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.

Monday, April 7, 2014


No shit so there I was. A boatman once told me that every great story must begin with these words and so I start this story with them. I was at my wife's uncles house in Dallas and his live in partner had waffles set out for breakfast. They were prepackaged things you buy in the supermarket and taste like cardboard compared to ones made from scratch. They were tiny things that you were supposed to toast and serve. As I got two out of the package, the live in partner seemed very concerned. He told me that they don't toast and only burn so if I put them in the toaster I could only do so for a minute. 

When I make waffles from scratch, I always make more than I need so everyone can have as much as they please and because they freeze really well and heat up well in a toaster. You do have to monitor them because they do take longer than bread to toast to get warm and crisp and if you leave them in too long they will burn but the window between those states is a couple minutes. So I thought that if I stood right by the toaster and constantly monitored the waffle toasting progress I would do just fine and make the jumpy partner at ease. Wrong. About a minute and thirty seconds into the toasting process, the partner of my wife's uncle suddenly screeched that they were burning. I immediately popped them up from the toaster and was able to grab one of them as it bounced out but the other one was still down in the toaster due to its diminutive size. The one I had retrieved was barely luke warm, soggy and no signs of burning so I didn't think there was much danger of actual burning as I stepped across the kitchen to get a fork to pull the second waffle from the toaster. 

The partner of my wife's uncle however had different ideas. Still screeching about burning waffles he leaped across the kitchen and frantically started jerking the toaster lever and trying to catch the waffle like his life depended on it while I watched with fork in hand. When he finally got the waffle out he audibly breathed a sigh of relief and stepped back telling me about how that had been what he had been referring too when he spoke of burning waffles. I took the waffles into the dining room where the first waffle I had retrieved was still soggy and barely warm. The waffle that the partner of my wife's uncle had frantically retrieved had just started to brown and was actually halfway crisp. Needless to say I declined to eat waffles the following morning.

No shit that's the truth. The same boatman ended his stories like that.