Sunday, July 27, 2014

Plumbing, Tile and Carpentry

As promised, here are a few pictures of the bathroom nearing completion!
The floor still isn't grouted because I managed to pick the wrong colour when I bought supplies on a surprise trip to Vienna (some friends had booked tickets for a tour to a never-opened nuclear power station back in February and I'd completely forgotten about it) so the floor is still on hold.
Before the plumber arrived the bathroom looked like this:

 On Thursday afternoon we bought a new drain assembly at a small hardware store just across the border because we didn't want to go the whole 50 km round trip to the nearest DIY store. It cost CSK 44 (less than €2) but it's half plastic so I'm not sure how long it'll last. Anyway, yesterday we finished the bathroom plumbing and now have a working sink - for the first time since 2009 I think.
Here's how the bathroom looks right now:

Yesterday I stripped all the door casings that had loose paint on it. I really don't like our new Black & Decker heatgun because it vibrates much more than the old house brand one we had before (the old one still works but it's in Vienna). My left hand still feels a bit numb from the work I did yesterday!

Once I was done with that I went on to repair a cracked door panel. The WC door is in somewhat sorry state. We found it leaning against a wall in a rather damp cellar so the bottom is quite badly rotted. The lock was frozen solid so I disassembled, cleaned and greased it. Also there were a few dozen coats of paint, some lifting and chipping from the damp. The bottom panel had a 5 mm crack running top to bottom ( a hide glue joint that separated long ago I think). Last year I watched a carpenter repair a door panel and used his technique. First I screwed blocks of scrap wood to the door on each side of the crack. Then I squeezed some glue into the gap (careful not to get any into the groove the panel sits in, the panel itself is supposed to move freely as the wood expands and contracts!) and clamped the wood scraps together.

When I tried cut and install the door casings I ran into a problem. We (and I think that means I) apparently made a systematic error sizing the frames for the salvaged doors. I'm not 100% sure what happened back then but I suspect I only measured the width of the door, neglecting the fact that there has to be a small gap between the door and casings so the door can move. On the existing doors that's between 4 and 5 mm on each side, so our frames are 8 to 10 mm too narrow. *ugh*

We decided to move the casings out by 2 mm on each side creating a wider rabbet on the frame and shaving 2 mm off the door on each side. That gets us the desired 4 mm gap. The only problem is that we need to deepen the mortice for the lock. That's what we're going to try today.
We can't hang the doors yet because the old-style hinges require a special chisel that can cut very thin grooves (1 to 2 mm) in a solid block of wood, sort of half rasp half chisel. These hinges are not screwed to the jamb but actually set into a pocket in the jamb and then secured driving nails through both the jamb and the hinge. The good thing is unless the jamb cracks these hinges are NEVER going to come back out. The bad thing is you need proper tools and it's not that easy. Our carpenter does have the tool but he's chicken that the aerated concrete block walls will tumble when he installs the hinges. Now I'm looking at one of those chisels on eBay. There's an Amazon seller who has two for €24 but he doesn't specify the thickness, which is pretty ridiculous since length and width really don't matter in this case. A woodworking online store sells them for €54(!) each! That's a whole lot more than I'm willing to spend for two doors!

Installing the sockets didn't go smoothly either. You're supposed to set the boxes flush with the wall and then tile up to the box so the socket itself is in fact installed on the tile. The holes are a bit off-set in this case and the old (1960s) sockets I wanted to use are designed to be installed flush with the box. With the tile beween socket and box the metal claws that can be used to hold the socket in place collide with the plastic bits of the box that hold the mountin screws (a continental European socket can be installed either using claws that spread against the walls of the box or using sheet metal screws on either side). Since the hole is a bit off I can't use screws (one screw hole is covered over) and the claws hit the box. I'll have to try to cut the tile back a bit or use modern sockets.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bathroom Progress

I arrived late on Sunday and set to work on Monday (not that early either). Tiling the floor turned out to be more problematic than we'd expected because the tiles are so incredibly hard!

I'm not sure if I've mentioned that before but the idea was to do everything without power tools, except for drilling a few holes. We had a tile cutter, carbide saw, carbide file and tile nippers. These tools worked like a charm for the wall tiles but not so much for the harder floor tiles. In fact after the first cut the carbide saw didn't really cut any more. We managed to cut the first tile around the floor drain taking turns with the saw (I think the two 5-cm cuts took more than half an hour) but the second one broke at the very end. My dad decided to superglue it back together instead of recutting it, I only hope that won't cut any toes. At that point we'd happily have used the angle grinder but unfortunately it seems to be in Vienna. Around 10 PM the floor was still 9 tiles short, two of which needed deep (10 cm) cutouts for the radiator pipes. I also ran out of thinset and motivation so I called it a day.

On Tuesday I started by scraping any excess thinset from the wall tile joints, which took a few hours as well. Then we went to the DIY store because we had to buy fixtures and black flexible grout for the floor. We didn't get any grout because two DIY stores only had non-flexible black grout and we're worried about cracking since the tiles are installed on EPS board. We did grab a super-cheap angle grinder (€29.90) and a tile cutting blade (set of three for €5.99, a single one would have been 26.99).
Back home I started grouting the walls and when I ran out of motivation after 1 1/2 walls finished the floor.

Yesterday I finished grouting the walls and we did a lot of cleanup in preparation for the plumber to come today and install the sinks, taps etc. Once that was done I stripped some door casings so we can get the bathroom close to finished. We have a huge pile of casings but most of them are lonely individuals and it's hard to find enough for a door. The first set I stripped was originally finished with shellac and came out really nicely so it seemed like a crime to paint it. The bathroom door was originally painted so I needed more casings.

After a lot of searching I found two matching upright pieces but no top piece and no other matching pieces I could shorten. Nothing. The second round of searching yielded the remains of one long piece - cut in half lengthwise by our beloved carpenter. You really can't let him work without constant supervision! Late at night I finally found another matching piece but two out of the three pieces have various strike plates that need to be removed, the damaged wood cut out and patched.

Today the plumber arrived at 10 and I helped him install everything. The bath taps went in flawlessly, as did the washing machine tap and trap cover. Then I installed the small WC sink while the plumber did the bathroom sink. He quickly discovered that we'd bought the wrong type of drain assembly! We'd thought we'd use the type that uses a lever to operate the plug but in fact the mixer taps we bought don't have that lever (I think it's actually designed for a kitchen sink) so we need a drain for a rubber plug. Other than that the bathroom is now in working condition! The WC sink made a bit of trouble as well. Long ago when I did the drains I must have mis-measured somehow so the drain was far too close to the floor. We ended up using the longest trap pipe we could find and a 10 cm extension on top of that. Looks a bit weird but functional. I only hope no one ever bumps into that contraption.

So where are we?
The bathroom floor needs to be grouted, all the corners need a few miles of silicone, the doors have to be hung and painted, the walls have to be painted and I still have to install sockets in the bathroom (yup, we can have that here provided they're at least 60 cm from the shower or bath).

Pictures to follow soon!