Never fully dressed without a Tile. Oct 7/8, 07

Sorry no blog yesterday. I have a really good reason. I suck. At least I'm honest... But - man it was quite the busy weekend. Team Najuch blitzed the kitchen and it's really on it's way. Rich thinks that by the end of next week the whole 'new wing' will be ready, and we'll have food to chew and a place to shampoo (please note I took the high road on the 'oo' rhyme to match chew... it could have taken a turn for the much worse :).

Now - because some work is still going on with countertop installation, the doors haven't been re-attached to the cabinets... so it doesn't look NEARLY as close to coming together as it actually is. But just imagine doors, if you will. FUTURE HOME OF 'APPLE DUMPLINGS R US' kitch-progress.JPG

A KITCH IN TIME. kitch-progress2.JPG

Sunday zipped along like lightning - and before we knew it Bob and Janice were summoned back to their mild-mannerd weekday existence. A huge part of the day for the boys was spent installing the kitchen sink. (insert 'everything but the' joke here... i refuse to get sucked in by peer pressure :) ). They did a fantastic job - but it was very finicky involving lots of minutia that I have absolutely no understanding of whatsoever. So - I wish i could give you a thrilling blow-by-blow of sink installation... but I can definitely give you a cliff notes version:

HOW TO INSTALL A SINK 1) Buy sink. 2) Get Bob. 3) Do whatever Bob says.

See - ANYONE can do it with the correct tools. The correct tool...being Bob. But it was a tricky task...and even the Great and All Knowing Wizard himself apparently was spotted (by Natalie's husband Steve) sitting cross-legged on the floor with Rich at the local Hardware store with sections of pvc pipe laid out in front of them like Lego. And, even with the most careful consideration and planning there were one or two return trips for extra bits and bobs. Or new bits that didn't fit the old bobs.

Now - like I said - I would be delighted to explain what these photographs SHOW - but Rich is asleep - and if I wake him this will probably be my last blog :) But - it does involve a blow torch, little pieces of copper pipe, solder, glue and whacking your head while working under the sink. That last part is most important step.

HELLO MUDDER, HELLO FADDER... HERE THEY ARE, PLAYING WITH SOLDER solder.JPG


RICH SPENDS TIME WITH AN OLD FLAME rich-flame.JPG



PLUMBING SOON TO A THEATRE NEAR YOU plumbing.JPG

So, it took hours... but they did a great job. Or at least when Keith, our plumber looked at it today, he said he'd seen a whole lot worse. And, in his professional opinion, when I asked him, he said it 'would probably not explode'. That's the kind of endorsement you can take the bank :) He's actually coming back tomorrow to install the TOILET - which just heralds a level of near-completion that seems inconceivable. At that point all the PARTS will be in these rooms pretty much - it's just a case of getting them all hooked up and ship shape. Or in the case of the toilet: shit shape. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Sometimes the temptation is just too great. Anyway... the sink looks great. It still needs some caulking around the edges... but Bob trusts us to screw that up without him... so we'll get to it this week.

SINK ON THE BRINK sink-in.JPG

MEANWHILE - Janice and I actually began the Great Tile. Which, is just like the Great Nile but with even MORE blue and I think the pyramids were easier to install.

Thank God Janice was around... cuz this was really hard and she kept me calm when I started to get mega frustrated a couple times. She also was super smart about planning the layout. We managed to find a starting point to configure the tile where we would have to do as little trimming of the small little blue accent pieces as possible. Because we figured it was a lot easier to cut the larger tiles than the finicky little ones. Turns out we were dead right about that... so snaps for Janice.

Now - here's another little LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES MOMENT. I THOUGHT that this stuff was going to be really, really easy to deal with. It's a one foot square sheet of mesh with nine white tiles and small diamond blue accent tiles spaced in between. It's really quite pretty (and the shower tile is a solid cobalt blue to compliment it).

IT'S BEGUILING - BUT YOU'LL STOP SMILING WHEN YOU START TILING. tile-cu-one1.JPG
MESH-IN' IMPOSSIBLE tile-cu-2.JPG

See... I THOUGHT that because it was a larger amount all attached together that it would be so much simpler than tiling lots of individual pieces. And admittedly - if I'd attempted to do this exact pattern without a connected system - it would have been a nightmare. But this was NOT as simple as I thought. See - when I did my last tiling attempt - (the table-top prototype) I used the little spacers... lined everything up... and it was awesome. As long as you started out square - and you used the spacers - you were dandy. This stuff - NOT SO MUCH.

See - if I had been tiling a SOLID one foot tile - it WOULD have been a dawdle. Because you ARE laying out a lot fewer grout line spaces. But here's what I didn't realize. With this stuff - the spacing is ALLLLLLL flexible. Which means it moves around... and gives... and stretches. And it doesn't hold it's grout distances. Because of the gaps in the mesh you end up with 1/4 an inch movement in EACH FREAKIN' direction. And when you are doing 1/8" grout lines - that goes a LONNNNNGG way. So you can be perfectly lined up at a bottom left corner - but your top right corner is 1/2" out. But at least that much you would NOTICE immediately... You get into problems because you can't detect the MINOR shifts the gauze allows. With single tiles you notice and detect your error tile-by-tile as you go. With these... you are laying down nine at a time... so if things start to gradually torque off and curve you can have a hell of a time tracing back where it went wrong.

This happened to me. More than once.

And I had to pull up like three groups of these things. Which doesn't sound like much... but you have to keep in mind that it takes time to lay each one in... and they start to set... and they are hard to pull up. And then the gauze stretches when you DO pull them up. And then you throw yourself out the window and beg a semi to run you over. Unless Janice is there to talk you down from the ledge. Which she was. She was pretty awesome - she kept telling me that it was really hard - and that I was doing a great job even though I was getting so frustrated. But we muddled through. BTW mastic comes in two colors - white and grey. We were using grey because we are going to have light grey grout. IF you're using white grout you have to use white mastic cuz it bleeds through. Just FYI. We did have some trowel trauma - or rather I did - because there are a zillion trowels available with different sized notches... and you use different notches for different sized tile. I did my best to figure out it.

Janice mixed mortar (mastic), then I would tile an area, then she would follow me with a wet sponge and clean off the tile surfaces (which is important to do as your working - because once it dries it's a bitch to scrape off the face of the tile).

SPONGE THE GRUNGE scour.JPG

So we made a pretty good team. By the end of the afternoon, despite my breakdowns, we had all the tile that DIDN'T need to cut, mortared on the bathroom floor. And - although it's not perfect - there are very few places that look like it was installed by a drunken alderman. And - I have to say - our handy dandy laser level was a LIFE SAVER. Yes, I had some problem spots along the way... but I never would have been able to determine WHERE things were going awry without the little laser giving me a long ninety degree set of guidelines.

One other little tip that Rich and I figured out - but chose not to implement. If you have an old building with no right angles... and your walls don't line up to 90 degrees... then you if you lay your tile DIAGONALLY it will hide that flaw. The way we did it - you notice the walls aren't perpendicular because the tile should run perfectly parallel to the line of the wall. And ours, clearly, doesn't. We chose the most NOTICEABLE parallel line - the run of the bathtub - and ran the tile along that line - and there are other areas where the tile IS running perfectly square - but the walls don't. If that makes sense. We did NOT do the diagonal thing because a) we realized it quite late in the game; and b) because it would have been a much more challenging install for my first time (because it requires a lot more angle cutting). And it looks nice ANYWAY. Really. Rich is quite pleased. But - if YOU'RE ever doing it... and you're HIRING someone to deal with evil mesh FOR you... diagonal would be a good solution. See how much I worry about you?

Anyway - before we knew it, Bob and Janice had to go. But Janice may come back early this week on Wednesday to help me tackle the shower. I am optimistic that the shower ain't gonna be quite as bad. There are pros and cons to the shower. Pro: There are no small goofy accent tiles... they are on a mesh sheet - but they are all perfect squares. So I can use spacers between them (even within the mesh) to keep things from getting out of alignment. Cons: A little thing called gravity. The tile is going on the wall... so I'm assuming they will want to slide (another reason why the spacers will be invaluable. So - who the heck knows. Stay tuned.

After Janice left, Rich had to get to work on a bunch of work for Columbia. So he had to take himself out of kitchen commission for the next day or so. That left me on my own to get into trouble... but luckily his office is right next to the kitchen. So I felt pretty comfortable playing with power tools as long as he was close enough in case I chopped my leg off. With a wrench. You'd be amazed how much damage I can do :)

So I decided to leap into tile-cutting. There were partial tiles which needed to be cut around the entire perimeter of the bathroom. In anticipation of this we had purchased a wet-saw at Lowes. A wet saw - believe it or not - is a saw which has water running constantly over the blade to prevent it from... um... being thirsty. Actually - according to DIY.net - "the saw features a shallow pan filled with water. The diamond-impregnated blade rides through the water, picking up moisture as it runs. This offers two benefits: it keeps the blade cool, and it considerably lessens the amount of dust thrown out by the saw." It also allows me an association with two words with which I never thought I would I develop a relationship: 'diamond' and 'impregnate'.

Now these saws can be very, very pricey. You can buy one for eight zillion dollars...or you can rent them for like fifty bucks a day. We found a sort of DIY-er model that is pretty basic, but does the job quite well, for fifty bucks. So we got it. And I like it. However - I have to say I have a bone to pick with the dude or dudette who wrote the instruction manual. Or rather, instruction pamphlet. Or rather, instruction napkin.

It is very short. And a couple pieces on this thing have to be assembled. So - i managed to decipher the haiku-like single line instructions - for those minor tasks like INSTALLING THE BLADE :( - and I got it put together. And then - at the very end - I read a single line which says...

"to use wet saw, fill reservoir with water only to recommended depth".

Now... nowhere in the instructions - and I read them MULTIPLE TIMES does it tell a) Where the reservoir IS (there were several possible areas where water could go...OR what that recommended water depth IS. And I read the instructions very carefully BECAUSE what usually happens is this: I try to put something together. I fail. I get Rich. Rich says, already exasperated - "did you read the instructions before you stopped ME doing what I was working on and called me over here". I say "yes" emphatically. Then Rich opens page one and immediately finds a size 72 font type face in bold underline with a box around it that says "HEY JOEL... THE THING YOU ARE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT IS RIGHT HERE AND IT'S SOOOOO EASY". And then Rich gives me 'the face' (which he apparently inherited from Medusa...because it turns mortals into stone).

And I'm just saying. If YOU were the manufacturer of a device which COMBINED water and electricity in the same fifteen inches of space... wouldn't you want to cover your ass by being FAIRLY specific. Or at least pointing the operator in the general ballpark. Guess not.

So after a lot of head scratching I happened to catch Bob on his departure and asked him what he thought. We determined that since the water was supposed to run over the blade to keep it cool...then the reservoir had to be the area surrounding the blade - not any of the other possible wells where water could sit. Made sense to me. Turns out we were right. Or at least I haven't been electrocuted yet. In fact, there was a power outage today - and it wasn't even my fault.

So - i got the wet saw going, and it's not at all bad. It's not, like, a super-powered industrial tool that I would use to tile the Taj Mahal... but for a bathroom, it's just fine. The key is the same as with all power-saws... let the tool decide the pace. Don't force the speed. That's when things get ugly and you chop off body parts. It even trims really close shaves off of a piece if you got the measurement a little off and you want to trim just a hair. And if it was a crappy tool it would probably not do that too well. One thing you HAVE to use, though, is a grease pencil or a crayon to mark the tile... Cuz the water runs over it while you're cutting and just washes away your mark. So - I did about a third of the room last night and a third today. And tomorrow the rest of it will all be cut and I can mortar all those side pieces in... I already stuck in the pieces around the toilet - cuz Keith needs that done to install the 'W.C.'.

COULD BE WORSE, RIGHT? bath-2.JPG

SEE - PARALLEL TO THE BATHTUB bath-one.JPG

TILE LOOKING SUPER AROUND THE FUTURE POOPER bath-three.JPG

So - tomorrow I'll get all that done, and then Wednesday I can grout (cuz it has to dry a day). I honestly could have probably gotten it all done by the end of today - except Rich and I were summoned by the evil nap gremilns. And I took time to have my first DRIVING adventure....

So - on the driving front - we got some AWESOME NEWS. Rich spoke to the lovely folks at the Cockney Lizard Company - and it turns out I'm perfectly fine to drive the car. But that's not the awesome bit. We thought, because I'm learning to drive at such an advanced age (after all...when Mozart was my age - he was dead) , and because I've never had a license, that our insurance rates were going to skyrocket when I got my license. Frankly, that's one of the contributing factors why I haven't made it priority to take the test yet. The other factor being that I'm scared shitless. But - apparently - BECAUSE I'm old (and therefore, I guess, more responsible...ha!) and because I had a license, albeit foreign (Bermuda) the rates don't go up AT ALL. Rich was very, very, very, very happy. Very. The hysterical thing is that the Bermuda driving really doesn't help me one bit... in fact it makes it worse. I have a hell of a time lining the car up right in the lane cuz I'm used to doing it on the other side of the road... I keep turning the wind shield wipers on instead of the turn signal... and I'm used to going 20 miles an hour - so my foot naturally wants to sit in a position on the accelerator that would make me lose a race with a narcoleptic snail. So - They may be psycho...but Geiko: We leiko.

So - Jean Anne took me out for my first Huntington driving excursion. I wanted her to go look at linoleum at that 'Retirement Sale' place where we got our stuff for the kitchen and the carpet. Not because I wanted her to buy stuff there - but because I had seen some really nifty samples there that I thought she should see. They had a lot of that nice squishy padded linoleum we put in the breakfast nook - and I think it would be really great for her because of all the walking she and the other girls have to do. And some of the samples there were REALLY amazing reproductions of slate and stuff - and I wanted her to see. So - when I asked Rich if I could go with Jean Anne on a field trip - if she let me drive - he seemed extremely relieved not to be the first person up to the executioners block of my vehicular incompetence. And even though we could have taken Mr. Sparkle - Jean Anne insisted we take her car. Which is very nice. I think there must be something in pork that affects one's judgement :)

So - off we went. And she was pretty amazing. She was sooooo calm (actually they had turkey as a special today, so maybe after hearing about Turkeyville she got herself sedated with tryptophan :) ) She kept saying I was doing really well... and we drove a pretty fair distance. There were only a few moments where my 'used to other-side' habits had me veering to the side of the road enough that she lunged towards the middle of the car in anticipation of my removing the whole right side of her vehicle. And I only drove on the wrong side of the road once... in a parking lot - which TOTALLY doesn't count, right :) She even said she'll take me out again. I mean - honestly - I don't SUCK. I'm sort of Diet-Suck. Rich says when he was learning to drive they used a piece of tape on the hood to help you line the car up in the lane correctly - so I think we're gonna try that. In Bermuda it's easy - you line the left front corner of the car up with the center line - and then you're golden. Here, if you do that, you're pretty much dead. Or at least Jean Anne will be. And I would feel terrible if I killed her. a) She's pretty fun. b) she's the only one who knows Nick's cube steak recipe. Priorities, people, c'mon.

We actually had enormous success on our linoleum excursion. See, the previous linoleum sample she had been toying with had been eliminated because it was a faux-wood which was THE EXACT shade as her paneled walls. So it looked like a woodchuck was her interior decorator. Toooo much wood. BUT since that sample was so close - we took that along to the store with us as a sample of what the WALLS looked like. Pretty sneaky, huh. Anyway - we found two patterns that she really liked - and we got quotes and stuff. And now, we can send the Najuch clan out into the internet world to do what Najuch's do best. Find things at the best price :)

It was when we got back we learned about the power outage. There was a gas leak a couple blocks down on our street. Earlier in the day they had closed off a lot of the side streets and stuff - but at some point they must have cut the power to the whole area. Anyway - Rich was totally bummed because he no longer had a computer to do Columbia work on. And neither of us had power tools to do anything else instead. I told Jean Anne that as a public service, in order to ENSURE that none of her customers got food poisoning, that we should go straight to Nick's kitchen and eat all the pie before it spoiled. For about three seconds she nearly went for it. But - with no power - that was when we got lured by the siren's call of the mattress - cuz we couldn't really do anything productive except sleep. So we did.

Later in the evening - after aforementioned guilt-nap - Rich let me drive us to Applebees. Or rather, Rich let me drive us to the Mexican restaurant which had already closed at nine-fifteen (welcome to Huntington) and THEN drive to Applebees. And he was ASTOUNDINGLY patient while I was driving - even when reminding me to do things like put the car in reverse BEFORE I backed out of our parking space right in front of a brick wall.

Hey - it's my first day, right? Hopefully we'll both survive my second.

zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Jo Jo.