Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Gig Me (Part C of D)

Yes, usually the slogan we Aggies like to shout is Gig’em, but the shower Gigged me. I know when most people hear gig, if they are from the south anyway, they think of frog gigging. That’s not the same as an Aggie Gig. You see, the Ags are a bunch of farmers and military brats rolled into one well rounded hillbilly. (I don’t want any comments from those t-sips out there, yeah you know who you are) It turns out this gig comes from the military side. When you’re an underclassman in a military school you have to have everything in order, spic’n span, spit shined, ship shaped, etc. This particularly fell to the student’s appearance. If his uniform wasn’t tucked in just right he would get a demerit, otherwise known as a gig. Hence when Aggies say Gig’em, we are telling the world that we’re gonna find your weakness and exploit it and then laugh at you. Well the concrete found my weakness and kicked my rear. And then it laughed, while I cried.

I was not expecting the laying of the concrete to be such a pain. I envisioned laying down the base pan, pouring the concrete, taking a little time to make sure it sloped properly for draining and I’d just have to wait for it to dry. If you think that sounds like what should happen, dream again!

Concrete is hard to work with. First off, it’s really heavy stuff. It’s made of heavy stuff and then you add rocks and water, both of which are heavy. It’s also hard to mix. Even with a stirring tool connected to my cordless drill it takes a beating on your forearms and elbows. Jennifer held the drill and stirred while I poured mortar, sand, pea gravel, and water into the 5 gallon bucket. I swear, each bucket weighed between 50-80 lbs, and I must have carried more than 20 buckets for the whole project.

So it turned out that I needed a sub base before I put the shower pan liner down. That made sense to me because if somehow you do get a leak to the shower pan, you want that water to eventually flow towards the drain. So ok, I need an extra layer of concrete, no biggie! I put down the first layer of concrete and didn’t worry too much that the 14” trowel I was using was square on the ends and left huge streaks in the concrete when I would attempt to smooth it out. I used a nail with marks on it to tell me the depth of the concrete to make sure I had the slope right. I wanted about a ¼” per foot incline going away from the drain. And I would put about the same slope on the next layer for an even more dramatic slope. I used a roll of duct tape to keep the concrete out of the drain until I did the top layer that would have the screw-in drain.

Before I even got to the liner I knew that one 5’x6’ pan liner sheet wasn’t going to be big enough for the shower I was building and I was prepared for the fact that I’d have to glue two sheets together. What I wasn’t prepared for was once the two pieces were glued, how do I account for the corners to make sure it drains properly. Internal corners are easy to fold, but there were two external corners which just don’t fold right. You have to cut the liner and glue a patch on and even doing a patch doesn’t quite work right. I was hoping that there were pre-formed external corners that you could buy, because what your really need is for the material to be properly stretched and molded, but alas, no one thought it would be a good idea to make something useful. I seriously would have paid about the same for preformed corners as did for each of the sheets of liner. I tell you I dreaded every second of putting water in that liner to static test it and see if it would hold water.

The static test included putting about 4” of water in the liner to make sure it didn’t leak for 4-6 hours. When the level didn’t drop after the 4 or 5 hours I let it sit, I think I breathed the heaviest sigh I had during this project. So I cut a hole at the drain and attempted to finish out the drain by bolting the drain together. Unfortunately it took me 3 trips over three days to get the right bolts. Darn closing time, why isn’t Lowes open 24/7. Remember, I did most of this project in my free time after our kids went to bed. I had about a 30 minute window to shop for what I needed and if I had to guess and guessed wrong it often meant that I would have to wait until the next day to move forward. This happened to me several times, not just with the bolts. Doh!

So after the first layer of concrete was down, and the shower pan checked out, I was ready to put the top layer on and do the lips for the edges and the base for the glass block wall. I decided to go with lips for two reasons, one was that I didn’t want the standing water in the base of the shower to be right up to the point where the tile met the concrete (that would open me up to leaks) also so that the tile had something to sit on and run down rather than going straight from the wall to the floor. The glass block needed a base too and it would look funny to go straight from the floor and wall to a base, so I guess there were three reasons to go with lips!

My problem here was that I didn’t buy enough mortar and ran out before I could get my desired thickness. So I sloped it evenly with the stuff I had and decided I would finish with yet another layer and get the lips the next time around. As it turned out this layer had huge gashes where I used my trowel, so when I bought the new mortar, I invested in a slightly smaller trowel with rounded ends. This kept the whole surface smooth without any streaks. FYI… wetter concrete makes smoother surfaces. The final layer was drier than the first layer over the shower pan and was hence a little rougher. This was good because it made for a good non-slip surface without being rough to the touch.

Each time I laid concrete it took 2 days to dry. This is just annoying when you can see the end of the project coming close and you keep getting delayed time and time again. Argh!

After the final layer of concrete was laid I decided to stain the concrete while the tile wasn’t in so that we wouldn’t have to worry about staining the tile or covering the tile later. So we etched it, stained it and then sealed it. Each step required 4-8 hours of dry time, so this part took a couple days! Sorry, no pix of the nice shower floor!

Tune in next time for the fascinating conclusion of this perilous project!

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