A Sticky Situation: The Giant Fly Trap That Is Our House

This time last week, we were eagerly preparing to begin the laborious task of floor prep for our new tile.  Here’s the recap of what we accomplished through Sunday:

  • renting storage unit to store garage things and furniture so that we have room for 1850 square feet of 6 x 36 wood look porcelain tile coming on 4 pallets (and can move furniture out in sections to prep floors and lay tile) (did this Tues)
  • moving garage things and furniture to said storage unit (Wed-Thurs)
  • ripping up carpet, carpet pads, tack strips and hauling to curb for pick up (Thurs-Fri)
  • renting PRO stripper from Big Orange and scraping up vinyl tiles, glue, and paint and hauling to curb for pick up (Sat)
  • purchasing  DITRA 
  • purchasing DITRAset and other supplies as needed (trowels, etc.)

IMG_4778Note that the HD PRO stripper we rented did not get up the glue and paint as hoped (and advertised…MAJOR WOMP WOMP), so we applied natural, nontoxic solvents and even resorted to Goo Gone, plus a lot of elbow grease, to try to get the sticky up, but to no avail. Oh sure, we knew the 20 year old vinyl tile and its adhesive would be a chore to remove, but man-oh-man.  Arduous doesn’t even begin to describe it. The stripper did get some of the glue up, but whoever originally installed the vinyl tile before applied so much glue that the stripper couldn’t get deep enough in the sticky mire to strip down to the concrete.IMG_4785 The glue was also pulling up chunks of concrete with it, so we are wondering if whoever did the concrete slab didn’t use enough water, resulting in a crumbly crust, which we like on some things (apple crisp?) but not on our foundation.  Good thing we were already planning on patching holes and flashing the floor.  As it stands right now, our house is officially a giant fly trap.  Seriously.  Stand in one place for more than 1 second and your shoes are stuck fast.  Try to walk, and you’ll walk out of your stuck shoes onto the most disgusting flooring ever.  If you are building or remodeling your own home, please do not use horrible products like vinyl and vinyl adhesive in your house if at all possible.  Bad all around.  At least ours didn’t contain asbestos…and it was picked up within 2 hours of being hauled to the curb….

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You may be wondering why we decided to get rid of these super stuck floors in the first place if they were so “well done” initially.  If we had sheet vinyl, maybe we would have kept it as is for a longer time and eventually tiled over it.  However, these delaminating vinyl tiles were installed with little faux grout lines over a slab that clearly has significant enough hills and valleys to merit concern about tiling over without flattening. Dirt collects in the faux grout lines that then sticks to the adhesive spread underneath, rendering it impossible to vacuum, sweep, mop, etc., and the hills and valleys mean that eventually any tile we would install over it would buckle and crack.

In DIY land, Big Orange and Big Blue are helpful to a certain extent, but they have their limitations.  We know there are more potent (and also flammable, noxious) solvents for remediating our sticky situation, but we were trying to avoid this at all costs.  When seeking other possible methods, the flooring “specialist” with whom we spoke at Big Blue wondered (a) why we didn’t want to keep the vinyl tile (erm, what tha what?) and (b) now that we had already stripped the tile, why didn’t we just tile over the adhesive despite the hills and valleys (there. are. no. words.).  This goes against EVERY recommendation from tile installation experts and every instinct I have, based on the tiling I’ve done in the past.  I’m not one to call people dolts, and we normally love Lowe’s.  BUT COME ON, PEOPLE.  Clearly this guy knows zilch about tile installation and should not be in charge of the flooring department.  We walked away empty-handed and fairly disgruntled, especially because he shouted, rather aggressively, “Don’t walk away from me,” as we were walking away.  He was rude, patronizing, unknowledgeable, and a bully, at best.  In sharp contrast, the flooring lady at Big Orange recommended using a concrete grinder with a wheel of blades designed to scrape up the adhesive and paint after she and her husband ran into the same issue in their home.  He painstakingly ground away at the gunk from 3 layers of vinyl (Three! The Horror!) using a handheld angle grinder on their own concrete slab and did such a good job that they were able to polish the concrete. Pretty amazing. Even though she was delivering somewhat discouraging news about what it would take to solve our problem, her willingness to help and gracious, understanding attitude scored Home Depot a purchase of an angle grinder and coating removal wheel of terror.

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Now that we are going to be meticulously grinding away the grime in each room, I’ve had to make a more detailed plan of attack.  The layout of our home is just open and juuuuust closed enough to be problematic for floor work in sections in the limited time we have together after work while still having access to an entry/exit, a bathroom, and room for furniture that we cannot store in the interim anywhere else because we refuse to pay to move it AGAIN {read: baby grand}.  Here’s the breakdown of what’s next on the 40 Days to the Floors We Love list:

  1. Mon: Amy paints guest hall (GH), laundry room (LAR), and master hall (MH) while Chris takes out shoe mouldings + baseboards (we didn’t have time to do this as planned prior to stripping)
  2. Tues: Amy paints second coat in BR2 and BR3 while Chris grinds LAR + MH
  3. Wed: Amy patches LAR concrete  while Chris grinds BR2 + BR3 + GH
  4. Thurs: Amy patches BR2 + BR3 + GH concrete while Chris grinds foyer (F) and living room (LR)
  5. Fri: Flash BR2 + BR3 + GH; demo fireplace tile
  6. Sat: Amy patches F + LR concrete while Chris grinds kitchen (K) and dining room (DR)
  7. Sun: A + C go to tile school at HD (refresher for Amy, first time for Chris)
  8. Mon: Flash F + LR (except for study nook = path to backdoor from MBR)
  9. Tues: Move life to guest suite, clear MBR
  10. Wed: Amy patches K + DR concrete while Chris grinds MBR
  11. Thurs: Patch MBR + MH concrete
  12. Fri: Flash MBR + MH
  13. Sat: Flash DR + Study Nook of LR
  14. Sun: Rest
  15. Mon: Ditra LAR + MBR + M. Hall
  16. Tues: Mark + Dry-fit LR Tile
  17. Wed: Mark + Tile Laundry
  18. Thurs: Mark + Tile MBR
  19. Fri: Grout Laundry
  20. Sat: Grout MBR
  21. Sun: Rest
  22. Mon: Mark + Tile Master Hall
  23. Tues: Ditra DR + Study Nook
  24. Wed: Grout Master Hall
  25. Thurs: Mark + Tile DR + Study Nook
  26. Fri: Ditra BR2 + 1/2 G. Hall
  27. Sat: Grout DR + Study Nook
  28. Sun: Rest + move life back to master suite
  29. Mon: Mark + Tile BR2 + 1/2 G. Hall
  30. Tues: Ditra BR3 + GBA + 1/2 G. Hall
  31. Wed: Grout BR2 + 1/2 G. Hall
  32. Thurs: Mark + Tile BR3 + GBA + 1/2 G. Hall
  33. Fri: Ditra Music Nook
  34. Sat: Grout BR3 + GBA + 1/2 G. Hall
  35. Sun: Rest
  36. Mon: Mark + Tile Music Nook
  37. Tues: Ditra Living Room + Foyer
  38. Wed: Grout Music Nook
  39. Thurs: Mark + Tile Living Room + Foyer
  40. Fri: Grout Living Room + Foyer

Even if we don’t stick to the 40 day plan, we will definitely be knocking out the floor project in this order.  Goodbye, sanity; hello, blisters!

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Final Four for the Floor

Wood look tile seems to be the top flooring trend of late, but we’ve been thinking about it ever since we bought the ‘Zoo and felt eww on our feet.  The peeling vinyl tiles, complete with faux grout lines filled with 20 years of gunk, the ‘newer’ but threadbare shag carpet with cheap pad, and the exposed metal teeth on the thresholds that shred our soles, the smell emanating from the guest rooms, plus my allergies, had us shopping for flooring from day one.  Last spring, we excitedly began tearing out flooring, but the need for less disgusting flooring was soon superseded by the practical desire to protect our home investments and improvements by doing a re-roof for our big project of 2014. Now, 2015 is the year of the floor.

A couple of months ago, we started seriously looking at flooring options in our area and options from online tile suppliers that ship to our area.  We got some {free!} samples from various places and started narrowing our preferences to particular colors, lengths, and styles.  We love wood tones of all kinds, and while they have really improved how imitation wood products look, we have noticed that tiles with red/pink or yellow undertones seems to look less realistic, as do tiles that don’t have enough pattern and color variation.  Consequently, we were both drawn to the darker samples in the first round of sampling {as was Hermes, apparently}.  Our first round pick was this guy from South Cypress, an online tile shop with regional roots:

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Note the stain on the far right side.  This carpet is seriously gross people.  

This is a color body tile called Barnwood in color Pecan by Storka.  We definitely wanted a color body tile where the color goes through the body of the tile so that chips and scratches are less noticeable if they happen.  The second tile beside it was our second favorite, another Storka product called Saison in color Angers.  It was also nice but was more uniformly dark.   The third tile, the gray, was something some neighbors of ours got from Home Depot and had installed in their home over the winter.  It looks great in their house, but we just didn’t want to go so gray and so weathered for our floors. We thought Barnwood combined the more traditional deep brown with just enough weathered gray visually and, on a practical note, would provide better camouflage for dirt/sand/pet-ness and be less slippery for wet feet.

We decided to do another round of sampling, focusing on tiles with similar looks and features to our first choice.  We conveniently happened to be in the Birmingham, AL area on Friday, so we stopped by the South Cypress showroom, where Courtney from Sales helped us find additional tiles in which we might be interested.  After examining a number of options, we came home with three more samples, resulting in these four final contenders:

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#1 is Storka’s Barnwood in Pecan (our original favorite).  #2 is Storka’s Saison in Angers (our original second favorite).  #3 is Marazzi’s American Heritage in Spice (a new interest).  #4 is a new Storka product called Lodge in color Forest.  All of these products are color-body porcelain tile, though we observed that the Marazzi tile appeared to have a grayer body than its reddish-brown top.  Courtney pointed this out to us but also reminded us of the hardness of porcelain with respect to potential for chips and scratches. We like that #2, 3, and 4 all come in longer lengths, making them more like wood floors.

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We placed them in different areas of our home with more and less natural and artificial lighting to see how they looked and watched them throughout the day as the position of the sun changed. We also walked on them to get a feel for the texture.  When we laid out all the samples, #3, American Heritage Spice, became our new frontrunner.  It had all the rich, warm tones and hand scraped look we love about wood but didn’t necessarily expect to be able to achieve with wood look tile.  It was the most realistic looking of all the tiles that made the Final Four and also felt the most like wood to our feet.   Compared to #3, the others looked decidedly more muted.  Though less apparent in the picture, #2 had a rougher, oddly synthetic-feeling texture to the feet, and once we felt the difference in texture, we could also see that difference.  #4 was the least wood-like of all of them and the most gray but still had an appealing feel and pattern.

IMG_4464We also noticed a lot of color variation in our original favorite, #1, as you can see in the picture above.  In person, the piece on the right side looks very red, the left looks very brown, and the middle piece looks very gray.  We like some variation and understand that real barnwood would also have considerable variation but are somewhat undecided about whether the variation will draw attention to the shorter ‘board’ length, making it more apparent that these are tiles and not wood planks.

We also experimented with durability and ease of cleanup.  I might have squirted mustard on the samples. And etched them with a screwdriver.  And dropped things on them on purpose.  All of the samples fared relatively well at the cleanup and destructibility tests, though #3 suffered a couple of chips (not from our tests but possibly from transit?) that revealed that the Marazzi definition of color body was indeed suspect.  The  top has a reddish brown, but the color underneath is decidedly gray, which was very obvious when chipped.  Not exactly our definition of color body.  This was sad news for #3, as we were leaning towards this until the chipping gave us cause for pause.

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Right now, we are undecided.  What do you think? We’ve tried to tell Hermes we have to choose just one.  He doesn’t seem to agree.

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Update on the Tile Trial: We’ve been keeping an eye on our tile samples throughout the week.  Spice, which was starting to become our favorite, has started to show signs of damage that furniture markers/Sharpies cannot hide…and the brown/black markers actually don’t match, so it now looks like we’ve drawn on the floor.  Womp, womp. Stay tuned for the final decision!

Furniture Fridays: Fine Dining

Furniture Fridays are back! Last time we posted a whole house update, our dining area looked like this, complete with hand-me-down light fixture and furniture from my parents:

IMG_3061Seemingly functional, but looks can be deceiving:  The china cabinet’s glass shelves were overly bendy, groaning from the weight of four modest place settings, and their jagged edges resulted in chipped china and hand lacerations. The table had the usual surface damage from years of use, and two of the legs had started to split.  It was still useable, but we knew it needed replacing. The chairs had some stains, the upholstery was coming apart at the seams, and two of them had been wallowed out by sleeping animals in multiple households.

The light fixture  from my parents was a replacement for the sad, single glass upside down bowl-like light that came with the house.  The bowl had been splattered with white paint from when the former owners/tenants/property managers’ workers must have neglected to cover or take down the light fixture when they spray painted the whole house renter white.  The light from my parents worked, but our CFL bulbs stuck out of it weirdly (look carefully in the picture above and you’ll see them!).  Plus, it hurt like crazy when you bumped your head on it, as we did regularly when getting up from the table, thanks to the typical builder placement of the light in the center of the room (not accounting for table length and china cabinet/buffet/sideboard placement in a house with only 1 eating area).

Well, those days of woe are behind us, because our dining area now looks like this:

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We donated the table and chairs to a local charity, moved the rug to the front bedroom, and plan to sell the china cabinet on Craigslist or at our upcoming neighborhood spring garage sale.  This really opened up the space horizontally and vertically.  We also rented scaffolding to be able to paint the two tall walls (Shake, Splatter, and Roll), replaced the light fixture, and got a new CUSTOM dining set from a local business.

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The turquoise paint on the south wall is Sherwin Williams Drizzle, the pale blue-gray paint on the west wall is Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray, and the chandy is the Hampton Bay Menlo Park 5-light Chandelier from Home Depot.

I had originally planned to DIY a Mason Jar light fixture, but we decided that we didn’t want to go over-the-top with the farmhouse style.  The Hampton Bay Menlo Park fixture came with the two-story length of chain/wire we needed and had clean lines. The first one we got was a lemon (faulty wiring in one of the arms it seemed), but we took a risk and ordered a replacement with which we’ve been satisfied.  It’s not amazing by most lighting standards, but this is the best we could find in the < $200 price range at different retailers.  We just can’t justify spending $$$ for a light we don’t use that often, given that we mostly eat dinner by candlelight and get enough sun from the southern exposure to not need it during the day, even on cloudy days.  We will eventually replace the shades because the yellowish-beige is the only thing we don’t like about it, but chandy shades (especially the ones we want from Shades of Light) aren’t cheap.

IMG_4366-1We ordered the farmhouse table, bench, and chairs from a local business, Tide Life Southern Coastal Living, run by a husband and wife team.  Their work was recently featured on HGTV and the DiY network! They can make any wood furniture you want in any size and style you like, although they specialize in farmhouse styles similar to what Pottery Barn, West Elm, and Restoration Hardware offer (but for MUCH MUCH less!).  We were also able to get a 7 foot table and bench to match, which is not a standard size offered by most retailers.  The 7 foot table allows us to seat 8 people comfortably without making our smallish dining space feel cramped.  In Goldilocks parlance, the 6 foot would have been too small, the 8 foot too large, but the 7 foot is juuuuust right.  They offer all kinds of paint, stain, wash, and distress options.  We chose to do an espresso stained top for the table and bench, with white legs and chairs painted Bistro White in semi-gloss by Valspar.  They have used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in the past but typically use Valspar so that their customers can easily find paint for touch-ups as needed.  There is only one ASCP retailer in our area, and it isn’t conveniently located for most of Tide Life’s customers.  They do local deliveries but have recently traveled to other states in the Southeastern US to deliver, as their business has greatly expanded in the last few months.  Isn’t it amazing how a different table totally changes the look of this space?

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We love how the dark table top makes our china (Kate Spade Library Lane Aqua) pop, and the blue ridge of our china ties in nicely with our wall colors.  The napkins are from this post.  Now our dining area is a better reflection of our style and is more compatible with our beach lifestyle.  Next up is centering the chandelier, replacing the flooring with wood look tile, and adding some art.

As a final comparison:

                             Before                                                                           After

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And doesn’t a bowl of oranges just make it look that much more amazing? Now that’s more like it.

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