Friday, April 18, 2014

The Hard Part Is Over


On day three of the shower tiling job, I lowered my tile support board another two rows first thing and then re-waterproofed the old holes. While I was waiting for that to cure, I started tiling the back and right walls up to where we were planning on putting the accent tiles and then putting in the accent tiles. Because there wasn't much cutting involved, it went pretty smoothly and I was pleased with everything. I must say though that the narrow grout lines sure take a lot more work to keep straight and looking nice than wider grout lines were you have more room to fudge things to get them to line up. I stuck two tiles up above the accent tiles to see how much of a gap I was going to end up with at the ceiling. It really isn't too bad. I think I'm going to grout it and use some white caulk to seal it up and see how it looks. If it doesn't look good I can still fall back to the quarter round idea. In the afternoon I worked on putting in two more lower rows all the way around.

This was a lot trickier and time consuming. I left a little extra room to make sure I had the room to get the grout lines lined up on the tiles. This meant I had to use more shimming but in the end it was worth it. Finally I started tiling up on the left wall which meant cutting around the shower rough-ins. I wasn't sure how I was going to cut all the holes at first but I did some internet research and came up with a two pronged attack. For the small holes, I bought a diamond hole saw bit. It worked easily. For the larger holes, I couldn't find hole saws that size and had I been able to, I'm sure they would have been way expensive especially when I only had two holes of one size and a third slightly large hole to do. After research, I found I could buy special tile cutting blades for my 4" hand grinder. The blades ground right through the tile but cutting 5" and 5-1/2" holes with a 4" diameter blade wasn't the easiest thing to do. I held the grinder up vertically and sort of swept the hole circumference. By shear luck, the tiles lined up such that I never had to cut more than a semi-circle in the tile. I'm not sure I could do such a small hole in the middle of a tile with that method. With experience, I got better. I found that if I scored the semi-circle and then cut a slot in the discard portion to relieve stress before finishing my cut, I ended up with fairly good holes. It was time consuming and it took me the rest of day three to get halfway through the fixtures.


On day four, I removed the support boards and waterproofed the holes for the last time. I then got started cutting three more tiles to go around all the hand valves and body sprays with the hand grinder and hole saw. Once I got above them, the rest of the left wall went smoothly and I soon was complete up to the ceiling. I then cut the last row of tile to size and grouted them in place.

Despite having a line on the liner and beveled screeding rails for the sloped concrete shower pad, I soon discovered that I had a couple low spots where the concrete would hold water if it got beneath the tile. I ended up using the leftover mortar from my wall tile to flatten those spots out. Once it hardened up, I will mortar over it with my notched trowel as normal and nobody would know the difference. I cleaned up things and called it a day.


It's hard to tell but on day five, I added a row of bull nose tile on the left and right walls to give things a more finished look. I also had to cut the last piece of wall tile up next to the shower curb in the background. Then I spread mortar over the shower floor and laid all the whole pieces of floor tile. They had built in grout spacers on them so it was pretty easy to get them all lined up and looking nice. The hardest part was just figuring out how things would lay so that I could get a nice fit around the drain and not end up with a tiny sliver of tile up next to the wall. Once all the whole pieces of tile were laid, I quit early for the day to let things set up so I could get closer to the far edges when measuring and mortaring them in place.


My wife was packing to leave for a week long conference in Florida and she was taking her mother with her and I was looking at a week of taking care of the kids myself. So on day six, I made a concerted effort to finish laying the tile on the shower floor. I didn't think it would take me more than a couple hours but cutting and measuring all those tiles and then tiling the shower curb ended up taking my most of the day. I struggled with how I was going to do the shower curb. Option one was to make the tiles on the side of the curb overlap the 'flat' top tiles of the curb so that you see the more finished edge of the tiles. (I say flat because it looks that way but in reality it is slightly sloped towards the shower for any splashed water to drain inwards. ) However, one tile wasn't wide enough to fill in the gap on top so to make things look symmetrical, I would end up with three grout lines running the length of the shower curb. It just seemed like that was inviting more places for potential problems. Option two was to do like what you see in the picture. Overlap the flat tiles over the side tiles. I would end up with only one grout line running the length of the curb but the cut side of the tiles would be exposed. I decided to go this way because frankly the exposed tile edge didn't look much worse than the finish edge did because the finish edge wasn't colored gray like the face of the tile. I'm going to smooth the edge out with a tile stone and probably call it good. I frankly don't think once the shower is done, the fixtures and glass door is in place, that your eyes will ever look down in that direction. Worst case I could paint the tile edge after I get done grouting but I don't think it will come down to that.

So as I write this, it has been a week since I stepped foot in the shower. Next up on my agenda is to tile the floor which should be easy compared to the shower and grout it so that I can at least get the toilet set back in place and functioning. It gets old walking down the hall in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Once the crapper is working, I can go back to grout the shower and get the fixtures all mounted so that we have our master shower working again. After that I will need to build the vanity and get it plumbed up. Finally after that, there is lots of little things that need to be done but can be done in a working bathroom. I have to trim around the baseboard, door and window, hang bathroom fixtures like towel rack and toilet paper holder things. I also need to hang some artwork on the walls to admire, touch up paint, put the ceiling fan back together and a myriad of other things. Despite this lengthy list, I feel with the shower now tiled, the hard part is over and the end in sight. I can't wait.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

... and Tiling Continues


After we got back from Dallas, I started in on tiling again and this is as far as I got on the second day. It doesn't seem like much and I always figure I can get further but it never seems like I do. When I started this project and was buying supplies, I bought some 1/8th tile spacers but when prepping for tiling, I didn't think it looked right so I shot for 1/16th of an inch. That went okay but I didn't have any spacers so I was using bits of plastic and cardboard as shims which was slowing me down since I didn't have very many of them. So before I started here for the day, I went and picked up a box of 1/16th spacers.

The shower niche was built into an existing stud cavity and like most framers do when putting in internal stud work, they really weren't concerned with every single stud being plumb. As long as they could hit it with a drywall screw they were fine. So the shower niche had an ever so slight lean to it as I discovered as I tiled up around it. I did my best to keep grout lines constant while trimming tiles around it but I ended up with a few wider ones. We are planning on going with a white grout so I really don't think it will be that noticeable when done but it is still a blow to my pride.

Next up when it warms up enough to thaw the water in my tile saw outside (as I wrote this it was a balmy 27 degrees!), I plan to put the row of accent tile up above where I left off. I had planned for a 4" strip of accent tiles but my wife called an audible and switched it to 6" which means when I put one more row of the large white tile above that, I'm going to have a gap of 1/4 to 1/2" between the tile and the ceiling. Too small for another piece of tile. I think I may buy a stick of quarter round to cover that up or if it turns out closer to the 1/4" mark, I may just grout it. I'll have to see. (In fairness, I hadn't calculated how the distance would have been effected if we had stuck to plan so it could have happened just as easily that way too.)

Now that I have a row of tile on all sides of the shower, I will remove the prop boards and fill in the bottom and that will leave me with cutting around all those shower nozzles and handles. I hopefully have a trick or two up my sleeve for them to make it easier but still, it will be slow going until I get up above them. Fortunately we have another shower and I have the time to do it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tiling Begins


I'm not a tiling rookie but I would still say I'm no where near an expert yet. I've done two small floor projects and one project up around a tub surround and that is it until this project. In those three projects I've always felt that the first tile mortared was the hardest. There is a sense of permanence that makes me agonize over things because I know that once they set up, they aren't coming out in one piece. I spent many a day working on other things in this project pondering the best way to tile the shower. But the day before we left for our trip down to Dallas, I overcame that hurdle and stuck up the first tile. This was my progress at the end of the day. It doesn't look like much but I had to set everything up and the details of the shower niche ate up a lot of time.

I started by putting tile on the bottom, then sides, then top of the shower niche and putting a cut piece of the floor tile between the two tile pieces that makes up each side. That way it is supported on both sides and the back mosaic tiles which I installed next. Originally I was going to install the wall tiles up to the edge of the shower niche but they don't have a really nice edge when cut. So I got some bull nose tiles and edged the shower niche with them. As you can see and what I quickly found out, if I had planned on using them from the beginning, I would have probably made the shower niche and inch shorter so that the top corner joints would look like the bottom corner joints. As it was, I don't think it looks too bad and could have looked worse. I think it will look better once I get the field tile on the walls.

The field tile is 9 x 12 subway like tile that I'm going to put on a staggered joint which explains why I used little pieces close to the shower niche. I installed the board underneath the niche to get a full row of tile installed with the proper spacing and to help hold things up until it set up. This will allow the row lines to line up with the bull nose lines so they appear to be in the row. The only problem with this is that I still have two and a partial row to do underneath that board. This will mean I will have to install the level boards two more times. Ideally you would only do this once and work up. I just wasn't confident that I would end up with the proper tile spacing when I reached the niche and then I would have either staggered joints or a big wide grout joint now up in plain view.

The biggest relief is that the permanence of the tile is over with now that it has been there for a week. I can't change what is up short of pulling off the cement board and starting over which I am not going to do. So when I start tiling again, it is just filling up the field which is pretty straight forward work now that I have two rows up straight and level. Once I get up past the niche where I can put up a dozen whole tiles at once instead of just a few before having to cut some, I will probably apply the mortar directly to the wall to speed things up. So far I am just 'back buttering' the tile which is to say I'm applying the mortar to the tile back and then sticking it to the wall.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dallas Book Depository


Although I like going to museums, it seems as if I am always disappointed with them. They are full of people bumping and jostling each other and they always seem dumbed down to me. The last part I'm sure is because I am an avid history reader and probably know more than the average person which is who they cater too. So when we made it to the 6th Floor Museum at the Dallas Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy, I figured it would be similar to past experiences. While waiting to get a ticket and three school buses of young kids rolled up and got escorted into the museum ahead of us, I figured any enjoyment I might get from going through this museum was now lost. I was pleasantly surprised.


When you entered the museum, they gave you a set of headphones connected to a audio device that allowed you to play an audio track pertaining to what you were looking at. One benefit is that you could go at your own pace which let me allow the kids to get off ahead and out of the way. The biggest benefit however was that it allowed you to disappear inside your own little bubble and immerse yourself in the experience. At times it felt like I was personally getting escorted through the museum by a very knowledgeable curator.

You were not allowed to take pictures in the museum proper which I liked. It allowed you to further immerse yourself in the experience instead of walking around people posing for photographs. As a result, I have no pictures of inside the museum. In the photo above, the middle window on the right is the window that Lee Harvey Oswald shot out of killing President Kennedy. It was enclosed in a giant glass box and preserved so that it looked just like it did on that day. The window above it with the partially opened blinds is on the 7th floor and contains traveling exhibits.

On the day we visited, there were only two giant portraits of President Kennedy and his wife made out of tiny individual pictures of each other. While I was admiring them, the guard said I could go through an open door and look out the windows, the ones you see above with the half open blinds. We were allowed to take pictures on the 7th floor so I took several pictures including the one below. In it you can see where the second and third bullets struck Kennedy marked by the white X's on the pavement. The first bullet didn't hit him. As my oldest daughter and I went back through the door into the museum 7th floor proper, some other museum employees closed off the room and blocked it so my wife and others behind me couldn't see what I saw. I'm glad I got a picture first.


Standing and looking out this window was a very moving experience for me. I wasn't even alive when these events took place but because I was here looking down, it felt almost like I was seeing through the eyes of Oswald as the events unfolded. I was reminded of the computer demonstration that I saw one floor down that showed a virtual unfolding of events as they happened that day.


This is the infamous Grassy Knoll which is hidden behind the trees on the left side of the previous photo. On the far right side of this photo is the spot where the famous Zapruder film was taken of the assassination. After the museum, we walked across the street to sit in the shade trees near the fountain and absorb our surroundings. The whole time I kept feeling the raw emotions of the event from 50 years earlier bubbling up and almost overwhelming me at times. Because it isn't the first time I have visited historic sites, I can only assume it was because it is so well preserved and looks just like it did back then. Anyway, we spent the morning here and it was a very memorable experience and one that I highly recommend to anyone visiting Dallas.


This building has nothing to do with the assassination of Kennedy other than he passed between it and the building just seen on the far left of the photo moments before he turned the corner in front of the Book Depository and shot seconds later. I was just captivated by the architecture and the style of buildings we made back in the day. We certainly don't make them like that anymore.