Same guy- new name - new website!

You will be automatically redirected to the new address. If that does not occur, visit
and update your bookmarks. Thanks! -Peter

Monday, August 31, 2009

Custom Transom for Interior Door

A client of mine wanted to add French doors to divide a large bonus room upstairs in his home. It's the same room where we installed the laminate flooring a few weeks ago. (See this post.)

Anyway, he ordered the doors to be custom made to fit this opening.  The only problem was, there was still a 7 inch gap at the top.  Instead of covering this with drywall or trim, he wanted me to build a transom or window over the door to coordinate with the French doors below.

I measured the door frame below and wanted to match this size with the transom above.  I bought some 1/8th inch window glass and made the frames out of 1x6 boards that I had to rip to 4 1/2 inches.  To strengthen the corners I made mortise joints in the horizontal pieces that the sides would fit into.  You can see the notches in the picture.

The glass would be set toward the back, around 3/4" from the edge to match the French doors.  Thinking ahead, I realized that if I put this all together I would not be able to get my nail gun inside the frame to nail the muntins in place. ( A muntin is the strip of wood trim that will hold the window in place.) So, I glued & nailed the top and bottom muntins before I assembled the frame.  You can see in the first picture that the muntin is already in place.

I clamped the frame together on a flat surface with a little glue and held it together with a couple clamps while a put some nails in the corners.  The clamps enabled me to square it up perfectly before I nailed it.  It needs to be square so that the window will fit right.

Now that the frame was finished I inserted the glass over the muntins I already installed and added the muntins on the other side.  This would 'sandwich' the glass in place.

This took a little improvisation.  I ended up buying some pieces of mullion trim that are widely available and 1 1/4" wide.  (Mullion is trim that separates different windows, whereas muntins separate panes of glass, at least that's how I understand it...)  I ripped about 3/8" off of each edge to use as the muntins.  This worked great for this project because the edge profile was a very close match for the muntins used for the doors and sidelight.
Once the transoms were completely built I positioned them in place above the door and tacked them in place with some finish nails.  All that was left was add normal door casing.

It was a beautiful day and this was a fun project.  Kind of like craft day at school, except with nail guns...


Friday, August 28, 2009

Lead Drum Trap Leaking Into Light Fixture?

We're on the edge of finishing our apartment conversion project. One last detail was to replace the light fixture in the tile shower. Sounds easy enough, right?  One problem,  I started to remove the globe and realized that it was full of water!???

That was the first clue.

So, I quickly made sure that the electricity was off to the light and pryed the fixture off the ceiling.  (The screws were completely rusted.)  Surprisingly, the ceiling was not damp, but I needed to make a hole and see where the water was coming from.

Soon I saw it.  The large lead drum trap under the upstairs bathtub.  The bottom was covered with corrosion that screamed, "Replace me!"

Apparantly, it was just dripping enough that the water would make its way down the drywall to the light fixture without pooling and breaking through the ceiling. 

I made a large enough hole to access the drain above.  Thankfully, it was fairly easy to reach with no framing in the way as long as I could get through the ceiling.

Lead is an interesting character.  They pretty much custom fit these old traps on site by soldering them.  I wanted to cut out as much of it as possible, so I cut it close to the 2" cast iron hub leaving enough that I could join the new pipe on to it.  I used the reciprical saw with an abrasive blade that I also use for cast iron.

Once the old trap was cut out, I assembled a new 2" trap that would join to the 1 1/2" tub drain that was still in good shape.  I connected it to the old pipes using a 2" neoprene Fernco coupler.

Now with all of that back together, it's time to think about that light fixture again...  and a little drywall repair...


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Crown Moulding- How to Get Tight Outside Corners

I was installing crown moulding at my current kitchen remodel and thought I'd cover some tips for installing it. Let's start with those pesky outside corners. How do you get them to match up just right?

The first step is to get the cuts right. See yesterday's post for that lesson.

Then, before I work on the outside corner I like to cut the other end of each piece involved in the outside corner. This may mean a coped cut that will fit with the adjoining piece.

After making this cut and/or coping it, I like to hold it in place if possible so that the long end runs past the corner. Then, I can mark exactly where the corner is and make the cut. Even still, I may cut it just a bit long and test fit it to make sure it will be snug.

When that's finished, DON'T NAIL IT yet... Lay it aside and do the opposite piece for the corner. Cut it in the same fashion and test fit it with the first piece to make sure there will be no gaps.

Now that the pieces are cut to fit, lay them on the floor (or a flat work table if they'll fit). Add a bit of wood glue to one end and nail them together with small brads. I use 1" brads for this. Usually, I can get two brads in each side. You have to hold them carefully and get those nails in right or you may be taking all apart to fix it!

With the corner now assembled perfectly, you can hold the pieces in place and nail them up there. If your corner is square and the ceiling level this will leave you with an outside corner that you can be proud of, even without caulk!

By the way, this process also works great for other outside corners like baseboard, especially then there are small pieces with weird angles involved.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tips for Installing Crown Moulding

I thought I'd share a couple tips to installing 'standard' crown moulding that may save you some time and improve your work as well. Let's start with some preparations.

Like most jobs, the prepwork is foundational to ending up with quality work. Crown can be a frustrating character, especially if you're working by yourself. The first thing I like to do is lay a piece of the trim against the fence of my miter saw (since I know it's square) and measure how far down the wall the trim will come. (See picture)

The particular crown came 3" down from the ceiling, so I went around the entire room and made a mark at 3", especially in the corners. If you want, you can even mark this with a chalk line. The purpose is to give you a reference point so that your crown doesn't twist or gradually rise or fall as you go along. Keeping it level is one key to having tight joints.

Cutting crown can be a real mystery to figure out. I used to have to think very hard and make lots of test cuts before I figured out the system. Well, I've gotten better at, but I've also discovered the triangle.

Most miter saws will have a triangle mark (or circle) on them, to use as a 'cheater' for cutting crown. You probably have two sets of them depending on the type of crown, depending on the angle that the crown is to the ceiling. I won't get too technical, but my crown was the 38/52 type which meant that I could use the triangles at miter angle of 31.6 degrees and a bevel of 33.9 degrees.

You don't have to know all the technical stuff to do this. Just put your saw at the two triangle marks and cut with the crown laying flat on the saw. You still have to think a little bit to make sure you're doing it the right way, but if you trust the triangle, your cuts will likely be more reliable.

NOTE: Another way to cut is to lean the crown, usually upside down, against the fence of your miter saw at the same angle that it will be against the ceiling. With this position you won't use the triangles, but the actual angles that you're working with for each dimension. This position may be helpful if you have non standard angles for corners or if your crown is non-standard angle to the corner.

I like to do the longest run first, because it can be cut square on each end. Then, I usually do the next one to the left because it will have a square cut on the left end of it and a coped cut (using the triangles and your handy coping saw) to join up to the previous piece. An outside corner will interrupt this pattern, but you can continue after the corner around the room.

Start nailing at the end that joins the previously installed piece. I usually work alone, so I have to make a jig or at least lean a 2x4 against the wall to support the other end until I get to it. Make sure to get those corners tight and keep the crown level along those lines you made on the wall.

Finally, this is the time to use a finish nailer with some long nails. I usually use 2 1/2" finish nails that I can shoot up through the middle of the crown into the plates at the top of the wall. You need to hit something solid or the crown will eventually sag and crack the caulk if it's painted. If you can't find a stud or anything solid, you can criss-cross two nails in the same spot that will hold the crown pretty good as long as you're hitting studs most of the time.

Crown can really transform a room which is what makes this project so fun. Hopefully, these tips help keep the fun from getting squashed for you!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tricks to Cutting Hardibacker Cementboard

Before laying the flooring at my Inglewood kitchen project, I wanted to lay 1/2" Hardibacker. This will not only give me a solid, smooth surface to tile over, but the old tile floor had 1/2" cementboard (also called CBU) so the door jambs are cut to accommodate this already.

The Hardibacker goes down over a layer of thinset mortar nailed with roofing nails. (Hint: get a roofing nailer to really speed this up.) The process is quite similar to laying any subfloor, but cementboard can be frustrating to cut.

It takes forever to score it with a utility knife and the blade will dull very quickly. A circular saw will churn up clouds of toxic silica dust everywhere and again, dull the blade almost immediately.

Here are two ways to cut it without loosing your temper:

1. Buy a 'cementboard scoring tool'. (Below Left) They're usually in the tile department next to where they sell wet saws. With this you can score and snap the Hardibacker similarly to how you cut drywall. It just takes a few more swipes to dig in before it snaps. It won't give you a very clean break, so you might want to measure about 1/8th short to compensate for this.

2. Get an abrasive jig saw blade meant for cutting cementboard. If you can find one for this exact purpose, you can use one designed for cutting ceramic tile like I did. (Below Right) I was able to make it through my entire kitchen project before this blade wore out.

I like to score and snap any cuts that I can and use the jig saw for notches and cutting out electrical boxes, etc. This process worked well for me and I was able to stay calm in the process.

By the way, if you have to make a lot of cuts you can also buy a circular saw blade meant to cut cement board. Check the reviews on Amazon, because it sounds like some of them wear out very fast, which is not cool when you just paid $50+ for the blade.

Remember to use the respirator whenever you're cutting this stuff, especially if you're indoors. The manufacturer recommends only using power tools like a jigsaw outside. That's probably good advice because the clouds of dust will attack your lungs.

Happy cutting,


Monday, August 24, 2009

Play it Safe With Outlet Extensions

Whenever you build out a wall by adding a layer of drywall, wainscoating, or ceramic tile, your electrical boxes will no longer be flush with the finished surface. This problem can be fixed with a simple outlet extension.

In addition to giving you a place to mount a receptacle and make connections, the electrical box is useful in protecting your home from any sparks that might come from faulty wiring within the box. This works as long as the box has a cover, or in our case, is flush with the wall where the receptacle covers it.

We've added 1/4" of cementboard, thinset and thick travertine subway tiles to our backsplash which means that the outlets are set back nearly an inch from the newly finished surface of the wall. We need to close this gap.

No problem.

These particular boxes where the smaller electrical single receptacle boxes that are common in older homes. I found an extension that fit the box perfectly and made for an easy fix. After turning off the circuit and checking the outlets to confirm that they're off, I just loosened the screws and slid the extension over the outlet and screwed it back on.

Now it's flush with the tile. Safe and sound.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Travertine Subway Tile Backsplash

I'm a big fan of subway tile. I'm not sure why, but it's just cool. The backsplash I was working on today was using travertine subway tiles (approx. 3" x 6") mixed with a stone mosaic.

The mosaic tiles come in 12" x 12" sheets with 10 rows on it. I cut it into rows of two to add some visual interest and break up the subway tile a little. This is less expensive than doing the entire backsplash with mosaic, and has a custom feel to it.

The entire backsplash is around 24 linear feet. It's long, but mostly only around 11 inches high except under the windows where there's only 3" of tile. The largest tiled area is behind the range.
For this I turned the mosaic tile up and around to frame the larger area a little bit. It was tricky to do the subway tile around this and make the grout lines match as much as possible.

Whenever you're mixing types of tile you should consider the dimensions and how they'll match up. For example, it's often nice to mix 12" floor tiles with smaller 6" tiles to come up with a pattern. You just have to think about the grout lines and make sure that they'll really line up right.

What's Underneath?
When I started the walls were covered with 3/4" boards that were previously covered with linoleum. This was strong enough, but the surface wasn't very smooth. I covered the boards with a layer of thinset and then 1/4" Hardibacker cementboard to have a flat solid surface to cover with the travertine tiles.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How To Add a Dishwasher to Your Kitchen

A Dishwasher can be a huge time saver and add convenience to your life. However, if you don't have one, it can be quite inconvenient to put one in. I installed one from scratch at my kitchen project in Inglewood and thought I'd cover the basics for you.

1. Make a spot for it. Dishwashers need a 24" wide hole in your cabinets, hopefully right next to the sink for easy access both for the user and for the plumbing hookups. This kitchen had a 24" wide base cabinet that was the perfect location for a new dishwasher. I removed the doors, drawer & shelf and then carefully started removing the cross pieces.

If you have room for the jigsaw, use that, but for removing the floor of the cabinet I needed my reciprocal saw. Get the dishwasher out and measure it to make sure of the exact dimensions. Drill at least a 3/4" hole from the new cavity into the sink cabinet. Sometimes you'll need two of them.

2. Add the Electrical connections. Dishwashers need to be on their own dedicated 20 amp circuit. Sometimes you can get away with including the garbage disposal on this circuit. If you're doing this, now's the time to take care of it while you can get to the wall to add the switch, etc. It's best to have a licensed (and competent :) electrician handle the electrical work.

My project had an open basement underneath which greatly reduced the difficutly in running the new circuit. I know this not always the case. You may have to get creative, but don't try to cheat and add the dishwasher to the countertop circuits.

3. Connect the plumbing. Usually, a dishwasher has a flexible pipe that goes through a hole into the sink cabinet to connect to the sink supply lines. A 3/8" compression fitting is standard, though it may have 1/2". This particular dishwasher was supposed to be connected to the hot water line. I installed a two-way valve that would control both the faucet and the dishwasher flow. (There were no valves there when I started. Crazy, I know.)

Hmm... Should you connect your dishwasher to the hot or cold water line??
This is a good question. It turns out that the answer is: "It depends." The best way to find out is to look in the installation manual from the manufacturer. If you don't have one try a search for your dishwasher model online.

Newer dishwashers are able to heat the water so they are classified as "cold-fill". They are connected to the cold supply line. However, older dishwashers don't have this feature and will need to connect to the hot water line in order to have hot water washing the dishes.

Go ahead and connect the water line under the dishwasher while you can easily access it. In addition to the supply line hookup, you'll need a drain tailpiece that has a dishwasher spout like in the picture above. That's where the dishwasher drain will connect to the sink drain.

4. Add the dishwasher. Having made these preparations, it's time to slide the dishwasher into its new home. As you do, pull the drain and supply line through those holes you made into the sink cabinet. Push the dishwasher all the way back and level it using the adjustable feet on the front. I like it to be fairly snug with the countertop, but make sure the door opens and closes freely.

5. Make the connections. The panels below the dishwasher remove to give you access to the connections. The electrical wire will enter the small box on the right through a clamp-connector that screws down to keep the wire from moving. Then you connect white to white, black to black and ground to ground. Sometimes the ground will also connect to a screw mounted somewhere in the box.

If you didn't already connect the supply line you can do this now as well as attaching the drain hose to the kitchen drain under the sink.

6. Test. Before you cover everything up take time to turn the water and electrical on and go through a cleaning cycle. Check for any drips and adjust as necessary.

It may take a day to get it all installed from scratch, but think of all that time you'll save by not hand-washing dishes!
Guys, you may score some points with the wife as well... :)


Monday, August 17, 2009

Cove, The Un-Crown, Crown Moulding

Part of some work I've been doing for some friends was to drywall a plaster ceiling in a bathroom that wasn't looking so great. As part of this project we thought it might be nice to add some trim as well. To match the changing area just outside the bathroom I used a 1 3/4" cove trim.

Cove is not typically thought of as crown moulding. More often, it's used for inside corners with beadboard or paneling. For this small bathroom where a larger crown might be overkill, this seems to dress up the room just enough.

Just like other crown moulding, I coped the corners just like I would with normal crown moulding for a tight fit. First, I cut it upside-down at a 45 degree angle while holding the trim against the fence like the picture. Then I used the coping saw to cut along the front edge of the mitered cut, removing as much off the back as possible so it will fit snugly next to the adjacent piece.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Drywalling Over Paneling?

I know a lot of homeowners who have a room full of 1/4" paneling sheets and dream of flat drywall instead.

The kitchen that I'm currently remodeling in Inglewood had paneling covering the old plaster walls. Removing the paneling might have brought the plaster with it and presented a bigger project than my client wanted me to tackle. He told me to just drywall over it.

I said, "Sure. No problem."

The wall where I widened the doorway got gutted, so it was just the other walls that we were talking about. I chose to use 3/8" drywall for these walls. I avoided 1/4" drywall because it doesn't tend to dimple correctly wherever I screw. I guess it's so thin that instead of recessing, the screws often make a small bump which is a pain to get smoothed out.

I always remove all the casing and trim to do drywall. I've seen homes where somebody tries to drywall up to the trim and it looks horrible even if you caulk it. It's also likely that the edges of the drywall aren't screwed to any studs with this method.

Like any drywall installation I had to make sure I had framing everywhere that was needed so that all of my drywall edges were snug. If a screw doesn't hit anything solid, the drywall will eventually move enough to cause a crack at this location.

One other concern with drywalling over paneling is that your doorjambs will need to be built up to be flush with the new drywall. In my case, I'll need to rip strips that are 3/8" thick to attach before I can put the casing back on. The baseboard shouldn't have this problem.

Can you mud the paneling to cover the lines?
I've read some discussion on this topic and I'd agree with those that say it's not a good idea. Paneling is quite flimsy at 1/4". Even installed over plaster there were lots of gaps and spongy places. This means that any mud that you try to fill those pesky paneling lines with will just crack and make the lines reappear.

This kitchen already looks better with the paneling hidden by new drywall with the first coat of mud.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

How to Remove the Old Tile Flooring

Before we can talk about installing nice new tile, I have to get rid of those pink ones that were (supposedly) stylish a couple decades ago. Let's talk about how to remove tile:

Removing Tile= Muscle + Elbow Grease :)

The difficulty in removing tile depends, of course, on how well it was put down. Sometimes the tiles 'pop' up quite easily, at other times they have permanently bonded with the subfloor and will make for a long day.

You'll need to remove the tiles and any cementboard that may be under them. Often, with a floor, the tiles are directly over plywood or cement. In this case just remove the tile and the mortar and then fill any gouges with self-leveling cement so that you can start with a flat surface for the new flooring.

For my project, the tiles were installed over Durock cementboard that was nailed down over an old linoleum floor. This was actually fortunate for me because if they had used screws it would have been much more difficult to remove.

The trick for my project, if there was any, was to skip the tiles and work on prying the cementboard up. In doing this, the tiles would often break or pop off anyway. I was able to get by with just a couple pry bars and a hammer. If your project is more stubborn you might consider renting a power chisel or getting a floor scraper to help.

Removing tile makes a TON of dust, especially if you use power tools. Make sure to cover everything that you can to contain the dust. I actually made two temporary plastic walls between the kitchen and the rest of the house to try to contain as much dust as possible. (Use painter's tape to attach plastic from floor to ceiling. Clamps may help as well.)

Also, you want to find a nice respirator (dust mask), gloves, eye protection, knee pads and even ear plugs. All that pounding will make your ears ring!

The reward for all this hard work is have a nice surface to work from in laying the new tile. Of course, if you can find someone else to do it for you, that's even better... :)


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Removing Part of a Plaster Kitchen Wall

I started a new kitchen remodel this morning in Inglewood. In addition to new floor and backsplash tile, the homeowner wanted to widen the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room.

When I started, there was a recessed door there, however, it was built into a thin false wall on top of the old wall with plaster on the dining room side. The thin wall wasn't needed without the recessed door so I removed that and began working on the old plaster wall.

This is NOT a load-bearing wall. This is important to note because a load-bearing wall would be handled differently including some temporary supports and a larger header.

I took out all the blocking and door framing and was left with the studs covered with lath and plaster on one side. I really wanted to keep from damaging the plaster so I wouldn't have to add those repairs to my list. I did a pretty good job and wanted to share my process with you:

1. I had removed all the old paneling from the kitchen side of the wall back to where I wanted the new doorway to end. Then, before I removed the wall or any plaster, I went ahead and put in the king and trimmer studs where my new header would go.

TYPES OF STUDS... King Studs- go from the top to bottom plate; Trimmer Studs- support the headers; Cripple Studs- go from top of header to the top plate (the little guys :)

2. Now, for the plaster... The trimmer stud marks the rough opening of the doorway so I have a solid reference point. I made a pencil line to mark it and then used a chisel to cut the plaster along this line. Doing this will give me a nice edge and prevent large cracks in the plaster that will remain. As you can see in the picture, I started on the opposite side (at the old doorway) and pryed off chunks of plaster toward the line for the new doorway.

3. After cleaning off the plaster, I used my pneumatic stapler to fasten all the lath to the trimmer stud. This will help prevent them from wiggling as much as I cut them. My sabre saw worked well for cutting the lath along the trimmer stud. Again, having the stud there saves a ton of mess because without its support, the plaster would surely break and the lath would come loose.

4. Once the lath is cut it can be pulled off and discarded. Then you can move on to removing those studs. Cutting the cripple studs above the old header was the most difficult part to do without damaging the plaster.

I'll still have a little plaster to patch, but I think I won the plaster battle for today...


Monday, August 10, 2009

Finish Drywall- FASTER!

My drywall finishing life changed when I learned the process for mudding without sanding in between each coat (see this post). That has saved me a lot of dust and improved my work. Now, I've added some speed to my smaller jobs. Here's the secret-"20-Minute Mud".

It's a type of joint compound (or mud) that dries super-fast. They make a handful of varieties ranging from 20 minutes to 90 minutes. Today, I was working on a repair in a laundry room that only involved a small area. With the fast-setting joint compound I was able to get the first two coats on in just one day!

When you consider that you normally need to let the mud dry overnight, this saves me a day on a project. It's especially helpful for smaller repars or patching holes.

The process is exactly the same as with the normal pre-mixed mud, except I'd suggest making it up in small batches. I make a mud pan worth at a time and that seems to be about right. Once you mix the powder with water, you've got around 15 minutes to work it before it sets up on you, so get a move on!

It's supposed to clean off with water, but once it starts to firm up it will harden quickly and you'll have to scrape it off to clean your tools. I have an old set of mudding knives that I save for this type of thing so I can keep my nice tools clean and gunk-free.

I especially recommend the 20-minute-mud for the first coat when you're embedding the tape. About an hour afterward you can apply the second coat.

That's the secret. Now keep it to yourself, okay?...


Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Beauty Treatment for Ugly Walls

We've been sorting through boxes to reclaim part of our house and we found an issue of House Beautiful from June 1953. It's really fascinating to see ways that our homes have changed, as well as our lifestyles over the past 56+ years.

One ad for Romany Tiles caught my eye that describes their ceramic tiles as "wear proof, fade proof, flame proof, stain proof- and so easy to keep clean." They call it "A Beauty Treatment for Ugly Walls." It reminds me of all the bathrooms in all those 50's ranch homes that I've seen covered with tile of all colors and designs. Usually it's still in great shape, so maybe Romany was right?

I also noticed at least two different ads for toilet seats. Of course, both are bold colors to match the tile & fixtures of the day. Olsonite is the brand for "America's Smartest Bathrooms", while Church Seats say they are "The Best Seat in The House". Kind of humorous today, I suppose.

The cover article is about a $20,000 house that utilizes low-cost production techniques with custom-design quality, including a refrigerator, washing machine, and a TV set! They also feature a house that they call suitable for families with an income of $7000 a year!

Things have certainly changed. Have they changed for the better? Perhaps it's doesn't matter, but what are we doing with the changes? Hopefully, it has increased our quality of life and not just are anxiety and busyness, right?

Something to think about next time you're admiring your generic white toilet seat... :)


Friday, August 7, 2009

Eastwood Kitchen Before and After

I finished up my kitchen project in East Nashville this week. It was fun to see it transform from the linoleum flooring, laminate counters and outdated tile to having a glass tile backsplash, butcher block countertops and travertine stone flooring.

To read all the posts from this project, click here.

The finishing touches included the wine rack (see this post), shoe moulding and repairing some trim. I also caulked around the backsplash and flooring thresholds. (Appliances will be added soon!)

The kitchen adjoined a laundry room so it got a makeover with travetine as well.

This wonderful Craftsman home is full of old trim and beautiful details. It was a privilege to add my own touch to that history!


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Improvise a Wine Rack

The homeowner at my Eastwood kitchen project (these posts) installed an over-the-range microwave where an existing cabinet had been. The result was that there was an awkward space above it that wasn't very useful for much. He wanted me to make it into a space to hold wine bottles.

Sure, why not?

Basically, I just needed to add some kind of dividers to make 'cubby holes' for the wine bottles. The trick with this space was that I would have limited access in the cabinet. Here's the creative solution I came up with:

I ripped down a piece of cabinet/stain-grade plywood into strips that were the exact height of the opening. On the front I could get a couple brads in each of them to hold them in place, but on the back I wouldn't have access. The answer was to put some spacer blocks between each board along the back. They will keep the divider boards in the right spot and I could build the entire thing before setting it into the hole.

Once it was built I gave it a quick finish with leftover Waterlox from the butcher block that we used. (see this post). This gave the boards a natural color that matched the insides of the rest of the cabinets pretty well.

After some drying time, I slid the contraption into the hole above the microwave. I got it in position and nailed some face boards across the end of each divider. These would be caulked/painted to match the cabinets and hide the end grain on the divider boards.

I was fairly happy with the results. Now for the wine...


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Grouting the Travertine Floor and Slate Hearth

Things really start to come together once the tile gets grouted. The beautiful character of the travertine and slate really begins to stand out and you remember why you went to all the trouble and expense to put it down.

I've noticed that there are many kinds of travertine out there. Some are left in a more rough condition, having a 'tumbled' look. The particular one I was using has been polished smooth on the surface, even though the back shows many of the natural pores that run through the natural stone. The color may vary widely from a sandy brown color to even stark white.

We used a sanded grout called "linen" which is a light shade of brown that will coordinate with these dramatic tiles really well.

DID YOU KNOW... The Coliseum in Rome is the largest building in the world that is constructed primarily of travertine!
The slate at the fireplace hearth also got grout today. I used a charcoal sanded grout that looks nearly black. It makes a bold statement against the white trim that fills the rest of this Craftsman home in East Nashville.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Slate Hearth Brings Out the Artist in Me

My current East Nashville project mostly involves a kitchen makeover. However, "while I'm at it", the homeowner also wanted me to lay some slate tile on the fireplace hearth in the living room.

Fireplaces can be really fun to tile because they often the centerpiece of the room visually. For this particular project, I started with a box of 12" slate and decided to try cutting the pieces into 6" x 12" rectangles and 6" squares and come up with a cool pattern to show off all the different colors and textures that slate has.

NOTE: If you're cutting tiles in half like this remember to account for the grout lines. To make sure mine were perfectly sized, I set some of them up with my spacers and adjusted the guide on my wet saw to make sure all of them were exactly the same.
It was really fun to pull the tiles out of the box and see how unique each piece was. Some were a plain grey, while others had yellow, red, or even green colors in them.

I came up with a pattern that would work well with this particular hearth that is 5 feet across. I cut the pieces and laid them all out to test-fit and make sure I liked where each tile ended up. I wanted it to have a somewhat random look to mix the various shades of color without having pieces cut from the same tile right next to each other.

So far I'm really happy with it. It will only look better once it's grouted to make the tiles stand out even more. It was a blast because I got to use some of those creative juices that run through my veins. :)

BTW- I had to do quite a bit of prepwork to the hearth before laying tile. It sloped away from the fireplace and was quite a bit lower than the finished hardwoods that surround it. To fix the problem, I used a couple applications of leveling cement to raise up the front of the hearth and get it as level and flat as possible.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Laying the Travertine Floor

Today, I got the Travertine down in my East Nashville kitchen project. Travertine takes a little extra care, but most of the techniques of laying tile apply.

Getting the layout is always an important step that requires extra thought on the front end. For this project, I knew that I wanted the grout lines perpendicular to the main doorway, but also perpendicular to the laundry door.

I started by laying some tile across the doorways to get the starting pieces in a place where I wouldn't have any super-small pieces on the edges. If possible, it's nice to have large pieces along the walls.

Once I knew where I wanted the starting tiles to go, I marked a couple guidelines parallel with one wall on the floor to serve as a reference point so that I don't veer off once I got rolling.

It's also very important that you think about how you're going lay the tile so that you don't 'tile yourself into a corner'... :) In this picture you can see that I drew a straight reference line down the middle of the room and then tiled down one side and then back the other. This enabled me to start in the doorway where I wanted to begin with whole tiles.

This is different for each project, but it's worth giving some thought to a tiling strategy before you get started.

Every piece of Travertine is different with all kinds of patterns and colors. It cuts fine with a wet saw, but can be brittle if you have skinny pieces. It helps to look at the back of the tile and see how porous it is. The less porous ones will be less likely to break as you cut them.

The other thing is to remember that Travertine, like other stone tiles, needs a heavier duty thinset mortar to support it. Most places that sell thinset will have one meant for this purpose.

I'll be grouting soon and this kitchen will really start to take shape!


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Are You A Craftsman in YOUR Work?

I was reading through some forums on the Internet and found an interesting comment that someone made saying that a contractor was highly "certified", but wasn't a craftsman and his work showed it.

Hmmm.. Behind any job that a person does is a certain mentality or work ethic. It's HOW the job is done. For example, it's not especially difficult to install baseboard. However, making all the joints nice and tight takes some experience.

You have to desire to do a great job.

Every project is a challenge to be faced. It's not "just another job". It's an opportunity to build experience, try something new, and form potentially life-long relationships with clients.

Of course, this can apply in construction, but why not apply the concept to how we live life?

Is dinner 'just another meal' or a chance to build relationships with family? If it's worth doing, isn't it worth doing well?

Michael Gerber, in The E-Myth Revisited, writes about successful small businesses, saying that they are the ones that do all the little things right. They take every customer interaction and try to make it remarkable.

You can tell I'm thinking deeply this morning... back to work... :)