Sunday, September 11, 2011

What's New

I have yet to take a picture of our new floors with the baseboards in, and the toe-kick in the kitchen. In the meantime, here's something else we've done. Remember the window we closed some 1.5 years ago? Well, it's finally serving its purpose now!

Yes, it took a while to find shelf brackets that are small enough to fit a 4.5" deep shelves. We finally got them online. Now they can hold all of our ceramic creations, and a few other things.

And then there's the squacumber:

It was growing on the cucumber plants, that were right next to some acorn squash plants.

When we opened it, it looked more like a melon:

It tasted like a cucumber, but has much crispier bite.
I made a salad with some basil, also from our garden:

It was good :)

Almost forgot: the great gnome and plant invasion:

They situated themselves near our front door, next to our new brick path. Here's a close-up:

Sunday, June 26, 2011


We are about half way through grouting. We started in the kitchen and dining hall, and then went into the hallway. We used an epoxy grout, so we don't have to seal it every year. But that means that the grout needs to be cleaned from the tiles immediately after applying it, otherwise the tiles will be covered with a shiny haze. The epoxy grout we use is Laticrete Spectralock in the sand beige color. It matches some of the shades in the tiles, and I'm very pleased with our choice.
Here's what it looks like in the hallway:

The grout in the back of the hallway. Closer to you are non grouted tiles

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Since January we've been messing with the tiles. We already got the tiles we wanted before we started with the destruction, but we encountered a bunch of problems...
When we opened the tile packages we found out that the small tiles don't match in color with the bigger tiles. I guess the lighting at the store wasn't ideal, and we didn't think to look to hard into it, so we only found out later. That meant that we had to find small tiles that match the large tiles. We finally found some, after visiting a couple of Home Depots, and stared tiling. We knew that some of our larger tiles are also not of the same dye lot, but we thought they were close enough. Just in case, we thought we'd spread them around, so they'll blend in. Well, that didn't work so well... These tiles were too obvious. We tore them down. Destruction again. Ruining a couple of adjacent tiles while we were at it. Then we had to find 4 boxes to replace the different dye lot boxes. We found some that were of a different dye lot than what we were looking for, but thought they were close enough. We bought them, but still kept looking. We went to every single Home Depot in Tucson, and finally found 4 boxes of the exact dye lot at the farthest Home Depot in town. They were close to closing the store, and we couldn't take them right away, because we had to get a bigger car and return the old ones, but they agreed to keep them for us if we come early next morning. The next morning we had to bring the car to the body shop (to repair the damages of the accident Mark was involved in - at no fault of his own - in December). That meant that we had to take the van at night, put the tiles in it, drive it first thing the next morning to the other side of town, get the tiles, bring them home, return the minivan, and bring the car to the body shop by 8 am. BUT, finally we had all the tiles we needed!
So we continued tiling, a bit at a time, ripping some of the off when they weren't perfect, and about 3 weeks ago or so, we finally finished laying all of the tiles!

That's what the tiles in the hallway looked like before grouting.

As you can see in the picture, we used a nice pattern - hopscotch - that combines 18" tiles with 12" tiles. Well, the small tiles are a tiny bit thinner than the larger tiles. That means that leveling them is not always easy. That's why they weren't always perfect, and sometimes we had to rip them off and put new ones... That also means that there's a lot of tile cutting to be done!

Anyway, now we're in the process of grouting. It's very exciting to see the floor transform so much. first, it was nice to see how the concrete floor dresses itself up with tiles, then the cut tiles that filled in all the empty spaces by the wall came along, and made it look much nicer, and now, the grout just adds so much! Plus, it prevents little snakes from finding homes in the cracks in between the tiles (yes, we had a little threadsnake invade our home)!

[By the way, the tiles are porcelain Catalina Canyon by Daltile]

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thinset Removal

After removing all the tile, we had to spend 2 whole days removing thinset. It was fairly easy to remove from the part of the floor that is covered with a vinyl sheet. Not so much (and that's an understatement) from the concrete.

In the picture above you can see the part that we already scraped off (in the back) and the 16 ex-tiles we still have to scrape. It also shows some of the tools and protective gear we're using. You can imagine how sore we get after each day of doing this... I'm looking forward to start tiling soon!

Friday, December 31, 2010


Yesterday was arguably the coldest day of the year. Did we cuddle on the sofa with our Cuddlies and a nice cup of hot chocolate? No. The result of what we did you can see in the picture below.

To be exact, that's actually the result of prior days of work. We started on Sunday, but it was kind of late, so we only got to remove 4 rows of tile, that is 48 tiles. Tuesday we removed a lot more: 140. Yesterday we removed everything else - that means another 184 tiles. As you can see in the picture, some of the tiles were laid on a vinyl sheet floor, which made it a lot easier to remove. There were some tiles that were almost impossible to remove, and instead we had to scrape them off, in a process not unlike carving in stone.
Needless to say, Mark did most of the work, but I also helped as much as I could. We got me a lighter drilling hammer (only 2.5 lb, as opposed to the 4 lb Mark was using) and I managed to remove with it quite a few tiles.
It was a long day of hard work, and it kept us warm. When we finally finished we were completely dusty and all of my muscles were exhausted. Just opening and closing my hand to a fist was painful. My left shoulder was crying for help. But after a good night sleep, all the pain was gone.
We now have a mountain of broken Saltillo tiles in the back yard. We'll see if we can do something with larger pieces - maybe use them as pavers.
We still have to scrape off all the thinset that was not removed completely with the tiles. Some of it is extremely stubborn. Hopefully we can finish that tomorrow, so our floor will be ready for some new tiles.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Why So Quiet?

It's been a long time since I last wrote about our work in the house. This is not because we haven't been working. Though we did slow down quite a bit, we also did accomplish a thing or two.
First, we finished the windows. After installing the windows, we needed to plaster around them, caulk inside and outside, prime and paint the plastered area. So we did that, and with the exception of the bedroom, where we still need to paint (the problem is the paint for the bedroom no longer exists! But we will paint it with a similar paint and pretend it was intended), we finished everything.
Outside, we needed to take care of the garden: remove summer plants and plant winter plants. We planted snow peas and sugar snap peas, spinach, kale, lettuce, artichokes, and maybe a few other things that I can't recall. The peas seem to be doing fine, but we'll see what else grows in the future.
We also bricked the path from the driveway to the house, where there used to be a large, dangerous blob of concrete.
In addition Mark did lots of relatively small projects, such as caulking around the roof to prevent crickets from getting into it, and adjusting the seat of the AC on the roof.
Back inside, we started painting the office, and we still have 1.5 walls left, but that can wait.
We are still in the process of deciding what to do with the floor.
First we decided to get rid of the Saltillo tiles and put something else. Then we realized that it will be a lot of work. So we thought maybe we can clean them. However, an expert tile cleaner came over and said the oil stains will not be removed. Well then, what's the point of cleaning? We decided again to rip them off. It's going to be a lot of work, but I don't think we have any other option at the moment. We have to decide what to put instead of Saltillo. One option was hardwood floor, leaning toward stranded bamboo. The other option is tile. At the moment we are seriously considering tile because it will probably be easier to install and be a lot cheaper. I also think it will befit the house better, because it already has lots of wood, and it's harder to match another one that will go along with the existing wood, without being exactly the same.
Hopefully the process will be done in a few weeks...
Now, about Saltillo tiles. These are non-glazed ceramic tiles that are intentionally uneven and non-leveled. They are supposed to be sealed every 6 months to a year, depending how used the area is, and how good the sealer is. Of course, our tiles were sealed with the worst sealer ever. It doesn't seal at all and is impossible to strip, which is what you're supposed to do if you want to remove the stains. If a peanut falls on the floor - it's stained for life. It is also easily chipped and cracked. Possibly the worst floor option one could ever make. It might look nice in the beginning - as all the visitors to our house indicated - but it's bound to look bad eventually - and eventually doesn't take long to arrive.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Our first (and probably last) watermelon

We had many watermelon babies, but then, to our disappointment, they blackened and shrunk. Only one, probably due to the protection of the lettuce forest, grew to a significant size.

It is very sweet, too.

We are also enjoying the other veggies that manage to somehow survive the heat, though there aren't many of them...

This picture is from a while ago, and it features some of our biggest veggies. The more recent tomatoes were the size of blueberries, as the plants withered, and by now they have completely succumbed to the heat.