What to do with the salvaged tile?

January 9th, 2010

I have been gradually removing mastic from the creamy yellow kitchen tile* without a clear destination for the cleaned-up tile. I have toyed with the notion of a backsplash in the kitchen, but we probably won’t have enough of the tile. Today, I am toying with tiling our kitchenette’s counter.

The kitchenette will be upstairs in our master sitting room. It will be a long wall with one of our apartment stoves, an undercounter refrigerator from my aunt and uncle, a half-size dishwasher (assuming I get the piece replaced that is bent), and one of our long sinks with a drainboard. I don’t remember which one. I think it was the one from the basement apartment (apartment 5). We may have only one long sink since I can only find a photo of one. (Two years is a long time to remember stuff.) I think that’s the stove we’re reusing, too.

Apartment 5 (I think) Sink

That way, we can have coffee on our upstairs porch at our convenience. We may never go downstairs again. :)

Anyway, I am thinking about using the yellow tile on the kitchenette’s counter and backsplash. In its original milieu, it had black trim, but I am thinking about green trim like that shown here (pictures 4, 5, and 6 in the link).


I liked that kitchen the first time I saw it in Old House Journal, and I like it still. I like the detail of setting it on diagonal on the counter, and running it straight on the backsplash. Plus, I, too, have Jadeite bowls that I could keep on shelves above the kitchenette. I wonder where you get custom Jadeite tile?

[Pause to investigate.] Thanks to retrorenovation, I guess you go to Nemo. Waterpolo looks good. Or to B & W Tiles. If only their catalog had a listing of the colors available. They have a fabulous variety of trim pieces. It does say: “Our glazed products product line includes over 48 different colors, including many colors from the 1920′s to the 1950′s. We have soft yellow, green, blues and tans as well as many intense colors such as cobalt blue, black and root beer.”

On the other hand, black trim looks good, too. wilkins avenue kitchen wood stain island tile countertops backsplash yellow blue And I can get it in a big box store. It has precedent in our house, too.

Or, look: a classic green, yellow and black tile installation.


Or I could go to the classic subway people. They have lots of trim pieces even though they are suspiciously quiet about price and claim that only professionals can handle their stuff. Or these folks.

Oh, dear. I’m afraid I’m getting trapped by too many choices again. However, I do better at making decisions when I have gathered information. And that’s what’s going on here: information gathering. When push comes to shove, I’ll be able to make a decision. I hope.

*I have removed mastic from 78 tiles, or a little more than 8 square feet. Not that I’m counting. Much.

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Ironing Center?

January 8th, 2010

Back when we were planning with our architects, I asked for a built-in ironing board. We installed one, ummm, two houses ago, and I quite liked it. (Except for having it in the upstairs hallway across from the stair windows that looked into our neighbors’ house so I pretty much had to be dressed to use the ironing board. That put extra pressure on my mornings.) This one is going into our walk-in master closet where there are no windows so all is good. Except …

Now I have to choose the right one. It turns out that built-in ironing boards are called ‘ironing centers’ and there are choices. Beyond whether it swivels or not. (I want one that swivels, by the way.) They come with lights or without. (Our last one had a light, and I think that was a good idea, but our closet should be well lit so maybe that isn’t necessary.) And with a choice of doors. (Oak raised? Or white melamine? Or birch flat? Or maybe a mirror? Or should I have my local craftsman make one?) And adjustable heights. Or, I could just get a fold-away ironing board and hang the iron on a iron hanger for a whole lot less. Gaack! Too many choices!*

The pricing is a mystery, too. I thought I had it figured out, but shipping varies at random. And the Broan I thought I wanted (because it should come with a mirror) seems to vary its part number at random. Some sites offer the right one, but without a door. In theory, you order the door separately, but these sites don’t offer any doors at all. Why bother?

And then there are the names. Apparently the hide-aways and the iron-aways are two different brands. And Broan’s line is called PressRite. (It comes in three different versions: basic, standard, and deluxe. I’m not positive, but I think the difference between standard and deluxe is that the deluxe has adjustable heights.) What if I press wrong? Will the Broan fuss at me?

And then there’s an internet site that, when I put things in my shopping cart to calculate shipping, offers to discount the cart by $10.57, but only for the next ten minutes. If I wanted the pressure of buying it now, I’d buy things from an infomercial … not on line. (Oh, and when I went back again today, that site offered the same discount again. And, even without the discount, their price seems better than the others. Plus it seems to sell doors.)

Maybe I should just forget the whole thing. I don’t really do that much ironing any more. Rumpled is more professional, isn’t it?

So, instead of choosing an ironing center, I wrote this blog entry. Maybe tomorrow I’ll choose one.

*There are certain catalogs I can’t order from because they offer too many things for me to choose among. Especially plant catalogs. And book catalogs.

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Salvaging tile

January 7th, 2010

Reclaiming tile is pretty easy, actually. First you buy a house with five kitchens. Then you tell your husband that you are sure the tile in Apartment 1 can be saved. Then he saves it for you while demolishing the kitchen. Two years later you try to figure out what to do with it.

Old kitchen tile

We ended up treating it like hardware covered with paint. Put them in an old slow cooker (we paid $1.25 for ours at a garage sale), covered with water and some dishwashing soap. Cook for a while. Remove with tongs.

Tools for salvaging tile

Prop in a dish drainer because the tile is hot. Scrape off the mastic and glop with a table knife. (If it’s too hard, put it back in to cook for a while longer.) Let cool.

Cooling tile after scraping

Of course, this takes a long time so you should have something else to do while you work on it. Like snuffle around the house with a cold. I got 21 tiles done today. I think it may end up as a backsplash in our kitchen. Maybe. We picked out creamy yellows for the walls, ceilings, and cabinets that are compatible with the tile, in any event.

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Obsessive documentation saves the day!

January 5th, 2010

Or : What once was lost, now is found.

Tonight Don mentioned that the drywall guys covered the side speaker in the family room. At least I think he said side speaker. I am not the audiophile in the family. He might have said white sneaker although I am not aware of any missing white sneakers. In any event, his demeanor suggested that we might just have the entire section of drywall removed to find it. I suggested we turn instead to my obsessive documentation.

The week after Daddy died, I went through the house photographing every room’s walls and ceilings (after the wiring and before the drywall). I took 182 pictures one day, and returned the next day to take an additional 159. I was inspired by his documentation of his house’s construction.

So we scrolled through iPhoto to the section labeled ‘Family Room.’ (I printed out the name of each room in large font, and photographed it when I moved to that room. That made the documentation much faster later, especially since I needed to upload photos twice to get them all.)

Family room wiring index card

And then we looked at the photos until we saw the one with the right wall. The missing thing is the little blue thing above the window, and the next stud out. Then I emailed it to Don and now he can show it to the dry wall guys. Ta-Da! The white sneaker, or side speaker, now is found.

Speaker wiring

I think I might take after my dad.

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Tiling, or, actually, backerboard

January 1st, 2010

We have not installed large swaths of tile before. Don has done a square foot here or there, and patched the odd bit of tile, but never done a whole bath.

LaGrange Park kitchen tile Re-adhering tile in Myra's shower

We have four to do. So, with our construction loan’s February deadline looming, we did the sensible thing and hired a tile guy.

Who got the flu the day before he was to start.

Whose daughter then was involved in a serious car wreck. In Oregon.

So we’re doing the tile ourselves. My main jobs are to read the instructions and buy more tools and supplies. I went to the big box stores three times on Monday. Plus once on Sunday and once on Tuesday. At least once on Wednesday. Twice on Thursday. No, three times: I went to two stores to get almost enough tile (for next week). This after Don and our neighbor bought everything we’d need the week before. We haven’t started tiling yet.

After working most of the week, we have got the backerboard down, except in the showers. And I’ve laid out reference lines for one bathroom floor, and figured a layout for another one’s walls.

What we’ve learned:

  1. My Taunton Press books call backerboard CBU (cementitious board units, I think), but most people don’t.
    1. The two tile books I already owned were not enough, so I had to buy another one, which didn’t go into as much detail. My favorite one was by Tom Meehan (not shown), but it was written 15 years ago. He has a great explanation of how to do the 3-4-5 layout, and then rotate it for a diagonal layout. (Not relevant to the CBU installation, but we just used it yesterday.)
    2. The bathroom idea book showed some tile installations that contradicted the directions from the other books so maybe we don’t have to be perfect.
    3. Three Taunton Press books

  2. No need to make thinset from scratch, unlike cakes. Premixed thinset is much easier.
    1. Especially if your drill is underpowered, and your water is 50°F instead of 70°F. (No hot water heater yet, and it’s winter.)
    2. If you choose to mix it yourself, mix it thoroughly, and borrow a drill that won’t burn up while mixing. (If you insist on mixing, you might want to start with premixed so you know how thick the scratch thinset should be. Undermixed thinset is very, very thick.)
    3. The price difference isn’t too much, and premix doesn’t set up in the bucket overnight.
    4. Read the fine print. Twice. Some premix thinset is specifically not for adhering backerboard to subfloors. (The one shown says it is not for subfloors. It’s fine for the backerboard to drywall. AcrylPro seems to be OK for subfloors.)
  3. Unmixed thinset Pre-mixed thinset

  4. Sometimes the ends of the backerboard flap around because they’re far from a stud, and you have to be creative. This solution worked. (You should remove the board before setting tile.)
  5. Holding backerboard in place until thinset sets

  6. You should do the final dry fit before you spread the thinset. That’s why it’s called dry fitting.
  7. After stepping in thinset

  8. We like the Hardie cement board. It cuts easily with scoring on just one side, and is lightweight. (You need a 1/8″ space between boards and a 1/4″ expansion joint at walls, floors, tubs, and so forth.)
  9. Cool tools you can buy to help with the CBU installation include: a paddle mixer, comfortable handled carbide tipped scoring knife, carbide tipped radius hole cutter bit (cuts holes between 2 inches and 6 inches, MOL), 1 3/8″ carbide hole saw (perfect for water pipe holes, and sold in the tile tools area — not in the bits for your drill area of big box stores), nibblers, and a utility knife (powerful drill not shown). Oh, and the spacers (not shown) which are circles with crosses on one side and a straight line on the other. Much easier to hold onto.
  10. Paddle mixer More cool tools

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Outside lights!

December 30th, 2009

Look what we got just in time for Christmas! Lights!
December 23 2009 Lights!

And rain! The snow and ice didn’t end up amounting to much here although it blew in and saturated the towels stuffed under under our north-facing French doors and turned them to towel-sicles.

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Exterior Progress: December 2007-December 2009

December 23rd, 2009

Sometimes I lose sight of what a change we have made in our house. Although we hear repeatedly from passersby that the open porches made a huge difference, I forget what a monolithic presence the house was – even with all those windows.
Exterior before offer November 2007
Exterior before trim December 2007 new paint

3 October 2008 3 October 2008 new roof going up

October 2008 October 2008 new roof, Razorback in window (left by tenants)
May 16 2009 exterior sleeping porch 16 May 2009 new siding
May 18 2009 porch construction 18 May 2009 new sleeping porches
June 5 2009 porches 5 June 2009 new French doors, new paint (again)
June 30 2009 exterior 30 June 2009, family in town for Daddy’s memorial service
July 24 2009 exterior 24 July 2009 more trim work

Exterior December 2009 December 2009 exterior paint done, same old husband :)

P.S. Look at me! I edited the html to make thumbnails when WordPress insisted I couldn’t have thumbnails, and then I edited it further to make thumbnails a little bit bigger. Wow! Also, look! I found our cameras which we had lost for two weeks. (They were right where I put them and in a canvas bag, just as I though. They must have taken off their cloaks of invisibility.)

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Rebuilding Windows

December 11th, 2009

Ed. note: I wrote this post in April 2009, and didn’t post it because I wanted photos. Life happened. The photos didn’t. Here’s the post without photos although I hope to have an exterior photo series later. We have windows in all window holes as of December 2009, but some still need to be rebuilt and others have been rebuilt but not installed. We can do this because we have an excess of windows, having ended up with some new windows in the house rebuilding process.

We (Don, that is) removed more than half the windows in the house so we can tune them up and put them back in. It’s a good time, despite being winter when we started (it’s spring now), since there’s no plumbing to worry about freezing. (Or electric or drywall or people, for that matter.)

I wasn’t involved in the actual removal of the windows, although I understand that Don spent some of his time leaning out the 2nd story windows. We used our SpeedHeater to warm up the glazing to the point that it’s removable, and use a putty knife to get the glazing out. (We use a piece of thin plywood, wrapped in aluminum foil, to reflect the heat away from the glass. It seems to work since we haven’t broken any glass at the deglazing stage.) After Don removes the glass, we heat the window frames and scrape the many layers of paint off.

Then, we prime the window sash with a 50:50 mix of mineral spirits and linseed oil, let it rest 48 hours, and prime with oil-based primer. The primer has to rest for one day before we paint it with latex paint. Or oil paint, I suppose, but we’re using latex. We paint just the interior with the latex paint at this point because you can’t efficiently paint the exterior until the glazing is in.

Then, Don lays a thin bead of latex caulking on the interior part of the window frame, sets the glass in, adds a multitude of glazier’s points, and uses DAP 33 putty on the exterior. (He heats the putty in a garage sale slow cooker that we also use to strip the hardware. That makes it much more malleable and more homogenous.) The installed putty rests two weeks before priming. We’re letting it rest at my folks’ house so we can paint it at a reasonable height off the ground.

Speaking of my folks, that’s where we’re doing the work. Daddy has kindly let us borrow his garage for the winter.** (Heated! With electricity!* And lights! And, did I mention, heat!) We’ve borrowed their guesthouse for window work, too, including the hardware stripping. (Recipe: hardware, dishwashing soap and water in a slow cooker. Cook until the paint bubbles up and softens so you can sponge it off. This also works to remove the mastic from the ceramic wall tile we salvaged.)

*Well, it had electricity, except during the four days we spent there during the ice storm.

**We ended up borrowing the garage bay through the summer and into the winter again. First for windows and then more recently for additional storage. We borrowed the guesthouse for living in. I hope we are out of both before next summer.

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A Craig’s list with a sad story

December 10th, 2009

I continue to post stale entries from my stash. I hope he found a buyer.

salvage materials from cabin (Morrilton, AR)
Reply to: xxxxx
Date: 2008-07-23, 11:09AM CDT


A wind storm blew down an enormous oak on my brand new cabin on June 1st.

the before & after pics can be seen at the above links. Make an offer for the cabin AS IS — or whatever portions you are interested in… BTW, the land is also for sale… it is 2 acres square. I will take $25K for the land & the cabin as is… or make an offer on the cabin or land.

I have an out of state number as I have moved to TX. you can call me at:


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Bottle Trees

December 6th, 2009

While I get back in the habit of blogging, I am editing and publishing some of my backlog of posts that I have started but not finished. This one I started in early May, before my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. It makes me feel a bit lighter and summery, in contrast to today’s December grey.

(Background: Bottle trees came from Africa, and are seen throughout the South. The bottles’ bright colors and reflective nature attract evil spirits, which are then trapped inside the bottles. I gather evil spirits are like Japanese beetles; they can’t remember where they came from.)

My collection of blue bottles is gradually growing, as is my collection of bottle tree links. Digging has recently moved, and Pam made a new tree for her new yard.  In her comments, Felder Rushing’s wonderful collection of bottle trees was posted, and from there, I found a flickr bottle tree group.  Now, I’m curious about Quigley’s Castle, Arkansas, which is near Eureka Springs and has fourteen bottle trees. I even have a couple of photos of my own from our travels.

Blue bottle tree, Eureka Springs, Arkansas Colorful Bottle Tree, Jackson, Mississippi

I have a dozen or so bigger Riesling and water bottles, and a half dozen Phillips milk of magnesia bottles in storage. Right now, I’m thinking about two bottle trees with LED lighting to flank my entry walk.  Or possibly a blue bottle ‘tiki-like’ torch in the side yard. With the redbud an ice storm casualty, the yard is full of possibilities.

ETA: While cleaning up my home email, I found that my mother sent me this excerpt from Gerald Klingaman in his plant of the week article back in January 2009. Bottle Trees Make Bold Statement: Culture is a funny thing that shapes the way we see and understand the world. Every ethnic group is unique but none exists in a vacuum, so icons from one tradition are continually crossing the cultural boundaries of one group to be reinterpreted by another. The more we become the true melting pot we claim to be, the more cross-cultural icons creep into everyday use. A lot of these cultural beliefs involve trees in one way or another.

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