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At least he didn't have to grout that tub


An unfortunate end for old Marat, but at least his tub seems to have been a welcoming spot before this episode of unpleasantness. Can't say the same thing for our tub--well, that is to say, our tub, the one in our second-floor living space, as opposed to the tub downstairs in the rental unit. (Which is just as bad, but sufficient unto the day...)

It's been a long time since I snuggled down for a relaxing bath, because that would put me at eye level with the Caulk from Hell and its co-conspirator, the Grout Job Done by Monkeys. Grout story first: We wanted subway tile in this bathroom, which was a total gut; the walls we had to demolish (due to hopeless water damage) once were covered in subway tile, with a pretty pink decorative border below the bull-nose caps. (There is no point whatever in being a renovator unless you can throw around terms like "bull-nose caps.") We decided to do an old-fashioned-looking bathroom, and our contractor, "Mr. Stupid," in his one decent moment, suggested the addition of wainscotting.

He did not tell us that subway tiles, which usually appear virtually flush (as opposed to being spaced evenly to accommodate a grout line), are apparently best installed in what I believe is called a "mud job," squished right into the wet plaster or mortar or whatever. Instead, they were glued to the Wonderboard underneath with ceramic tile mastic--with no space for a grout line. I honestly don't recall if we were the original Tile Monkeys who did this, but it soon became apparent that one would either have to (a) squish grout into that teeny li'l crack between each tile and hope for the best, or (b) just let water seep in. And loosen the mastic. And then, loosen the tiles.

We sort of went for (a) and got (b) anyway. Then at some point, I hired a Tile Monkey to amend the situation, and he made matters much worse, slathering on grout that just sat atop the cracks like cake icing and flaked off in little plastery splinters into the bathwater. Meanwhile, the new construction sagged just a micro-tad, causing several of the tiles to develop hairline cracks; and of course the tub sank more than a tad, splitting open the caulk line. Then, to complete the horror, the latest application of caulk turned a ghastly black, and resisted every imaginable cleanser, including straight bleach from the bottle applied with a toothbrush.

Fortunately, Spouse and I are blind as bats without our glasses, and stepped into the shower year after year in denial about the full extent of the deterioration. But when several of the lowest course of tile flopped off, something had to be done. We took the Norm Abrams high road, of course, and taped plastic bags over the missing tile spots. For months, until they got really skanky. But enough is enough.

As you may recall, I had been planning to strip red paint off the floors for Lent. Instead, my penance seems to be grouting...preceded by a hideous several days' worth of removing the caulk with a chisel. (That's after the application of "caulk remover.") We've been using the little stall shower on the third floor for months while I postponed this ordeal, on the excuse that "the tub enclosure needed to dry out." Everyone is tired of trooping upstairs to perform their ablutions. Easy for them to complain--like Marat, they are not grouting. For some reason, I am the appointed CrazyStable Groutmistress--something to do, perhaps, with my experience frosting cakes?

floor2tubduring.JPGI am now officially half-done. Or maybe just half-baked. I also suspect that the problem with the grout/subway tile installation actually had more to do with the monkeys than with the "mud job" or lack thereof--using a sponge to micro-squish it in, it seems to be coming along nicely (if laboriously). And today I even filed down a subway tile to make it fit a space that had mysteriously shrunk since it popped out. Next week, I caulk; ora pro nobis.

Posted on Friday, March 9, 2007 at 05:57PM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | Comments3 Comments

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Reader Comments (3)

Best of luck with the grout project, one of my least favorite things is grouting....ugh! I've got a home improvement blog that I started a few months ago and I've struggled to get readers. In an effort to network with other home improvement folks I created a blogroll. If you're not familiar with a blogroll it's really just a simple way for similar blogs to link to each other and spread the word. If you're interested check it out at http://homeimprovementblogroll.blogspot.com

March 10, 2007 at 06:45PM | Unregistered CommenterTodd
Todd, look, look to the right! There it is, my blogroll! It is, admittedly, rather limited (although the "Houseblogs" link is a portal to unimaginable wonders of houseblogging cameraderie). However, watch for great improvements in this department in coming weeks, particularly a new section on garden blogging that I have planned. Meanwhile, I'll have a look at yours, and thanks for the moral support.
March 11, 2007 at 10:28AM | Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn
Admirable! You go, girl!
March 18, 2007 at 03:03PM | Unregistered CommenterJenn

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