Tiles and taking punts

I mentioned my Nectre Baker’s Oven way back before I started building, this baby was my first purchase for the project. And now it’s inside!

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Getting here took some preparation and involved few new challenges, especially since I’m now flying solo. The position of my stove in the kitchen relies on it sitting over the wheel well, which meant I couldn’t just lay some tiles and sit the stove flat on the floor. The raised metal cover for my wheels meant building a frame over a split level foundation. For my first solo endeavour, this took some brain power. Luckily I had a back up brain – Brodes to the rescue once more. Together we formulated a box, made completely from scraps and offcuts.

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Much maths. So thinking.

To heat proof the timber stand, I put two layers of cement sheeting down before laying tiles on top. Unfortunately, by this stage my supervision had left the building and it was up to some guess work and packet instructions to get the tiles on.

Here’s what I learnt about tiling:

  • Start with adhesive, mixed up like pancake mix and slathered on. Dad keeps telling me given the different thicknesses of the slate tiles I had, I should’ve lumped more adhesive on and bedded them down till they were even – more under the thin one and less under the thick. Easier said than done, I reckon.
  • The packet said to spread the adhesive using a spreader thingy – they look like a wide tooth comb. I started off all well and good but after a few combs in the same spot, my lovely neat rows became clumpy, poopy, stressful, not at all like the pictures, lumps of clag. I freaked slightly and whacked the tiles down quick smart, in case the adhesive was drying out. One tile in particular was thicker than the rest and didn’t seem to be sitting quite right, so I gave it a second round of adhesive and hoped it would do. Now that I’ve seen a few more pics I think one of my mistakes was combing in different directions. Straight lines one way, seems to be the way to go.
  • Speaking of – straight lines are a whole other thing. I used scrap pieces of timber between the tiles to keep them evenly spaced. You can buy spacers (they’re pretty small, starting at 1mm), but by adding cement sheeting to the sides of the hearth I’d increased the width of it and my spacers left a big gap either side. You can use whatever you like, just make sure you have something on hand (having said that, probably don’t listen to my advice. But it worked ok for me).
  • Grout – this came in massive tubs and seemed like overkill. I found a little premixed squeezie bottle of it and then basically pretended I was icing a hearth cake. Whenever I’ve found myself in this situation (out of my depth, doing something new), I relate it back to something familiar. Icing – I can do! Squeeze it out, smoosh it in, scrape it off, don’t lick fingers, not so hard. I kinda gave up trying to do it the right way in the end and just used my hands and some skinny scraps of timber I had laying around. The small gaps were the easiest, the big ones were harder to squish the grout into and crumbled a bit in the end.

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I’m pretty sure there’s a proper way to tile and I’m not sure the above instructions cover it, but I’m worrying less about right and wrong and more about finding something that works. Common sense and youtube will get you so far, but without someone else’s experience to rely on now some of it is just going to require taking a punt.

I think I took for granted the emotional support that comes from letting someone else deal with problems when they crop up. I took for granted the implicit trust in Tom to find a solution for tricky situations when they arose – because he always did. After the first two days of going it alone, I was exhausted. Not depleted, but physically and emotionally worn out. And I can’t even say I was working alone for those days! I’ve had family and friends floating around, chipping in and lending extra pairs of hands here and there. But being the one who has to decide, who has to actually bear the brunt of the work being done and who has to think through every step, it’s tiring. It’s what I’ve been waiting for, don’t get me wrong. Every step is that much more rewarding when you’ve had to figure out every inch, or in my case, millimetre of it.

Can’t you tell, from these smiles? Stupidly excited by a small win.

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Things are moving more slowly and I’m still lacking lots of tools and knowledge that I’ll need. But each step forward leads to another one, I’m counting on that snowball effect kicking in again soon. I’m collecting more tools, getting better at giving it a go and fixing things that don’t work. That’s gotta be most of it, right?

Lots of updates still to come on the big things like plumbing and electricity, things are falling into place now. Just in time to get some important bits in place before Christmas hopefully!

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