Wednesday, January 30, 2008

When it rains, it pours

The same corner of our house in June 2006, yesterday, and today

Tuesday morning:
For months our bathroom renovation has been languishing while we’ve searched for a replacement for our tile installer (who hasn’t returned our calls since pouring a faulty concrete base over our hydronic radiant heat tubing). We finally decided to contact a Canadian tile guru who dispenses wise advice on an Internet tile forum. In December the guru called us and told us that he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to take on our out-of-town job (he lives a couple of hours away from us), but he would consult with us about the floor and would contact us in January to arrange a visit. Well, he must have liked our project, because last week he came, he saw, he proposed solutions, he gave us a quote, and the long and short of it is that he will begin work next Monday.

our dramatic drywall delivery

Now, we have less than a week to tie up all the loose ends including ordering our tile, running speaker wire, installing and taping cement board and drywall, detailing the placement of all water lines, wiring and blocking that will be hidden forever behind drywall, and many more tiny details. Yesterday we got a bid from a drywall installer who just happened to have a little window of availability but only if he could start tomorrow, which is to say TODAY. So, yesterday we arranged delivery of our cement board and drywall for today. Last night, fuelled with hot chocolate and adrenaline, we worked with tremendous urgency to prepare for the crew. This morning a boom truck operator came and performed a balletic delivery of our cement board through the second floor window by hydraulic remote control. As I write this, the compressor is humming and N is constructing the shelf and shimming the walls. The drywall crew arrives at two. We are a well-oiled efficient machine!

Okay, the truth is we’re just a little anxious about the sudden frenzy of activity. We’ve had years to imagine this bathroom and now the time for changes is slipping away. Our myriad options will shrink to a single choice that we will have to live with forever...oh the angst of renovation.

Later the same day:
The drywall crew were slightly put out with our complicated space full of knee walls and niches. They had expected to finish hanging the boards by day's end, but they will be returning tomorrow morning at 7:00(!) for approximately 2 more hours. They are astonishingly fast. The house is chaos and dust and odd smells.

evidently, the boarding crew doesn't do clean-up

Since our tile quote came in earlier today, we've vowed to find a less expensive source for our hexagonal porcelain floor tiles. We’ve noticed that tile suppliers are sometimes cagey about naming tile manufacturers in their quotes lest we discover their mark-up, but think we’ve determined that our floor tiles are from the rather pedestrian Daltile company. The boutique supplier of our wall tile wants nearly three times the price as some other suppliers for the floor tile. The big trade off is time. Since we’re working to a deadline, we have no room for delay. My mission: to find a cheap source of the tile I want, save enough to rent scaffolding to paint the house this summer, and still get the goods in time for our installer. Mission unpleasant, but not impossible, I hope.

porcelain hex tiles, ceramic subway, and chair rail

Wednesday afternoon
Of course now that we want to find a lower priced tile supplier, we’ve reopened the Pandora’s box of choice. The unglazed through-body porcelain tiles will remain as our field tile. It’s the border that we’re having doubts about. For some time we’ve agreed on a crisp black and white colour scheme, but we’ve chosen a slightly ivory tile (to match the unglazed porcelain floor, and to mimic the look of the subway tile in many older Victorian homes, which tend to have an ivory cast), and now we’re wondering whether our border of 1” square tiles should match the floor (truer to period and more versatile, but a little bland), or should remain white, but include a 2” accent line of white glass or marble tile for a subtle textural shift, or should include a 2” black accent line in glass or marble or porcelain (more dramatic and stylistically definite). In earlier designs we thought we would include both a line and an Etruscan notch pattern in black porcelain in the border, but we’d been looking at grand spaces in foreign parts, and now I think it would be perhaps a little de trop for our ‘umble Victorian. Since I haven’t advertised this blog, I know I may only have two readers, but if you happen to be reading this and have strong stylistic opinions about tile, please weigh-in.

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