Sunday, May 27, 2007

OK, I Lied. More Tile to do Before the Grouting Begins.

I was planning on grouting the kitchen area today so we could finally put the table back in place, but decided that if I'm going to get all the grout mixed up, I may as well make it well worth my time. I was going to put off tiling the front entrance, but decided it was better to do it now so I could do all the grout at once. In the following picture, you can see the size of the area I was starting with. It was almost exactly 4' x 4'. The area of the wall which is torn out was where there was a 1/4 height wall in place. I hated it with a passion, so I ripped it out before starting the work. I also removed the top ugly layer of linoleum which exposed the original ugly layer of linoleum.

The 4' x 4' area was barely large enough for one or two people to come in during winter months without tracking slush all over the carpet, so I decided to expand the entrance size by approx 70%. It was a task of making the area big enough without making it look out of place. I went for an angled corner, just to make my life more difficult. Here, I'm test fitting the pieces to see how it'll all fit. At this point, I had no idea how I was going to handle the corners where the 2" x 2" squares went together.

Fast-forward a few hours and the tile is done. As with the tile laid in the kitchen, the tile colors make the crappy skid-mark brown carpet look less crappy. It's still crappy though, and will be replaced. As in some previous tile layouts, I got stupid-lucky here again. The depth of the tile layout allowed me to lay five full-size tiles, with only minor squeezing of the grout lines. Behind the door is where I hid the small tile portions.

When it came to the angled corners, I decided to go with the "keystone" look. I'm not sure if I like it as much as some of the other options available, but it was easy to do and few people will ever even notice how it was done. It also allowed me to make sure the corner pieces were tight against the aluminum edgeing.

Once the thinset is fully dry, we can grout both areas at the same time and get the trim back in place.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Tile is Down, Next Up: Grout!

It's taken a couple of hours over a few nights this week, but the tile in the kitchen dining area is finally down and waiting for grout. Previously, I posted that I had finished all the full-size tiles and only needed to do the tiles which needed trimming. Anybody who's done tile knows that these tiles take the longest. Tonight, I finished cutting them and mixed up some thinset to stick them down. Here is the small hallway leading to the basement, back door, and half-bath (the same half-bath which I tiled a few months back). As you can see, I'm using larger tiles laid straight instead of on a diagonal for the flooring. The edge by the stairs is a full-width edge trim, perfect for the top of the stairs.

While the tile cuts around the basement stairs were easy (almost all 90 degree cuts), the cuts between the kitchen and living room were all at an angle. Here is where I started today, with all the full-size pieces glued down. To make a straight line over 7 tiles, I set full-size pieces in place and used a laser line to guide me. Surprisingly enough, it actually worked very well, Some of the tile spacing needed to be tweaked a little to make sure everything lined up properly, but it's not enough to make it noticeable.

To make a finished edge between the tile and carpet (yes, that skid-mark brown carpet will be replaced in the near future) I used a tile edge which gets stuck down with the tile. Once I replace the carpet and have a new tack-strip to hold the carpet, the aluminum edge will show about 1/8" profile - fine with me. Click on the pics for larger images.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Floor Tile Continued

With all the cement board down, I could turn to today's project of laying the tile. I kicked around a couple of layouts to see what would work the best and result in the fewest cuts. I found that by using the back wall of the house and the wall on the right side of the picture below, I could end up with full tiles in the most visible locations and also the fewest cuts. A lot of tile pros tell you to snap a chalk line grid to help lay out the tiles. I didn't listen to them and used my Ryobi laser to check both grout lines as I did each row. Basically, I just worked to make sure the grout lines were straight. It was surprisingly easy to do - probably because I'm just so damn good at this tile stuff.

As said, I used this wall as a main line for the grout lines. As said on a previous post, I am doing all the full-size tiles now and will come back and do all the cut-tiles when I can walk on the tiles. Then comes grout. As I laid the tile, I tried to mix up the colors and patterns on the tiles to avoid an area made up from all one color. I mixed up 9 boxes of tiles in the process, and am happy with the result. I also worked to keep the "grain" on some of the tiles from running in the same direction. I wanted a random look.

Once I got away from the edges I was able to move at a pretty good speed. I put down enough thinset to lay 6-8 tiles at a time.

At this point, I've put down as much tile as I can without first putting down more cement board. Five hours later I pulled the spacers from the tiles I could reach. I could have (should have?) left them in place until the thinset dried, but I can't leave it alone. Even without grout I'm very happy with how it's turning out.

More Travertine Flooring

It's cold and crappy outside, so what better reason to get away from the landscaping and start on the new kitchen flooring? I'm going to do the kitchen in stages, since we sort of need to be able to use the kitchen while we live here (it's where the microwave is, afterall). Stage One includes about half of the kitchen area, and covers the dining area and pathways to the back door, basement, and 1/2 bath. I'm planning on a full weekend to get the bulk of the work done on this area. That work should include laying the cement board and getting all full-size tiles installed. After this is done, I'll worry about the cut-down tiles and grout - probably to be done over the next few days.

Step one was to take care of the cement board underlayment. I went with Permabase 4'x4'x1/4". I was concerned with removal of the existing layers of vinyl flooring, as I'd bet that at least the older layer was made with asbestos. Instead of removing the layers and risking the health issues, I removed the loose areas and leveled it with thinset before installing the Permabase. Once each sheet of Permabase was installed, I used screws (a LOT of screws) to hold everything down. Yes, I know that having four corners of cement board coming together at the same place isn't the best layout.

Step two was taping the joints. I liked step two, because it took only a few minutes. Step one was the better part of the day and left me with an aching back from being hunched over for hours.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Rust Update

The rust in the water finally got to me. After two months of living here, the white bathtub looked orange. Toilets were getting more staining in the bowls by the day. Even the new whole-house water filter I installed was turning orange. It was time to kick it up a notch! I did a little research on the Internet (there is stuff out there other than videos of Lebanese cat-juggling! I hadn't thought of it earlier, but the salt I was adding to my water softener is available in a version which helps get rid of rust (Morton's, in a green bag). There is also a liquid you add to the brine before the daily flushing of the system which helps remove rust from the media in the softener. I added the new salt and poured in a half-cup of the liquid and had the softener recharge. As it was purging the system, the water coming out had smelled heavily of sulfer and was very off-color. The stuff was working! Two hours later (how long it takes to cycle the softener) I ran it again to try and remove even more rust buildup from the softener. Today, I see a big difference in the color of the water in the toilet. Yes, I mean after I flushed.... It's much clearer. The water filter is still heavily coated with rust, so tonight that comes out and gets washed off, which will hopefully make the water condition that much better.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Baby's Got a New Pair of Shoes

Nice weather meant I was outside most of the day. Since I'm normally up before anybody in the house, I have to do "quiet" projects. This morning, I decided to finish putting the three remaining tires on the lawn tractor. The rear rims & tires came off easily enough, and I was also easily able to get the new tires on the rims. The problem came when it was time to seat the beads on the new tires, as I just couldn't get it to work. I gave it the old college try for about 90 minutes before figuring I was just wasting my time. I'll man-up to the truth and say I was whipped, so I loaded the rear tires and remaining front tire/rim into the car and headed over to a local tire shop. $10 to install three new valve stems and get everything finished up on all three tires. Hell, I'd have paid $10 per tire if they asked for it! It took them less than 10 minutes to do it, thanks to having the right tools and the know-how. I find comfort in knowing I at least got one of the four done completely on my own. That will probably be the one which leaks air. . .

Once everybody else was up, I headed out to the backyard for some sweet, sweet, chainsaw action. I was running low on wood for the firepit, so I took down a medium-sized pear tree and one of the scraggliest pine trees I've ever seen. This gave me a chance to put the old saw I just had worked on to the test. I need to tweak the idle speed on the carb, but it works pretty darn well. My neighbor gave me a sharpening set he has had for years and never used, so now I get a new toy to play with. While I was out cutting wood, my wife took a picture of me:

Don't worry, I put on the safety glasses before getting to work.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

40:1 Gas to Oil Ratio. It Smells Like . . . . Victory.

Faster than expected, I got my small chainsaw back today. The guy who did the work said that for a 20+ year old saw, it was in very good shape and only needed some cleaning and minor tuning to make it run again. I still need to tighten the blade, which is fairly new based on how much metal is still on the teeth. He strongly suggested running closer 6 oz. of oil per gallon of gas instead of the typical 4 oz. Yeah, it'll smoke a little more but it will be better for the saw in the long-run. I may foul a plug doing this, but compared to the cost of a rebuild I can live with that. The extra smoke will help keep the mosquitoes away! I've been burning the wood from the first apple tree I took down, but my stock is getting low so it's about time to drop another one. I've got a scraggly pine in the front yard which is just dying to meet the new (old) saw.

I also took delivery on the replacement tires for the tractor yesterday. Since I had an hour to kill this afternoon before getting dinner ready I decided to see how hard it was going to be to replace the tire myself. Once I took the tire & rim off the tractor, I let out the air and stood on the sidewall to unseat the bead of the tire. Since I weigh 230 pounds or so, gravity gave me a hand in doing this. A little quality-time with some wide flat-blade screwdrivers and I finally got the old tire off the rim. Putting the new one on was easier, but the trick was getting enough air into the tire (without an innertube) to seat the beads on the rim. A trick I learned a while back was to wrap a tie-down strap around the center of the tire. By pulling the center tread of the tire in towards the rim, it forces the outside edges out to where they need to be. Last step is to dump air in as fast as possible and hope that you can get air in faster than it can get out. When the trick works, the beads seat and the tire fills with air. Re-install, and you're done. Well, after repeating 3 more times for the other tires... I'll do those this weekend.

No, I didn't go with white-walls OR spinners.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Tractor Maintenance - Clothing Optional

Alright, I already mentioned that the donkey I bought the lawn tractor from was allergic to maintenance. At least he was honest enough to admit that he never had the tractor serviced - I'll give him that much. Since the weather was a little crappy today and I'm nursing a sore shoulder (hopefully I won't need anything other than rest for it) I decided to do some light maintenance on the tractor myself. Oil was changed, new plug and new air filter installed, etc. I jacked the ass-end up to get the mowing deck high enough to get at the blades, figuring that they probably needed to be sharpened. It cut well, but I figured that 7 or 8 years between sharpenings was a little longer than recommended. After removing the blades, I began to wonder if the previous owner was mowing grass or gravel. Seriously - those were the worst looking blades I've ever seen! Check out the evidence when compared to a new blade:

The blades were in bad enough shape that I figured it wasn't even worth trying to sharpen them, as I'd have to take off so much material. Plus, these blades are designed for use with a bagging system, which I don't have and don't want to get.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Being Lazy is not Without It's Price

So I got that Sabre by John Deere tractor I mentioned a few weeks back, and it runs fine. I've been a fan of the Briggs & Stratton engines for a number of years, and this one hasn't done anything to change my opinion. I'm out today giving the lawn a haircut, since we're supposed to get some rain over the weekend and I want to have it done while I have time. Our ditch is extra soggy, as the heavy clay soil hasn't had any good time yet to dry out. As I'm mowing along the ditch, I notice the tractor start to slow down. It wasn't the engine bogging down, but the ass-end of the tractor starting to dig into the ground. It dug in enough that I couldn't proceed forward or backward, and I probably wasn't helping things by towing a lawn aerator at the time. Well, I'm incredibly strong so all I had to do was just pick the back end up and move it over. Seriously. I could have pressed it overhead and thrown it over the ditch if I so desired. That leads me to my issue-du-jour. The tires on the tractor suck. The guy I bought it from didn't have a shed or garage to keep it in, so he kept it under his deck. The tires are dry-rotted, weather-cracked, and provide very little traction due to how dried out they are. They're pretty much shot, and two of them have slow leaks meaning I have to fill 'em every time I want to use the tractor. Not a huge deal, but it is annoying none the less. Today I ordered new shoes for the tractor. A week from now I hope to have 'em installed. We'll see how that goes, since I'm doing the replacement myself. Just one more thing to do on a very long list.

The Wisconsin Chainsaw Massacre

I love chainsaws. The fact that they're ridiculously deadly, and are essentially an engine and a blade with lots of small, sharp teeth may have something to do with why I love them. From my movie-going experience I know that they not only take care of the typical tree problem, but are also your best friend when you're trying to find a way to dispose of extra body parts laying around the house. Hey, we've all been there.

This blog entry will deal with only legal activities surrounding chainsaw use. Sorry.

As of last weekend, I owned two chainsaws. Heck, who doesn't? Both were Homelite, and they were easily 20+ years old. Neither had been started for 10 years or longer, as they were my Grandpa's. Prior to this house, the largest tree in my yard could be taken down with a Sawzall - ask me how I know. The larger chainsaw had an 18" bar and the smaller a 10" bar. I have (well, had) three apple trees in the backyard which I wanted to remove, so I broke out the larger saw and tried for a half-hour to get it running. My guess is that the seals are shot and it needs a rebuild. Ain't no way it was going to start for me. Heck, the cost to get it running at a shop could cost $75, and a new saw is only $120 or so, so I picked up a new saw and gave tree #1 hell. #2 and #3 feel my wrath this weekend. There are a few other trees on my lot which will also get some saw-on-wood action soon.

I was trying to figure out what to do with the old saws - I don't have the knowledge to get 'em running myself. Luckily, I found a co-worker who does stump-grinding and tree removal as side work and made a deal with him. He gets the small saw running for me for the cost of parts and I give him the larger saw. Fine deal for me, as I was probably going to either give both saws away or throw them away if nobody wanted 'em. Two operating saws is good, but if I get a third one I can learn to juggle!

Chainsaw tip-o'-the-day: the chaps made specifically for use while using a chainsaw aren't as protective if you don't wear pants under 'em. Seriously - why would you want to protect your legs from the blade while letting your junk hang in the breeze? There wasn't a lumberjack in the Village People, was there? I remember something about those guys and chaps, but (luckily) forget what it is.

Special thanks go out to Officer Parkens, for only giving me a warning, which resulted in today's tip.