If I thought last week was busy and hard and full of rampant destruction and agony, this week proved that last week was a balmy massage of pleasantness and fuzzy bunny love. The plan for this week was to tear out all the cabinets but the sink, haul all our trash to the curb, finish out the addition, and lay tile. We were going to leave the sink cabinet in so that, even if we didn't have a stove, or any storage, or any counterspace, we would still have a sink, and running water, and a way to wash dishes that did not involve the bathtub. It was also going to be an attempt to keep me from going absolutely insane this week with the construction mess.
Have I mentioned how much construction mess drives my absolutely bitch-bat crazy? It's true. I can live in a pigstye with the utmost nonchalance. But throw in some rubble and I turn into an OCD freak complete with gibbering, trembling hands, and an eye twitch. We've been going slow and cleaning up as completely as we can and leaving the kitchen useable in an effort to keep me sane and pleasant to be around, but now we've hit the hard part where the tear-out outstrips the functionality. So the plan was to alleviate some of my construction mess distress by leaving the sink in place.
And thus we began early (10 ish) on Saturday morning. My Dad showed up without my mom, though (she was sick), and completely confused poor Julia, who has never seen Grandpa without Grandma. Hitch #1 in our plans: now there was no one to watch Julia as we worked. She spent a great deal of time "helping" Mommy weed the grass while Mama and Grandpa worked.
Kristin began working on the landscaping while Dad and I got started tearing out the kitchen: and then Kristin and I hauled all the accumulated rubble, bits & pieces, ripped-out (evil, evil, bloodthirsty, unblooming, ungrateful, fungus-harboring, uncompostable because their damn thorns are made of compressed carbon) rose bushes, and scrap wood to the curb.
Finally, everything was out of the kitchen but the kitchen sink. When discussing with my dad if there was any way would could increase the floorspace in the kitchen by extending the floor over the stairwell a bit, he demonstrated exactly HOW too short our stairwell was already, and nixed that idea cold. . And then the really bad news: the sink cabinet was too deep to tile around. In order to move forward we needed to tear the sink out right then. I was not prepared for this. I was SO not prepared for this. But I took a big, deep breath, thanked the good lord above that I was not going to be taking any pharmaceuticals that start with the letter "c" this week, and emptied the sink cabinet out. Then I helped my dad carry it (all 300 lbs of it) to the curb. So now our trash pile contained everything AND the kitchen sink! I didn't take a picture of that, however, because, frankly, I was too embarrassed. We have never put this much out for neighborhood clean-up before, and I was seriously worried about our conspicuous waste. But by the next morning, our trash pile was half the size it was when the sun went down, and the kitchen sink and cabinet were gone. Gotta love the (active, vibrant, alive) scavenger culture here. Recycling at its best.
Anyway, back to the narrative. After removing the kitchen sink, and my controlling of my hyperventilation, Dad rocked in the new alcove, and then helped me cut and lay the subfloor for the tile. During all of this banging and sawing and cursing and heavy-breathing (the crazy kind, not the sexy kind), Julia took better naps than she has in weeks: I guess she's a baby who likes it a little crazy. She's so darn laid back!
After Dad left, I rounded out the evening by screwing down the durock subfloor. By the time we went to bed Saturday night, this is what our kitchen looked like.
Sunday morning dawned bright and not too hot. Kristin ran to get us breakfast, while I resolutely didn't look too hard at the mess in our dining room. With breakfast eaten, we began deliberating how were were going to lay the tiles out. We had 86 sq feet of tile to lay. This would be the largest tiling job that I have ever attempted without my Dad's immediate help. A few only-slightly panicked phone calls to my dad later (FYI - you cannot lay tile so that grout lines line up perfectly with the durock seams; no, we don't have to tile around the water pipes, the cabinets will cover that; yes, it is a good idea to tile under where the dishwasher will go, you know, just in case it leaks; no, now that the durock is down you can't just change your minds and go with vinyl stickers or paint; yes, people will laugh at you if your grout lines are all crookedy) we had our plan of attack, had made the first few cuts, and I had begun to mix the first of many (many, many, god, how many could we possibly need?) batches of mortar (FYI plan on using FOUR times the amount of mortar than the bag says it covers).
In the interest of saving any who are reading this, and would like to learn to tile, a certain amount of pain and mess, I would just like to say that when mixing mortar, it's a good idea to put the water in the bucket first. If you pour the mix in the bucket and then add the water, the mix makes HUGE clumps at the bottom of the bucket neither the mixing shovel nor a stick will dislodge and dissolve. If such a thing happens, just throw the whole mess away. On no account should you get so frustrated that you plunge your bare hands into the bucket of mortar mix and mix it that way. IF you DO do this thing, please expect that any small scrape that you have on your hands/arms will emerge from the mortar mix an angry, burning, swollen, weepy, throbbing red: This little scrape was barely noticeable before I mixed the mortar with my hands.
Luckily, just about this time our friend O showed up to help. O, besides being her first initial, is a very appropriate moniker for this friend, becase she was truly a masochist during this whole endeavor. It's not her kitchen, she's under no obligation to help, and the pay (nothing but a veggie burger which was also gave to non-helpers) certainly sucked. But she stuck it out to the end, and was groaning and sore by the time she staggered to her own home around 8 PM. O helped out by "back buttering" all the tiles, while I spread mortar on the floor and placed the tiles in their final resting positions.
O was also very helpful in pointing out to Kristin that she should take a "humility shot" of the results of my very first attempt to cut a tile using the tile wet saw. Like I said, this is the largest job I've ever attempted without my Dad right there, and my Dad usually doesn't like to let me use his saws. So while I have a lot of experience making straight cuts using the "score and snap" method, I've never used the tile saw before. If I'd realized how easy it was going to be, I may have been willing to try the more tricky diagonal installation which would have resulted in the tiles all being diagonal to the main path of traffic. It looks really cool, and I swear, as God is my Witness, one of these days I WILL live in a house that has tiles laid out diagonally. But we were worried about all the cuts required, and so we opted for a safer layout with only 2 tricky cuts. But, as you can see, using the saw, though messy and resulting in making me look like I'd peed my pants (water sprayed everywhere the first time I used it) was pretty easy. And, finally, the perfect cut tile! It took three tries to cut that first tile because, frankly, I can't measure worth a damn. And then when I cut the second one O looked over my shoulder and said, "Before I back butter that piece I just want to be certain that you're not going to care how bad that looks two days from now when you're not so tired..." Damn all perfectionists to hell. But she was right, I am proud of the final product, and excited for my dad to see. And I cut the second tricky tile perfectly the first time.
When Kristin and I had planned this weekend out, we decided that we didn't want to work so hard with no fun at all. And we realized that we'd be barbequeing Sunday dinner anyway, so we invited a bunch of people over to bbq with us. Optimistically we told them we'd be done tiling by 5. O and I weren't done till 7. For the last 2 hours of tiling we had people looking over our shoulder, munching chips and cookies while commenting on the job we were doing, being all clean and dry while laughing at how it looked like I'd peed my pants. It's a good thing that I love everyone who was there... But finally the kitchen looked like this and O and I could rinse off, grab some food, and sit down. Once we sat down, it hurt so much to get back up. Today I am so sore every simple motion hurts. The muscles in between the bones of my HANDS hurt. My knees are bruised. And in addition to the angry welt on my wrist, the skin on the tips of my fingers has been eroded by the mortar. My finger tips are red, rough, and emit heat.
Though I haven't really talked about what Kristin did during the tiling, I don't want you to think that she wasn't helping. Kristin measured and cut (straight cut) tiles, took care of Julia, brought us drinks, regularly cleaned my wrist when it started hurting too bad, indulged me by taking pictures for the blog, worked on cleaning the house, and entertained and fed our guests when the tiling wasn't done on time. She also rewarded me for all my hard work (and for doing it while remaining in a good mood -- normally I think that hard work entitles me to be a royal beotch) in a particularly wonderful way after all our guests were gone...
Game plan for the rest of the week: pick out the laminate for our countertop (tonight); grout (tonight), seal the grout (tomorrow night); tape and mud the alcove (work on that a little every night); order the wall cabinets (hopefully Dad will do that today or tomorrow); prime and paint the surfaces that need it (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday); keep my cool in the midst of the construction chaos (every night); and then next Saturday we'll complete the wiring for the appliances and install them (except the over-range microwave) and install the base cabintets, counter top, and sink. We may even get time to put the pine boards back on the walls!
Just in time to go on vacation! And boy, are we going to need it after this week. Wish Kristin luck in living with me...