Over the weekend, Matt was building our new soffits. After several redesigns (on paper), he eventually decided to go with a simple design. We’ll provide an update soon to show the completed result. Or at least what we pass off as complete around here, which means fully functional but lacking finishing touches. In the meantime, here are a few progress shots.
The plastic sheeting that has been serving as our temporary soffits (and seems to have done its main job of keeping animals from making their home in our attic) is finally gone!
Matt is pretty good about protecting himself from the sun when working outside. He has been known to go shirtless once the sun is lower in the sky, but in the hours around noon, it’s long sleeves, a hat, and maybe even a t-shirt to protect his neck.
Meanwhile, I did a little bit of electrical work. We had already run wire for a new circuit to our future tankless water heater, which will be installed on the south exterior wall of the house. I decided to install an outlet on the inside of that wall to give the water heater ground fault protection. I’m not sure whether it needs to be GFCI protected, but it seemed like a good idea since the water heater will be outside, and if it turns out to be a requirement, I don’t want to have not done it and find out when the inspector comes. I looked at GFCI circuit breakers, but those things are about $50. A regular breaker is only a few dollars, and a GFCI outlet is under $10, so I just couldn’t see spending that much money when I could get the same effect for so much cheaper. A GFCI outlet protects the rest of the circuit that is downstream from it. That’s why your kitchen might have a couple of GFCI outlets and the rest are regular. Press the test button, and the rest of that circuit will turn off. Kitchens have to have at least two circuits serving the outlets, so it probably will only turn off half the outlets, most likely along the same wall.
I ended up installing a double outlet, mainly because I didn’t have on hand a single box that would attach to the side of a stud. And can you really have too many outlets? There is nothing else in this circuit. Matt had already opened up the whole wall because some plumbing will need to be done in there for the water heater. The inspector will want to see the connections in the box; the receptacles will be pushed into the box and covered with a plate later.
Then I covered it all up with copious amounts of painter’s tape, which I always do conscientiously ever since I once witnessed a spider come out of a hole we had cut in the wall. Never again! I also finally put a plate on the Cat-5 (ethernet) outlet we’d put in, oh almost two years ago and left hanging out of the wall with some more blue tape over it. It took about one minute to put that plate on. For shame.
I also replaced an old two-pronged outlet with a new three-pronged one, even though we haven’t upgrade the wiring to it yet, which means it is not grounded. The old outlet was just loose and ugly. The most annoying thing I’ve had to deal with in upgrading the electrical in this house is that someone painted over all the screws holding the outlets and switches to their boxes.
Every time I need to remove one, it is really hard to get the screwdriver to bite on the screw. I have tried scraping the paint out of the screw head with a razor blade, using an old chisel as a flathead screwdriver, and if I still can’t get a grip, sometimes I turn the screw with needle nosed pliers. I don’t know where this tool came from or what its intended purpose is, but it worked pretty well for me this time. If anyone knows what this is, please tell me.
I always label outlets as “not grounded” if they look grounded but aren’t - for safety and also to remind myself that a particular outlet still needs to be upgraded to new wiring.
We are making progress! I am almost ready to have my electrical work inspected, and once that is done, we can have the water heater installed and finalize the installation of the fireplace insert.
I finally got around to sorting and filing a big old stack of papers that had been accumulating for months. Naturally, this job requires watching some TV at the same time, so I was using the couch and coffee table. Sonny has some kind of radar for people getting up from the couch, so he was there as soon as I took a break. Max wanted to be on the couch too, but it was covered with papers, so he plopped down on top of Sonny. Classic Max.
Matt changed the brake pads on his bike last weekend. Which reminded me that my bike has had a flat tire for two years. Which means I haven’t ridden my bike in two years. Isn’t that sad? Matt has been riding his bike to the P-patch and to work, and obviously I haven’t ridden anywhere. I used to ride my bike all the time.
Well OK, I hereby vow to you People of the Internet that I will change the flat tire within one week. I bought a new inner tube about a year ago, plus some general maintenance & tune-up stuff (like chain degreaser and chain lubricant and I can’t even remember what else because it was a whole year ago) when I took a free bike maintenance class at REI. Actually it was two classes. Wow, this just gets worse and worse. I did make almost made an attempt to change the tire a month or two after those classes, but I got about as far as getting out all my tools and stuff and cleaned the chain before I started getting attacked by mosquitoes, so I called it quits. This could be one of my all time greatest feats of procrastination, and I have some doozies. Maybe the first step is admitting you have a problem. Hi, my name is Kelly and I haven’t ridden my bike in two years because I’ve been too lazy to change a flat tire. Deep breath. And now I can move forward.
I have been doing some sewing recently and it seemed like every other project I did went terribly, with the bobbin thread repeatedly getting all bunched up on the back of whatever I was sewing. And then other times I would sew something and it was completely fine with no issues. I had tried adjusting the tension and every other potential fix I could find in my manual and online, but nothing helped. I noticed that when I was sewing with red thread, I didn’t have the issue, but with white it was one tangle after another. I wondered if there was something different about the thread. But then I remembered that Sherry from YHL had issues using her new sewing machine and her problem turned out to be that she was using the wrong bobbin. Could it be? Have I had a set of bobbin saboteurs lurking in my sewing box all these years?
I compared my bobbins. It’s hard to tell unless you look closely, but the offending bobbin is just slightly smaller than the good one.
See it now? It reminds me of the old days of computer programming when I didn’t have a code editor and would spend hours trying to figure out why my code didn’t work, only to discover a single missing comma. Anyway, it turns out I have six good bobbins that came with my machine, and somewhere along the way I bought some new bobbins that have been intermittently making my life difficult ever since. On my latest trip to the fabric store (4th of July sale) I found this pack of bobbins on the super-sale rack, and it lists Kenmore, so I was hoping that meant it would work.
Before using them, I carefully compared them to my good bobbins. They seem to be the exact same dimensions, but I’ll be watching out for trouble just in case. I’ve tried one so far and didn’t have any tangles. What a relief!
I have to give a shout out to Sherry. Had she not 1) persevered through a very frustrating series of attempts at sewing long enough to finally figure out what the core problem was, 2) blogged about it, and 3) generally kept up a blog that I find so informative and entertaining that I read pretty much every post every day, then I probably wouldn’t have thought to look at the bobbin as the potential source of my problems. Blogging saves the day again!
Collapsible wire dog crates work really well for us. They are easy to bring with us when we travel. Folded flat, they don’t take up much room in the car. If we have them set up in the car so the boys can ride in them, they don’t block the view out the back. We do crate the dogs when we’re not home, but we’re getting pretty close to letting them stay home alone uncrated. We’ll still keep them set up though, as they’re really helpful when we need to make sure the dogs are out of trouble and harm’s way. Max actually loves his crate, and frequently chooses to spend time in there.
We have some ideas to incorporate the crates into the room’s furniture (someday when we completely reconfigure the room around the new fireplace) - either by building frames around them to turn them into side tables (as in the photo), or by building some kind of console, credenza, or shelving unit with built in space for them underneath. Either way, the crates themselves would be easily removable so we can take them with us, but when they’re in use at home, they’ll blend in to the decor.
Once we found the right size for our boys and scored two semi-matching ones (one was cheap on Craigslist, the other on sale from Petco.com), I felt like that was a pretty good stopping point in the overall plan, since we haven’t yet settled on exactly what we want to do. For now, the crates are just off to the side of the living room, and I often sort of use them as tables by just setting things on top of them. But one thing was bothering me. These crates come with a metal rectangle on the door with a sticker showing the the brand. I have a bit of an aversion to brands being displayed on anything I own and tend to remove such stickers, tags, etc. Anyway, I compulsively ripped those stickers off as soon as I got the crates. Only they were that annoying kind of sticker that rip instead of peeling off, and then they looked even worse.
I figured I’d put something else over them. I considered making name tags, but it seemed unnecessary and a little too cutesy, and besides, I have a collection of stickers just sitting in a box waiting to be used. Matt prefers that we don’t put any bumper stickers on our car because “it makes the car easy to follow,” which is problematic in an alternate universe where we’re either government operatives or criminals. Nevertheless, I hang on to these things because I’m secretly a hoarder they might come in handy sometime - like now, see keeping them all these years is totally justified and not crazy! Here’s a selection of stickers I considered for this little project:
I thought about going with something abstract, like combining a couple the green stickers with leaves, or going with an all-animal theme (dolphins, turtles, cows), Hawaiian theme (for some reason I bought a bunch of stickers on a trip there), or maybe cutting up the Mauna Kea invisible cows bumper sticker to create a quirky set. In the end, I thought the simple cow on a red background and a Mates of State (my favorite band) sticker just worked somehow. I just trimmed them down to size and stuck ‘em on.
In fits and starts I’m getting my new p-patch going. After I turned over the new plot, I knew that it was going to have to run on its own for awhile. Case in point: un-trellised snow peas (right-middle), weeds (everywhere), foot high crimson clover cover crop (back). I’m definitely taking the long view in this endeavor.
A little background: I’m transitioning out of a community garden I’ve been gardening at for almost seven years and into this new one. At the moment I have one foot in one garden and the other foot in the other garden. That equates to about double the ground to care for. While my feet are at the p-patches, my hands are always busy in my slowly emerging landscape/edible garden at home— maybe an order bigger of a task. If I ever become a farmer, I think this transition will have taught me some valuable lessons. Even if I don’t become a bonafide farmer, these garden lessons are good ones.
Lesson #1: It’s really important not to beat yourself up when things aren’t perfect.
Lesson #2: When you don’t have the time to make things perfect, do what you can to spin-up processes that are self-perpetuating.
—Plant legumes (I chose snow peas and cover crops because the timing was right for the former and the timing is almost always right for the latter). Both enrich and build the soil and peas/beans have the added bonus of yielding some wonderful edibles.
—Plant things that are hardy and yield a crop that can be harvested whenever and don’t necessarily need to be harvested all at once. I planted leeks.
—I dug permanent paths so that my movements wouldn’t compact the soil and impede root growth.
Over several weeks I collected the supplies to create walls along my footpaths. These walls will primarily serve to keep the soil in the beds from sloughing off into my paths (and thus keep me from having to routinely move dirt from the paths back to the beds and continually struggle to keep irrigation water from running off the beds rather than percolating into the soil).
I used cedar fence slats that are ~5/8”x5-1/2”, made stakes from whatever ~1” x 1” wood scraps I had around the yard/garage, and when I ran out 1x1 stakes, I just broke bamboo into stake size bits to temporarily anchor some of the cedar walls. I didn’t use any hardware to attach the slats to the stakes. I just let the pressure of the soil sandwich the slats against the stakes and the butt ends of the slats just butt together. I built what you see in probably half an hour and just needed a handsaw, hammer, and some string line (to aid me in building straight walls). Another bit of time was spent getting the supplies together, cutting the stakes, and getting all the materials to the garden… but pretty trivial.
I’m happy to say I harvested my first peas, removed the clover in minutes, removed the peas in a minute the minute after I harvested some pods (b/c I needed the space and didn’t want to fuss with trellising and knew I had a good crop coming in at home), planted my starts, watered, and finished up just before it got dark. Probably two and a half hours in all.
The next day I promptly abandoned my starts for five days (which I don’t recommend doing but life called). Without water my veggie-babies did suffer a few casualties… but hey, I’m happy with my imperfect garden and that happiness will keep me going back.
After my previous tile setting attempt, which failed became a preparatory step / learning experience, I felt I had a much better understanding of the materials I was working with and how to achieve the desired spatial relationship between the tile, edging, and surrounding wood floor.
I laid out all my materials and tools so I was ready to go.
Setting the tile
I mixed the thinset much thicker this time, to a nice sticky peanut butter consistency. I applied the thinset to the floor with a 1/4 inch square notched trowel along two of the edges first and set the edging in it. I pressed it down as far as it would go because I knew from drysetting everything over and over again that’s where it needed to sit. Normally, one lays tile starting in the middle of the field and working out to the edges, but I needed to start at the corners and work inward to make my edges line up perfectly. From my numerous dry runs, I already knew the spacing would work with 1/4 grout lines. In the field, I troweled notches perpendicular to the previous (hardened) notches. By holding the trowel at a shallower or steeper angle, I made the notches shorter or taller according to the little map I had made. (See previous post if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)
It was pretty smooth sailing. I used shims to keep my edges even, and I pushed the mitered ends of the edging together until I had perfect corners. When I had all the tiles set, I started tapping on the tiles to make sure there was enough thinset under all areas of each tile. The very right front corner sounded hollow. I pushed the tile away from the corner as much as I could and saw that the thinset hadn’t squished over to the edges on that tile as much as I’d hoped. My first thought was to put some thinset in a ziploc bag with the corner cut off (like a pastry bag) and apply a bead of thinset around the edge and push the tile onto it.
I did that, but I wasn’t satisfied with the result. Although the hearth won’t be walked on as much as if it was some other section of flooring, I worried that this particular tile being in the
front corner of the hearth could see some traffic over time, and I didn’t want to risk the tile getting broken due to not having enough thinset under it in the corner. So I lifted the tile using a concrete edger (similar to pictured, but obtained for $1 at a garage sale) to get under the edge and pull it up. That worked well. I scraped the thinset off the tile and the floor, rinsed the tile and let it dry while I troweled new thinset onto the floor, making sure my coverage was good all the way to the edges. I reset the tile and was happy with the result. You can see in the photo the piles of thinset I scraped off onto paper towels.
I had all my tiles set. Woohoo! I used my straight board again to make sure the tiles were all even with each other and the floor. Then I cleaned up any excess thinset from between the tiles, cleaned the surface of the tiles and edging, and cleaned all my tools. To keep the dogs from stepping on the tile for at least a day, I put the big piece of plywood over the hearth, raised up on some pieces of 2x4 set around the hearth.
Things I did differently (i.e., better) this time:
taped the dropcloth to the floor so it wouldn’t slide around
mixed thinset thick like sticky peanut butter
knew that I would have a couple hours to work with the thinset and that it would easily clean off the tile and edging when I was done, so didn’t panic if a tile needed to be reset or I got some thinset on surfaces
started with a base at the exact right height - key to success in this case
I waited almost a week to grout, not because the thinset needs that long to cure, but because I was working on weekends. On the advice of several people, before grouting I applied a sealant to my tiles to help keep the grout from sticking to them. This is unnecessary when working with glazed tiles, but with stone, the grout can get worked into the surface and be very hard to clean up unless it has been sealed. We like the look of the natural stone, so I made sure to use sealant that is not an enhancer (enhancer sort of makes it look wet all the time and emphasizes variations in the stone). I mixed up the grout according to directions, just mixing it by hand in a large yogurt container since I didn’t need a lot. I liked the ziploc bag as pastry bag method, so I dumped all of the grout into a bag and cut the corner off.
I applied a thick bead of grout to all the spaces between tiles and to the small space between the Schluter edging and the tile. Then I pushed the grout into the cracks with my float, worked it all the way in, and scraped off the extra. I did not grout between the edging and the wood floor nor between the tile and the brick facade of the fireplace (grouting between different materials such as tile to wood or floor to wall is a big tiling no-no as this will crack and cause problems over time, but the space between the edging and tile is meant to be grouted). To prevent any grout from accidentally getting in the space between the wood floor and the Schluter edging, I had applied blue painter’s tape. These spaces will be filled later with sanded caulk. [Edit: Two years later, I never did take the step of filling that gap with sanded caulk. It looks fine. The only time I regretted not doing it was when someone spilled a drink on the floor and I was a little bit worried about moisture in the crack. I may still do it sometime.] After letting the grout set up for about 15 minutes, I cleaned the tile surface repeatedly with a grout sponge (which apparently has magical properties and should not be replaced with a regular sponge) and clean water which I had to change a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t just smearing the grout around.
As the grout dried, I cleaned the tile again with my grout sponge, making sure to squeeze out as much water as possible. I checked every couple of hours to see if a haze was forming. I’ve read that this haze, if present, must be cleaned off before the grout cures or it may become extremely difficult to remove, so even though I didn’t see any haze, I buffed the tile again. And here it is all done.
We think it looks great. It’s almost perfectly flush with the wood floor; you can’t feel any height difference if you step on the edge. I really couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out!
p.s. For those out there who might be planning their own hearth tiling project, I will provide a materials/tools/cost breakdown in another post along with some tips I have learned. [Update: the full Hearth tiling project recap is available.]
p.p.s. Now we can finally have the installers return to make the final hookups on our Mantis fireplace insert and install our new tankless water heater!
Max catching balls. I just think it’s funny how he waits so intently, then springs into action involving rapid body contortions.
Sonny stays out of the way when Max has zoned in on the ball. Besides, while Max is super motivated to get the ball, Sonny doesn’t care so much about getting it as having it. He just wants to have it, carry it around, and chew on it. Sonny will fetch given the opportunity though.
We’ve both been working on developing the dogs’ fetching skills. So far, the only thing both dogs will reliably fetch (including bringing it back) is the orange rubber Chuckit balls. Man, do they love those. We had three, but we’re down to one since Matt threw one over the fence at the dog park last week. I brought out a Kong squeaky tennis ball yesterday, and only Max will bring that back, and only sometimes. A regular tennis ball: forget it, neither dog will even pick it up.
Matt has some training dummies (like these and this), and we’ve both been working on training with those. Neither dog will fetch them when thrown yet, but we’re working on it. We click and treat them for touching the dummy, and so far Sonny will touch it and mouth it if you’re holding it, while Max will do that plus touch or paw at it while on the ground. Both dogs pick up on the training in different ways. Max is very eager and willing to try new things, like pawing instead of touching it with his nose, or making the transition to touching an object on the ground instead of in your hand. Sonny doesn’t make the leap to the next step very quickly (such as the object being on the ground), but he is consistent once he gets it. It’s a lot of fun to get the dogs to think and figure out what to do. We are just using kibble so far and the dogs seem motivated by it.
Ok. When we left off, we had demoed the old tile and started preparing for the new slate tile by pouring some concrete, selecting our tile, and cutting both the tile and edging. We were a bit conservative pouring the concrete, so our pad was still a bit low. After doing some more research online, I decided that using the Schluter Ditra underlayment would be a good way to bring up the height of the tile while also protecting against any cracks due to expansion and contraction of the wood floor. Given the previous issue with the tile getting so jammed up against the wood that it created hideous cracks in the floor, taking the extra precaution against any problems seemed like a good idea. I also figured we should use the underlayment when we do our entrance in the same tile, so why not buy it now and use it both places. Note: using this for the hearth of a wood burning fireplace may be questionable due to heat issues, but it is fine for a gas insert.
I installed the Ditra according to instructions (thinset mixed loose but still able to hold a notch, press Ditra fleece backing firmly into it, making sure to add enough thinset for complete coverage).
I attempted to install the tile right afterward. Yes, attempted. Did not succeed. Here’s what happened. I had everything all laid out and ready to go. I’d read about how to do it. I knew I still needed to come up about a quarter of an inch to make my tile flush with the wood floor, so I used extra thinset. But I had mixed it too thin, and my Schluter edging kept sinking into it.
I tried letting the thinset set up a little bit, but it was still not working. I realized that I really needed two things to be different: mix the thinset to the proper consistency (duh) like peanut butter (it actually looks even oozier in the picture than it really was, but it was too thin for sure) and start at the right level so my edging could sit on it and not sink down. My real problem was that I was trying to make a seamless transition between the hardwood and the tile so it would be level and flush, and I hadn’t created the ideal situation to achieve that. So I decided to scratch the operation for the day and use what I’d learned to make it work on the next attempt. Aside from the learning experience, I also got some use out of the thinset by combing it out to a level that would put me at the right height for installing the tile later. This is my semi-defeated-but-also-semi-relieved-that-I-didn’t-completely-ruin-everything face:
And fortunately, dry (but not cured) thinset easily washes off of tile, edging, wood floors, arms, and tools.
I put a piece of plywood over it with some random objects to keep dogs from stepping on it. It did take longer to dry that way, but I don’t think that hurts anything.
The next day, it was dryish. I took that opportunity to level it a bit more using our screed from earlier with shims taped to the ends. I pulled it from back to front, scraping off any high areas. It worked quite well.
When the thinset was completely dry, I dry set my tile for probably the 7th of 12 times and checked the height. It was still just a touch high in some areas, but the notches and the fact that it wasn’t cured yet made it easy to scrape down in high areas with the flat side of a trowel. Here’s what it looked like after the scraping:
… and then I dry set my tile again. Maybe I was paranoid cautious at this point, but I wanted to get it as close to perfect as I could so my next and hopefully final attempt at setting the tile would go smoothly. So I taped some string across it and noted any high or low points (these variations were very small at this point).
When I felt that there were no points that were too high, the last thing I did was to lay a straight board across the tile.
At various points, I measured how much space was between the board and the tile by slipping a shim underneath it and noting how much of the shim would fit. I made a chart to remind myself where the tile should fit as tight as possible against the base and where I should put the thinset down a little thicker.
Was this all a bit much? Maybe. Do I think any of it was wasted time? No. I learned my lesson and I was going to set myself up for success in round two. And I did; it went really smoothly. I will tell you about it in the next - and final!!! - post in the hearth project series.
Summer is here in many parts of the world and along with beautiful blooms and edibles growing in the garden ugly weeds also manage to rear their heads. So what’s an organic gardener to do? How do we control those nasty dandelions and other unwanted weeds without resorting to harsh chemicals? Today I am going to share some natural and safe DIY weed killers for your garden. Using toxic chemicals in your garden isn’t safe for you, your kids, your pets or the environment. The last thing any vegetable gardener should be doing to spraying hazardous chemicals near the food they are growing to eat! Here are some simple DIY recipes for weed control using products you probably already have in your pantry.
Boiling water Boil water in the kettle and pour it over the weeds. It’s really that simple. No chemicals at all just plain H20. The heat will “cook” the plant to death.
Vinegar You can use plain white distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar. It’s the acid in the vinegar that will destroy the weeds. Use the pin point sprayer instead of the mister and aim toward the center of the plant. Be careful to only hit the weed or the surrounding grass will turn brown and die.
Light starve This is also known as solarization. Place an object over the weed and it will die from lack of sunlight. You could place rocks, newspaper, cardboard or mulch over the area. This method takes longer that other methods but if you have a large garden area that you are trying to prep and get rid of the weeds this may work for you.Check out my post on Lasagna Gardening for details about using this method.
Salt Make a mixture of ½ cup of salt to 1 gallon or water and pour over the weeds. This method works better for areas such as cracks in the driveway since the mixture will kill anything it touches.
Elbow grease Yes, good old fashioned elbow grease. You’re going to have to pull up the dead weeds anyways so you could just cut to the chase and start digging things up. Just make sure you pull all the roots up or your weeds will just pop back up.
Not all weeds are bad. Did you know dandelion is actually a very nutritious plant full of vitamins? You can make wine, salad and tea from dandelion. You can check out my post on Dandelion Root Tea here and Dandelion Salad here But since many weeds are a nuisance or non edible give some of the methods above a try before you reach for the Round Up. What are your best tips for natural weed control?
Last weekend was the first birthday of our friends’ daughter, a sweet girl whom I’ve watched grow up this last year. I knew I wanted to make something for her, but what? I had a lot of different fabric, but I didn’t want to get too crazy. Years ago I started a baby quilt and never finished it. The kid is 6 years old now. So my lesson learned is keep it simple and doable.
After raiding my box of fabric, I decided to to make a patchwork stuffed animal. The idea is that the different colors and textures of the fabric will be stimulating, but still soft and cuddly all over. The first step was to cut pieces, pin and sew them together in strips, and then sew the strips together.
When that was done, I had two new pieces of fabric to work with - front and back. I drew an outline of a dog (what else?) on a piece of paper and cut it out. That was the shape I wanted, but I knew to leave extra room around it not only for seam allowances, but also to accommodate the stuffing making it a three-dimensional object. So I guestimated the outline around my cutout and traced that onto the wrong side of one of my pieces of patchwork. I pinned the other piece to it, right sides together, and cut them out. Then I machine sewed all the way around except the belly. I also did a zigzag stitch around some of the edges I thought might fray. Finally, I turned it inside out and stuffed one-inch squares of fleece from my scrap pile in it as the stuffing. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of polyester stuffing in toys for dogs, and that goes for humans too. I sewed the belly closed by hand, and it was done.
That’s right, this is going to be in parts. Because I did it in parts due to some delays and well, let’s just say it, mistakes. But that’s OK, because I learned some things and it is turning out well.
When we left off last time in the story, Matt and I had demoed the old tile and mastic. My wood floor issue had mostly gone away. I’m happy to report that after purchasing a rubber mallet and using said mallet to tap the errant floorboards into place, the cracks are gone. Woohoo!
Now our concrete pad was too low and we needed to bring it up. We again followed the advice of This Old House. Adding my own flare to the process, I taped some cardboard around the edges so the concrete wouldn’t be right up against the wood floorboards.
Matt made a screed (just like in the TOH article linked above - see that for instructions on screed usage for this particular purpose). It worked well.
Used some tools we scored for $1 each at an estate sale a while back (except the mixer attachment for the drill, which we bought at HD) to smooth everything out.
And could have done a better job of smoothing it, but it was OK. My main concern was that it not be too high, because you can always add more but it’s not so easy to remove material.
Meanwhile, the boys were doing their part by napping just a few feet away in their crates, where they could not step in any wet concrete or get into dirty tools before we could clean them. What good doggies. They really make it easy on us.
Earlier that week we had ordered and received our tile. We decided on a 12-inch slate called K-rust. The sample had some rust colored speckles on it, but what we received was a bit different, as can often happen with natural stone. A little bit of rust, some yellows, some gold, blue-grays, and one with tons of red. Eventually we decided we liked the variety even better than if it had all looked like the sample. We ordered 40 square feet, knowing we needed 7.5 for the hearth and probably 25 for the entry pad (did anyone guess that was the additional project we wanted to do with the same tile - kinda like this?) plus some extras. After pouring the concrete pad for the hearth, we laid out every tile on the floor to decide which ones would go in the hearth and which ones would be saved for the entry pad at a later date.
With some cardboard underneath representing thinset, we dry set the tiles in the hearth, overlapping the front row on top of the back row to get a sense of what it would look like. We left the back middle spot open because that will be fully covered by the fireplace insert, so we didn’t care as much about which tile goes there.
Later I did it with the tiles leaned up against the brick so we could see the real orientation of the tiles. We wanted to use the factory edge up front and cut the back edge, which will be hidden once we put a wooden facade over the brick. I also numbered the tiles so we would know where each one went and in what orientation.
Matt cut the back row tiles using a wet saw. I had to make a special trip to the hardware store for a grease pencil to mark the cut lines.
Later, Matt also cut the Schluter edging we bought using a hacksaw and a miter box. And lots of clamps. This edging was recommended by several online discussion forums and the tile store person. It makes a nicer transition between the tile and wood floor, protects the edge of the tile, and allows some room for expansion.
This all happened a week after the concrete, which was a week later than we intended. Here’s why. The day after the concrete was Saturday, and I was supposed to go pick up that Schluter edging from the tile store. We didn’t want the standard gray metal one that they have in stock, so I had the tile guy order the “brushed antique bronze” finish that I thought would best fade into the background. I called on Friday, and by good fortune the truck driver wasn’t yet past the place that had the edging, so it would be in Friday afternoon instead of Monday. That was great, because then we could tile on the weekend. But somehow I forgot all about picking up the edging until 4:01 pm on Saturday, and they close at 4. Plus all day Sunday. I don’t know how I could have been so excited about this piece of metal one day and then completely forget to pick it up the next day. Yet that is what happened. We shrugged and proceeded to go play at the dog park instead of tiling.
Our saga will continue soon. I’m sure you’re right on the edge of your seat.