Friday, January 29, 2010

Kitchen tile job grout....gone astray.

Yes, I said I'd stop tiling about halfway up the kitchen wall behind the stove... but then I remembered the immortal words of DH shall now and forever continue to haunt our halls... "(note from DH: Yes, she is fully prepared to tile the whole darned wall up to the ceiling. Trust me.)"

Alrighty then... if I'm prepared, might as well just do it then, eh?

It added about $130 to the budget to add an additional 25 square feet above the stove, but after thinking long and hard about it, I think it really would just look like a half-arsed job if we didn't take it all the way to the ceiling.

So first things first, after removing the side cabinet and the side panels from the upper cabinets (so I can tuck the tiles underneath like I did at the sink) I thought it would be most important to get a line behind the stove from where the tiles to the left of the stove stopped... over to the right side of the stove. This would be my horizontal line that all the other tiles would have to match.

Thankfully, we hung the cabinets straight and at right angles, so I didn't have to worry about us not having 90* angles for the square tiles. (But I measured with a square, just in case before I got started.)

Once I drew my base line, I could start applying mastic to the wall, starting from where I left off on the right, keeping the spacing and all that jazz.

Then came a decision: Tile behind the oven vent hood, and if so, by how much?

And my thought was this: Let's say in 2 years, I chuck a travel coffee mug at DH because he continually sneaks spoons and forks into non-silverware drawers in the kitchen. He ducks, the mug dents the hood, and there I am needing a new vent hood and a marriage counselor.

If I keep the DH, but replace the vent hood...well, if I don't tile now as much as I can, there's a likelihood that a new vent hood won't have the same shape/size, etc. and tiles will need to be added, as will grout, and the grout will have to be matched, blah blah blah.

So yeah, take the vent hood down and tile under the whole darn thing.

Frankly, it was a lot less work taking down the vent hood and tiling everything behind it, because otherwise I would have been doing some funky small cuts, and it still would have been a PITA to grout behind it.

In the end, it was the rational decision.

But, hey... note the small electrical plug up there on the wall? That's going to stick out like a sore thumb as soon as you walk in the door. Yes, I'm planning on spray painting the hammered copper spray on the plate, but what about the plug? It was stark white.

We wanted the plug up there in case at some time down the road we wanted to change our lighting options and maybe need to plug in a transformer, but for the life of me, we've never used the darn thing. My concern with spraying the plugs at the counter level was that as we used the plugs, it was likely the paint would scratch off from use, but in this case, that's hardly likely.

So here's what I did....

I made a template of a plug, cut out some holes and spray painted the plug.

Like a moron, I came up with the idea AFTER I had tiled around the plug, so I couldn't just willy-nilly spray all over the place. You see, if you have 2 brain cells to rub together, you think of this BEFORE you tile. Yeah.

Anyway, it came out rather well, no fuses blown (yay!) and with the copper painted plate over top, it's invisible.

Oh yeah, btw, as I tiled up the wall, I kept a 3' level nearby. Every few squares of tile I put up, I would check to make sure my lines were still going up level and plumb. You'd be surprised how easy it is to slip and move your tiles into a 1/2" downslope over a 6' span.

A few hours later, I was done and we put the vent, stove and cabinet back into place and made dinner.

The photo does not do this tile justice.

It looks so much better than I expected.

Of course, there were still minor adjustments to make. For example, in one line of tiles just above the stove, a whole column of tiles were a little offset. I just cut straight through the mesh and the mastic, pulled the whole column out and readjusted it.

There were also several squares that were tilted a few degrees of of acceptable, and a razor blade and a dollop of mastic set those right as well. Just don't be afraid to cut into the mesh and redesign as necessary.

Like when I was tiling into the counter corner, and I needed to change the spacing to meet the wall with a solid line of squares, just figure out how far back you need to make the spacing adjustments and spread out the rows/columns to make transitions occur smoothly and undetectably. If your cabinet/ceiling angle isn't 90*, you can take the same approach. It will take longer, but it will look better in the end.

Oh, and we've made some changes regarding the grout.

We are NOT going to use the mixed grout we tested previously. We have decided that although the gaps between the tiles are large enough (1/8" apart) to use sanded grout, we just didn't like the texture in the end. The gritty look of sanded grout didn't blend well with the shiny coppery tiles. We're going to go with a lighter green non-sanded epoxy grout... one that won't need to be re-sealed every year like the sanded grout.

Here are the problems:
1. We have 38 ft^2 of tile to grout.
2. Epoxy unsanded grout does not come in the same colors as sanded grout.
3. Sanded grout costs $18/bag would cover our entire area
4. Epoxy unsanded grout costs $90/bucket and would cover about 18 ft^2
5. We found the perfect color.. #13 lichen, but it's discontinued.
6. Did I mention that the unsanded epoxy grout would cost as much as the tile itself did?

And what if we had a plumbing or electrical problem and we needed to punch a hole in the wall... you can't regrout with a discontinued grout colour... where would you get it?

So the search continues for the perfect grout.

This could take a while.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Installing Ikea Curtain Rod and Custom Curtains

It's January. It's cold out.

I can't tell you how thankful I am that we sprayed in the foam insulation before we put up the drywall... but there's more you can do to control the heating of your home. Considering that heating costs are on the rise, and we don't have zoned heating, I wanted to keep all the warm air coming from the first floor from rising all the way up to the third floor via the open stairway, especially when it's evening and we're snuggling on the sofa watching a movie.

I purchased some good thick upholstery fabric that matched the carpeting, took a few days over the holiday break, and sewed me up some custom curtains. Figuring out how to sew the curtains was in itself a major project, and if anyone cares, I'll post details on how I did it. Note that I did not say 'how to do it' because, well... I was flying by the seat of my pants on that project. 110" long curtains out of four 60" wide panels that spanned 100" long with pleats. Ugh. That's a lot of thread.

The key to this project was again, my love of all things IKEA. Ina word: Kvartal.
We saw the picture above in the catalog and thought it would work perfectly for us. All we needed was 2 track lengths, some do-hickeys to attach the track to the ceiling at the joists, some sliders to fit in the track, and the hangers.

It's actually a very cool set up, but what isn't from Ikea?

The sliders and the pleat hooks came in a separate box. We bought 2, but really didn't need them all.

So, getting started... finding the joists. You'd think this would be an easy thing, wouldn't you? In a second word: No.

Back in September, 2008, when we were prepping for the drywall, we mentioned that we installed a few hundred 1x3 slats as firring strips perpendicular to the floor joists on the ceiling on the first floor. This was to even out the wobbly joists and give the drywallers more surfaces to nail to. It also helped position the can lights right where we wanted them to be.

This picture above is of the livingroom before the drywall was installed.

So here's the point... using a stud finder... which one of the *@#$^*%! beeps is the real joist and which is a firring strip, eh?

Here's the ceiling area we wanted to run the track on:

And here's how many holes we had to drill in order to locate the real joists:

Looks like someone came in with a tommy gun and shot the place up.

I don't know why it was so difficult. Every time we drilled a new hole and there was just air behind it, we'd look at each other and start mumbling about the insanity of the joists not being evenly spaced apart.

Once we found the real joists and spackled up the holes, we installed the attachments that connect to the track. These little hanger nuggets are just so cute.

The copper part is the part that attaches to the top part of the track.

We went with six hangers, because the fabric is so darned heavy, I didn't want the weight of the fabric to warp or bend the track. Turns out it's a pretty well designed track and I didn't need to worry, but why pass up an opportunity to do a little overkill.

Once the track was cut to length and assembled, it was an easy install with screws to the little hanger-nuggets. Then we installed the sliding hangers into the hanging side of the track, inserted the curtain hangers into the pleats of the fabric curtains, then hung them up.

Now we just pull the curtain closed in the evenings, shut the vents on the third floor, and we're in snuggle city.


Here's the curtains hanging from the inside of the track. What I did is to first fold the fabric down from the top about an inch, and sewed it in place. Then I folded the top down again about 5", and sewed it where the top fold met the fabric, creating a 5" 'loop at the top.

I measured this loop placement very carefully because I wanted the curtain to be right at the top of the ceiling. The whole purpose was to not let hot air rise, so I wanted it as close as possible without rubbing the ceiling paint off. This determined the loop height. I measured from the bottom of the plastic hanger in the track to the ceiling, then added the height of the metal curtain hanger. That was the height of the loop and the location where I needed to sew all the way across.

Your results may vary :-)

Then I measured the width of the wall opening at the stairs, and measured the fabric length (which turned out to be about twice the length of the opening (just lucky I guess as I had this upholstery fabric lying around for a wingback chair reupholstering project that never occurred.)

Fabric length - opening length = folded fabric measurement

Once I knew the folded fabric length it was just a matter of determining what I wanted the folds to look like and how many I wanted. (i.e. if I had 100" of fabric to fold, I could have twenty 5" folds, or forty 2.5" folds.) Then I just spaced out where the folds needed to go and sewed the folds in place.

Then once everything was sewn together, I inserted the hook up into the backing underneath the top fold, and viola: Curtain.

I hope this helps!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A great kitchen gadget

I (again) need to thank my in-laws. They got me one of the best holiday gifts ever.

In our heavily used kitchen, DH tends to be the cook, and I like to be the prep cook. I absolutely love the entire process and concept of mise en place. (A few years ago I got a set of 1" glass prep bowls for spices, wasabi, salt & pepper mixes... I love them.)

This is my job, and I like it.
Except for cutting onions.

When I'm wearing my contact lenses, I have little or no problems. The lenses effectively block the tear-producing agents from getting to my eyes.

Oh, and just in case you're curious as to why onions cause tears... it's all chemistry:

Onions are Alliums (includes onions, garlic, shallots) and is actually a member of the lilly family. Alliums absorb sulfur in the soil as they grow. This in turn develops amino acid sulfoxides, called
Propanethial S-oxide.

Propanethial S-oxide is a lachrymator, an irritant that causes your lachrymal (tear) glands to kick into high gear to get rid of the irritant, which in this case, once combined with the eye, reacts to form sulfuric acid, causing the burning and itching sensations that accompany the tears.

In a word, "OUCH."
Sulfuric Acid in eyes = not good.

Here's the solution: onion goggles.

They're clear glasses with padding around the lenses (like swimming goggles without the strap) and it blocks the Propanethial S-oxide from making contact with your corneas. They're in the picture above next to the heaping pile of onions that had absolutely no effect on me whatsoever. I actually leaned into the pile of cut onions and took a deep sniff, too. No reaction.

No vapor contact, no sulfuric acid.

It's a beautiful thing.
They also come in pink.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Year... New kitchen Tile Backsplash.

A long time ago in a kitchen far far away, we planned for a tile backsplash. It's been over a year now, and darnit if I didn't get a fire under my backside last weekend.

We had gone to an open house in Newport a couple of months back...I took pictures, but the mishap with the camera (RIP) may have killed those images. I really haven't checked the card yet.. I may get to doing that soon enough... but anyway, I digress.... the open house was done by a very competent fellow who showed us some great tips and cheats (Yeah, I'm definitely going to have to hunt those pictures down, they were really informative and I really wanted to document his work) Argh! I'm digressing yet again!!

Ok, breathe... Tile.

The guy in Newport did a great job in his kitchen with come very cool looking copper/verdigris/brown 1"tiles for a backsplash. Similar colours as our kitchen as well. We thought it looked great. When we asked where he got the tiles we were very surprised to hear that they came from Home Depot.

We were thrilled when he said they cost $5 per square foot. We went and bought a sheet.
We also bought 6 other (much more expensive) patterns and colours we thought might look good if not better, just for the sake of comparison. They all sucked... except for the copper/brown squares. We brought all the others back and bought 32 feet square, a bucket of Omni-grip (same stuff I used for the marble tiles in the master bath shower), and some greenish sanded grout. (Note from DH: I was absolutely SURE we were going to prefer one of the much more expensive glass tiles. It wasn't even close to as good as what we went with. This is important. Look at samples of your tile on site. Test view lots of different tiles. Lighting can dramatically change the way your tile look. So can the light reflecting off the counter and cabinetry. Just cough up and buy lots of samples. You can always return them. I'm SO glad we did.)

The first thing I did was test the grout colour. I wanted to be sure it was the right hue. So I attached (with the Omnigrip) a 4x5 patch of tiles to the back of a piece of clear plastic , (broken from an old cd case) waited for the Omnigrip to cure, then I then mixed up some of the green grout and pressed it into the cracks... waited... wiped... and scratched my head.

It looked too dark. Maybe if I waited a day it would lighten up.

Well it did, but not enough.

So I did the same test with a 50/50 mix of the green grout and some leftover tan grout I had in the basement from the 3rd floor bathroom floor tile job. Then I said "WTH, try it out with the tan grout as well." So now there were three samples.

We narrowed it down to the two green grouts, tried holding them up in different lights, different areas of the kitchen, then chose the middle-mix. (It's the one on the right.) The tan looked awful.

So off to installing the tiles. First thing's first, line the countertop with thick blue painter's tape, get your v-notched trowel in hand and start smearing the goop... at least that's how I started.

Frankly, I recommend learning from my mistakes and pulling the little round tabs off of the light sockets first. For some reason, I kept forgetting to do this, and would lay out the mastic on the wall, realize that I hadn't pulled the tabs off (they WILL get in the way of the tiles, especially if they're small tile like ours.)

So I got the pliers all masticky, and then, well, I shorted out (fried) the dimmer switch. *&^$%#$%%.

No, I didn't switch off the fuse. I didn't think I'd need to, but $30 later for a new dimmer switch says I'm a dumbarse.

Here are the tabs you'll want to bend off (They're notched to make it easy.)

Yeah, so I replaced the dimmer switch, broke off the side tabs (to make them fit next to each other better... with the FUSE OFF (note the flashlight light... heh heh.)

The other thing we were thinking about was the cover plates. We had the cheap white plastic ones and they weren't going to look too hot with the copper tile, so we bought a can of Hammered Copper spray paint and sprayed a few coats on the switch plates.

I think it looks pretty darned good, considering the copper ones I was looking at had to be custom ordered and were NOT in the budget.

Something else to consider was that once the tile was installed, the switches and the plugs would be reset about 1/4" too deep for the plates. They make a lovely little tab for just this purpose, and they snap together for varying depths depending on how deep your tile is.

These little yellow-green tabs got folded in half and inserted onto the screw behind the switch, but in front of the junction box screw. It just holds the whole switch out a little further from the wall to it's flush with the switch plate. Cheap little buggers, too.

Once the switch plates were all taken care of, it was all about measuring, cutting and installing the tiles... which was pretty easy until I realized that as I moved into the corner, that my tiles would not be an even match sizewise... I could not fit a whole column of tiles evenly into the corner. *&#@$.

So, BEFORE I installed the last panel of 12" x 12" tiles heading into the corner, I started cutting them into strips of 1" x 12" columns. Each column was spaced about 1/32" farther apart than the connected panels, and the spacing faded away and fit perfectly into the corner. Just squish and move around until they all lined up and looked even. Viola.

Then it was just a matter of scraping out the mastic, squshing the tiles into the mastic along the wall (The easy part) and keeping the spacing intact between sheets of tiles.

The one aspect we hadn't really planned on is that the tiles on the wall behind the sink weren't going to match up perfectly (full size tiles) with the cabinets on the left and right side.

Thankfully, we bought Ikea cabinets and the dark brown siding of each cabinet came off with a twist of a few screws. I was then able to tile right underneath where the siding would cover up, making cutting a million iddy bitty glass tiles in half unnecessary. Yay!

(In the picture below you can see the white side of the cabinet just to the right of the kitchen sink. This is with the dark brown siding taken off. No need to put it back on until the grout is laid in and sealed. In the picture above, the panel is still attached and the mirror is not yet taken down.)

Oh, and I took the tiles up under the cabinets as far as I could with whole tiles, about 1/2" away from the bottom of the cabinets. I wasn't about to start snapping glass tiles in half to make a perfect fit to something only 5 year olds would ever see.

I'm planning on continuing the tile behind the stove, but I haven't decided on a layout just yet... so I'm on hold until I make a decision.

I'm thinking about going straight across the bottom of the stove vent over to the fridge and stopping just out of sight behind it. I'm just not prepared to tile the whole darned wall up to the ceiling... then above the cabinets... where would you stop? (note from DH: Yes, she is fully prepared to tile the whole darned wall up to the ceiling. Trust me.)

Heh. And I have a camera. Well, DH got one for xmas... he lets me use his. Apparently I'm going to have to show I can not destroy a valuable piece of equipment while dancing the epileptic blues in strange parking lots.

Until we grout again, my pretties... ciao!