Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hardwood and Slate Floors

It's quite ironic: when lots of things are happening and we're very busy, I have the least amount of time to update the blog, but those are exactly the times when blog updates would be the most interesting. Anyway, last weekend was packed with goings-on.

Friday, our slate/thinset/grout was delivered to us. I stayed until about 11:30 that night putting backerboard down.

Saturday, the floor guys put the final coat of polyurethane on the hardwood floors. They look fantastic, especially compared with their original condition; we're very happy with the way they turned out.

Dad helped out a lot on Saturday putting backerboard down while I set slate. Laying the slate is particularly tough work. The pieces are 16" square and around 1/2 inch thick, so they're just bulky and heavy enough to be cumbersome. It's harder than laying tile also because of the severe irregularity of the slate; some pieces are not exactly square, some are quite smaller than the rest, and some are quite thinner. It's like you have to be deliberately and carefully imprecise in order to make it all look square and the joints look consistent--it's very odd.

Sunday I worked on slate from after lunch until dark. Jessica tiptoed across the new floors to the hall bathroom where she cleaned grout off the edges of tiles. Monday morning, we bought a new water heater (to be installed this week). Then Jessica headed to the duplex to start packing stuff while I, of course, continued laying slate.

It was a crazy weekend, and the next one will be even more so. We committed to moving out by the end of the month, and now we're working hard to deliver on that. We'll be moving into a renovation-in-progress house, and whether we have a working bathroom sink and a refrigerator will depend on how much work we can get done over these next few days. We don't want to bring the fridge in until the slate is done, and we don't want to install the sink and toilet until the baseboards in the bathroom are done. Papa is coming down Thursday to help Jessica with that and other things; I'll be slinging slate like a madman; and we'll both be sorting through our stuff at the duplex (How in the world have we accumulated so much stuff already??) to see what needs to be kept/packed, given away, and thrown out.

We'll be praying for peace, sanity, and energy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Today, big things happened. Firstly, it was Jessica's last real (with students) day of school. Huzzah! I took the day off work to meet the contractors for countertop installation and hardwood floor refinishing. Both crews were there before 9 and got to work immediately. The counters and the undermount sink were installed within about 5 hours with little fuss. They look stunning. Jessica and I are very pleased with our choice of granite, and we love our big new sink.

The floor guys spent awhile taking care of nails and other obstructions, then started sanding. The sander was good about sucking up the dust, and it didn't stir up nearly as much I thought it would. They coarse-sanded the whole floor, and fine-sanded everything but the living room. The floors looked fantastic. The guy commented on the high quality of the wood, and they definitely look it.

I picked out a few stain colors that I wanted them to put on the floor for Jessica to choose from when she got out of school. In the living room, they put down about a square foot each of six stains, then put a coat of polyurethane over it. We decided on a light, orangeish-reddish stain called Colonial Maple (the far right in the picture below). I assume that tomorrow they'll finish the sanding and get stain and polyurethane on at least most of the floor. They'll put a total of 3 coats of polyurethane, so I assume the job will take at least 3 more days.

I called our tile guy, who informed me that he arranged for our slate to be shipped from a different distributor, and that it should be in on Friday. This was great news, as I'll now be able to lay slate this weekend instead of just waiting around for the hardwood floors to be done. If I can pick up some backerboard tomorrow and get a jump on that part, I'll be well on my way to (boldly) predicting that the kitchen floor will be at least set (if not grouted and sealed) by the end of Labor Day. It'll certainly be a very busy ten days or so, but things are looking good!

The "before" floor:

During granite installation:

The former floor:

After granite installation:

The stain array:

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I've finally uploaded the last few days worth of pictures. They can all be viewed via the House Pictures link, but I'll post a few below.

Yesterday, Mom-Mom and Papa came down to work again. After work, I headed to the house and Papa and I put the wainscoting up on the wall using some sort of Loctite adhesive. After that was done and they left for home, I mixed up some grout and tackled the bathroom floor. It took me about three hours, but I'm glad it's done. It looks okay; I think I left too much grout in the joints, as they appear pretty wide, but the "scalloped" edges on our tiles are still mostly visible, so I guess it's okay. Next, I'm supposed to seal the grout, but I have to wait three days for the grout to completely dry out so that no moisture gets trapped. But, after they do the hardwood floors, I won't be able to walk to the floor to the bathroom until a week from now. And I don't want to put in the toilet and sink until I've sealed the grout. So just in the bathroom there's quite a bit of work that will have to be done in the last few days. It will be interesting to see how things go from here. Enjoy the pictures!

Can you tell I'm proud of my tile? :-)

The mirror frame Papa made (it will be painted white):

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Weekend in the Bathroom

...not because I was ill, but because I worked almost exclusively in the bathroom all weekend. Saturday morning we got some stuff at the store, including a new blade for my wet saw, then headed over to the house. Papa was there after having dropped Mom-Mom off at my parents house in Ooltewah (she wasn't feeling up to working). He worked on constructing a frame for our bathroom mirror. (I had bought a custom-cut mirror Friday afternoon, only to find out Saturday that I had given them the wrong dimensions. Luckily the mirror is a little too large, so we'll simply need to get it cut again.) I swapped in the new diamond blade and started cutting tile for the bathroom closet. There were so many intricate cuts to make. It was very slow, tedious work, and by the time I was done, it was time to leave for a graduation partyish thing in Ooltewah. My brother Evan graduated from high school Saturday evening.

Sunday, Papa came back down early to work, and we joined him. He finished the mirror frame (which now lacks only paint and a correctly-sized mirror), I set the tile in the closet, then we both got to work measuring and cutting the wainscoting for the lower half of the bathroom wall. Jessica worked on painting woodwork until after lunch, then headed off to do school work (only a week of school left!).

We're shooting for moving in by the end of the month, and it looks like things will be getting done just in the nick of time; we have almost no room for error. We plan on having the countertops installed and the hardwood-floor-refinishing begin on Wednesday. Next Tuesday, the plumbers will do their next round of work. In the meantime, we'll be working on the kitchen floor, which we won't be able to lay slate on until we pick it up on that same Tuesday, which gives us five days to lay the slate, grout, wait for the grout to cure, seal the slate/grout, and wait for the sealer to cure. I have a feeling we'll be staying out of the kitchen for the first few days of June, as I don't think the floor will be quite ready to be walked on and have refrigerators and tables scooted around on it by 6/01.

Things have gone well, though, and we are in great shape compared to what we could have been--if we hadn't had all this help from our families, Papa and Mom-Mom in particular. We're so proud of what's gotten accomplished, and we're looking forward to seeing everything come together in the next few weeks. Keep checking in; I promise updated pictures soon! :-)

Friday, May 16, 2008

More Plumbing, Bathroom Tile, and Hardwood Floors

Yesterday, I took the day off to work on tiling the bathroom floor and to meet with contractors about some more plumbing and the hardwood floors. I want to have all our supply lines replaced; they're 50-year-old galvanized pipes, and they need to come out in order to keep our water in a nice, not-brown-and-gross condition and to make sure the water pressure is satisfactory. I also wanted to make sure we could easily get the washing machine drain pipe properly routed to the sewer line. These things will not be prohibitively expensive, and we'll probably have them done the week after next. The plumber suggested that we also replace the line coming from the street to the house (dig a trench, cut out the old pipe, put in the new one, fill the trench, sow grass seed), and I'd like to have that done too, but that alone will cost nearly $1,000, so I'm not sure we'll jump on it immediately. A higher priority than that pipe is getting our hot water heater replaced; the existing one is 15-20 years old and is probably helping to foul up our water due to rust/corrosion/deposits inside.

Mom-Mom and Papa came down, and Papa worked on the big kitchen window. Dad took half a day off to come help me tile. Thanks to his help, the bathroom floor is all tiled except for the closet. I'll have to buy a fresh blade for my wet saw before I can make the cuts that the closet tile will require; that porcelain is some seriously tough stuff! I hope to have everything in the bathroom grouted and sealed by the end of this weekend. And of course, I forgot to bring the camera to the house yesterday, so you'll have to wait a couple of days for pictures of the tile. :-(

The estimate I got for refinishing the hardwood floors was right around what we expected. We'll probably have them start that next week, but it's possible we'll decide to stay another half-month in the duplex so that things aren't so rushed. We wanted to finish the bathroom and finish all the painting before the floors were done, but it looks like that will take a little longer than we had hoped.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Shower Grouting and Wall Painting

Except for a few tiles that I'll set after tiling the floor, I finished tiling the tub surround last week. Friday evening I began grouting. Since the space between the tiles is very small (~1/16th inch), I had to use "unsanded" grout, which is a little more difficult to use and sets up rather quickly, meaning you have to work with very small amounts at a time or work very fast.

I had intended to buy a mixing paddle to use with the drill, but I forgot, so I tried to mix the grout by hand. This turned out to be amazingly difficult, and by the time I was done mixing, I was worn out and the grout had begun to set. So I rushed to the shower and started flinging grout like a madman. I was scooping it out and smearing it on the wall with the grout float, working in huge sections and making ridiculous movements to get the grout where it should be and keep it away from where it shouldn't. I felt like a crazed artist creating an abstract masterpiece.

I got about 2.5 walls done (at that point, the grout in the bucket simply became too solid to use), then Jessica and I attacked it with sponges, wiping off the excess and creating presentable grout lines. When we stopped, the bathroom looked like a hurricane had hit it:

Saturday morning, we picked up paint for the master bedroom and got to work. I began where I left off with the grouting. I mixed the grout a little thinner this time, so it was easier to mix and the process went much more smoothly. Jessica finished painting the ceiling in the bathroom, then started on the walls. (Needless to say, we did not go with the loud reddish color we first considered. We decided on "Lisbon Blue".) We made surprisingly short work of both tasks.

Jessica took pictures of the flowers she planted around the mailbox Friday afternoon. It looks fantastic, and we're very thankful that Papa repaired the brick flowerbed to make this possible:

With painting almost done (Jessica thinks she'll probably do a second coat on the walls.) and grouting done (except for sealing it), I started on the floor. Dad came over for a few hours and we put some backer board down:

While we were doing this, Jessica painted the master bedroom walls. The color she went with reminds me of sand. I like it, but Jess wishes it were a tad darker.

We miss having everyone around (compared to last weekend, the place was a ghost town), but I feel like we still got a lot done. I hope to finish putting backer board down today and possibly lay a few floor tiles. We're getting closer!

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Big Weekend

The weekend was productive, enjoyable, and memorable. Saturday morning we arrived to find Papa and Ron working on reinstalling the kitchen cabinets and putting molding around the tops of them:

They did a fantastic job, and Jessica and I are very pleased with how it looks. It was nice to see the cabinets go back up; it felt like a big step forward.

I continued working on the shower tile:

Dad scraped, primed, and painted the exterior of both garage doors (note the difference in the painted one on the left and the unpainted one on the right):

Jessica, Mom-Mom, Debbie, and Mom painted:

Aunt Debbie and Mom-Mom prepared a wonderful lunch of soup and grilled cheese sandwiches:

Saturday evening, Ron installed the bathroom light fixture we bought Thursday:

(Note the test patch of "Fiery Red" paint that Jessica was considering for the bathroom walls. Yikes!)

Sunday was just as big a day. Jessica and I went shopping for cabinet hinges and found some very similar to the old ones but in a "brushed nickel" type finish. Papa and Jessica worked on putting doors on the upper cabinets (we want to wait on countertop and slate installation before putting the doors on the lower ones):

Ron and Papa had investigated the condition of the chimney Saturday evening, and found it to be lacking flashing (among other problems), which explains its persistent leaking. Ron performed some repair work that should stop the leaks at least until we save enough money to replace the roof, which is clearly ready for retirement.

Of course, two constants remained: tiling the shower and painting:

Dad came over and mowed the yard, then worked with Papa and Ron to replace two clogged drain pipes that run underneath gutter downspouts. They also investigated the drain pipe for the washing machine. It had originally been run underground to about 30 feet away from the house, where it emptied into a sort of makeshift gravel aquifer covered by rotted plywood about a foot below ground. It had gotten clogged there, so the pipe had been intentionally broken where it came out of the wall, so the waste water would just empty right at the corner of the house. They suggested I have the drain pipe rerouted to run right to the sewer line. I'm going to try to have a plumber look at that this week.

Mom generously brought over white chili and chips for dinner. It was fantastic again.

This weekend was undoubtedly the most productive yet. I'm certainly starting to sound like a broken record: we feel so blessed and loved to have everyone help out so much. We would be in awfully bad shape were it not for the selfless hard work of our families. We could not possibly express adequate gratitude for what you've all done for us. Thank you so much!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Tile, Paint, & Crown Moulding

Yesterday we went to the tile place and picked up our bathroom tile. We also got our slate ordered for the kitchen (finally). The slate is a lot thicker than tile would have been, and since we're already putting it on top of two layers of stuff plus backerboard, we'll pretty much be using a ladder to get from the living room into the kitchen. I talked quite a bit with the owner of the tile place, and it turns out that laying slate is a lot more complex than laying tile, so I'm getting a little nervous.

Mom-Mom and Papa have been down here again this week. Mom-Mom has been painting woodwork, etc.; Papa got the island back in place in the kitchen, and he's been working on putting up crown moulding in the kitchen, among other things, of course.

I don't know where else to put this, so I'll just throw it in here: Today we bought lights and towel racks for the bathroom.

Yesterday we were pleseantly surprised to learn that Aunt Debbie (daughter of Mom-Mom and Papa) and Uncle Ron were planning on coming down (from Gallatin, TN) the next evening and helping out Saturday. They arrived tonight at around 9:00, and they're camping out on an air mattress in the green room. It's nice to have them here to join the cause.

We hope to accomplish a lot this weekend. With all this help, how can we not? :-) I'll be sure to post pictures of all these shinanigans before Monday.

(I should mention that Sunday, Dad brought his pressure washer over and sprayed most of the exterior of the house...while, ironically, it was pouring rain. The house looks better, especially the windows, and now the garage doors can be painted. Thanks, Dad!)