Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Groutmaster


I'm kind of pleased, actually. I just installed a kitchen tile backsplash all by myself. Just me and the Sales Associate I cornered at Home Depot until I'd extracted everything he knew about tile-setting. And that's not easy. You have to keep turning your shoulder on the people piling up in the aisle determined to nab him next; you need to pretend they're not even there, no matter how close they edge up, no matter what power tools they may be brandishing. A person like myself, who was brought up by a really nice Lutheran woman from North Dakota, does not normally have the emotional tools to withstand that sort of pressure. But I held out, right down to the grout float and sealer instructions.

Yup, installed it all by myself. Unless you factor in Dave, who stationed himself outside with a tile saw to make cuts on demand. "What'll it be?" he'd say, and I'd hand him a tile and say, oh, three inches, 'ish,' and he'd say "ish?" and lower the eyebrows of scorn.

Dave is comfortable with a tile saw. Can operate a forklift. Can park a tractor-trailer. Can wrangle mathematics well enough to slip a star-shaped tube at an angle into a squid-shaped boiler so tight a fart couldn't get through. Can, let's face it, keep a dozen bricklayers in cuts and material so efficiently they don't have time to wander off for a beer.

Which is to say he can slice a tile right down to the gnat's ass. And we're talking right down the center cleavage of the gnat's ass.

"Ish," he repeated, scowling, and handed me a sharpened pencil. If there was going to be a mistake on this project, it wasn't going to be his fault.

The Home Depot guy talked me into a peel-and-stick mat instead of mastic. It's strongly adhesive. You cut it just so, and peel off one side and stick it to the wall, and then when you're ready you peel off the other side and stick on your tiles. For a small project like this it's not much more expensive than doing it the regular way, and it's easier for beginners. You do have to get it positioned just right. If you're a little off, and you try to pull the mat away from the wall to readjust it, you might take a divot out of the wallboard. Mice would be waiting right there on the other side with their little suitcases.

So I made mistakes. The eighth tile I tried to stick on kept falling off. I was in despair: I had this whole mat up, and it wasn't working! It took me almost a minute to realize I'd merely neglected to peel off the protective cover.  Ha ha! Whew!

I did that five more times.


But it's done. It's not too bad-looking. It's got flaws, but I'm pretty sure if I had it to do all over again, I'd get it exactly right. That is, if I did it tomorrow. I have a protective cover on my memory and rarely get around to peeling it off in time for new information to stick. I'll admit that.

Anyone who repeatedly loses her grout float even though she'd set it down two minutes ago and hadn't moved five feet has to admit that.

42 comments:

  1. Nice job! And my favorite wall color, so much so that I have dubbed it my "signature color." I saw that in a design magazine. People can have signature colors.

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    1. Oh! That color. Once when I was on my route back in the eighties I came upon a newly painted house that color. Which was highly unusual at the time for an outdoor paint job. I said "Wow! That's an interesting choice!" and the lady said (with jaw set) "IT'S PERSIAN BLUE. IT'S MY FAVORITE COLOR." As if daring me to object.

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    2. Oh, I bet she had heard from some unhappy neighbors and assumed you were going to criticize too!

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    3. I call it Makita green. It works for me.

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    4. Seeing any wildly-colored house, our go-go comment is, "But it didn't look that bright on the paint chip!"

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    5. Ain't it the truth. It takes a lot of experience to pick a beige paint chip that doesn't turn out to be screaming pink.

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  2. Rosie the Riveter has turned into Murr the Mason. It is also refreshing to see such a large horizontal surface not covered in appliances, recipes, and general kitchen stuff like ours. But I will not show her that.

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    1. Well, no one was living in that house at the time. I'm sure it's covered now. But our counter stays pretty clean now...if you want me to shoot you a picture to show anyone special.

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    2. Yes, please! I want to see pictures, on your blog, of your handmade tile walls and backsplash above your kitchen counter. They are AMAZING!

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    3. I've got two posts about THAT backsplash set to go, one of these days.

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  3. Nice! I don't know exactly what a grout float is, but I do know that I do the very same thing with whatever tool I'm using for whatever task is at hand. Sigh.

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    1. Lately, sweaters too. I put things down and I swear I don't move, but they do.

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  4. You ROCK that bandana, darlin'!

    Congrats on getting the undivided attention of a Home Depot employee! Not easy. And, mostly, congrats on the completed project. I didn't understand a thing you said regarding it, but from the photos, it looks like a job well done.

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    1. I'm still basking in the glow of having cornered a Home Depot guy all to myself.

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  5. As someone who owns 8 seam rippers, I strongly relate to tools which evolve to embrace independent locomotion. I can always blame the cat when they get lost, but I'm guessing Tater wasn't that interested in a grout float. Although you might want to check under the couch..

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    1. I have four seam rippers and three rotary cutters. Don't ask me where they are right now.

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    2. Are you quilting?! You're quilting, aren't you? Show and tell. You gotta.

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    3. I'm doing a round robin quilt with my cousin, and I'm going to start another in the new year. But did you ever see this post from a few years back?

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    4. I DID see that! I can tell 'cause I just read the comment I left on that post. Ain't the internet a frickin' miracle? Otherwise, I would have no way to know I'd ever laid eyes on that post, memory being what 'tis. It was before I started quilting, I know that much, because I see quilts with brand new eyes now. I started in 2013. Your post must have made a favorable impression on me. Typical.

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    5. Murr! You're a fellow quilter? My eyebrows went up when I read "rotary cutter"! I can only think of one reason a person would have THREE rotary cutters! I always knew you were the best!

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    6. And one of those reasons is they run away!

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  6. I'm over here with Nancy looking for the shears/thread/marker/ruler in the jumble on the kitchen table currently serving as my sewing center. Thankfully the sewing machine is large enough to kind of stand out in the mess.

    Nice backsplash! You (and Dave) are to be admired for your diligence and accuracy, not to mention for not killing each other during a home improvement project.

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    1. Dave had early on decided it was my project, so that probably helped. Otherwise, that CAN be a problem.

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  7. Well done. I know that there is (probably) an end to your talents but it isn't close.
    And ish is a perfectly valid term. I use it often.

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    1. It's valid in horseshoes, I'm told. And you don't want to see me dance.

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  8. What is it that experts say? "Measure twice and cut once."
    The gnats around here have awfully thick knackers...

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    1. Googling "knackers..." ...oh! I thought knackers were people who came out to slaughter your animals. You wacky Australians!

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    2. My dad always said, "I cut it twice and it's still too short."

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    3. I have yet to cut anything an inch too long.

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  9. When I would get a notion to do something like that my wife would shake her head sadly, get up, hand me the phone book open to 'contractors' and our checkbook.

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  10. I'm SOO proud of you. You are a genius compared to me. I once tried to tile a bathroom floor. Before I finished, I sold the condo to the electrician who came to fix my air conditioner and told me to stop already. He would buy it like it was. It wasn't pretty. Or flat.

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    1. Shoot, I'd NEVER do a bathroom floor. I don't even like to get on my knees in there.

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    2. My ex-the -first and our older daughter laid slate tiles on our living room and dining room floors. Did a great job, except her side was a little more perfect than his. Only took them one weekend.

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  11. It looks really great! Well done. Want to come and do mine? No hurry. First I need to fill out the request forms, then I need to wait for the reply that gives permission etc etc

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