Slate of Events on Renovations Part 1

This week saw much transformation on two of my active projects.  On FD, there is a coat of paint on most everything except the wainscoting downstairs--though that has Cover Stain on it.  The electrician (grousing, fuss bucket who is also my husband!) was over there yesterday changing all of the electrical receptacles and light switches.  He said with disgust, "I have never seen so much nasty 'sh*t' behind the switches and the receptacles; what were those people doing in that house?"  Nasty is the operative word, but all of the nastiness has been banished this weekend.  He found several 'back stabbed' electrical outlets--a short cut wiring technique that is dangerous. A couple of the devices had insulation that had melted.  All that has been fixed.

The ReSource store came buy to pick up some extra stuff--Hardie Backer board that my tile man did not want to use (he prefers Durock).  I also had a sink top that had a small crack in the backsplash.  They almost didn't take it for the small crack.  This is a brand new top with a repairable crack v. some of the crap that I have seen in their store.  I wasn't planning to spend any time repairing it as it was freight damage.  But at almost $300, someone could get a $20 repair kit and have a beautiful integrated sink top. (I'm actually going to go by there and see that/if it sells.)

My sister is in town, so we took a trip to my SR job.  I had not seen the final product of the backsplash and slate grouted.  I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach that my grout choice for both the backsplash and the slate  (which I had to make unassisted) would fall short of my expectations.

Tale of the slate:  My slate choice, a clefted slate, was not the best choice.  Oh, it is quite beautiful, but there was some irregularity in the tile that required more management. On Tuesday, I was talking to two installers, both with great experience.  "It's gonna be rough," they both agreed.  I'm left with trying to decipher exactly what "it's gonna be rough" means.  I'm learning a few things in dealing directly with tradesmen, and I've written about them here.

  • Thing 1:  They each have their own preferences (paint, mortar, Durock v. Hardie backer)
  • Thing 2:  They each have a different idea of the best application (no, don't put Coverstain over virgin drywall; yes, it is okay to put Coverstain over virgin drywall).
  • Thing 3: They really don't know how much or how little you know, and for the most part will err on the side of your being a total dumb ass.

For the most part, I have a pretty clear idea of knowing what I don't know--and that does elevate one's status. (Though I suffer from the malady at times of not knowing what I don't know--a blissful place until it bites you in the ass).  So as I'm standing in the kitchen with my stomach in a knot wondering if my 4,000 pounds of clefted slate was a major mistake, I'm trying to ask the right qualifying questions in order to ascertain my current risk status on this decision.  It is going to cost me far more to put this material down than it will to order new material, so this is important.

"What does, 'It is gonna be rough mean?' Is anyone going to catch their toe?" 

"No," they replied.

"Is it going to look weird or be unlevel?--because I'm asking you to spend more time (for which I will pay you) to make up for the irregularity in the product?  If I've made a mistake,  I'm trusting you to tell me that."  I say all this with great seriousness to give them license to say that I've made a mistake because I'm willing to admit that.

"No, it is going to be beautiful when it is down We hate to see you not use your product, and we can make it work."  (Redemption!.). . . ." --but it's gonna be rough." (Geez, they we are again.)

My stomach is in a knot, and  my head is starting to hurt imagining my other alternatives (like moving 4000 lbs of slate from the jobsite), having to reconsider my central design element (the slate which ties into the cabinets which ties into the backsplash).

Mike 2 (I have two tile Mike's) says, "Let's lay the kitchen floor first; you come by after lunch and take a look at it. If you don't like it, we will not run it into the den."

Now, that is very thoughtful and efficacious reasoning.

Thursday afternoon comes by, and I do by the jobsite.  Oh, I loved what I saw.  Mike 2 said, "I knew once you saw it down, you were going to tell us to run it into the den."

My task then was to get grout for the backsplash and grout for the slate.  Here's the final course of slate being laid  in the den. Note the brick on the fireplace....the slate looks terrific with it and provides a warm, rustic look.  The trim and the wainscoting still need to be painted--but I likely have to rip them out first as the surfaces of "freshly painted --totally screwed up non--prepped surfaces" are totally useless--and I'm unprepared to saddle a new owner with this problem.  I want my projects to be quality renovations...not covering sh*t with snow (as my Armenian grandmother would call this paint job on the trim.)

The wall color is Benjamin Moore's Winter Wheat... a lovely, soft neutral.  The trim will be painted Crisp Khaki.



Ungrouted Slate
 And here is the kitchen floor being grouted.  I chose a Mapei Sahara Beige for the floor and "Pewter" for the backsplash.
Ungrouted Slate and Glass/slate mosaic tile

The slate and the backsplash has really made the cherry cabinets "pop"--in a way that reminds me that I need to spend some quality time cleaning them.

Now here is another "preference" that I had to contend with.  Mike 1 said that the slate had to be sealed before it was grouted and then sealed again.  Mike 2 said that it did not.  When I had the slate in my home installed, they did not seal it first.  I sealed it after it was grouted.  Now, I'm caught in that miasmic cloud of semi-ignorance where I at least know that it can be successfully done without sealing, but that there is a body of evidence out there that reasonably suggests otherwise.  The differentiating factor?  It is all in how you grout.  And you'd best have a bucket and sponge person wiping up the grout.  (Which is what Mike 2 did).

I visited yesterday with my sister who is in from Bedford,  and the grout color on the backsplash and floor are just perfect. "I'm really terrified of making a mistake," I remarked to my sister as I was cleaning a bit of the backsplash.  "I'm the same way," she said knowingly.

It really is not a good way to be!  Optimization and pefectionism are not the same thing...and the latter can be paralyzing, while the former is the ideal.


I feel like I had optimized choices.  I'm sure that my slate choice will not mesh with some potential buyers, but it was the material of choice to achieve the type of rustic harmony that I was looking for. It will provide a slip-resistant and easy-to-clean surface, it will be softer underfoot than tile, and it will be a lifetime floor.  I took my shoes off and walked on the floor in my bare feet (I'm always barefoot in my home).  The tiles passed that test!

Now, I'm going to go and clean them a bit more....









1 comment:

  1. This article is very helpful! I never rinse my floors after washing them. Now I now that I really should be! I'l get to mopping lickety split:)

    slate tile flooring

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