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Friday, January 16, 2009

A Mongo Home Companion

I wanted to share or…ram down your throat the latest home project at the House of Mongo as a Diary Companion to the series The House That Mongo Bought and a sequel, of sorts, to Can’t You Smell That Smell? For time’s sake, I will jump right into the problem. Thanks to one of our beloved cats, we had to do some renovation to our basement/family room/man cave. We decided to redo half of the basement in ceramic tile. The next three months can only be described as either a renovators’ nightmare or a serious case of adult onset ADD. You can click any of the pictures to make them bigger.

Here is what the project area looked like before we began.

Brown shag carpet, 80's style.

I didn't have a picture of the bar area but here is the tile.

September 21st, 2008
We need to do something drastic with the basement. Lucy’s little issue is a bit more than little. The vet says she’s fine, which is good. However, it went so long without being noticed that I think the carpet is ruined. I’ve tried to scrub the carpet and soak it with that Simple Solution, repeatedly. The still the smell won’t go away. There are at least 4 spots around the room where she’s tagged the floor. I hadn’t planned on replacing the carpet until we finished everything else. This was a few years away, in my mind.

The order in which I would have liked to have done it would be to first, replace the ceiling and install new lighting. Second, replace the paneling with drywall and add some insulation. I can’t understand why the previous owners didn’t. The basement is so cold without it. Lastly, I would replace the floor. Unfortunately, those will have to wait. The holidays are almost here and we’ve already lost most of this month from my Mother-in-Law being in the hospital and my wife being in our friend’s wedding.

After going round and round over how to approach this project we’ve decided to replace only half of the carpeting with tile. If we replace all of the carpet and Lucy continues to have an issue then we’ve ruined new carpeting. Also, this will serve as protection against dirty feet. There is a lot of traffic on that side of the room and if we replace with carpeting we again ruin it with tracked in dirt and water. Now, what kind of tile? We’ve had to upend our lifestyle by restricting the cats and their litter boxes to the upstairs. We need to get this done. Self stick vinyl flooring would be cheaper and quicker. Lowes is offering a deal on their credit card which allows you to pay off the balance of your purchase in 12 months with no interest and no minimum monthly payment. After we rip up the carpet we’ll head there to check out the selection.

September 26th, 2008 10:31pm
The removal has begun. I’m making the first cut tonight so that I can have all the carpet gone before the weekend. We’re going to look at tile tomorrow. Then, the little one….kid, not cat, is going to her grandparents for the afternoon while we work on the floor. I should be ready to lay tile on Sunday and have everything back in order by the first weekend in October. I took some photos of the project area for posterity. Also, I figure if we ever sell the house, we could provide a little binder for potential buyers on what we’ve done to improve the place.

September 26th, 2008 10:35pm
You’ve got to be shitting me! Tile?!?!? I’m removing carpet in pieces for easier transporting. Underneath the padding is this ugly tile that’s probably older than my wife. It looks like something from my high school cafeteria. Removing more of the carpet reveals exactly how much dirt has been trapped underneath the padding. To think, I’ve let my daughter crawl around on this carpet. I think I even observed a five second rule on a potato chip once. I’m glad we decided to put down tile. Hopefully, we can get some extra money put aside to do the rest of the room. I can only imagine what I’ll find underneath the rest of the carpet by the wood burner.

September 26th, 2008 11:35pm
Ok, almost all of the carpet is removed from the project area. I may have to trim some from the edge but I’ll do that once we have tile situated. I’d rather leave a little extra than take too much. The room already smells better. The spots that Lucy tagged were really bad. Some of the paneling soaked some of the smell but I don’t know if I can fix that easily. The piano is now in the garage and it has some smell to the wood on the base. Hopefully, I can clean that, too. I’m done for tonight. Tomorrow we shop. Sunday I lay tile. Monday, I go back to work for some rest.

September 27th, 2008 5:35pm
That was not fun. We got a late start today so Lowes will have to wait. I’m already a day behind schedule and it hasn’t been 24 hours yet. We began removing the tile in earnest but I must say it will take us a long time and a lot of Ibuprofen. Both of us are using hammers and putty knives to chip up the tile. After three hours I think we’ve eliminated about 20 sq feet of old tile. I don’t think I’ll be done by next weekend.

September 28th, 2008 6:05pm
Another trip to Lowes proved beneficial. We bought a chipper that looks like a shovel with a bladed end. It made short work of the tile. I can have the floor cleared of tile in no time. We haven’t bought tile yet. Now my wife wants to do ceramic instead of vinyl. I’ve never worked with mortar and grout before. It will require a lot more work and probably some help. Unfortunately, since she wants to have ceramic, we had to pull up the old tile behind the bar. Might as well be consistent. You’ll never believe what I found underneath that tile…more tile. Apparently, the owners had laid the ugly white tile first before they finished the basement. When they put the bar in, they didn’t take up any of the old tile. Instead they dug a trench for sink pipes right through the tile. Then, they filled in the hole and cemented right up to the existing tile. Lastly, they built the bar right on top of the new tile. I should have known that this would be the case when I found old tile underneath the existing ceramic tile in the entryway.

September 30th, 10:00pm
Just got back from Lowes. After looking at all the tile we found some 16 inch, beige colored ones on clearance for $0.88 a tile. I bought 20 boxes. Also got two bags of mortar and a bucket of tools. I should be be finished with the project by the end of the week and life can get back to normal.

October 1st, 2008
This is going to take longer than I thought. My wife had been toying with the decision to go back to work at the farmer's market where we found Lucy. It would only be weekends in October and maybe early November. I know that every little bit of money helps and she plans on using all of her paychecks for Christmas, which is a big help. Unfortunately, that means that I'm responsible for the little one during the weekend when I'm supposed to be working on the basement. Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for relatives. I have a babysitter lined up for the weekend and can get cracking.

October 4th, 2008 7:00pm
I could just die right now. I've been on my hands and knees all day. Luckily, I had the help of my Father-in-Law and Sister-in-Law's boyfriend. They've actually done some ceramic tile work. I bought one of those tile splitters which look like a paper cutter. You put the tile in and score it with a small cutting wheel. The tile teeters on a raised edge that runs the middle of the device and you press down on a lever which snaps the tile in two pieces. We ended up going through three tiles before we learned how to work the damn thing. After we surveyed the work, I was actually quite impressed. We managed to lay nearly all of the tile from the door of the laundry room back to the garage door. We haven't laid the tile behind the bar because we need a wet saw. The tile cutter isn't very adept at small edges and it's hit and miss with the crimper. Some tiles ended up breaking.

October 5th, 2008 7:00pm
Here's a little tip for you folks, playing at home. Clean your grout lines as you go. I spent the better part of the day chiseling out the grout lines that had been filled with dried mortar. My hamstrings are ready to snap. Standing bent over like I was touching my toes, I used a screwdriver and hammer to bang away at the mortar.

After that was done we realized we were going to need another bag of mortar, so I made a quick trip for some more. What I didn't realize was that I bought quick set. Sadly, I don't move that fast and some mistakes were made. We finished laying all the straight edge pieces of tile behind the bar. However, since there are hardly any 90 degree angles in my basement, the walls behind the bar aren't square, so my measurements were a little off in some places. That, coupled with the fact that one of the first pieces I set into the quick drying mortar did not have spacers properly placed between it and other tiles caused my grout lines to be off and the corners didn't match up. It would be a costly mistake if I chose to pull up all those tiles. I'd need additional mortar, tiles, and time.

October 11th, 2008 7pm
Another full day of work. A friend of mine happened to have a wet saw and was nice enough to lend it to me for a bit. Today took a lot of math skills. I had a decision to make on whether I was going to all out with the tile or stop short of the pipes under the bar sink. We decided to give it a shot since we had a lot of leftover tile. After all, I didn't want to be lazy like the people I've been cursing under my breath since I bought this place. It took a lot of work and finesse but we managed to finish it off and it looks fairly decent. We managed to get a small bit of grouting done before we had to quit.

Sunday might be a lost cause for work. I don't have any help and I don't know if I feel confident enough to mix and grout by myself.

October 18th, 2008 5:30pm
At first I thought this day would never work out. My friend with the wet saw offered to come over and help finish the grouting. He recently redid his kitchen floor and he has all the tools for the job. However, he was late. My Father-in-Law needed a break from the work and while I think he's nuts, he considers a break to be babysitting. After dropping off my daughter, I waited for my friend. I told him to be there around noon and by 1:30 he was a no show. I felt that I was wasting weekend, so I tried to mix up some grout by myself. Here's another little tip for you playing at home. Use just a little bit of water and then add to the mix. I had a soupy mix and pretty much wasted a half of a bag of grout.

I made a trip back to Lowes to getting matching grout and called my friend to let him know I would be right back. I ended up leaving a voice mail which further angered me. He did end up calling while I was in line to buy grout and I told him I would be back in 20 minutes.

After returning home and with everyone present, we started grouting. Either he was really good at this or just in hurry, because we were done in an hour. He was cleaned up and gone by 4:30pm. Now, all I had to do was get some baseboards, lay the carpet back down and finish it. I might be done by Halloween.

November 9th, 2008
In case you've been wondering what happened, there's been a work stoppage. Buying baseboards for the project proved rather annoying. We pretty much destroyed the existing, wooden baseboards, so we had to buy new ones. All of the wood boards were not the right color and I didn't have the space and patience to stain them. We opted for pre-finished fiberglass base boards but there was a lead time of two weeks for the order. I also bought carpet strips for the edge of the tile. They are kind of work like anchors. You drill the holes into the concrete and slide these plastic pins along a channel in the underside of the strip. You place the pins in the holes and use a rubber mallet to sink them into the holes. Then you have no hardware showing. Once I get the baseboards I should be able to finish this in a couple of days. Unfortunately, the wife has continued working weekends which limits my free time to finish the project.

November 30th, 2008 8:00pm
The baseboards finally came in and if I couldn't get any free time on the weekends to do the work, until after Thanksgiving. I took the week off and had plenty of time to work while the little one was being watched by the wife. My Father-in-Law lent me his miter saw so that I could cut the baseboards. Unfortunately, the plastic guards on the saw arm were lower than the top of the baseboard. I ended up carving out a notch next to my cut which really pissed me off to no end. I had to do some fancy cutting to make it work including cutting through the top half and then flipping over the board to cut through the bottom half. If I was lucky, the angle of the cut would meet. Again, my walls are not square and some angles weren't exactly 45 degrees forcing me to shim behind the baseboards along the bar.

The whole bar was a catch 22 situation. In one aspect, I was glad we had that previous water damage from the overflowing AC drip pan. It made the old vinyl tile very brittle and was easy to remove. The bad part was it warped the paneling creating uneven lines for both the new tile and the baseboards.

Another lousy site to see was four out of the seven baseboards were splintered on the one end. I lost an entire eight feet and had to make do. I managed to have just enough to finish the project area but am going to return the broken pieces for a new one in order to replace the last bit of baseboard on the other side of the room to make it match the rest.

Behind the bar, I cheated in one spot. Between the sink and the brick wall, behind the bar, I didn't do angle cuts. I just nailed two pieces side by side and you can sort of see the seem between them. I didn't have enough left for one piece so I had to use two smaller pieces. The upside is that the refrigerator sits in that space an will cover the screw up.

I could also shoot myself for screwing up the carpet strips. I had wait another few days to get a hammer drill from my Father-in-Law. This thing nearly killed me. First off, I ended up drilling twice as many holes because I couldn't drill deep enough in some spots. At times, I leaned on the drill with all my weight which resulted in a weird sensation in my chest. The percussive motion of the drill acted in a manner that I can only describe as a negative pressure In-exsuffaltor. The continued pounding on my chest made me short of breath and anxious. I did produce some great coughs from the experience which cleared my lungs of all the dust from the drilling. Secondly, I didn't properly evacuate the holes of all the dust and debris which led to a warped appearance in one of the strips. The plastic pins stopped short of the bottom of the hole and bent in half leaving a gap between them and the tile. I'll have to go back and fix that after the holidays. We skipped decorating for Halloween because of the delay in completion and I'm not about to deprive my daughter of full on Christmas decorations this year.

December 7th, 2008
Well, we're done....for now. I still need to get another piece of baseboard and fix the carpet strip but we've managed to get it usable for the holidays. Once we take decorations down and begin to get things back to normal I will finish the few loose ends. I did a tally of what I actually spent and I must say, for the amount of work, it's not bad. The bad part is how long it took. From start to finish it took two and a half months to do what should have realistically taken two weeks.

As a weekend warrior, I have a lot of work ahead of me on this house but I'm in it for the long haul. I only set one stipulation with my wife. Any big projects need to be scheduled between the beginning February and the beginning of June or the middle of July and the end of September. That gives me four months in the early part of the year and two and a half months in the later part. This avoids all holidays and my daughter's birthday. This is all in accordance with planned renovations. If the cat pisses somewhere, well then we need to jump on it right away.


$364 - 20 boxes of 16” tile, 3 bags of mortar, 2 bag of grout
$30 - Tile scraper
$23.95 - Tile Cutter
$21 - Case of Beer
$80 - Help
$10 - Additional bag of grout.
$142 - for baseboards and carpet strips.


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