Sunday, September 15, 2013

Habitat for Marty

We went up to Marty's cabin in the Sierra's three times over the last month.  It is located about 2 1/2 hours east of Fairfield CA (Travis AFB) where we had the Roadrunner parked.
We like to do projects around the house and the first time we were there, we power washed about 50 2x10s that will be reused for the trellis on the deck that is being rebuilt.
Pam and I and Marty got a system going so it only took us a couple of hours to get them cleaned up.
Another day we started tiling the sauna bathroom downstairs.  The floor had to be swept and then mopped and then we laid down some of the Saltillo Mexican tile.  Marty has kept extra boxes for 25 years for this room.  The first floor upstairs has the same tile throughout.  We wanted to see what they looked like with the spacers and get a feel for any issues we might have.

The task for that day was to lay down the square ones.  Another time we would get the tiles that had to be cut.
We started in with the thin-set mortar by putting water in a bucket and adding until we had enough and at the right consistency.  After mixing it with a hand trowel, we had to let it set up for 10 minutes and then we got to it.  We ended up using the whole 50# bag of mortar.

I got to lay a few but my job was primarily to get the mortar to Pam so she could put it down.
She started out in the far corner and it was pretty steady from there.
Before you know it we had a few rows down.
And then we were done for the day.
The tricky thing about these bad boys is that they are all hand made.  And not necessarily the same size.  Or thickness.  And some are warped a little just to make it interesting.  I guess that is the whole idea - the uniqueness.

We let it dry and came back a few days later.  This time, we needed some more supplies and a tile cutter.  We went to Home Depot and got one more bag of mortar and three bags of grout and a sealer to mix it with.  And a stir rod attachment for my electric drill.  And a few other things.
I was a little leery of the tile cutter.  I had never used one.  Five or six years ago, Pam and Kelly used one to tile our laundry room in our stix-and-brix house.

Home Depot rents them for $68/day.  Arnold Tool Rental had one for $55/day.  Since it was a couple of miles from the cabin, I rented from there.  It has a separate stand and we got it loaded into the back end of the CRV.  Then I unloaded it at the cabin and got it all set up in place.   It took a minute to hook up the water and get it flowing to the blade but it was really pretty easy.
I became the tile guy and Pam did the measuring.  I took us another half bag of thin-set mortar to put down the rest of the pieces we cut.  And then we wiped it down and let it dry overnight.
Then another final wipe down to get the sheen and remove excess mortar and streaks.  In the process, it was a little brutal on the fingers, but after a couple of hours slowly going over each and every edge of every tile, it was finished.
We were done there and returned to the Roadrunner which is parked at Travis AFB.  After we got home, I made a quick trip to Home Depot and returned a few things that we didn't use.
One bottle of sealant, a bag of grout and a stirrer amounted to a refund of over $42, so it was worth it.

That was our 'Habit for Marty' Saltillo Tile project.  We figured it was 20 hours between the two of us and a fun project.  We learned a lot and hope we can do another one.  A couple of things we learned had to do with the equipment

  • Kneel pads are essential.  We had the expensive and the cheap (foam type).  Foam type worked best.
  • The stirrer attachment for electric drill is a must.  We hand mixed the first mortar batch, but then got a small stirrer attachment.  It made a big difference in the consistency.
  • A tile cutter is required.  We wouldn't attempt the project with out one.  
That's it for this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Thanks for joining us today.  Until next time...


  1. you guys are so helpful and very talented...what fun you have...

    1. Yes - we get to learn new things and it is fun!

  2. Oh boy, do I remember doing the tile laying projects before selling our S&B house. I really can't say that I miss all of that work, but it might be different if I was attempting to help out someone else.

    1. Yeah - I think that may change it. For us it is a little bit of that plus we like doing that kind of thing so it isn't really work…and the hours/ breaks are pretty flexible!

  3. Hi Randy and Pam!

    I work on the social media team at The Home Depot and we're so happy to hear about this amazing project! We'd love to share your orange bucket photos in upcoming social media project. With your permission, we would cite your blog for photo credit. Let us know if you are okay with this or email us at