May 30, 2011

The Grouting Project From Hell is DONE

When I first set out on the journey of redecorating my kitchen, I got a wild hair and decided it would be fun to re-tile the backsplash with something that was brighter and cheerier than the slate stuff that was there before.  I had fun ripping down the original tile (what a great stress reliever!!); then all of the sudden the fun came to a screeching halt.  I had to replace most of the fiberglass insulation, re-wire two outlets after they stopped working, replace all of the plastic vapor barrier between the insulation and the wallboard, and then put up new moisture resistant sheetrock to replace the plaster board that was behind the old tile, since *someone* decided it would be a great idea to install the old tile using Liquid Nails.  After the sheetrock was replaced, I put up the first incarnation of my tile design, which left a little to be desired.  So off it came, and that's how the wall sat for a while until I came up with my new design.  I started with the white tiles, then my mom helped with installing the colored "mosaic" band one crazy afternoon.  The marbles made their way in, a few at a time... and then I decided I'd had enough of the tile for a while.  This was in January.

I continued to utilize my kitchen, even having dinner parties and family gatherings, all the while regularly fielding questions about, "when are you going to finish your tile?"; "are you going to leave that purple wall like that?"; "didn't you start on this last year?"; "how lazy are you, anyway?"  OK, to be fair... no one asked me how lazy I was.  But I'm sure they were thinking it.

Tyler and I have created a new annual tradition for ourselves, taking the week after Memorial Day off from work.  Last year, we went to Hilton Head and had a lovely time.  This year, we decided to go on the cheap and stay local, so we're going to an Indians Game on Thursday night, then on Friday we're visiting the West Side Market to check out the Great Lakes Brewing Company and some other local eateries.  All in all, a reasonably inexpensive trip, and since neither of us has ever been to a home Indians game, we thought it would be worth the drive.

In anticipation of the otherwise-lazy holiday week, I wrote up a list of tasks I'd like to get completed around the house.  The list is a page long.  Double-spaced.  12 Point Font.  At the top of the list stood things like, "organize papers", "finish couch slipcover sewing project", "clean up spare bedroom", and right in the middle stood my nemesis, "grout the kitchen tile", along with its sidekick, "sand and paint the wall below the new tile".  Those who know me well, know that I rarely shy away from a house project.  Unless it's too big or too technical, I'm going to get it done (eventually). I wouldn't necessarily call tile "technical"; although it definitely takes some finesse.  I like to think that I'm pretty good at installing tile, but I also like to think that I'm good at sports even though I hurt myself frequently when playing, say, rec-league sports with folks from work. That particular pursuit has led me to no less than 3 X-rays, 1 MRI, untold prescriptions for painkillers and muscle relaxers and more than a few visits to my friendly neighborhood Urgent Care.  

Anyway, I decided that the tile needed grouted finally.  Not that it looked "bad", per se... it just was far from looking great.  Since I had installed each piece individually, there was no mortar bed behind it to look somewhat uniform; instead the wall looked more like it had a bad case of varicose veins because you could see the purple wallboard behind the gleaming white tiles. Below the field of white tiles stood an expanse of the purple wall board, just below the countertop.  There's an opening at the end run of my cabinets where there's just an overhang of granite supported by a heavy spindle.  When I first saw it, this looked like an enormous waste of space... since then it's become Cat Food Central.  The cats think it's just perfect because it's right next to the patio door, so they get dinner and a show since we've got an abundance of chipmunks that scurry through the garden most days.

Now we get down to the nitty-gritty of it all - the work.  (You know I was avoiding re-hashing it with my highly descriptive prose above...)  I started on all of this around 10:30am yesterday, with a phone call to Tyler to have him sand and wipe down the wall above the cat food dishes.  Yes, I consider a phone call to be work - I pay my general contractors at work 10% overhead for simply making phone calls to coordinate with flooring people, so phone calls are "work" in my book.  I had already "mudded" the wall late last week, but didn't bother to sand it down.  Tyler sanded it for me and vacuumed up most of the dust so I could get to round two - the paint.  I primed the wall twice with Kilz 2; then had to leave this to dry for a while, which I took advantage of by meeting my mom for lunch.

When I got back, I dove head-first into the grout.  I started working in little patches, mooshing (technical term) the sanded grout mixture into the spaces between all the tiles with my hand because a grout float wouldn't work due to the marbles sticking out further than the tile. Each little section then needed a wipe-down with a sponge, then after a few minutes the "haze" of gray started to form, so that had to be wiped off again, then finally buffed off with a scrubby-sponge.  I worked my way down the wall, each time following the laborious process of moosh, wipe, wipe, scrub.  My arms started to feel like Jell-O after a while because of the repetitive motion of scrubbing in small circles.  I think this must be how the Shake Weight works. Maybe I should create a new workout program using home improvement projects as aerobic activity.  Hmm...

In between all of the grouting madness, I baked a birthday cake for my Grandpa, a strawberry-ricotta cake (supplement to the birthday cake since we had quite a few -13 - people to feed) and also two loaves of oatmeal molasses bread.  My mom had a dinner today for Grandpa's 84th birthday, so the whole gang piled into her house for three hours of madness and stuffing our faces.  I *finally* got the tile grouting finished just after 11:00 last night; by this time I was bleary-eyed and exhausted so I shuffled my way upstairs to bed.  My left ankle was swollen from standing all day long - I literally did not sit down, except for lunch.  I even ate my dinner standing up at the counter because there was no room at the table to sit!

This morning I woke up late, got cleaned up, and went over to my mom's for lunch.  We had a lovely time and a great meal, then we headed back home. It took me about another two hours to put the finishing touches on the walls - painting the primed area, and making some touch-ups throughout the kitchen where there were assorted scratches, scuffs and bumps along the walls.  I scrubbed the countertops and polished them with granite cleaner, then loaded my accessories back into place.

I know you're still reading at this point because you know I'll be posting photos...

After I FINALLY finished everything up, I said a little prayer. If I were to die and somehow wind up in hell, I just know that someone will be standing there waiting for me with rubber gloves, a giant bucket of grout, and an endless wall of mosaic tile...

Happy Renovating (and Grouting)!

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