January 9, 2013

A Tale of Two Tiles

A little bit for everybody tonight. For the folks who need immediate gratification (and who were giving me grief about going out on a pizza date tonight instead of installing tile) there are a couple of photos below. For the folks who have the patience to read very long stories about mundane little details there's something here for you too.

No, the bathroom is not done. But here's an artist's rendering of the plan for the vanity. Artist is a loose term, since I did the drawing. It's a good way to communicate with Norm. I'm thinking of implementing it in other areas of our relationship. I'm kidding. I did the drawing to help explain what I envisioned for the vanity, backsplash and mirror type and placement.

 Here's where we are after the granite came today:

 We still need fronts for the cabinets and obviously the backsplash, sinks and mirrors aren't in place yet. And the whole rest of the bathroom except the tub and floor. But it's all proceeding according to plan.

Oh yes. Plans. Here's a tidbit. I think I've said this before, but no matter how much padding you add to your time estimate for a reno, you might as well resign yourself to the fact that it will take more time. Sometimes because of things out of your control, and sometimes, well, sometimes, you just change your mind.

We started this in November. And I use "we" lightly because how these things start is I get into demolition mode and put a deadline on things (like, oh, December 15th when people arrive for Christmas break) and poor Norm has to come along for the ride. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty sure he's a willing participant but he sure isn't the instigator.

In the case of the family bathroom we really had some incentive, because all three of the kids would be here at Christmas time and although one already lives in the city, the other two would be staying with us at 'home'. If the bathroom wasn't ready, all I had to do was contemplate the thought of two 20-somethings traipsing through the master bedroom to use the teeny ensuite to shower. As it turns out, that's what happened and it worked out okay. Didn't much matter, I would have had them home even if it meant using a porta potty.

The halt in progress this time around was partly self-induced. We had the flooring. We had the tile for the walls and tub surround. The granite was on order. We had the toilet, sinks, tub, faucets, light fixtures.

What we didn't have was an aesthetically pleasing way to come around an outside 90 degree corner with bevelled subway tile. Sometimes you just can't think of everything in advance. Having investigated (and even purchased) various trim options I just wasn't happy. Trying to explain this dilemma is likely best with some visuals. Don't worry, no more drawings. This is the - still not grouted - area behind the toilet. Okay, it's actually behind where the toilet will be. I firmly stand behind what I posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. It's always good to test in an inconspicuous area first (like behind the toilet), that way you can look around and see all the tiling you have left to do and wonder what the heck you've gotten yourself into. That aside, the thing you'll notice here is that these pretty, glossy, subway tiles are bevelled:

Photo enlarged to show texture. Actually, photo enlarged because it came from my phone and I cannot make it any smaller.

Going from one spot on the left, which will butt up to a tall cabinet, over to the right which butts up to the wall is not a big deal. Just means you need to establish how much cutting you want to do on each side so that things line up nicely. Norm is my official cutter. He does good work. I'm not a fan of porcelain shards or sharp blades turning at bazillions of RPMs, so my job is to measure, mark and install and grout.

Here's a cross section of what the tile looks like when you cut it:

Now, imagine trying to line this edge, or the much narrower finished edge, up to another tile as you meet at an outside corner like coming around the outside of the tub alcove. It doesn't make a nice, straight line for the corner. And no amount of trim or inserts will help this because of the bevel. We could have made do, used a lot of grout or whatever. But the ideal solution would be to find tile we could use as starter pieces that matched these 3x6 subway tiles - then we could still lay in our brick pattern starting at the corner and work our way out on each wall. One row would start with a full tile, the next row would start with one of these magical square tiles, not a cut-in-half version of what we were already using. In other words, we needed white, glossy, 3x3 beveled square tiles. Still with me?

You can find anything on the internet, right? Not right. Or at least not as easy as I can normally find what I want. After checking with my tile guy and pointing him to a distributor in Washington who said they had what I was looking for (but wouldn't sell to me because I'm not a tile seller) my tile guy gets back to me and says he can get them, but it will cost $9.60 each. I need 40 of them. You can do the math. No freaking way. And this is a 'deal' because he says he should really be charging me $15 each.

Just to be clear, he's not my tile guy anymore.

As it turns out, the place in Washington doesn't really have what I'm looking for anyway. That's another long and sordid story so I'll leave it out.

But wait. There's more. I finally find a line of tile called "Manhattan" that includes exactly a 3x3 bevelled white tile. YES!!! Interestingly, it's carried by a company in Berkley, California. I call them up. The good news is that they are happy to ship me 40 of the buggers. I really don't have any way of knowing if the bevels are a good match or if the whites match. Believe me, matching white tile from one manufacturer to another is living in a dream. But at this point I don't care because the cost of these things from California is $0.96 each. That's right. Ninety-six CENTS. I had her take a picture with her cell phone and send it to me because I just couldn't believe it. They looked pretty close so I decided to take a chance.

Here's the irony for you...just in case it wasn't ironic enough that the only place to get Manhattan tile is in California. The place in California gets them from a place in Delta. That's right, Delta. Like in British Columbia. At 1,294 miles or 2,082 kilometres Berkley is twice as far from Calgary as Delta is. Besides, Delta is in the same country as I am. So a smart, patriotic and somewhat environmentally conscious consumer would call the distributor in Delta and buy direct or find out where they distribute them in Canada. Turns out they don't have any more of them. And the one Canadian place they say they distribute to claims they don't carry them. And I don't have a tile guy to buy them for me anyway. Whatever. The California place was incredibly good, and the tiles arrived exactly when promised.  We paid $38.40 for the tiles. $30 for shipping. And $20 for customs/brokerage for UPS. Seriously, customs duties to bring tiles back IN to the country.

Here's to hoping this weekend will be free from snags and spent installing lots and lots of tile.