Thursday, November 12

A trapezoidal parallelogram, eh?

I’ll show YOU, sez I. Throw me a curve, and I’ll set you straight! It took all of a morning and part of an afternoon to place, then re-position the main tiles for our entryway. Then do it all over again shifting the orientation maybe half a degree, then another quarter of a degree, then moving the whole mess an eighth of a — you get the idea.

The open square in the middle will be filled with a different pattern using tile which Karla is picking up at Creative Tile in Fresno this afternoon.

I guess our builder never figured the room was going to be a showcase for any fancy tile-work. It wasn’t built very square, that’s for sure. So laying big square tiles in it may seem a fool’s errand, but we’re doing it anyway. Besides, we have most of the tiles we need because they’re left over from a job where we changed our minds (again?!) and decided not to use them anyway. Not only that, it’s a shame to waste tiles that are brimming with fossilized sea life millions of years old and cost over twenty-five bucks apiece. So there.

We will fill the center square with a pattern we fell in love with at Creative Tile, but had no place for in our plan. We reserve the right to change our minds even in the middle of a job.

So there.

Monday, November 9

Making do...

We used to have a nice surveyor’s transit. Well, sorta nice. When World War II got going, the US Government grabbed hold of every surveyor’s transit level they could find. They promised to return them when the war ended. Karla’s grandfather was Fresno County’s chief surveyor, and he “donated” his very-high-end finely-crafted instrument. After the war the government sent him a mid-quality replacement instead of his original instrument. Bummer.

Meanwhile, that instrument got some rough handling and became unusable. So when in need, innovate. Shown here is our homemade transit. It consists of a stepladder, a cardboard carton, a block of Styrofoam, a five-gallon plastic bucket and a carpenter’s level. When I sight along the top of the level, I see that it matches the height of the garage floor, our target. My measuring tape shows that the difference is six feet (1.8 meters).

We want to build steps from the driveway by the house to the door of the garage, and need to know how many of them and what height they should be. Our plan is to use railroad ties for the steps, with stone bricks to fill in between ties. Well, that’s the plan anyway. Who knows what the finished product will be; we still could change our minds a few times. Maybe we’ll luck out and run across an old escalator in a junkyard somewhere.…

We’re running out of floors and walls!

There is more work to be done before our house is finished. Our builder/advisor, Randy, told us to be patient—don’t try to get it all done in a hurry. Live with it; let things evolve. (That can also be an excuse for the phrase, “Not now Honey. I’m thinking about it.”)
One of the rewards of waiting came to me a few weeks ago. I ran across a pattern of black and white squares that makes a very strong illusion of converging and diverging lines. It would make a fascinating tile design, but where to put it—a floor piece? a wall piece? Where would it work? It could be said that any permanent part of the house with this pattern on it should be easily concealable so it doesn’t drive us batty. Maybe a tabletop would work. When in need, hide it with a tablecloth.

Here is the Web address of the site where this and more illusions are shown.

Saturday, November 7

Porch tile done. Entry tile next.

Here I am using our underlayment roller to flatten the stuff that’ll be under the entry tile. Yesterday we ordered the tiles that will be in the center of the pattern in the entryway and today we laid the Schluter Ditra underlayment. All of the tile inside the house has Ditra under it for three reasons; it’s waterproof, it’s as flat as you can get any floor to be, and it insulates the tile from any movement of the floor beneath, such as cracks or swellling.

At the bottom of the photo you can see finished tile and grout on our front porch. There is some work to be done for the final touch, but we don’t have the chemicals yet. Thursday our entryway tile will be in, and we’ll pick up some scrubbing stuff for our front porch tile then. Since the tile is made of natural stone, it’s slightly porous and quickly fills up with anything you’re using as adhesive or grout. So it’s dull-looking. But we’ll get it shined up real good real quick. And when we’re done scrubbing, we’ll be real sore and real tired.


Sunday, November 1

If I knew how long this would take...

I probably would not have started. Here it is, November already! The tile-the-porch project started October 5. I learned a lot over this past month mostly about using stone versus ceramic tile. For one thing, stone tile is fragile. It was just this week that the replacements for about 20 of them that were broken arrived. I think the original order was for about a hundred, so that’s a pretty high attrition rate. Then while using them, some tiles broke in my hands if I didn’t treat them just so.

But the upside of stone tiles is that you can shape them with simple tools. I cut a lot of them in half, which leaves a very sharp edge. Using a rasp, some carbide “sandpaper” and a wood chisel trimmed up the edges just fine. These’s a downside, though, at least with this make of tile. On the back are marks made by the cutting blade. Some of them look like they were cut using a table saw, with circular arcs and one end  thinner than the other. I finally gave up trying to lay them so their surfaces match up flat and smooth. This will be my most irregular tile work, but maybe that will add a bit of charm to the final product.

Just inches away will be a whole ‘nother kind of tile job, the entryway floor. It will be covered with a different kind of stone tile, a very hard smooth stone with fossils in it! Should be interesting. I’ll write about it when the time comes.