Friday, November 9, 2007

The Wrong Size

Thanks to those who weighed in with comments on the white oak. It's good to know that I'm not crazy, or that there are at least a few people out there who are just as crazy as I am.

When we had our house inspection done, one of the things noted was that the bottom course or two of tiles in the bathroom shower needed to be re-grouted. This was certainly something we felt we were comfortable doing. So about two months ago, just after taking possession, I took a grout saw and started sawing away, thinking this would be a short one or two weekend project. Hah! Fool that I am. It turned out that water had seeped behind the tiles. They didn’t have green, waterproof sheetrock back in 1921, and when water reaches calcimine paint that is painted over plaster, it turns into a crumbly, mushy mess. The only thing that keeps this mess together is an outside covering of tile held in place by grout. Remove the grout, and the whole thing comes apart in your hands. What I ended up with was about eight inches (three courses) of tile that had to be completely removed, along with the plaster, all the way back to the lathe. During a short moment of insanity, I considered taking off all of the tile, and the plaster and then putting up green, waterproof sheetrock. Common sense prevailed though and I decided to limit my "repairs" only to what was necessary. This is our only shower/bathtub in the house, and we can't afford to be without it.

The tiles I took off were simple, square, white tiles. I saved all of them, but I figured it would be so much easier to get new sheets of tile, attached to a backing, so that they are properly spaced. Otherwise, I'd have to clean the adhesive and plaster off the backs of the old tiles and carefully place them (with spacers). This sounds like a tedious job requiring a high level of precision and attentiveness.

Last weekend, we went around to several tile shops. Ms. Huis and I really enjoy tile and mosaics. Going to the tile stores was a bit like a child going into a candy store with no money. We saw a lot of beautiful tile, but we were only going to see if we could find matches for our tile. We figured it shouldn't be hard; after all, these were square, white, porcelain tiles. Hah! Hah! Bigger fool that I am.

Turns out that the tile in our bathroom is 2.25 inches by 2.25 inches, which is no longer standard size (if it ever was). The only tile shop who was willing to look for such tile (and it got a lot of head scratching) would have to "make some calls". Estimates for a cost were $15 to $25 per square foot, versus $5 per square foot for normal two inch by two inch tile. And it was possible it might be more, since the tile shop owner thought she might have to "import the tiles from italy".

Let's be clear here. There is nothing special about these tiles if you look at them. They are plain, white tiles. They do not warrant special orders and I do not think that they are original to the house. So, we took our tiles back home and I am now engaged in using a utility knife to scrape, poke and pry the original adhesive off the backs of the tiles. Fortunately the tiles are blood proof. I slip a lot when using the utility knife.

On the electrical front, things are moving forward. The electrician was in Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. The first floor is about 40% done, although there's no juice to the new outlets. The electrician is waiting for the new underground, 200 amp service. There’s no firm install date for that yet, other than prior to December 1st.

One downside to the new house is the way in which the exterior walls are constructed. The house is constructed of structural, terracotta clay tile with a facade of a brick. A narrow strip of wood is applied to the interior of the clay tile and the lathe is applied to that, which leaves only an inch and a half gap between the exterior wall and the lathe (or so the electrician says). That's plenty of room for old style knob and tube wiring, but it's a little bit tight for modern wiring and junction boxes. We might not be able to put any electrical (lights, switches or receptacles) on the outside walls. It's not the end of the world, but it would have been nice.

The attic had most (maybe all) of the original light fixtures in it. They need to be rewired, so I'll be taking them into a lamp shop today to see what they can do. At some point, we'll post pictures.

Unfortunately I'm supposed to work this weekend, so projects will be severely curtailed. The plan is to put the last coat of plaster on the bathroom wall so that when I finally get done cleaning off the tiles, I can glue them on next weekend and then finally grout. We'll be pushing to have a functional tub by Thanksgiving weekend.


Allknowingjen said...

"thinking this would be a short one or two weekend project." Ha! Is right! I am beginning to think there is no such thing for any house, let alone a house the age of yours.
I am nearly drooling over imagining your original light fixtures though. My parents only have one or two (from around the same era) and I love them. They sure don't make them like that anymore.

Mr. Kluges said...

Actually, they do. Check out Rejuvenation, but you're going to pay through the nose.

Jaysan said...

Two options to consider for the electrical, floor pockets could work for the main floor room - since you have access from the basement, also I have seen installs where they route a channel in the woodwork and the wall then use a short depth box and switch.

Syl said...

I loved the first thing I saw on Rejuvenation, but it was also $1549. Ouch.

Happy Veggie said...

I love your fixtures. My parents have original ones from a house only slightly older than yours, and I heart them. Makes me sad that our house only has a couple original fixtures left.

DiploWhat said...

Save those tiles! When we stayed at a B&B in Duluth, (called the Firelight Inn, but it was built by one of the Barnum brothers - REALLY recommend a stay there), the guy made a point of the tiles in the bathroom. They were plain, white tiles as well, (though rectangular, not square) but given their age, the were worth, well, A LOT of money. So, when they revamped the bathroom to allow for a whirlpool tub, they saved every single tile and put them back.

Every time you post you remind me of the move "The Money Pit". I am waiting for the post when you mention that the bathtub fell through the floor and you stood there laughing hysterically.

Ms. Huis Herself said...

Diplowhat, we DID make a point to rent "The Money Pit" and watch it before we closed on the house... and sometimes I feel like I'm in it! :)