Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Marathon Man

Quick, what’s 123X36X6? You give up? That equals 26,568 2-inch sides of pure, living hell.

One hundred and twenty three square feet of tile.
Thirty six tiles to a square foot.
Six sides on a tile.

Is that right? Does that really come to 26,568, or did I do that math wrong? That number seems too big, but regardless, the fucking tile is cleaned. I cleaned all of the Fucking, God Damned Oberon Saloon tile!

It’s done!

I finished!

Now I need to install it. My life is a chaotic mess at the moment, so it looks like Saturday, at the earliest.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Tub Is Ready

I painted the outside of the tub today and attached the newly {Shwing!} nickel plated feet.

I glued the tub to the ceiling to get it out of the way and make it easier to work on. I used more of the 3M 5200 Marine Adhesive Caulk to stick it up there. Boy, this 3M 5200 is incredibly strong stuff. Even through the cardboard it’s holding the tub up there. I hope I can get the tub down when the time comes.

This tub came out of the downstairs rental bathroom that was in the 2 story addition I removed. The tub is dated 1922 but the toilet was dated 1926, so I’m not sure exactly when the addition was built. Either they had an old tub, or the toilet was replaced very early on.

The visible side in the picture will be against the wall once it’s installed. The other side, that you can’t see in the picture, had never been painted, which is cool. I should be able to get a good long lasting paint job on the bare cast iron. I sanded the whole thing down and then washed it. After that I applied a few coats of flat black Rustoleum.

I painted the upstairs tub the same way. I like the contrast between the white enamel on the inside and the flat black on the outside. Also, the nickel feet really stand out against the black. I didn’t nickel plate the feet on the upstairs tub because I’m really a cheap bastard. You wouldn’t know it the way I’m spending money on the downstairs bathroom, but really I am. On the upstairs tub I just painted them with a sliver paint. The main reason I plated the feet for the downstairs tub was because of the design of the shower, otherwise they would have gotten the silver paint as well. These feet will see a lot more water, so I’m hoping the plating will protect them some.

Here it is after I got it off the ceiling and with the feet attached. The inside of the tub is in mostly very good condition, with the exception of the area just under the faucet. It looks like some lazy ass landlord didn’t fix a leaky faucet for like 40 years or something. (Me yelling at the window while shaking my fist, “Damn you lazy bastards! Damn you to hell!”). It’s not rust, so much as the enamel is worn down. There is noticeable discoloration. Once I get it hooked up to water I’m going to see how well it cleans up with some Bar Keepers Friend and a little grunt work.

If that doesn’t work I will sand that area a bit and paint it with some white enamel spray paint. Someone told me once that this is a good way to fix minor problems like this. There is a special paint to use, but I don’t know what it is. I think Sacto Diane mentioned it on one of the forums once. I’ll need to search her out. I’ve been told that even a good resurfacing will only last about 5 years, so I’m trying to stave off that as long as possible.

And fiiiinally (Say that with as much exasperation as is possible) I finished working under the house. My goal is to not crawl under the house for 12 months straight. That will be a record. After I finished all of the drains for the tub, the last thing to do was finish the exhaust for the dryer. Right where that dryer vent is there was a “after market” hatch added to the house. It wasn’t done well and has been broken since the day I bought the place. I think it was added by a plumber or electrician in the last 20 years or so.

There are 2 other real access hatches to get under the house, but because of the rats nest of pipes and wires under the house from the apartment days, it was impossible to get from Point A to Point B while under the house. Anyway, I had a few pieces of the original bead board skirting that I found under the addition I removed, so I got rid of the crappy hatch and just boarded it over with the beadboard.

You’ll notice the ham loaf just had to be in the picture. I swear, I think he understands the concept of photography.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Purchasing Punch List

I'm thinking Bathroom End Game here. I got the last of the Oberon Saloon tile out of the bleach today. I have exactly 1.8 boxes left to de-grout and then I can start the installation. I ended up with 123 sq ft of tile. I think I need about 90 sq ft, so I won’t need to worry about the stuff that either won’t come clean or is too badly damaged. I’m guessing that is close to 10 sq ft. I should be in great shape.

There are still a few more small purchases that need be made, though. They're small, but they add up.

2 Push Button Light Switches. I bought all of the other switches in the house from House of Antique Hardware when I re-wired 4 years ago. At that time I only paid $12.75 a piece for them. (I say "only" like $12.75 is a good price for a light switch) They are now $15.79 each at House of Antique Hardware. The interesting thing is, these are made by Classic Accents. When I bought them 4 years ago, House of Antique Hardware had a better price than Classic Accents. Today I tried to find the Classic Accents web site but couldn’t. Still, I’ll shop around. A lot of places carry these now. For now, I’ll say $30.

1 GFCI Plate Cover. This is also from House of Antique Hardware. It matches everything else in the house. I have a double switch plate and a standard outlet plate in the same design already, so I just need the one GFCI plate. $10.79. I don’t recall if this is what I paid 4 years ago, but I remember paying around $6 for all of the single switch plate covers in the same design. They are now $9.79.

3 Angle Stop Valves. These are the shut off valves for the water supply lines for the toilet and sink. All of the plumbing is exposed, so I want something nice. I’ll get these from Mac The Antique Plumber. The picture is brass, but I’ll get them in chrome. Nickel is not an option on these. They are $31.20 each, so that’s $93.60. DEA Bath carries them as well, but that are $39.00 each for the exact same thing.

Thinset, grout, and caulk for the tile floor. The caulk is the 3M stuff, so that’s $33.00. The grout and thinset are another $35, so together that comes to $68.00.

Soap Dish for the Tub. The ones in the picture are $36.00, but I think I can do better. I’ll say $25.00

Oak Toilet Seat. The one in the picture is $27. That seems about right.

Sink Clamps. The new vanity is missing the clamps to hold the under-mount bowl on. DEA Bath has them for $19.50

Drain Assemble. This is for the antique sink as well. I forgot to order it months back when my DEA Bath odyssey began. This is around $40.00, and this is another DEA Bath part. There are several to chose from on their site so this means I’m going to need to call and ask questions. I’m absolutely dreading it. The guys that run the front desk are just so incompetent. It’s just unbelievable.

I think I’m going to call on them Tuesday because by the time I get the order and return it several times it could be more than a month for me to get the correct parts.

I think that’s pretty much everything. There is still the window and door to trim out, and I need to hang the door, and put on the door hardware, but I have all of that. The light fixtures need to be hung, but they are all ready to go. Unless I forgot something, I have all of the other plumbing parts for the sink, toilet, and tub. I have all of the shelves, hooks, TP holder, and things like that. The two cabinets I built are complete and painted.

The total for the things above comes to $312.89. I’ll round up to $350.00 to cover any shipping or taxes, and I’m sure there will be more sandpaper and drill bits to buy. At least all of the spending of money on the bathroom is coming to an end. This has been one of the more expensive projects I’ve done. I think maybe only the kitchen was more. Bathrooms and kitchens….man, do they take a toll on the old wallet.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Anatomy of a Petch Shower

For the start of this story, and if you want to comment on this, please read the May 21st blog entry.

Let me just say that now that I’ve done this, there are definitely things I would have done differently, if I had the chance to do it over. I guess that is one of the consequences of being iconoclastic, to put it politely. Stubborn and obstinate might be a less polite way to put it. Be that as it may, the floor is done and I think it will work.

The existing framing of the floor presented the first challenges. You can see I’ve numbered the joists. The faucet and shower head will be on the right in this picture. Joist number one presented the first problem. The wall just to the left of it is the “wet wall” I built. This meant I couldn’t really remove the sub floor there because this wall is no longer sitting directly over a joist. Also, because of all of the new plumbing, I couldn’t get a new joist under it. This would have been so much easier had I come up with the idea prior to building the bathroom, but there’s nothing I can do about that now, so let’s move on.

Joist number 2 and 3 are standard 2X10 joists. Joist number 3 ended up being the low point. Joists number 4 & 5 were at one time the exterior wall of the house. They sit on top of an 8X6 sill. Then there are the 3, 2X6 joists labeled as 6. These sit on a 4X6 that makes up the new exterior wall. This is a single story section of the house and they pushed the back wall out about a foot back in the 20s.

I shaved the joists to make the slope for the floor. Joist 3 became the low point and joist 4 was just trimmed down and abandoned. I added more of the 2X6 joists, and there is a new 4X6 support for joists 2 and 3. Joists 5 & 6, of course, sit on the 6X8, so they needed no extra support. Out of the picture there is another 4X6 support for joist 1 and the next joist to the left. The plumbing made it difficult to extend a single 4X6 to pick up all of the joists.

This small area of the house, right along that new wet wall, has a claw foot tub, 40 gallon water heater, washer, dryer, marble vanity, toilet, the cement floor under the tub, and all of the tile. The extra support might be over-kill, but as I said the other day, the floor was open and I had the lumber and piers laying around, so why not.

I then put the sub floor back in and I had the pre-slope, except for the one, 6-inch section at the far left. As it turns out it has a subtle slant to it in the right direction, but it would have been much better to include it in the shower area. I don’t think it will cause problems though, because when the shower spry hits to that area it will be completely contained in the tub. I mean, the last I checked water still runs down hill, so if a little water back there it should be ok.

I used an Oatey pan liner and drain for this. I thought the pan liner was going to be some high-tech polymer sheeting, but it’s just 40 mil PVC. Big whoop. I used both T-Rex polyurethane caulk and the 3M 5200 Marine Adhesive Caulk to install the liner. For the purpose of this discussion, I won’t really distinguish between the 2. I extended the pan liner all the way to the left and used the 3M 5200 Marine Adhesive to secure the liner and the piece of cement board. This would never be sufficient for a floor people would walk on, but once the tub is in place it will be impossible to walk on it. The tub will be centered in this area with 4 inches on all 4 sides between it and the tile. The liner extends a little ways under the cove of the tile and all seams where tile and liner meet are sealed with 3M 5200, as well. Oatly recommend the liner extend 2-inches up the wall, but that didn’t happen. All of the cement board in this area does sit 4-inches of the ground on top of redwood.

The faucet and tub drain presented the other problem. There is nothing you can do about the drain, but had I thought this through more I might have had the faucet supplies come out of the wall. To late for that. I cut the pan liner as best I could when I laid it in and then used a secondary piece with more of the 5200 to seal everything up. This will all get additional 5200 once the tile is set.

And finally today I laid the cement floor and created the final slop for the drain. The cement mix for this type of installation is very dry and sandy, and I found it very difficult to work with. I was supposed to use a screed (a long, flat piece of wood) to smooth it out and create the slope, but I found that very difficult as well. I think this is one of those things where this is what the pros use because they’ve been doing it for years and apprenticed under someone for years. I’m not a pro and I’m not going to master the art in one shot. I got out my plaster trowel and a straight edge, and along with level, I was able to get a smooth, even slope towards the drain. My slope is a little deeper on the right than on the left, but last time I checked water still runs down hill. I will be working with a much lower volume of water than a standard shower, so I hope it will be ok.

I’m sure if a professional tile setter saw what I was doing he would say I was nuts and this will never work. I don’t have a problem with that at all. They generally don’t get paid to try new things and I don’t really blame them. If something goes wrong then they will be called back to fix it. Why do one job that you’ve never tried before when there are 10 jobs where you can pound out the same shower stall you’ve done a hundred times before. So, we’ll see what happens. I’ve very excited about it. I think it’s going to work.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Little Help

So I started thinking to myself today, I’m not going to be able to test this shower by myself. I can’t be standing in the tub taking a shower, while at the same time watching the drain under shower to make sure the drain works properly. That’s right, I’m going to need some help.

So all day today I asked women if they wouldn’t mind coming to my house in a few weeks so I can watch them take a shower in my new bathroom. You wouldn’t believe some of the reactions I got! I was slapped, kicked, punched, and yelled at. One woman even tasered me! What the hell’s the matter with people that they are so offended when someone asks for help? I don’t get it.

Is it just me, or has our society taken a wrong turn when it’s no longer appropriate for a strange man to ask a woman to come to his house so he can watch her take a shower? What has become of our society?

Maybe I’m phrasing the question wrong. Maybe I should be asking if they want to come over and watch me take a shower. I’ll try that tomorrow and see if I get a better response. I just hope there’s no more tasers. That first one left a mark.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Shower Drain

The idea here is to have a claw foot tub with a shower but not have that all encompassing shower ring that makes you feel as if you’re showering in a condom. At the same time, I don’t want the shower stall type installation with the 6-inch curb and the thick build up of a sloped cement floor. A large portion of the water will be contained in the tub, but some of it will splash off the body and go over the side. It is this water that presents the challenge. Keep in mind when reading this that it will be virtually impossible to walk on this floor, because the tub will take up all of the space. This is a tile floor made up of half-inch thick tiles under a claw foot tub.

First some ground rules for this series of posts. To all of the nattering nabobs of negativity who will be chomping at the bit to fire off a comment telling me I’m doing it wrong as you’re reading this, please save your keystrokes. With all due respect, just because you read something some place that tells of a different way to do it, does not necessarily make you an expert, so please keep your doomsday opinions to yourself because I don’t want to hear it. If anybody wants to leave a comment regarding any of the topics in the following list, you will be wasting your time. It’s not my fault that you lack the ability of creative thought and are afraid to try something that has not been explained to you by a professional.

Yes, I familiar with the John Bridge tile forum
No, I didn’t ask them what they think about the installation
Yes, I know about Terry Love’s tile forum
No, I didn’t ask them what they think about the installation
Yes, I know this hasn’t been certified by some ANSI geek in a lab coat
No, I don’t think I’m going to destroy my house
Yes, I know about “wet floor” installations
Yes, I know that a traditional shower stall could have as much as 3-inches of cement
No, I’m not using a Kerdi Drain system
Yes, I know how to properly mix cement and sand for this type of mud bed
No, it is not too thin of a mud bed.
Yes, my old redwood plank sub floor is thick enough
No, I don’t think plywood would have made a better sub floor

Now that we understand each other, let’s move on.

The first plan was to use 3M’s 5200 Marine Adhesive Caulk to caulk each tile instead of grout. As a note of interest, when I first mentioned this idea it was poo-pooed by a few readers. Some even sent me emails telling me this was a bad idea and would never work. The funny thing is, none of them said they had used or even heard of the product. I mean, if someone emails me saying they’ve used the product for the last 10 years and said this may not be a good application for it, I would thank them. To just fire off an email when you have no idea what your talking about, I find a little insulting. Another interesting point is that while I was researching the product I found a professional tile installer who regularly uses the 5200 caulk on marble tiles in shower stalls because he doesn’t want grout lines. That’s right, I said no grout.

I bought a tube of 3M’s 5200 Marine Adhesive Caulk. First off, it ain’t cheap at all. It is roughly 10 times more expensive the your average 30 year door and window caulk. I did tests with silicone caulk, polyurethane caulk, and the 3M caulk. I took several tiles and glued them together to see how each caulk held up.

The tiles are the Oberon Saloon tiles and they are a half inch thick, unglazed porcelain tile. Silicone caulk worked about as well as toothpaste on the almost polished edge of the tile. The polyurethane caulk was better, but failed very quickly. The 3M caulk would flex more than a quarter of an inch before peeling away from the tile. Given that I am doing 1/16 inch grout lines, that means the tiles would need to separate 4 times their installed tolerance before failure. I don’t think that’s possible, unless I were to be hit with a 8.0 earthquake.

The real problems with the caulk idea are the installation and the color. The installation would be beyond tedious. These are 2-inch hex tiles and it would take forever to install each tile and clean up the caulk that oozes out as I go. I don’t think it would be a good idea to let this stuff dry on the surface of the tile. After all I’ve been through with salvaging and cleaning the tiles, I’m not sure I could go through that. The other issue is the white color of the caulk. I’m doing gray grout, and it would look odd to have two different colors of grout in the room. So I ditched the idea.

Then Aaron over at HiP told me about an article in the March issue of Fine Home Building. They were doing something similar to me. They wanted a shower that had no curb. Theirs was not a claw-foot tub, but just a regular shower. What they did was frame the floor of the shower area 4 inches lower than the rest of the room. They could then build back up to the rest of the floor in the room and still have the slope towards the drain.

This is great idea, but it is better suited for new construction. For me it would have taken major reframing of the bathroom floor, and I wasn’t really prepared to do that. I thought and I thought and I thought and I thought and I thought and I thought and I thought….and then I thought some more. There must be away to achieve what I want. Then a few weeks ago while I was plastering the bathroom, an idea came to me. It was odd. I was in the yard hosing out the mixing tub and thought, why not lower the existing floor in the tub area just a few inches. I thought, what is the point of going down 4 inches and then building back up with cement.

The tub area is about 5 feet long. With the drain in the center, if I need a quarter inch per foot slope, then that is only about a half inch of slope I need. So I started to wonder what is the minimum thickness of the floor I would need. The drain for a shower stall has a main drain and then a supplemental drain. There is a membrane under the floor that catches water that inevitably gets under the tile. This water makes it’s way along the membrane and drains in to the supplemental drain.

You need to have a sturdy floor on top of the membrane to set the tile. You can't have any type floor that needs to be fastened with nails or screws, because they would poke a hole in the membrane. This is the reason for all of the cement. You build up the floor in layers. You start with a flat floor and build up a “pre slope”. This is for the membrane to sit on and it slopes towards the supplemental drain. Then you pour the main cement floor on top of this. This creates the main slope of a quarter inch pre foot slope so water drains properly in the shower.

So what is the minimum thickness of this floor. Well, at it’s lowest point at the drain it is 1.25 inches (or 1.5 inches, depending on who you ask). It gets progressively thicker as it moves away from the drain. I went to one of the tile forums and asked a serious of questions. I never really said what I was doing, because I would get a hail storm of people telling me I was crazy. I’ll be honest with you, I have no idea if this will work, but you know the old saying, no gut’s no glory. If this is a failure I'm perfectly secure in the fact that I tried and failed, and I will go to a traditional shower ring. But how will I know if it will work or not unless I try.

Anyway, I had a excruciating series of discussions with tile guys and it was eventually decided that if the floor was flat then an inch and a quarter cement surface was sufficient to set tile. That’s all I needed. I just need to come up with an inch and a quarter at the edges, and an inch and three quarters at the drain. I need the quarter inch per foot slope at the drain, that’s the reason for the extra half inch there.

The rest of the room has half inch cement board on it, so you can lop a half inch off all of those measurements. So now I only need to come up with three quarters of an inch at the edge and an inch and a quarter at the drain. If I can do that, I can cover the whole area with an inch and a quarter of cement; create the slope; have the membrane; have the supplemental drain. Wham-bam-thank you mam! There is also the issue of conatainment. Remember, I don't want the curb, but more on that later.

So starting on Saturday, I pulled up the sub floor and started shaving joists. I basically created the entire slope of the shower area by trimming the tops of three or four joists. I started with the most inelegant of tools – the reciprocating saw – and finished them off with a hand plane. It went pretty well. I had to add in some extra framing, but it wasn’t too bad. You need to consider that I’m starting with full dimensional 2X10 joists so even if I take three quarters of an inch off the top, I still have more wood than a modern 2X10. Still, the floor is open, and I had the lumber and piers from the 2 story addition I took down, so what the hell. One things for sure, this is now the firmest floor in the entire house.

It’s still a work in progress and I’ve been taking lots of pictures. Tomorrow I will put in the membrane and pour the final cement floor. It should be very interesting and I still can’t say how this will work. There are still a few question marks and I’m sort of making it up as I go along. As always, I expect the worst and hope for the best.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

And People Say I’m Dense

Work continues on the bathroom floor. I was hoping to have a progress report and show some pictures, but surprise, surprise, things are taking longer that I thought.

In the mean time, here is a comparison of two joists. One is an 1895, old-growth redwood joists from the bathroom. The other is a scrap end of a redwood 2X12 I got from a friend who works at a mill. The 2X12 was milled about a month ago. Can you tell the difference?

Count The Growth Rings

Friday, May 18, 2007

Triple Digits!

I cleaned another box of The Oberon Saloon tile today, so that brings the grand total of ready to install tile to 105 sq ft! I only have     t-h-r-e-e     m-o-r-e     b-o-x-e-s     left to do, one of which is still soaking in bleach. Oh, will it never end? I thought I had gotten it all out of the bleach a few days ago, but I decided to send some back for another rinse. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I don’t think I will get to any tile this weekend, so realistically I’m looking at Thursday or Friday of next week to finish up. (I plan on getting shit-faced to celebrate) That does mean that I may actually start to install some floor tile next weekend. It's all very exciting, even if a bit tiresome at the same time.

This weekend I’m going to finish the drains for the tub. I think I’ve come up with a pretty good solution for the problem of having a claw-foot tub shower with no shower curtain ring.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Second Marble Vanity Is Here

I mentioned last week or so how I bought a second antique marble vanity on Ebay. It arrived today. I was never thrilled with the first one I bought, but after searching high and low it was pretty much the only thing I could find that would work in the bathroom. Wouldn’t you know it, I would find an even better one after I bought the first one. An even better one that was also cheaper.

The main problem with the first one was the color of the marble. It was kind of a smoky gray color. It’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s just that I have a lot of other marble in the bathroom and adjoining kitchen, and all of that is white marble. Plus, the marble skirting that will go around the sink is also white. I attempted to stain the skirting to match the top, but I didn’t go far enough. The plan was to stain it some more once everything was assembled. I’m glad I waited now. The other problem with the original top was that the milling did not go around all three sides. It was beveled on the front but not the left and right side.

This one was only $114 with shipping, so it’s not huge investment. The picture above is what it looked like seconds after unpacking. You can see it has some nasty discoloration on the upper left. Over all it was very dingy and had a lot of mold on it.

I took it outside and cleaned it with soft scrub cleanser and 180 grit sand paper. I had to get very aggressive with it. I then sanded it with 220, 320, and 400 grit. I may try and polish it little, but I don’t have anything at the moment to polish it with.

The results are dramatic. There is still some minor discoloration in that one corner, but that seems to show up more under the flash of the camera than in real life. The best part is, it now matches the apron. As you can see, this one is beveled on 3 sides. This is how it should look.

Here is the original one. It’s just not as nice in my opinion. You can also see that I was not able to get all of the staining out of this one. To be fair, though, I was not as aggressive in cleaning this one. That might look better with more effort.

Now, does anybody want to buy a slightly used, smoky gray, marble vanity. I can let it go for about $100, not including shipping.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Man About Town

So there I was this morning, standing in front of the bakery eating my Wednesday morning croissant and reading the headlines on the paper machines, when I woman approached me. She said, “You probable don’t remember me but you came to a garage sale I had a few years ago and asked about some stained-glass windows I had”. She was right, I didn’t remember her, which was odd because I go to maybe 2 garage sales a year. If they are more than a half a block out of my way I won’t bother

I like a good deal as much as the next guy, but I don’t have the patience for garage sales. There is just so much crap. In order to find something really good at a garage sale, you either need to be really committed and go to a lot of garage sales, or you need to be really lucky. I am neither. I struggled to remember her, and I tried to be polite, but I just couldn’t recall going to her house.

She described the windows to me and I still didn’t remember. She told me the garage sale was only a block or so from my house. Still, I drew a blank. Finally she described the house to me, and I remembered the sale. The house is on the way to a market that recently relocated to a larger location. I no longer go by there, but I now remembered the house and the sale. The house is another Victorian, although not quite as nice as The Petch House (as if any house could be). It’s a little on the plain side, but still a nice house.

I remembered the sale because I actually left with something. In her backyard there was a stack of 6 or 7 of those large foam, inter-locking pads you see put down on finished floors during construction. They were sitting in the backyard in the mud and I asked how much she wanted for them. She said they were free if I would just get them out of her yard. I happily scooped them up. Each pad is about 3 feet square and when inter-locked with each other they make a nice walking surface so you don’t scratch up floors or track dirt around the house during a major project. They were covered in mud but I drooled over them. They’re one of those things you would never see in a DIYers home. These could instantly lend an air of credibility to any project I do.

I took them home and threw them in my side yard were they sat for about 9 months until somebody stole them. I never did get to use them. Anyway, the woman said she still had the windows and asked if I wanted them. She also would be replacing the windows in her current home, a Craftsman Bungalow, in about 2 weeks and asked if I wanted those as well. I instantly said yes, and then asked how many there were. She said she has a “VW bus full” right now, and in 2 weeks there will be 28 sashes (I know the plural of sash is sash, but I refuse to use it) coming out of the bungalow.

Again, I said I was interested, but politely cautioned her that I wouldn’t be able to pay her for them. She said that’s fine, she just doesn’t want to pay the disposal fee to the company replacing the windows. At this point, it was all I could do to keep from asking her if she was putting in vinyl windows. I was afraid if she said yes, I might climb up on one of the newspaper machines and break in to a sermon decrying the evils of vinyl windows. I decided I didn’t want to spoil the deal of getting a bunch of free windows, so I didn’t take the conversation down that path.

We left the delivery of the sashes (there, I said it again) up in the air. She knows where I live and said she would bring them by. I told her if she sees my truck out front, I’m home, otherwise leave them on the side of the house. I’m not sure what I’ll do with them, but at least they’re not going to the dump.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Shiny, Pretty Things Have Arrived

Late last night UPS delivered a box to me from my good friends at Astro Chrome & Polish. There were a few surprises, but all and all, I am very pleased with the results.

Above is the shot of what I had nickel plated. None of these things had ever been plated. They were unfinished brass when I sent them in. The tub waste and feet are from the 1920s and made by Crane. The tub was from one of the rental unit bathrooms I removed from the house, so they were a low-end Crane item.

The odd thing about the tub waste is the horizontal piece that connects the tub drain to the over-flow drain. This is not the one I sent them. All of the parts on the tub waste were the original 1920s heavy brass when I removed it from the tub, except that short horizontal pipe. It had been replaced with a modern chrome plated steel piece, which was already starting to rust. Before I sent it to Astro I went and bought a new one and replaced it. The one I bought only had threads at one end and was chrome plated steel. The one Astro sent back has threads at both ends and is now nickel plated brass. I have no explanation for this, but I got a better piece back than I sent them, so I don’t think I will call and complain.

The two rectangular brackets are for the marble sink. They will mount to the wall and support the ends of the marble apron. I had these fabricated by Don from Vintage Plumbing. I added the two little finials myself before they were plated. I found a set of finials at Ace that you could use to replace a standard hinge pin on a 3-inch door hinge. I took the finials off and soldered them on to the ends of the brackets because I thought it would look cool. Unfortunately I did a crappy job soldering them and one fell off during the plating process. I can’t fault Astro for this, because honestly, I assumed they would both fall off. I just need to find a way to stick it back on that doesn’t require a torch.

The toilet paper holder came out really nice but they did forget to return the 4 tiny screws that I needed to reassemble it. I guess they removed the arms to plate it. It was 39 cents for 4 new screws, so no big deal. I bought this on Ebay, but not to use in the bathroom. I have another one for that. This was listed with a wall mount soap dish as a “1970s Soap Dish and TP Holder”. It had a Buy It Now price of $12.95 for the pair. Obviously it was miss-labeled. I’m using the soap dish in the bathroom and I had this plated and I’m going re-list it for what it really is, an 1890s to 1910 TP Holder. I think it will go for around $100.

The feet came out as well as can be expected. I was warned by Astro that they would not be perfect because of some of the pitting in the cast iron from rust. They were right. Still, I think they look very nice. It’s not something you will notice unless you get right up close to them. Maybe some morning when I wake up hung-over on the bathroom floor I might notice as I left my head towards the toilet bowl. Other than that, it should be fine.

Over all, I give Astro Chrome & Polish two enthusiastic thumbs up. Considering how much could have gone wrong, 39 cents worth of missing screws is a small price to pay for fast service and good workmanship.

Monday, May 14, 2007


I can be accused of being biased. I’ve also been known to exaggerate from time to time. Embellishments and stretching the truth are nothing new to me. However, I don’t think I’m too far off the mark when I say that I am creating what may be the best bathroom in the history of mankind.

Since the time when the first protohuman kicked dirt on to his droppings, all the way up until this very second, I think mine is the finest bathroom that has ever been built on this planet. I could say the finest in the Universe if it weren’t for those Rigellians and their bathrooms. Oh, how I hate them.

Anywho, back to reality…

I had a very busy weekend and I accomplished a lot. I know it’s hard to believe but I’ve had other things besides bathroom restoration work weighing on my mind lately. It’s one of the reasons for the sparse posts this past week, but it’s also the reason for all of the work I’ve gotten done. Aside from working on the bathroom, I find sweeping to be very therapeutic. The upstairs hall, foyer, and main stairs have never been cleaner. Of course, clean is still a relative term around here.

On Saturday I punched through the porch roof and ran the plumbing vent up the side of the house. I ran the bathroom exhaust out through the roof as well. Both were mostly uneventful. I did forget to cement one of the ABS fittings and didn’t realize it until after I had nailed the roof jack on. The fitting I forgot to cement was under the roof so I had to pull roof jack off and do a small section over. No biggy.

On Sunday I put in all of the trim that separates the tile from the plaster. Again, nothing disastrous happened, but it has had quite an effect on the over all finishedness (Is that a word? Spell-check says no. Oh well.) of the room. There are no more jagged edges of cement board and plaster showing.

Today I put in the medicine cabinet and trimmed that out. It looks stunning, if I do say so myself. All the while I’ve been ever so slowly cleaning the Oberon Saloon floor tile. I now have 99 sq ft of tile ready for installation and I’ve actually run out of bleach-cleaned tile to de-grout. I have two very full tubs of tile soaking in bleach that need to cook for a few more days.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to turn my attention to the tub area. I’ve come up with a plan for doing the secondary drain under the tub. More on that tomorrow or the next day. For now, let’s all bask in the glory of the incomplete bathroom that is the best that has ever existed…..on Earth

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Hmmmm, Litter

The new favorite spot in the woodshop.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Out The Roof

In the few short hours from the time I got my paycheck yesterday until it was all spent today I managed to make it to the hardware store to pick up supplies for the bathroom. I bought 50 feet of hemlock wainscot cap to hide the transition between the tile and plaster.

This is the same cap I used in the kitchen, and which I wrote about it 2 years ago when I installed it in the kitchen. The profile is very similar to the original wainscot cap from 1895 that was used in several of the rooms in the house. It looks almost the same, but it's not quite as meaty. I will prime it and get one top coat on before I install it, so that looks like Monday or Tuesday at the earliest. After that’s on, I can start to think about putting in the medicine cabinet and trimming out the window.

I also bought some 2-inch ABS and fittings, and a roof jack for the bathroom exhaust fan. It may surprise some to learn that I have finished walls and ceiling in the bathroom, but never ran the stack or the vent out the roof.

I retained the original beadboard ceiling and did not want to go through the hassle of removing part of it and putting it back up so I could run the vents out the roof. As it turns out, because the bathroom is part of the back porch elevation of the house, it has lower ceilings than the rest of the house. The bathroom has 9 foot ceilings and the rest of the downstairs has 10.5 foot ceilings. This means there is a 1.5-foot space on the laundry room side where I can work above the beadboard ceiling without disturbing it.

Today I ran the plumbing vent out the ceiling. Tomorrow I will run it up the rest of the side of the house and finish the bathroom exhaust fan. The first room I finished in the house was the upstairs bathroom, which is right above the bathroom I’m working on now. This means I can’t run the vent in the wall without destroying my beautiful plaster in the upstairs bathroom. It’s on the back of the house, so I’ll just paint the ABS the same Clarey Sage as the rest of the second story. It should be fine. Hmmmm, I hope ABS takes paint OK.

Tile Count: 93 sq ft ready for installation.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Nickel News

When I got home from work today there was a message on my machine from Astro Chrome & Polishing telling me my plumbing parts had been nickel plated and were ready for shipping. I put the groceries away and then went to the computer to look up their number, but before I could they called again. I think the guy’s name was Joe. He said he called again because UPS was getting ready to show up and if he got my billing information he could ship the box out today.

Ten days ago when I last talked to Joe he said it would take about 2 weeks to plate the parts I sent in. The quote was $325, not including shipping. Today I was told the total with shipping and taxes came to $341.58. I spent about $20 to ship the parts down, so it seems they came in a little under the quote.

So far I’m thrilled with the service I've received. The last piece of the puzzle will be the quality of the plating. When we spoke the last time, Joe warned me that the cast iron claw feet for the tub may not come out perfect because the old cast iron has some pitting. The other items are brass, so there should not be an issue, despite the age.

It’s too early to start gushing over the job they did, but so far I’m thrilled, especially given the problems I’ve had with others during this bathroom restoration project. Speaking of those others, the first time I called them back in November or December about buying a marble vanity from them I was told that it would need to be shipped freight because it was too heavy for UPS. That is what started the whole saga of me almost driving down to Murphys, CA in the first place. Today, I got a UPS tracking number for a marble vanity being shipped from an antiques dealer in Wisconsin. The only difference between the Wisconsin vanity and the one I looked at in Murphys is the price. The one in Wisconsin one was exactly half the cost of the one in Murphys.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Day 119

I started The Oberon Saloon tile odyssey on January 9th. That was 119 days ago. Although I am starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, it feels like I haven’t seen the worst of it yet. At the risk of appearing to be whining about it, I want to say once again just how unpleasant cleaning the grout off the tile is. It’s fun to complain about some things, paint stripping being way up on the list, but something like that just doesn’t even compare to how miserable a job this is.

I got the last of the tile in to the bleach bath today. This allows me to get the most accurate count yet of how much tile I have. Since most of it has now been stacked and counted I only need to estimate what is in the tubs. It looks like I’m going to come in right at about 125 sq ft of tile. I estimated the little mudroom and bathroom to be about 90 sq ft, so it looks very good. Even if you factor in 5% loss during installation that still leaves me with about 30 sq ft of extra tile. This means I won’t need to use a lot of the tile that wouldn’t come clean. Off the top of my head I would say that is less than 10 sq ft of tile.

As I mentioned a few days ago, when I first started pulling tile off the floor of the saloon I was using any box I found laying around. After the first or second day, I started using boxes that were all the same size so I could sort of estimate how much I was getting. Those first 4 or 5 odd sized boxes of tile were the last to go in to the bleach bath today. As it turns out, these boxes contained some of the best tiles. I hadn’t opened the boxes since I filled and closed them up last January, but I guess I was pretty picky those first days. The tiles are some of the cleanest of all and have virtually no chips. Sadly, they have just as much grout as the other tiles.

So, as it stands now, there are 7 more boxes that need to have the grout removed. That's seven boxes of de-grouting hell. Even if I work on it every day that is easily 2 weeks worth of work. Siiigh!!!

PS: It just dawned on me that I'm in Month Five of working on the bathroom. How can it be taking so long? I think I only spent 9 months on the kitchen. Maybe the kitchen was more like 15 months but I blacked out for several of them.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

It’s Good To Be Broke

The dentist was one of many who had their hand out over the past week. I was pretty much picked clean by Friday and payday isn’t until Thursday, so my options were limited as to what I could do on the bathroom. As it is, it could be beans and rice by Wednesday here at the old Petch House. One good thing about being broke is that I took care of a few things that were, shall we say, revenue neutral. These are things that have been put off for one reason or another, but that don’t cost anything because I have the supplies on hand.

I did have enough money to buy some grout on Friday, so I was able to grout the subway tile in the bathroom. No pictures, but it came out really nice. I bought two boxes, and hoped I could return one if I didn’t need it. Wouldn’t you know, it took 1.1 boxes of grout to do the room. I used “Snow White” grout, which still looks a little gray, and that’s the reason for no pictures, and I’m planning on doing gray for the tile on the floor. I have no plans to do any more tile in the near future, so I now have 9 pounds of snow white grout that I don’t know what to do with. I suppose it will end up out in the garage with the other partial bags and cans of things until it turns hard as a rock and I throw it away in a few years. Oh, the waste.

One of the revenue neutral things I accomplished was painting the last wall of the house. After spending who knows how many months last year painting the house, you would think that I would have finished, but no. There was one wall with the new stained glass window that still needed to be painted. It was sunny and really windy today, which, while irritating, actually worked out well. The paint dried so fast I was able to get a coat of primer on and two top coats with three different colors. So the house is now finished…..except for the skirting and the front door, which is no big deal.

The really big thing I did, or at least started to do, was to finish the marble slab on the kitchen island. I had routed the edges with a simple round-over, but never really finished them, mainly because I wasn’t sure how. Someone left a message on the blog months back saying that I could do it with sandpaper, but I was hesitant to make the $350 slab of marble my guinea pig. I had already used it as a guinea pig for the router, and that went over with less than stunning results.

However, a month or so back I installed the marble sill in the bathroom window and I used it as a test piece for finishing the edges with sandpaper. It’s shockingly simple. I should have done it a year ago. All of this time friends have been coming over and seeing the unfinished edges of the marble on my beautiful island. I get this sort of polite, “Oh, it’s nice”, but all the while I’m sure they’re thinking, “It’s nice, but he butchered the marble”. Well, butcher no more.

I start with 100 grit and work through 150, 180, 220, and finally wet sand with 300. I think I must have honed marble and not polished marble, because the 300 grit gets it damn near perfect. I may go over it once more with 600 and see how that looks. So far I’ve completed 2 sides, so I have 2 more sides plus the sink hole. It looks pretty damn good so far.

Oh, and I cleaned some more of the damned Oberon Saloon tile. Oh, how I hate that tile - and love it at the same time. If it ever gets installed it would look great.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Affordable Tile Work

I now have 75 sq ft of salvaged tile ready for installation. There is another 31 sq ft that has either been bleach cleaned or is soaking in bleach at this very moment. That makes up the tile that was in uniformly sized boxes. There are another 5 boxes that have any where from 15 to 25 sq ft of tile in them.

When I first started prying up the tile from the floor of The Oberon Saloon I used just about any box I found laying around in the saloon building. I then found a supply of boxes that were all the same size, so I started using those so I could get some idea of how much I was pulling up, as I was pulling it up. While I didn’t count or stack the tile neatly in the boxes, I did fill them all to about the same level. I could then count one or two boxes and sort of take an average. There was no sense in pulling up the tile without knowing when I might have enough.

As I clean the tile I use the same boxes, but I count and stack the tile neatly so I can get an accurate count of cleaned tile. The variable is still what is a good tile and what is chipped or damaged tile. There are also still some tiles that don’t exactly come out of the bleach bath all pearly white. The original plan was to sort as I cleaned the grout off, but that didn’t happen.

The last box I did was the worst. I let the tile soak for three weeks and they still came out less than white. Not all of them, but enough that I’m going to try something else to get them clean. I can use some of them under the toilet and the built-in cabinets, so it’s not like they all must be cleaned for this to work.

At any rate, it looks like I’m going to have around 120 sq ft of tile when all is said and done. The bathroom and the little mudroom are 90 sq ft, so it would seem I’m in pretty good shape. I now kick myself for not getting more chipped tiles. Because these are hex tiles, I will need a lot of partial tiles at the edges to fill in the gap made by the outer edge tiles. When I was pulling up the tile I passed over a lot of tiles because they had major chips on one side, but these would be perfect for trimming down and using on the edges. Oh well, what are you gunna do.

The best thing about cleaning all of the Oberon Saloon tile is that it doesn’t cost anything. After months of spending every spare cent, and some not so spare cents, it’s nice to go a week without spending money on the bathroom. Tomorrow I’m going to go ahead and grout the subway tile. It’s probably going to suck, but I’m looking forward to it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


I’ve reached a point with the bathroom were the only thing I can do right now is clean floor tile. It is ever so fun, too.

I can’t put the wainscot cap on until I grout the subway tile. I can’t put the medicine cabinet in or trim out the stained glass window until I get the wainscot cap on because both of these things need to sit flush on top of the cap. I also can’t put on any shut-off valves for the sink until the tiles been grouted. Thinking about tub, sink, toilet, or cabinets is so far out of the question there is not point in me even bringing them up, even though I just did.

The reason I’m holding off on grouting the subway tile is because I wanted to do it at the same time I did the floor tile. Also, I foolishly put down the cement board for the floor tile and I’m trying not to get it grunged up before I set the tile. Ideally, what would have happened is that I would have simultaneously finished cleaning the floor tile when I was finished plastering the walls, and then I could start in on the floor tile. Obviously that didn’t happen.

To keep with my perfectly planned order of things I need to finish cleaning the floor tile. I have 80 sq ft that has been cleaned in the bleach. Of that 80 sq ft, 71 sq ft has been de-grouted. There is an additional 30 sq ft that hasn’t been touched.

On a good day I can de-grout 5 sq ft of tile, but there haven’t been many good days lately. Also, I’ve kind of stalled on the bleach cleaning. I’ve only done about 5 sq ft in the last 3 weeks. That’s down from about 12 sq ft a week I was doing for a month or more. Part of it was the family coming to visit, and the other part was the plastering in the bathroom. There are only so many hours in the day.

The bleach cleaning doesn’t bother me so much. That goes quickly, and while it’s not the most enjoyable work in the world, it is very tolerable, because it goes quickly. I can do 10 sq ft in an hour and that’s pretty much all the tubs will hold. Once I’ve emptied the tubs, I fill them up again and they sit for a week. So, if there’s only 30 sq ft that hasn’t been touched, that’s only a few hours of work spaced over 3 weeks.

It’s the 40 sq ft of tile that needs to be de-grouted that’s the problem. Let’s say I can do 2 sq ft a day, then that’s 3 weeks worth of work. Even if I could do more, it still needs to go through the bleach bath. Anyway you slice it, if all goes well, I have 3 weeks left of tile cleaning before I can start setting floor tile. That’s 3 weeks where I can’t do any work on the bathroom other than clean tile. I’m a bit of a masochist, I’ll admit, but because the tile cleaning is so unpleasant, this is reaching Devil Queen level of old house restoration hell (Just kidding, John).

So now I’m thinking I need a way to be able to work on another bathroom related project, while at the same time continue with the tile cleaning. I need something that is going to show progress to off-set the tile cleaning hell. I think I can protect the cement board to a point where I can grout the subway tile. I could then put on the cap, install the medicine cabinet, trim out the window, install some shut-off valves, and maybe even hang the high-tank. At the same time I could be slowly but diligently working on the floor tile.

Besides, if I don’t find something else beside tile cleaning to do, it will be weeks and weeks of blog entries detailing with the excruciating process of cleaning all 6 sides of every single tile. It would just be hell for everyone.