Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Going Green

Going green is still on everyone's mind.  With the current state of the economy and rising fuel prices, I would have imagined that the green movement would have faded away.  Most green products cost more to produce and hence bring a higher retail price to have them bought and installed.  But maybe there's more to being green than just the products themselves.

If a person wants to play the LEED game, there are a number of cards to play to get LEED points.  Low emission products, products produced from nearby materials, recycled content, and ease of maintenance items are just a few of the criteria for earning points.  The higher the LEED point the more, um, notoriety or prestige the project is ... I guess.  Seems kinda silly to me to go through all that trouble for that kind of return.

A past co-worker had a picture of a tree frog with a caption that said "It's not easy being Green."  Green just happen to be his last name so it was a bit of play on words, but it was a catchy phrase that took on more meaning to me.  Being green isn't easy.  Counter tops are no exception.  As I already mentioned, the cost is usually a bit more and finding a product close to your home may not always fit an individual's design or taste.  For example, in one Utah home, I replaced a wood and laminate counter top with a more durable tile top.  The homeowner had a locally quarried red sandstone fireplace hearth.  A very handsome piece of stone, but they were scared to get it dirty since it was so porous and difficult to clean.  The green architectural piece, although very nice, was in my opinion, impractical.

I believe a home should be beautiful, functional, and practical.  So what does this have to do with being green, you might ask.   Not much at all, except that chasing after a green home may not always turn out fitting your requirements for a home.  I always tell my friends, family, and clients to pick something for their home that fits their taste and style of living.  After all, the home should be your sanctuary from the other stresses of life.  If using a green product is what fits, then by all means, use it.

This next picture is from a home remodel I did that features Caesarstone Carmel #9350 and Paperstone Mocha.  Both are green products.

Caesarstone, like other quartz products, do not require any additional chemicals to maintain as compared to natural stone or tile. The other bonus is consistency in the colors.  Although not 100 percent consistent from one dye lot to another, its pretty close.

Paperstone is made from recycled paper and uses a beeswax based sealer.  The use of the sealer and the use of the top creates its own patina.  That's cool because it gets its own character over time.

The homeowner talked to me about their project.  It was destined to be their final home for their upcoming retirement and they wanted it "just so".  I was up to the challenge.  I had never fabricated with these products before so once again, I went to work gathering as much information as I could and obtaining some sample pieces to practice on.  Building off my other experiences with natural stone and woodworking, I was able to craft this simple and clean installation that features two under-mount sinks, double eased edge and one seam.  The homeowner did not want corbels for the bar top so I worked with the custom cabinet maker on building the pony wall to support some custom brackets that are hidden behind the cabinet panel and recessed into the underside of the bar top.  I even had a local machinist, Allen Precision, make the custom brackets.  How's that for being green!

The homeowner tackled the tile installation to save some labor costs and they chose one of my favorite underlayments: Ditra.  I think they did a fine job. Green points in their selection of tile and setting materials.  Yep.

Would this project be considered green to you?  Ease of maintenance, years of trouble-free service, and warm earth tones make this kitchen practical, functional, and inviting.  A perfect score in my book.

Friday, March 16, 2012

In the beginning

In the beginning.

This is a bath surround from my first major tile job.  We did approximately 1000 square feet of floor tile, a full tiled shower and this master bathroom.  I had a couple of nephews working with me on the job and we had a great time working together.  The house was quite impressive with solid alder wood doors and trim, custom wood cabinets, quartz counter tops, built-in entertainment center, and an all brick exterior.  There was not too many things the homeowner skimped on.  I truly felt privileged to be selected to do the tile work and I wanted them to be happy with the job.  We took the extra time to focus on the details of our work and make it "just so".  In the end, the missus of the house told me that her master bathroom was her most favorite room in the whole house.  Wow!  What a compliment.  There were so many other features to her home, I didn't expect that kind of admiration.   From then on, I was hooked.  I wanted to do this work full time.  I had never received this kind of appreciation for any other work I have done for any employer.  Here are some more pictures of what we did in the house.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed the work.

The shower was cool.  This was my first shower.  I studied and read and learned as much as I could on how to build a shower correctly.  In my quest for knowledge, I stumbled upon a tile forum.  John Bridge - Tile Your World was a wealth of information and later, became another turning point in my life.  One of the challenges we faced was finishing the corners.  For outside corners, we decided to back bevel the tile and make those outside corners "just so".  I have since tried other options but this is by far the best I have liked.  The other challenge was the upper corner near the ceiling.  The corner just didn't look right with just tile up there.  So, with approval from the homeowner, we made a simple crown moulding out of the accent tile.  I've used this design many times since.

Another cool idea was this entryway.  She had seen it in a picture and wanted it in her house.  The challenge was getting the tile to come out flat and how to grout the tile.  I had learned about expansion joints and why they are important in a tile installation.  We worked on layout with the other flooring contractor to come up with a 1/8 inch grout joint around the tile.  We installed the tile after the wood floor was complete.  To get the right height, we installed backer board in each square then carefully back buttered each tile to get the right height with the wood planks.  For grout, I opted for a nutmeg colored silicone caulk.  This would give me an expansion joint around each tile and not crack like traditional grout.  Other jobs I've seen like this with traditional cement grout have cracked.  I believe this will give years of trouble-free service.  Was it worth the extra effort on my part? Absolutely.