I’m an Idiot, Part Deux

There’s just nothing  quite like the slowly dawning realization that you’re most likely going to have to redo more than a day’s worth of labor.

But that was my weekend.

First, a little catching up. When last we talked, I was absurdly proud of myself for getting the lights all working. Well, not absurdly proud, but compared to my previous run-in with wiring, it was a good day. After that, I took the old light fixtures down, then put insulation in the ceiling.

That was most definitely my least favorite job so far. Insulation is itchy stuff, so you need to wear long sleeves. And the fibers get loose when you’re working with it, so you need to wear eye protection and a dust mask. This was before the real hot weather rolled in, but I was still a sweaty mess. And every time I exhaled, my breath seemed to go straight into the eye protection, fogging it up. So I was a sweaty mess who could barely see what I was doing. And there’s no skill involved. I wasn’t learning anything. I was just doing something I needed to do, and being miserable.

Once the insulation was up, though, I could start thinking about the ceiling. First, I needed to put up furring strips perpendicular to the ceiling joists. I figured out how many I’d probably need, then ordered them, along with the lumber for the half-wall for the wet-bar. Unfortunately, I ordered 1×2 instead of the 1x3s I intended to order. It wasn’t a big deal, it just meant I’d have to be very precise with my placement. I asked one of my DIY mentors for advice about how to square the tiles appropriately. He suggested putting up three furring strips, with the center one across the exact center of the room. Then measure the center along the other axis and snap a chalk line along to mark that on the furring strip. With another line marking the center of the long wall would give me a + sign that would show me where to place the first tile.

Considering the issue with the narrow furring strips, he suggested going ahead and putting up tiles on the first three strips, then adding furring strips as I went, to make sure my spacing never got to far off.

I put up the first furring strip, then did the next one 12 inches on-center from that. I held up a tile to check the measurement, and I realized that, while the actual tile area was 12-inches wide, the facing that you staple the tile to the furring strip with added another 1/2-inch to the dimensions of the tile. In order to get the tiles to fall on center, I’d need to put the furring strips at 12-1/2 inches on-center. I congratulated myself for checking. I was able to pull the second strip down with just a bit of muscle and then reattach it to the floor joists with the brad nailer I was using.

I got the three strips up and, with excitement, started hanging tile. But I soon discovered that the Armstrong tiles we have won’t work with that method. The way they’re stapled to the furring strip on that facing area, you have to start in a corner, or there’s no way to attach the tile then lock it with the next one. So I took down the tiles I had started to hang and figured I would put furring strips up to one end of the room and start in that corner. That way, if my spacing got off, it wouldn’t be that huge of a disaster.

The tiles, painted. We're using a chocolate base coat topped with copper.

The tiles, painted. We’re using a chocolate base coat topped with copper.

I cut a piece of furring strip to the exact length to go between appropriately spaced furring strips to use as a spacer. My wife was painting ceiling tiles, so I wanted to figure out a way to put up the light furring strips myself. I’d hold the furring strip and the spacer in one hand and the brad nailer in the other. I’d get up on the step stool and lift the furring strip into place, then hold it there with the edge of the nailer while I put the spacer in position and then hold the furring strip and spacer with one hand and  fire the brad nailer into the furring strip at the center joist with the other hand. Once the strip was secured, I’d go to either end, get the spacing right, nail it, then move on to the joists in between.

It was easy enough, and the strips were falling exactly where they needed to be, but my shoulders were starting to ache. The brad nailer is much lighter than the heavy framing gun, but holding it up above my head was taking its toll. By the end of the weekend, which started with cleaning up, creating a work space for painting the tiles and painting a few to get us started, I had six furring strips up. I’d had to relocate three can lights a bit so they weren’t in the way of the furring strips. The outlet box for the projector and the HDMI plugs also had to be relocated slightly.

The next weekend came around. Shannon worked on painting, so I concentrated on the furring strips. By the time I got to the end of the room, it was all I could do to lift the nailer. With half the strips up for the theater room, I pulled out the instructions that came with the tile to see how to square properly from the corner. As I was trying to figure out that method, which essentially involves drawing half an isosceles triangle on the furring strips to determine a 90-degree angle, I happened to glance up at the furring strip portion of the instructions. I noted, with a dawning sense of horror, that it called for spacing the furring strips 12-inches on-center. Twelve inches, not 12-1/2.

You know in the show Friends when Phoebe would realize she’d made a horrible mistake and would draw out, “Ooooh, no.”

That was me. I took a tile and held it up to the furring strips. I noticed that the facing for the staples was actually a 12-inch square with the tile portion also a 12-inch square, just offset by 1/2 an inch. It quickly became clear that the furring strips wouldn’t work — couldn’t work — at that spacing. I went in to where Shannon was painting and said, “I think I’m gonna cry.”

To my credit, I only dropped a couple of F-bombs. Then, dutifully, I began pulling down the furring strip next to the center strip. I cut another piece of furring strip that would give me 12-inch on-center spacing. Naturally, I had to, once more, move two of the can lights. And the outlet box with the projector power and HDMI. That one was a pain. I turned off the power to the outlet, unscrewed the outlet and the HDMI plate, then unscrewed the outlet box, which is held in place by two screws. I relocated, double-checked the spacing, then reconnected everything and screwed in the outlet and the HDMI plate. Then I realized the outlet box was crooked and offset from the joist it was attached to. I went through the process again, got it set flush and got everything hooked back up and screwed back in. Then I double-checked the spacing. Somehow, the box had shifted, and it was now about a quarter-of-an-inch into the path of the next furring strip.

That’s when I decided to stop for the day.

Today seemed better. I properly relocated the outlet box, got the strips up, and got the edges that weren’t adequately supported by joists well secured.

But, again, my measurements appeared to have been a tiny bit off. The room is 26′ 1/2″ wide. The center, then was 13′ 1/4″ from the wall. I double-checked that several times when placing the first furring strip. That should have meant a perfect 13 tiles with the requisite quarter-inch gap at the wall. When I first put up the final furring strip that went flush against the wall, I thought I was golden. It was just a little short. The spacing piece I had wouldn’t fit. But after it was up, I checked it with a tile, and the gap seemed too wide. I measured. Instead of 12-inches on center, the final strip was 13 inches on-center. Not until I was writing this up, did I remember that the spacer indicated a narrower gap. So I double-checked and, sure enough, at the corner, the spacer was about half-an-inch too long to fit between. But at the other side of the room, it was about half-an-inch too short.

My walls aren’t square Not even close.

I’ll figure out the best way to deal with that another time. Right now, I think I need a beer or three.

One Response to I’m an Idiot, Part Deux

  1. Pingback: Beth Peterson

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