Saturday, December 31, 2011

The One Percent

On our tile wall, about 99% of the area is tile and the rest is grout. This particular ceramic tile has a glass-like finish that is completely non-absorptive. On the other hand, the grout (the one percent) is uncommonly thirsty and indiscriminate about its thirst.

But get this: Our tile is finished only on the top--its back and sides are red Mexican clay that has been baked in an oven and is as parched and thirsty as a desert lizard in July. A drop of water immediately disappears into this clay.

What does this mean? When we take a shower, water rolls off the tile and is sucked into the grout. The sides of the tile then begins to suck water away from the grout until the insides of the tile can get wet. (This is also called trickle-down, the effects of which are nearly impossible to measure.) So even after the shower is over and the walls are dry on the outside, some of the moisture remains trapped where it cannot be seen and from where it cannot easily evaporate and escape.

Over time this one percent provides the perfect breeding ground for ugly black mold, ruining things for the 99.

The best defense is to soak the grout with silicone sealer, an outrageously expensive substance that is difficult to apply to walls and especially to the ceiling, causing an unavoidable measure of waste. It seems that using a spray bottle and sponge may be the best approach. My Scottish side cannot help worry about the cost, but it must be done.

In any case, the one percent cannot be ignored. It has an insatiable appetite, consuming more than it possibly can use, and with no ability to control itself.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Painting the Trim

I found some white paint in the garage, so I decided to give it a try as the first coat (after two coats of primer). It said vanilla-bean white on the can, which could mean anything, and which turned out to be almost the same color as the walls. I'll need to pick up some trim white at Home Depot.

I don't have any shelves yet and there's no time. To meet the deadline I've got to get back onto the shower and finish sealing the grout and then, finally, hook up the plumbing.

No time even to finish this post. Going to a wedding today...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Days Between

The days between Christmas and New Years Day are a vanishing refuge for us corporate lackeys and peons who once could expect a few days of rest and who now are expected to work and compensate for all the missing employees, those poor souls who have been laid off and who also can't relax this week, due to the stress and worry.

Specifically, I'm not talking about our little Jam, who has shown no interest in helping me with the project or in helping Willow (as a corporate goon underling butt-kisser assistant manager type, whatever it is that they do) and who has shown no regret or anxiety whatsoever at being unemployed and unoccupied at this or any other time of year. The new drop-dead project date has no affect on Jam, nor does any event affect him that occurs within the considerable time and space that is not between him and his food bowl.

So, yes, I am working overtime during this vacation days, working to meet the deadline. I suppose I should give Jam some credit--he doesn't chew up everything in site anymore.

And I should account for the fact that Jam might be destined for an occupation that does not including home remodeling or business. Maybe he is more suited to an artistic life? Or maybe he might be suited for some personal service? I am afraid to get my hopes up too much...

I've got the detail and trim in place around the window, door and shelves. Just a little more carpentry and it will be ready to paint--two coats of primer and then some vanilla-bean white, two coats.

Once the white paint is on and the tape is removed from the tile, there should be an interesting reflection at this point.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Red Velvet Pancakes

I admit being skeptical about the idea of having red velvet pancakes and bacon for breakfast, but I was determined to make the best of it and was even prepared to fabricate a more favorable than honest opinion of them if necessary, which seemed a very likely outcome because I am not a fan of bacon (though this was supposed to be some special sort of bacon) or pancakes, at least not early in the morning.

But we opened our presents early, while the red batter rested in the kitchen, and I was so pleased by all the surprises, including my new clay teapot and some monkey oolong (said to be picked by monkeys because the tea grows so high), that I was prepared to eat a dozen fat pancakes and not make a face no matter what.

And not to forget that on Friday I learned that I do not have cancer after all, and after a week of waiting for the test results, so that I could easily eat 2 dozen pancakes and not make a single face or fail to compliment them on any single bite.

The time came, and the pancakes sat a blistering crimson in the pan, big and fat and scary. Food for a vampire, possibly, but not for a person. And the bacon sizzled in the pan to the left. OMG, I thought.

But then we sat at the table and I reached for a pancake (reaching with both hands just in case) and was surprised by the feathery lightness and was surprised again when I tasted them--sweet but not too much. In fact, probably the best pancakes I've ever had.

Later we had tea on the porch (it's about 75 degrees today) and more pancakes for a snack. Excellent.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Corporate Euphemisms

While the corporate world is usually very good with euphemisms such as outsourcing, outplacing, rightsizing, smartsizing, streamlining, etc., they occasionally can be pretty blunt with language. This morning, for example, Willow emerged from her meeting and announced that I had a drop-dead date: January 19.

The implication is that something very bad will happen if the bathroom project is not completed by that date and for now, she said with a cryptic smile, I can just use my imagination.

We have seen these tricks before, one thing after another, bringing in young, hard-nosed micro-managers and so on. But now I am left to wonder if the universe will implode on itself if it cannot shower at my house by January 19. Just what is about to drop dead?

Yesterday I tackled the most difficult carpentry task so far: getting the trim for the new cabinet area to wrap around multiple layers of wall, a task that dates back to the very beginning of demolition, when I was forced to make a difficult choice about whether to use the existing studs or remove the wall and start over, and I won't revisit that decision now except to remember that I was between a rock and hard place then and I remain similarly positioned now.

In short, the shower wall is not level with the wall behind the toilet--it's about 2 inches out. So I need to compensate with framing.

To do this I need two layers of framing and a special cut on the first layer (actually several cuts), the diagramming for which looks more like a football play than carpentry.

The toilet side of the frame was simpler, and finally the tile can be seen with smooth border. With some paint this should finally have a clean look.

January 19 seems both near and far away. Obviously, I can't rush the project now, but I do have to admit (privately and away from the management goons) that deadlines can sometimes have a positive effect.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


To frame in the window, I'd need to split some boards in half, like thin-sliced bread, and to do that I'd need to be in the proper frame of mind.

Interesting that the word frame has so many meanings and textures. Framing a picture or a window is a positive thing, while framing a person is not. An isolated picture from a movie is a frame. A mind has a frame, even though it has no edges or corners. And a mind can have a frame of reference and, when inspired, can frame an idea.

Because I'll be painting the window frame instead of letting the natural wood show, I am less careful about the process in general. I know I can fill the small cracks with caulk and no one will know.

Immediately I discovered that stapling up the plastic was a dumb idea. The staples stick up and don't let the thin boards sit flush. I stripped them all out.

Also this is my first opportunity to cover the tiles with wood--this requires some special cuts that also don't need to be perfect. I'll put some putty between the wood and tile, and then paint over the top.

Once I account for the many imperfections, I'll be ready to paint.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Not Breaking the Tank - Hyperbole

Hyperbole is not my friend. After writing a post yesterday about my absurd fear that I might somehow break the new toilet tank (because I clearly broke the first one, though I still don't understand how), and after writing that the tank appeared to be OK, all with a foolish pretense that installing the tank was akin to defusing a bomb or splitting a big diamond, I discovered that, in fact, the new tank is NOT OK.

Water was dripping from the opening where the water supply goes into the tank. I took out the float valve, and there it was--a crack.

On closer inspection the crack is obvious, not all the way through the tank but just enough for the water to seep under the washer.

Oh, yes. The company should replace this tank, and they might. But I've read the fine print on their web site (not to mention the big print on the box), and I know what a pain this will be. I've already installed the tank, and I should have inspected it first. Most of the crack was hidden under a washer, but I could have seen it.

Sending it back means I spend the time to pack it up and ship it back and send them emails and bitch over the phone and then finally get another tank and install it again. On the other hand, I could fix it in 10 seconds and it most likely would be fine for the next 200 years.

Yes, hyperbole is not my friend. I know this from playing blackjack in Vegas and (after learning my lesson) from watching other people at the table, like the guy who says "Well, I can't possibly lose again." And that guy always loses again.

My two options: send it back or fix the crack. I am 99% sure about what to do. More later.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Not Breaking the Tank

Today I handled my new toilet tank with all the care and tenderness that I might apply to a little puppy, resting the tank on a big Styrofoam pad that came in the shipping container. After watching it there for an hour or so, I got up the nerve to start with the first step: gentling nudging the big rubber gasket into place on the bottom of the tank.

Gently, more gently still, I slid the washers onto the two main bolts and threaded these through the little holes on the bottom of the tank--doing it this way despite my better judgement to insert the bolts later--doing it because the little instruction sheet demanded it.

Then on both knees I caressed the smooth porcelain sides of the tank, very cool to the touch and delicate, reluctant to pick it up for fear that that my fingers my bruise the surface or cause it to shatter due to my unbridled strength and ogre-like clumsiness.

And then, blindly now, because I can't actually see if the bolts align with the holes, I inch the tank down, inch by inch, over the toilet, not daring to breath or blink, until the gasket magically finds its way into the hole.

No time to relax though. The secret is in tightening the screws: too little and the tank will leak; too much and... but I can't stand the thought. So, small turn on the left screw, matching turn on the right, back and forth, gently rocking the tank to determine if mating has been achieved. And then not a scosh more, not a micro-inch more or Chaos might wrap its arms around me and never let go, throwing bits of porcelain into the air, blasting the roof off the house and leaving me as a blackened cinder on an otherwise pristine bathroom floor.

And then am I done? No. Gently, gently, I turn on the faucet and watch the water rise into the tank, but only a few inches so that I can watch for leaks.

Looks OK for now...

Monday, December 5, 2011

UPS, Good

Not only did I find a replacement for the toilet tank that cracked, but the company ( delivered it in two days and with free shipping, even after their website estimated 2 weeks for delivery. UPS left the big box on my front porch.

Like usual, the UPS guy rang the doorbell, hurried back to his truck and drove off before I could get downstairs. The warning on the box reminded me of the catch-22 episode with my shipment of tile last year: I could not inspect the tile before signing for it; if I refused to sign, he promised, he would drive away with the tile. But that was a third party shipping company, not UPS.

Years ago I had some friends who played in another band, and I just happened to be with them when their guitar player quit. He stood in the doorway and refused to come in, stood there in his brown uniform with tears in his eyes, explaining how his wife and new daughter had changed his life and how he needed the security of a steady paycheck, etc. He wouldn't look anyone in the eye. "UPS is a good company," he said more than once, more to himself than to us.
My toilet tank, a very fragile thing, came in the box that says "Please inspect before signing...," but I didn't even get a chance to sign, so no inspection took place. Luckily the tank is fine. But what if it had been broken? I have no doubt that UPS would make it right. (Good company)

The tank still isn't installed--our Christmas party was this weekend. Very nice time.