Thursday, May 15, 2014


One of the rental units I manage for my family had just gotten new tenants in it, when I got a very unsettling message about mold in the shower.  This was two Thursdays ago. 

I went over to investigate, and she expressed her concern that the mold was behind the waterproofing trim (it was a plastic "insert" shower, badly done).  Her concern was justifiable, as it did appear that the trim was really crappy, and when poking at a really fat bead of caulk, it came off in my hand, revealing more black.

Mold is serious business, and it was not my intention to screw around.  I tore out the shower that night, down to studs and block wall, and was able to clean/scrub/disinfect the acrylic shower pan.  The mold had not escaped the shower pan, praise God, so it was not very extensive.  However, once you dig into a plastic insert, you're going all the way.

Unfortunately, she works nights, so I couldn't start work until Saturday afternoon.  After doing all the hardibacker that night, then applying the goop, I was tired and it was 10pm.

Oh, did I mention I had an interview out of town on Thursday, and we were flying at 7am Wednesday morning?  I had a serious fire under me.

Sunday afternoon I cut tile and laid the back wall.  Monday I laid the other two walls.  Tuesday afternoon I grouted, Tuesday night I installed trim and caulked.  At 10pm with my alarm set for 4:50am, I was in no mood to clean grout and thinset out of buckets, and I am afraid I tossed two perfectly good pails and a lot of tile spacers.  Oh well.  I cleaned my tools and rolled into bed. 

With my tile tools still in the back of the van, we made it to the airport and off to the Dakotas on time.  I was rather relieved.

There are a couple of morals of the story.  First, my friend from church who had been teaching me to lay tile at our house is amazing, and let me borrow all his tools on a moment's notice.  Second, a modicum of experience plus urgency can turn into a successful job.  Just being forced to do the job immediately and figure out on the fly how it would work was a most enlightening experience.  I'm an engineer, and I like to know what I'm getting into with a project.  I'll read up, watch stuff, and try to get some experience with a friend before committing on my own.  Not so this time.  I had never worked with thinset (we're using small-format tiles and acryl-pro adhesive at our house).  I had never worked with grout.  I had never cut a tile longer than 6".  I had never tried to put piping holes in 12" tile (cut from the back and rock gently on the saw blade worked for me).

And don't get me wrong, the job is not perfect.  I can see the corners that wouldn't quite align in my mind's eye.  I know where the trim sags a bit.  I still need to do touch-up painting (it's been a busy two weeks).  But it's done.  And I think it should be nice and tight for quite some time. 

Another educational experience.  And I only cracked one tile.

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