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When we first found our lovely home online*, I didn’t think it was worth looking at in person. The pictures were atrocious – dark, dated looking and only about 6 or 7 total. I thought the people were trying to hide something. Did I mention there was pink carpet in the kitchen? But LW wanted to see it, so I went along. Long story short….well that’s another blog post….

*We seriously spent hours on realtor.com each day for about 3 years straight, always hoping that perfect home would pop up.

Fast forward 10 months (can’t believe it’s been that long) and we’re smack dab in the middle of remodeling our kitchen before baby #2 comes along. Earlier, we had ripped out the old pink carpeting (the day after moving in); taken down the dark pine wainscoting and replaced it with a brighter more to scale wainscoting; painted; and installed a dishwasher (my second and hopefully last); new range and over the range microwave, among other smaller projects.

The last big job was to tear up the damaged old linoleum floor and replace it with either stone tile or hardwood. We eventually settled on tile since hardwood  would require sanding, sanding, and more sanding then staining it to match what we currently have in our dining room and half the hallway.

I took off work on Friday, 5/14 to start the tile job. My plan was as follows:

  • Friday – tile to be delivered, goal was to lay all the tiles that didn’t require a cut
  • Saturday – lay out the tiles to be cut and mark them, rent a wet saw, cut and lay the remaining tiles
  • Sunday – grout the tiles after the 24 hour waiting period

It was an ambitious plan, to be sure, considering it was about 450 square feet total between our kitchen, hall, laundry room and 1/2 bathroom and I would be doing it by myself for the most part.

Here’s some before shots:

Breakfast area - note the awful pink carpet.

Other half of the kitchen

Day 1 – Hiccup #1

The delivery truck arrived around 10:30. After watching the guy unload the pallet full of tile and thinset mortar from the truck and pull it slowly up the driveway, I thanked God I had the sense to pay the $59 and have it delivered. The delivery person dropped the tile in the garage, I signed the papers and sent him on his way. I carried the first box inside and set it down to the sample tile we bought, anxious to get started. CRAP!

The tile delivered was 12×12 inch, we had ordered 16×16 inch squares. The delivery guy had already pulled away. I quickly found the receipt, called the store and told the operator what happened. She put me on hold for the manager. A few minutes later he picked up and I told him my story. He said they would pick the wrong tile up and get me the right stuff ASAP. Then literally a minute later there was a knock at the garage door. It was the delivery guy! The store called him and had him turn around immediately. He picked up the tiles, reloaded them and was gone. I was slightly disappointed to have lost valuable time but the store promised to be back by noon.

My stomach was already screwed up from nervousness about starting the job, now I had to wait around and think about it for another hour or so. You see, when I undertake something I’ve never done before, I get serious butterflies in my stomach. As much as I plan things out and try to visualize what steps I’m going to follow, I get worried I’m going to fail. This was one of the biggest home improvement projects (and most expensive) I had tackled. It would be visible to anyone that came in our home. I didn’t want to screw it up and disappoint LW.

True to their word, the delivery truck arrived shortly before noon and brought us the correct batch of tile. The pallet of boxes was imposing, I wish I had taken a picture. After a short lunch break with my Mom and youngest brother, I got started.

The first task was to mix up a 50 lb bag of thinset mortar. We had done this once before at our first house and I had not-so-fond memories. Our drill wasn’t powerful enough to mix it, so we had to dump it into a big plastic storage bin and mix it by hand. I had a better drill now, so I was confident it would work and in a few minutes I’d be off and tiling. No such luck. Once again, my new drill was not up to the task. I hurriedly grabbed our recycling bin, rinsed it out and dumped the mess in and started churning it by hand with much cursing under my breath.

After some final hemming and hawing on where to begin**, I laid my first tile! From there it was just repetitive – trowel the thinset, lay a tile, insert spacers, repeat. My Mom and Brother stayed to help for awhile. After they left, I cranked up the music and got into a zone. I finished with our breakfast area (in the picture with the pink carpet above) in about 90 minutes I think, which was about 40 tiles. Not too bad I thought. The only thing slowing me down was mixing up additional batches of mortar. I decided do mix smaller batches after the first time to make it a little easier.

**Conventional wisdom says to measure and mark the center of the room and start from there, expanding off that first tile in all 4 directions. But since we had a hallway involved, not just a big square room, we opted to start at the corner where the hallway and kitchen meet and work from there. It also ended up measuring exactly 7 tiles from front to back in the kitchen which made that area look more polished.

LW arrived home from work and I was probably 2/5 done at that point. We took a quick break for dinner, I drank a lot of Mountain Dew and started up again when we got home.

The rest of the night was pretty uneventful – grab a box of tiles, put down the thinset, lay the tiles and do it all again with another box. It was really starting to come together the more I finished and I was feeling good. LW even said she couldn’t believe how much I finished in one day.

Day 1 – mission almost accomplished. I successfully laid all the full tiles except for a few in the bathroom since I miscalculated the amount of smaller tiles we used in the doorways to serve as a kind of threshold. I think I finished around 11pm and surprisingly was not that sore. I took a quick shower, watched a little TV with LW and then went to bed, knowing Saturday would probably be another long day.

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