you know what my answer was.

Salvaged glass..…Relatively cheap…. Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding! We have a winner!

See the old pulleys at the top left and right

I don’t know if this is salvage from the 1870s or the 1970s, but it doesn’t matter, I really like the color. As I was putting it in though, the plan was still to cover it up from the inside. I put it in last night and finished up pretty late. Today when I got home from work I went in to the kitchen and I could see the color streaming out of the bathroom. The window faces south and the color from the sun hitting the glass just changes the whole room. It’s just spectacular. This was at midday and the whole room was bathed in this pale purple, er...I mean violet light. At dusk it became more subdued but still very pleasant. In the evenings it looks like almost black glass, but there is still a bit of color to it.

Now I’m thinking I should keep the window. I wouldn’t have any wood trim around it. Instead I would tile inside the jamb all the way to the sash and use quarter round tile at the 90 degree angle at the transition from the wall to the jamb. The sash is redwood and will be painted. I can goop up any gaps with high quality caulk (3M 5200 to the rescue!)

On the other hand, I have to ask myself, would the violet color be too much? Would I get sick of the bathroom always bathed in violet light. There is the other stained glass window on the other wall that is boarded over right now to protect the glass, so the light from that window may tone it down a little. Also, the room is not well lit now, but will be when the bathroom is finished. Good lighting should also tone down the violet color. I’m not sure what to do.

It’s not something I have to decide on right now. I’ll live with it for a few days and think it over.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Kitchen After: The Movie

After being blown away by my directorial debut, Kathy asked to see footage of the finished kitchen and upstairs bathroom. I had to shoot this one several times. There were script problems from day-one. The caterer never showed up and so the Best Boy and Key Grip walked off the set. Everyone knows you can’t shoot a film without a topnotch Best Boy and Key Grip. Bunch of prima donnas.

I did shoot this one three times because it was coming out too long. The first one was 6-minuets long, which makes for a huge upload. I don’t know if anyone’s noticed this about me, but I can be long-winded at times. I thought about just shooting 6-minutes and then cleaning it up in post-production, but I don’t have a post-production department, so that wasn’t going to happen. I was aiming for 2 minuets, but I settled on 3. It still seems rushed to me.

Some things about the kitchen: First, it’s still not complete. I mention how I’m moving the fridge eventually. This whole back of the house is like one big puzzle and some items are not in their proper place at this point. The fridge is one of them. I also want to put towel racks on either side of the island but after looking and looking I couldn’t find anything I liked and then sort of forgot about it altogether. Shooting the video made me think of this again, so the hunt is on once more. Also, the cast iron stove is about a foot too close to the wall. It needs to come out, and insulated metal panels, like tin ceiling panels, will go behind it in front of the beadboard. This is low priority since the chimneys are chopped off in the attic at this point.

The one thing I would call a design flaw with the kitchen is the space between the stove and the wall where you would pass to go in to the alcove where the fridge will eventually be. On paper this seemed bigger, but in reality it is tighter than I would like it to be. It’s not a serious issue, though. If someone is standing in front of the stove cooking and someone needs to get to the fridge, someone might need to step aside a little. So long as it doesn’t come to blows, it shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s not like 3 people are racing to the fridge at one time.

Others might think the lack of cabinets and counters are a big design flaw. Well, I won’t make excuses for the kitchen. I love it the way it is. I just didn’t see a point in putting in acres of cabinets and counters that seemed unnecessary to me. In my last house the POs put in crappy cabinets and counters but they put in a ton of them. Every wall in what was a moderately sized kitchen was lined with cabinets and counters. I lived in the house for 3 years and never had anything in more than half of them. I swore I wouldn’t do that in this house.

So, here’s the kitchen. For newer readers of the blog, the kitchen was what I worked on and blogged about for the first year or so of the blog. It wasn’t exactly a gut-remodel, but it was very, very extensive.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Quietly Cleaning Tile

Hmmm, maybe it hasn’t been all that quiet. There is quite a bit of grumbling and the occasional profanity while I’m cleaning, I just haven’t been blogging about it that much. I’m talking about the salvaged 2-inch hex tile that I got from The Oberon Saloon.

The bleach method works well, but there is still some scrubbing to be done on about half the tile. There is also a small percentage that just won’t come clean. I call these tiles “The Uncleanables”. Clever, don’t you think? Out of the 1200 or so tiles I’ve cleaned so far, I’ve had 30 or 40 of them that remain gray no matter what I try. Thirty or forty is not bad so far, but my fear is that I will hit a big run of them and lose several, or even dozens of square feet of tile.

I have two plastic bins and I can load about 6 or 7 sq ft of tile in to each one. I fill them with bleach and let them sit for a week. After a week I take the tiles out one at a time, give each a little rub, and then rinse them in a third pale that has clean water in it. At first I was using a green scrubby, but surprisingly that didn’t work all that great. I also tried a brass wire toothbrush sized brush, but it was slow to use. What ended up being the most efficient method was my thumbs in the rubber gloves.

The fingers and palms of the cheap-o dish gloves are covered with little rubber bumps smaller than a be-be. The bumps are packed together tightly and make a very effective cleaning tool. I take a tile in my hands and rub the surface with both thumbs at once. This method not only works the fastest but does a more complete job. With the green scrubby I always had to scrub the tile and then look at it, and then scrub some more to get any spots I missed. The scrubby is so porous that there is not enough surface contact. When I use my thumbs the tile surface starts out as grungy and there is a slight resistance as I rub my thumbs on the tile. As it becomes clean though, the surface become slick and you can just feel that the tile is clean. Most tiles take a matter of seconds.

It takes about 2 hours start to finish to clean all the tiles in the two tubs and to refill the tubs. Two hours is about all I can take in a sitting. It’s not the most comfortable work in the world. Lots and lots of time to contemplate the Universe.


After. Each finished box of clean tile contains 220 tiles and I have 5 and a partial so far.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Screen Test

Ok, so this is the first official Petch House video. I shot a “before” video of the bathroom today and uploaded it to YouTube.Com. The quality is not great. I shot it on my little HP Photosmart 735 camera. The video is only 19 frames per second, as opposed to 30 frames per second for TV quality video.

Aside from poor quality, another draw back to it is the file size. The total running time is 2:13 and the file size is 31MB. It takes quite a long time to upload it and to have YouTube make it available. My camera shoots in AVI format, so other formats might have better compression, but I have no utilities for conversion, so this is something I’ll need to look in to if I plan on doing more of this.

For those of you not familiar with some of the things I’m referring to in the video, you can use the search box at the bottom of this page and search The Petch House for keywords: Frankenstein Hutch, Kitchen Island, Queen Anne Door, and Mortimer

Anyway, with out further ado, here is my directorial debut. I think this could be an Oscar contender, but I’ll let my peers decide.

Directors Notes: In the brief scene where the camera is aiming out the window you see Marcus walking by. He owns the property next door to me and is just a heck of a nice guy. He’s working with a group to try and bring back a historic railroad to the Humboldt Bay. The group has acquired an original 1890s round house and work shop with all of it’s tools and machinery, and a locomotive that used to haul logs around the bay 100 years ago. I’ve agreed to help him this summer to do some restoration work on the round house. Should be fun.

Also, I was trying to get Mort to express a sense of anguish one gets living in a house that is undergoing constant change and disruption, but that the cat just won’t take direction.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Poll: How Popular Are You

OK, so we all do it. We all look at our blog stats or counters to see how many people read our blogs. It’s kind of like looking at yourself in the mirror just after you get out of the shower. There’s nothing the matter with it so long as you don’t stand there forever and go on and on about how stunning you look. The reality is, most of us are not completely satisfied with what we see in the mirror, nor will we every be completely satisfied with the number on the hit counter. You can never be too thin, too rich, too young, or have too many people visit your blog.

I noticed some changes just after I switched to The New Blogger (a.k.a. Blogger Beta). For some reason I was getting about 350 page views a day with the old Blogger, but a few weeks after I switched to the new Blogger I was averaging closer to 600 page views a day. I can’t help but wonder if Google did something so that the New Blogger posts - not just mine, of course, but any New Blogger post – would come up higher in a Google search result. This would increase the click-throughs to Blogger pages and maybe increase ad revenue for Blogger pages that have Ad Sense, which most do. Technically, I don’t think that constitutes “Being Evil”, but if something like that is happening it does beg the question of just how egalitarian the Google search results are. The only other explanation I can think of is that the quality of my writing improved 40% over a few weeks time, and we all know that didn’t happen.

Another intersting thing I noticed recently is that the number of daily hits dropped a bit in the days following my “Driving Traffic” post where I conspicuously and repeatedly dropped the names of several of the worlds current batch of one-hit-wonders. I’m not sure if that was just a coincidence, but I can tell you one thing, I’m never mentioning P*ris H*lton on my blog ever again.

So the question is: How Popular Are You? It’s just like high school all over again, isn't it? I decided to do page views because I don’t think every site distinguishes between unique visitors and over all page views. Here’s a brief explanation for those who don’t get the distinction. If one person comes to your site and views 5 different pages than that would equate to one unique visitor and five page views. You can also look at how long people stay at your site to give an indication of how much people enjoy your site. Five unique visitors who stay 20 minutes each would probably be better than 10 unique visitors who stay only 5 seconds each. Those 10 people must not be finding what they are looking for and they move on quickly and never get a chance to see your pretty and colorful ads that are just begging to be clicked on.

So go ahead and mark your vote and then see how you compare to your peers. Of course, in some ways this is all pointless because someone like me who writes incessantly on their blog has a good chance of having a higher count then someone who only posts occasionally. It's all in good fun, though.....unless I fare poorly in the poll. Then it really will be just like high school all over again {sniff}.

Average Page Views A Day
Don’t know and don’t care.
Less than 50
50 to 75
75 to 100
100 to 150
150 to 200
200 to 300
300 to 400
400 to 500
500 to 600
600 to 800
800 to 1000
1000 to 1400
1400 to 1800
1800 to 2500
2500 to 3500
3500 to 6000
6000 to 10,000
More than 10,000
Free polls from

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Video Interlude

I thought about playing around with You Tube to post videos of projects on the blog. I’ve signed up for an account but I haven’t posted anything yet. Mainly because I don’t have anything to post at this point. Still, it’s an interesting idea. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how much would a 2 minute video of a completed bathroom be worth?

The only video camera I have is on my digital still-shot camera. I’ve never really used it but it will shoot about 8 minuets of video with sound. The quality is not great but it should be good enough. Last night I rented the Will Ferrell movie Stranger Than Fiction. It was a pretty good movie. In one scene he is riding on the bus reading a book and in the background they are playing “That’s Entertainment” by The Jam. I had forgotten all about this song and so I searched it out on You Tube this morning. Enjoy!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Cabinet Update

Nothing too exciting to report at the old Petch House today, but does that stop me from posting anyway. Not on your life. If I get to experience the tedious boredom of mortising hinges, then we all suffer through it together. That’s the way it works in the blogosphere.

The cabinets are coming together ever so slowly. It’s just two stupid cabinets but it seems like it is taking me forever to make them. I blame my hero, Norm Abram for my distorted sense of time. He is always whipping through projects on his show in no time at all. It seems that man can build anything in 26 minutes and 46 seconds. When I do the same thing it takes two weeks.

But I am in the cabinet end-game and it feels good. I got the two doors hung today and yesterday I finished the drawer. The drawer came out pretty good, despite a few set backs.

Here’s the small one with the door hung. It is a bit on the narrow side but it will be for bath towels only so it should be fine. The interior is 14X12 inches.

All that’s left for this one is an inside bottom and a single shelf. The bottom is nothing more than another shelf so really it’s just two pieces of wood. I’m hoping to finish that tomorrow but at the pace I’m going it will take a week. I wonder if I can use my pocket hole jig to secure those shelves in there. Hmmmm….maybe not.

This is the corner cabinet with the fancy new drawer. Of course, I planned this all along. In the next picture you can see the screwy shape I had to make the drawer because it is a corner cabinet. When I removed the 1920s addition to the house I kept all the drawers from the two rental kitchens. They made really big, deep drawers back then so they’re all made out of full dimensional 1X10 fir with solid wood panels for the bottoms. They are really very nice and I couldn't bring myself to throw them away.

The reason I mention the old drawers is because I used one of the smaller ones to make the drawer for this cabinet. They did not use glue on the 1920s cabinets so it was pretty easy to pry the small drawer apart and reuse the pieces to make the new drawer. All of the pieces already had the dado in it to except the bottom panel and I had the solid piece of quarter inch thick fir for the panel. I still have 8 or 9 of those old drawers I can use in other projects.

The corner cabinet will only have a bottom and no shelves. This will be for cleaning supplies, TP, plunger, etc. I had an extra drawer pull left over from the kitchen and the hunt is on for a pair of cabinet latches. Tomorrow I’m going to take the doors off and begin to paint them. I’ll also work on the shelves this weekend. After that I’ll install the glass and those babies will be done! Wooo-Hooo! One step closer to tile-mania!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Tile’s Here!

Finally, someone who knows what they are doing. After my recent troubles with bathroom parts and marble I was beginning to wonder if anyone either cared or knew what the heck was going on. Last Friday I faxed in my billing information to Subway Ceramics and the tile arrived today!

I was so excited to have it that I wanted to play around with it a little so I made a little fort with all the boxes and sort of hung out for a while. I’m only kidding. I did crack open a few boxes and laid out a run of tile on the coffee table. It is beautiful tile. It is truly a historically accurate subway tile, with squared edges and smooth sides.

Early on I was being swayed by the Iron Gate tile because of the fancy base tile they had, but after looking at more historic bathroom pictures it seemed that that style of base molding is not all that accurate. Aside from that, the quality of the Subway Ceramics tile is superior. For one thing, it doesn’t have the dribbles of glaze over the edges like the Iron Gate tile does. That would have caused problems with trying to get the tight grout lines that I want. If you order the sample board from you also get a sample of the Subway Ceramics tile so you can see for yourself.

I worked with Keith Bieneman, the general manager of Subway Ceramics when I ordered the tile. At this point when you go to it’s a not quite clear that you are working with Subway Ceramics. As Keith explained it to me, Subway Ceramics distributes Iron Gate tile through the web site. Subway Ceramics makes their own tile which is sold under the name “Subway Ceramics”. In Keith’s own words…

Our Subway Ceramic tile is the only true, historically accurate reproduction tile collection for capturing the essence of traditional tile work in new installations. We feature this line on the right sidebar on the homepage of, with a link to its own website at

In the coming months we will be making some changes to the way we present the Iron Gate series, and our own Subway Ceramics collection will be given more attention there as we setup up dealer showrooms throughout the country and make the product more accessible to homeowners.

So if you’re having troubles getting pricing, delivery, or ordering information for Subway Ceramics, hold tight, it seems to be coming. For me, the delivery of the product came out of a LA warehouse and was about a third of the cost of delivery I was quoted for the Iron Gate tile off the tile. I had it shipped common carrier to my place of business. It came on a pallet in 25 boxes.

I’m going to finish the bathroom cabinets, and then I have a little more framing to do, but after that I can start setting tile. It’s all very exciting. I would think in about 2 weeks I should be ready to start setting tile!