Weekend projects are always full of surprises


I spent a good part of my weekend in the tub.

No, this wasn’t a relaxing pastime lulling in warm water, reading with background music playing. The music, if it can be called that, consisted of the tapping of a hammer against a chisel that ricocheted off hardened ceramic tile cement. The objective that seemed easy enough when I launched the project was to secure a single cracked tile.

Carol had the right idea when she suggested picking up a tube of caulking compound. But at closer look the tile was loose and it would need to be removed and re-cemented.

Now that seemed like an easy enough project involving no more than a trip to Salk’s and 45 minutes. I could handle it even though it’s been at least 25 years since my last tiling experiment when, naively, I figured I could tile an entire bathroom after leafing through a “home projects made easy” book and picking up a few pointers from the “experts” at Home Depot. There is no way I can forget that project, not because it consumed nearly a month of weekends but rather the house guest who arrived before it was completed. The bathroom is next to the guest bedroom.

Our visitor was a translator Carol met on a church mission trip to Russia a couple of years before. They stayed in touch, and Carol was excited to show Teri around on her first trip to the United States. I was amazed by her command of English and lack of virtually any accent. I knew immediately she wasn’t going to have any trouble in this country. She understood what I was saying, or that’s what I thought.

I apologized for the condition of the bathroom, explaining she would need to use the downstairs bathroom, as I had removed the toilet, which was sitting in the hallway.

Not 15 minutes after getting her single suitcase upstairs, Teri appeared downstairs to announce that the toilet wouldn’t flush. Carol and I looked at each other. She had used it. We couldn’t help but laugh. Teri finally laughed, too.

Comparatively, the tub project was a snap, or it should have been. No sooner than I removed the one loose tile, five more lining the rim of the tub fell free. I should have stopped there. Maybe it was time to call someone, Carol suggested, but no, I could take care of this.

The tiles were coated with cement, making it impossible to replace them. I would need to grind that off as well as chisel free the rough cement on the tub and wall. Matters worsened when I dropped a tile and it broke. Out came the super glue that coated my fingers. I aligned the tiles before even attempting to cement them back in place. It looked terrible. Now instead of one cracked tile there were two.

One good thing, I found extra tiles in the basement. The challenge became cutting them to fit. Short of investing in a tile cutter, the recommendation found on the Internet was to score the tile with a glasscutter and then place it on a wire coat hanger, pushing down on either end so that it would break along the line.

After a couple more trips to Salk’s, I was ready to go with cutter, cement and caulking. I broke a good many tiles before I ended up with two that would fit. Of course, the bathroom was a mess with tools spread on the floor along with broken tiles and pebbly bits of cement chiseled from the wall. Carol checked in on my progress but held her tongue.

Finally, by Sunday night I had things reasonably back together. Whether it stays that way remains to be seen. I suppose I should have the satisfaction of knowing I did it. But looking back, I would have been better off filling the tub and leaving the tile work to an expert.


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If memory serves, I recall on a visit to San Simeon years ago that Wm. Randolph Hearst spent his weekends futzing with tiles, too, John...guess you publishers stick together!

Saturday, March 4