Arts and crafts: Shower Tile

Ok. Moving right along. Busy weekend that sucked away my time. Vehicle inspection, AC layout and hot tub needed drained and refilled… twice. Thought there was a well problem too so that ate more time.

Ready to start tiling. A removed the tiles from the layout on the floor, carefully stacking them to the side and oriented as they should go back on the floor. I mixed up some thinset and it was too soupy, but I tried to use it anyway. Huge mess. And the tiles were NOT lining up like they did in the dry layout. Not even close.

So… I tore it all back up. Scrubbed the tiles under the garden hose to get the thin set removed. Then removed as much from the floor as I could. I’ll try again tomorrow with another rehearsal and dry fit.

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On vacation: Canadian Rockies

I’m escaping the heat and humidity of July Virginia. Here are my notes so far:

1. Holy cow! Where did the Canadians go? The whole population has been replaced by immigrants from Asia. SOUTH Asia. I thought the Costco in Alexandria was bad with their total diversity commitments. I was the only white person there.

2. Walmart? Holy F#$k! How do you screw up a Walmart? Remember what K-mart looked like, back when there were K-marts? That’s what it’s like here. It’s like they skipped the last 30 years of commercial retail progress .

3. Rental car from some off brand name called Mex. NEVER AGAIN. total gouge. Zero service. Long waits.

Then there’s this:

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Women’s Soccer

The US Women’s soccer team just won something or other.  Despite daily news media and a Google widget throwing this in my face for over a week, I still couldn’t care less.  And neither can anyone else except for those few gullible people who still watch CNN.

  1.  It’s women’s soccer.  They have no regular audience or following, in any country.
  2. No one cares who wins.  See #1.
  3. Even the anti-Trump antics of one of their players wasn’t enough to generate ticket sales.
  4. The season is over, girls.  Back to your day jobs until next year.    In any other country, this would be called a “hobby”.
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Russian Sub Kerfuffle

This story tells us that a Russian Sub caught fire and is speculated to have the designed purpose to cut the internet.




Let’s face it.  The rest of the world is a drain on the American internet.  I would PAY the Russians to cut us off from Europe, Africa, and Asia.  What would we do without Nigerian email scams, Russian hackers, offshore robo-dialing, and Indian call centers?  How would life change for us?  I really see no down side to this.

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Arts and crafts: bathroom continued

Still working my way through the bathroom.I finished cementing and screwing in the hardiboard floor. 1/2 in on top of thinset mortar. Then lots of screws. I’m using the green hardi board screws, like I’m supposed to. Lots of screws on top of thinset helps prevent popping floors and cracks.Then I go to the drain. I intended to loop some flexible membrane into the gap under the subflooring, but that just wasnt working. As it was, I would just be creating a swimming pool for the mice. So i removed the drain support under the floor and built a waterproof pan to completely surround the drain gap.This box totally fills the gap between two floor joists. So it looks like a reasonable long lasting solution. The white drain couple in the middle is the lowest part. All the grey plastic slopes to this point.The grey membrane was a real disappointment. I ordered it on line and instead of getting a roll, I got a square folded package. So the rubber has multiple stretched forms and ridges. It will not lay flat.Then I moved on to sealing the edges and joints. I used aqua defense and a roll of fabric. You put it on like drywall tape. I discovered that it dries really fast so larger pieces of joint fabric wouldnt work. The starting parts would be dry by the time i finished painting the edges so the fabric wouldnt stick. So I worked fast and with smaller lengths.Of course, all that grey area will be covered by blue barrier too. Cement board isn’t waterproof by itself.Start at the floor, then move up so that any moisture will roll off the membrane like roof tiles.Then I add rubber membrane around the floor drain gap to prevent the floor edge from wicking loose moisture and capillary action carrying water under the floor.The grey membrane won’t lay flat. So after I paste it down with blue stuff, I place heavy tiles on top to push them flat.More to follow as it happens.First coat. The entire bathroom floor gets this treatment since it acts as a decoupling mechanism as well as a waterproofing. But also, the entire bathroom is a wet area. The whole bath floor slopes to that drain.Then comes laying out the tile. This design calls for lots of cutting to make it look right. Very few whole pieces. You can see here the drain coming together. I dont actually set the drain in place until the surrounding tile is set. That way I can ensure it is at the right height and slope with the rest of the floor.Cut and layout all the edges, then the center tile, using lasers, and careful measurements. Then the rest. As you can see, it looks like the center tile will be the only one in the shower nook that is uncut.

And viola! The layout is complete.

Next step, touch up the blue membrane, set the tile and layout the rest of the bathroom.

Learning points: Don’t step on tiles. Until they are set, they easily crack. Use safety glasses and gloves cutting tiles. Flying chips of broken glass speak for themselves.

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Arts and Crafts: Learning from Youtube

In the process of rebuilding my home, I have resorted to YouTube for lots of learning.  When I do that for Auto repair, I get one answer that is the same no matter how many videos I watch.  But in home repairs, there is a multitude of answers on every topic.  Many of those conflict.

When it comes to tile, there are a hundred videos on “tiling failures” and how to do it right.  But let’s be honest.  There really are just a few basic techniques that are really necessary.  Everything else is unverified preference.

Building codes change.  You can’t trust them for what works and what doesn’t.  All the code tells you is what the local inspector has on his checklist.

Millions of homes and millions more apartments were built using outdated codes and their tile bathrooms are not leaking, molding rotting or otherwise failing, even though they universally did not use any of the modern accepted practices.  MILLIONS.

When you do failure analysis, you really get a feeling for “bad luck”.  Some things that work most of the time, might fail that one time.  You can spend a lot of time and money over-engineering something as simple as a shower drain.  Or you can drill a hole, run a pipe and seal it with some silicone caulk.  Both will likely work.  With bad luck, even your over-engineered efforts might some day fail and some huckleberry on YouTube will be there to point out what you did wrong.

Therefore, I watch a lot of videos so that I get a feel for the current best practices, and temper them with my own good sense.

Another thing I see a lot of in YouTube comments is words to the effect of “you should have hired a trained professional” and “typical homeowner shortcuts always fail” and “you get what you pay for”.  But in my experience, sadly, I have discovered that by “bad luck” you can do everything possible to hire a great contractor and he can do short cuts and install failures and disasters too… and charge you top dollar for it.  Some contractors understand that the project likely will “pass inspection” and it will be years before a failure happens.  By then, it’s someone else’s problem or even another profit opportunity.

So, what’s a homeowner to do?

Don’t be helpless.  Don’t depend on other people to do your thinking for you.  Not in your job, your politics, or your home/auto repairs.  Knowledge is valuable.  Be willing to pay smart people to do jobs that need smarts.  But don’t be compelled to trust them.  Do your own research.  If it’s just too hard, get a second opinion.

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Arts and crafts: bathroom.

Continuing the bathroom construction. Making slow progress. The challenge today is to install a floor drain. I’m using a linear drain. The linear drain comes with a traditional round floor drain. Some of the more expensive drains come with integrated flange materials that can be glued right onto whatever waterproofing system you are using.The challenge is to waterproof the area where the floor meets the drain. I’m using a paint-on waterproofing membrane on the floor and walls, but right here at the drain, that won’t work.

So. I built up a subflooring with 3/4 plywood, about 2″ below the primary subflooring. That is supported by 2×6’s on the joists below.

Now I need to install a traditional shower pan plastic sheet for under the drain to ensure nothing gets by. This is additionally challenging in that I have to make adjustments from below the floor and above it. Lots of stairs. I also have some guesswork involved when it comes to matching the finished height of the drain with the finished height of the tile. The tile isn’t in yet and the drain height has to be set first. Got the lights in and working and the ceiling drywall.

The floor will be covered by 1/2″ hardi-backer to give the tile a firm support. The 5mm plywood (luan) is there to add depth and assist the slope of the floor to the drain. This shower will be curbless and ADA compliant. But also, really attractive. The gray you see is the thin set mortar under the hardiboard to give it a solid adhesion to the subflooring. I check the slope using a spirit level (a common tool, not a new age snake oil technique) to ensure water will gently move to the drain and not pool on the floor.

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