Renfroe?

Howdy Folks! I have missed writing and am happy to get back to it. Aside from sloth, there are a few reasons for my e l o n g a t e d absence from cyber, and in some cases actual, space.

I ended this summer’s adventures and began the fall at my folks’ place in PA. They were in the process of buying a new house and needed help packing the old house, painting and repairing it, and clearing out all the clutter from our attic and TWO storage sheds. By the time I arrived, my mom and dad had cleared out lots of furniture. I continued packing for a week and had everything but the essentials for living bubble wrapped, boxed, labelled and arranged in the garage for loading.

Then, in the final hours, something went wonky with the underwriters and the whole deal fell through – no new house. “No big deal. Things happen for a reason. We’ll get ‘em next time.” And all that.

On the plus side, the house we live in still needs to be painted and it is about 80% empty. So, I began painting the house. There were several staged deadlines involved. My grandpa would be coming back to stay with us through the new year soon, so I had to finish the basement first. Mom starts teaching school again soon after, and has Fall break coming up, which is a good time for me to kick them out so I can get to the high traffic/dangerous areas in peace. And Mom wants to have a Halloween party for her students.

Guthrey and Lucas - Chimbo, RVA, early aughts.
Guthrey and Lucas – Chimbo, RVA, early aughts.

I painted houses for a living off and on in the early aughts. Not my favorite thing, but before I got into laying tile and when the tile jobs were thin, I still had to feed my dogs…

2. Guthrey and Lucas - Chimbo, RVA, early aughts.
2. Guthrey and Lucas – Chimbo, RVA, early aughts.

Like with many other kinds of jobs, I am slower than many in the field. But I am slower because I am methodical and very thorough. We had the whole house painted just a few years ago, but the guy did such a lousy job that it looked almost worse than it did before he started. I pull down all the light fixtures, unmount all the mirrors, remove all the switch plate covers, remove all the doors, hinges, and associated hardware, pull all the HVAC grates, and tape and tarp everything else. There was quite a bit of drywall repair and what felt like miles of caulking to do as well as some exterior drywall ceiling work!

Scaffold 1
Scaffold 1

I like to be careful as a rule, but to add to the fun, all the carpet in the house had been replaced in past few months and anything that isn’t carpeted is either tile or hardwood that I installed. So I wanted to make sure that no drop of paint or other material went astray. And though this is not the largest town house in the world, it is three stories tall, and occupied with three other folks for most of the work time. When I finally finished for the day I did not have the gumption left in me to get clean enough to touch my computer, find a paint free zone to set up in, and type out some of the things in my head.

Scaffold 3
Scaffold 3

Now the house has a new face, much of the sorting in the TWO storage sheds has been completed, I have gone through half of the attic, and have finally carved out a nice clutter-free place to think, write, and work.

Where the magic happens!
Where the magic happens!

That is all I will hit you with for the moment. I have to wrap this up so I can write some other stuff. Thanks for hanging in there and prepare for another trickle of content here at Bone of Contention!

Where the sleep happens...
Where the sleep happens…

So What?

I am doing some of my favorite things.

Laptop on the deck listening to the night sounds of bugs and Kind of Blue, enjoying the slight cool of after dark on a muggy day.

I am seriously behind on my writing projects but will do a little housekeeping in that department right now.

I feel good. The porch project is complete and lovely. I spent two weeks bonding with a cool cat named Jake.

Finished Slate 1
Finished Slate 1

While I was generally too tired to actually re-explore Old Town Alexandria, or meet with many local pals, I did enjoy blending into the dog culture of Old Town. And, I did have almost two full days of much needed down time that I spent almost entirely napping.

Finished Slate 2
Finished Slate 2

After a month long project, the last two weeks of which comprised 10-12 hour days on my knees, it was refreshing to be in any other position.

finished slate 3
finished slate 3

I have a few other tile/construction projects in the wings – one bathroom remodel in PA, 1-2 bathrooms in Centerville VA, and maybe a larger project putting a heated tile floor into a big basement and another bathroom remodel.

finished slate 4
finished slate 4

I have not yet decided if I want to knock the dust off of Renfroe Tile full time, but I am going to knock out as many of these projects as I can while the work is here to be done. Tile is physically hard, but mentally engaging. It is rewarding to see a project from start to finish, and working for yourself is always high in my book.

finished slate 5
finished slate 5

I have a few ideas of how to re-vamp the Renfroe Tile Operation and have had great input from my friend Maria and a pretty kick ass business name from my Mom. But there are still many kinks. The money is nice when you work alone, but you (or at least i) do go slower flying solo. And it is much harder on your body. Having an apprentice or partner is nice, but that can be limiting in its own way. Right now, my operation is highly mobile. Lots to consider.

finished slate 6
finished slate 6

Part of me still would like to know what having a salary and a schedule would be like. Part of me would like to have my own place to live again. But how much can you miss what you have never had? I have not really had my own place to live (CONUS) since I left Richmond in October of 2003. There are many many times that I have missed and wanted to have that again. But, being nomadic has advantages as well. Low overhead and the ability to travel are two huge pluses. But I do miss the stability at times – and I often miss having my own space.

Nice sight after a long sit in traffic
Nice sight after a long sit in traffic

I have several fantastic pockets of stability and places that my bud Karen would call “Safe Places”. I am in one of them (probably my favorite) right now. But there are downsides to nomadic life beyond not having your own home. As I discovered (very slowly) it makes dating rather difficult. That is not an immediate concern or a priority, but it is a piece of the pie. There is also a high degree of depending on the kindness of others. But I have come to find this more of a benefit than a disadvantage.

finished edges 1
finished edges 1

It does grate against my innate desire for self-reliance, but it also helps keep me connected to people. And there are ways to be a good guest. I like to think of it as a blending of kindness and sharing and mutual care taking, but that could just be a lofty way to gloss over the parasitic nature of nomadic life. Everybody needs help. And everybody with a house and a job has stuff they need help doing. I generally try to figure out what that stuff is and help do it. Usually this works out pretty well.

finished edges 2
finished edges 2

Tomorrow I have to try and get re-organized. I had a loose plan for the next few months, but it is morphing now as life has its own way despite my intentions. One of the bigger questions is also sort of job related. I believe I had a decent opportunity to do some good networking and perhaps even land a normal job. As things tend to go, while I was setting the ground work for that, these other opportunities fell in my lap. I do not think that I have lost this lead on entering the normal working world, but I don’t know right now if I actually want it or not. This is one of my unceasing difficulties with making large decisions – I don’t usually know what it is I do want. That also has pluses and minuses. Being open to trying new things has led me down an interesting path around the world and through many different kinds of work. But I do not really have any specialties.

finished edges 3
finished edges 3

I like not having a specialty. I am good at lots of things. If I do have a specialty I think it is TCB, Gettin’ things done. I do like facing new challenges. A lot of my life as a consultant was exactly that. Meet a client, listen to what they think they need, help them figure out what they actually need, then do it up.

Jake 1
Jake 1

That bit of meandering gives you a decent snapshot of what it is like in my head right now. Pluses and minuses, business names and ideas, and planning…

Jake 2
Jake 2

So, the tile!

I am really pleased with how this project turned out. It is beautiful, and it is one of only three tile projects I have done that I also get to enjoy utilizing!

Jake 3
Jake 3

As always, I see things that I would do differently but it came together nicely. I am so in love with Maria’s idea to use those pebble tiles to transition into the french drain and the yard. They looked great before, but with the grout, it looks so natural that it is hard to even remember what it looked like before.

Jake 4
Jake 4

There are of course more pics, but I think I will leave the full project photo album over on the Facebooks.

Thanks for reading. I am off to review the digital pile of half finished ramblings and see if any of them want to play…

Tippecanoe & Tile Two

There has been a little less tile movement and less writing than i expected, but here is the current status, with some more process shots.

Building out the grid with field tiles
Building out the grid with field tiles

You will notice levels and piles of tiles along the edges as i build. This job had some “float” to it.

Building out the grid with field tiles 2
Building out the grid with field tiles 2

In part i think it was the slope of the concrete slab, but starting in the middle rather than a corner also had an effect.

Building out the grid with field tiles 3
Building out the grid with field tiles 3

But starting in the middle was the best way i could figure out to get the pattern to look the best at all the critical areas.

Building out the grid with field tiles 4
Building out the grid with field tiles 4

As with any project, i now have more ideas about how to pimp out a job like this. Normally, you have one or two key areas that you need to consider when setting your pattern. Here, everything is open and visible. And the site is almost square.

Building out the grid with field tiles 5
Building out the grid with field tiles 5

That is often worse than an area that is way out of square. When it is totally off, you make a choice and go with it. When it is almost square, it can be more difficult deciding which way to hide the variance without throwing off other elements.

Building out the grid with field tiles 6
Building out the grid with field tiles 6

Three doorways, one long exposed transitional row, and a row of slightly irregularly spaced and sized columns is a lot to contend with.

Edging 1
Edging 1

In the past, faced with a similar situation, i would have simply thrown the pattern into a diamond shape instead of the grid as that can cover a lot of sins. But it is more expensive in time and materials and has many more cuts involved.

Edging 2
Edging 2

This being my first dance with slate, i hoped to find a solution that would involve a smaller number of cuts.

Edging 3
Edging 3

Now you can see one the super cool features. My friend had the fantastic idea to use these pebble tiles to transition from the beautiful french drain she built in the yard onto the field of slate.

Edging 4
Edging 4

This is the first time i can rememebr being excited to grout. But i can’t wait to see how that finishes tying all these elements together.

Edging 5
Edging 5

There will be a slight delay for the weekend and the weather. As soon as the heat broke, the rains came. That complicates an outdoor job a touch. But now i have only the three curbs at the doorways, and about 25 linear feet of pebble tile left to set.

Back next week…

Keep Chimpin’

Tile is going to take over the blog for a little bit.

I do still have some other writing going on and planned for release – some things about Stephen King, storytelling, and audiobooks, to name a few – but i am in the middle of a tile job right now and decided to share about it here.

In part, this will help me think and stay focused, in part it is good exercise to write anything at all, and i find it interesting and hope you will too.

Work Zone
Work Zone

The first few days were surface preparation, collecting and moving materials, and then doing a “dry lay”.

Work Zone 2
Work Zone 2

Not everybody does a dry lay. I don’t do them on every job. But for larger areas and when working with new and unfamiliar materials, it can help you find problem areas before they occur. Once you have your template established, the rest of the work goes down like butter beans.

650 sqaure feet of slate that I had to smurf from the garage/driveway around back
650 square feet of slate that I had to smurf from the garage/driveway around back to the basement level...
Before
Before

I don’t know who did this or why, but there was a lot of mortar at the junction between the slab and the house.

After
After

I used my hammer, 7-in-1 and an ancient chisel to vanquish 74 linear feet of that mess.

Layin' it down
Layin' it down

After two days of power-washing the area and a good dry lay yesterday, today i mixed mud and started layin’ it down.

pretties!
pretties!

I don’t know how it is wherever you are, but it has been a bit hot here lately. Yesterday and today we have had a “real feel” temp of 107-108. You could say this is slowing me down a little bit.

View from the pool!
View from the pool!

I work a few hours in the morning and then again in the evening. This morning i had the most brilliant idea – one could say innovation. I am tiling with my knee-pads, old running shoes, latex gloves, and underpants. I am sure it is quite a sight, but it is definitely comfortable.

More pics and tales to come. This project has a few neat features that i will share with you in the next episodes

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