Friday, November 28, 2008

Another re-post from the past (July 2003)

I not so recently decided to remove some hardwood flooring just inside the front door, and I bought two 17-1/4" porcelain tiles to cover the width. Taking up the 80-year-old oak hardwood was not a problem; the problem was taking up only the area I wanted, and dealing with the sub-standard subfloor. I ended up taking up 14.5 feet of 3/8" thick hardwood and 1.5" wide, 1" thick spruce tongue-and-groove subfloor (plus a few random pieces that were used as filler).

Luckily I knew some phone numbers, and within a month I had hired someone to install the plywood subfloor who could start in the next 3 weeks. (If God had meant for me to do it myself, I would still be leaping from joist to joist, and the cats would all have broken legs.)

In the meantime, I had a houseguest who took great pleasure in the house-wide thumping sound she made when landing on the spare boards I'd laid below the bottom stair. I also bought another 3 cases of the porcelain tiles...I know how to install tile -- in theory. I have watched countless in-2-days-change-the-whole-house type decorating shows. I had all the requirements -- tiles (enough boxes of), adhesive (huge bucket of), tools (lots of). What I didn't know was how to cut the tile to fit the cold-air intake grate (intake grate, new one of; plywood installer: cut hole big enough for). I gave it a lot of thought over the next 6 weeks, now that I had a safe and relatively quiet plywood subfloor to walk on.

I know my limitations, and my tools are not among them -- that's why I got a guy to install the subfloor. I can't measure worth a damn. I found a moderated web site ( -- requires registration) that said I could cut the big porcelain tiles with equipment I already had -- a Skil (circular) saw and a dry-cut diamond saw blade (yes, I have one). I cut the tiles, spread the pre-mixed tile adhesive (you know, it's just like soft ice cream, except with the consistency of lard), and set the tiles. I didn't walk on them for 72 hours (even the professional plywood-subfloor installer had his limits, and levelling the floor in an 80-year-old house was among them).

I went to Home Depot and bought a box of grout in a matching colour (who knew there are formulae for calculating whether you need sanded (< or =" 1/4"> 3mm gap {what da f---}), and how many pounds of grout you need using tile size, gap between tiles, and square footage. I now calculate if I don't have enough grout in the house by the end of the job I will use gum.

I'm a tool girl -- I like to take as much time in the hardware store as I do in the clearance section of the clothing department or the drugstore "feminine products" aisle. I have at least 7 saws (cross-cut, coping, Japanese dovetail, miter, hack, jigsaw, circular saw with a variety of blades...), 3 kinds of hammers, a crowbar and a prybar, power drill (and a variety of screw driver bits), a router (used once briefly, but still), at least 10 screwdrivers (Phillips, Robertson, slot, and a bunch of Allen keys); a small socket wrench, a plumbing pipe cutter, gas torch for plumbing, adjustible wrench, pipe wrench; manual tile snapper and a zax (see Scrabble dictionary); box tool; 10" soil tamper; Yankee hand drill (it looked like fun), and, surprisingly, a taco press.

Now that I have enough of the grout (ready-to-mix) in a matching colour (Oyster Gray) and a grout float, and a sponge to smooth the grout with, and and a 5-gallon bucket to rinse the sponge in, and rags with which to wash off the grout haze, I will have the whole floor done by Thanksgiving (including sanding, priming, painting and re-installing the baseboard and some quarter-round trim). I will never walk on this floor, of course -- it's only for show. I'm used to it by now.

Karen in Toronto, who, if she had a husband, would get a lot more done in a lot less time (I'm kidding -- he'd pay for the workers)

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