Notes from Windward: #67


Tile and Trim

add some finishing touches to the kitchen

  January 11:

     Now that the new counter is defined, we can start the process of installing the trim and tile needed to complete that side of the kitchen, something that's long overdue--and besides, with day-time temps in the twenties, working in the warmth of the kitchen is a great way to spend a quiet winter afternoon.

the bread safe over the oven

     Another handy piece of kitchen equipment is our stainless-steel bread safe. In its prior life it kept pizza hot in a delivery truck enroute to the customer, but it's current use is to provide a thermally stable environment in which dough can rise evenly, or pies can cool down slowly. And when it's not doing that sort of thing, it makes for a secure place where we store pasta, crackers and such.

looking down on the bread safe

     The first thing to do was to fill up the empty space around the bread safe with fiberglass insulation since the more insulated the safe is the better it will perform.


     A few left-over fiberglass batts to insulate the sides and the top of the bread safe, and it's ready to seal up. No insulation is desired on the bottom since we want heat from the ovens to rise up and warm the safe.

looking down on the bread safe

     A bit of plywood cut to fit, and it's on to the next task.

the slab dolly gets a bottom shelf

     Since there's never too much storage space in any kitchen, we gave the slab dolly a lower shelf which adds another eight square feet of storage space right next to the stove--sure to come in handy.

installing backer board for the hot counter

     We're planning on putting a tile surface on the small counter to the left of the main stove so that hot pans and implements won't leave burn marks, and the first step there is to install what's called "backer board" on top of the wooden surface. As the seasons change, wood either dries out and shrinks, or absorbs moisture and swells, either of which will cause tile to crack and break loose of the substrate. The solution to that problem involves first installing a layer of backer board and then adhering the tile to the backer board.

  January 15:

     The next step involves facing the counters, a task that like most trim work usually takes longer than the actual construction--especially in this case since we're millin the wood too. About five years ago we needed to take down a large fir tree because it was in a place where we needed to put a building. Since the wood was good, we carefully felled the tree, bucked it into appropriate lengths and used our saw mill to cut it into 3/4" thick boards that we could use for facing or furniture making down the road. It's been stickered and stored away in a container since then, and this job was the perfect chance to put some of that wood to good use.

     After the rough-sawn wood was cut to the correct dimensions, a quick pass through the surface planer left the trim with a perfectly smooth surface that will take a polyurethan finish nicely. While I personally prefer the effect that our saw leaves on the wood surface, this is kitchen trim, so it's especially important that it be easily cleaned--and so through the planer it went. It's always grand to see the shavings fly, especially considering how much the worms will enjoy them.

the first trim installed o the oven tower

  January 16:

     Like most of the nation, Windward is a frozen wonderland this week, so we're sticking to doing inside work for the most part. Still, the animals always need some taking care of and today turned out to be a good day to separate out the rams from the ewes. It's still at least six weeks before lambs are due, but by separating the rams we can insure that the pregnant ewes get the nutrition they need without the rams hogging more than they need.

adding more facing to the stove tower

     Doing the work this way at least insures a good deal of exercise as measurements are made in the kitchen, and then the wood is milled down the hill in the workshop before it's hauled up for installation--assuming that it's right the first time.

adding facing to the dolly counter

     In addition to more facing on the stove tower, today saw facing applied to the dolly counter. It's very nice to see the work getting this far along--not much longer before it's time to start making fudge.

  January 17:

the stove tower ready for sealing

     Got the last of the facing on the stove tower today, and so we turned our attention back to the adjacent hot counter. Before backerboard could be applied to the vertical walls, the tile needed to be cut and laid out so that we'd know how high up the backer board needed to go.

laying out the tile

     One of the really handy aides for this sort of tiling work are these plastic "plus signs" that establish the width between tiles insuring that you end up with the tiles in line and with the right grout space.

the vertical tile in place

     Once the tiles were cut and in place, that told us how tall the backerboard needed to be to support the tiles. At that point the cut tiles were carefully stored away for another day so that the backerboard could be cut and screwed into place.

the vertical backerboard in place

  January 20:

catching up on painting the recent work

  January 21:

laying out the trim

     The front edge of the counter is defined by "bull nose" pieces that curve over 90° to give a rounded edge to the counter top. Since they've got to fit the front exactly, they're the first pieces to be set.

     The left hand side is the tricky part since the tile has to be mitered at 45° so that the trim can continue up the side board, so that piece gets laid in first. Then the remainding pieces are laid out with spacers so that the last tile can be cut to fit. Unlike flat tiles, the edge trim can't be scored and snapped--rather it has to be cut with a water-cooled diamond blade. Fortunately, we just happen to have one of those ;-)

laying the four full tiles

     After the edge tiles were buttered with thinset and wiggled into place, it was time to install the four full tiles. If you look close you'll see the plastic plus signs spacers keeping the tiles properly aligned with each other. It's really hard to remember to not lean on the tiles you've already laid while you're wiggling a new tile into place, thereby shifting that tile out-of-place; the plastic spacers help insure that the tiles stay where you wanted them even when you forget.

     Once the full tiles were in place, it was time to carefully trim pieces of cut tile to fit in the remaining spaces. No problem, really, just a matter of paying attention to detail and taking it one step at a time.

the main surface in place

     Since we're doing our own work, as opposed to working on-the-clock for someone else, there's no need to try and also do the vertical tiles today. Better to put time into cleaning up the work, and letting the tile adhesive set before going on to the next part.

      Clean up involves removing the extruded thinset from the gaps between tiles (so that there's room for the grout later on) and then carefully cleaning the tiles of any thinset adhesive that's sticking to the surface of the tiles, or for that matter, fallen on the floor and gotten smeared underfoot :-(

     It's a whole lot easier to clean up extra adhesive right away than it is to try and remove it later on after it's dried.

  January 22:

     Today we tackled the tricky parts of the tile job, all the more challenging because it was tricky to two ways in that doing vertical tile is more of a challenge to do correctly than horizontal tile, and we also had to cut our way around a series of corners.

laying out the trim

     Today we tackled the tricky part of the tile job, all the more challenging because it was tricky to two ways in that doing vertical tile is more of a challenge to do correctly than horizontal tile, and we also had to cut our way around a series of corners.

     Still, it's mostly a matter of taking time to be sure that you're cutting the right angle at the right place, and then making sure that you got a good bond between the tile and adhesive before trying to set the tile in place. By using a trowel to force the adhesive into the backer board and onto the back of the tile, you're sure to get a good bond.

      Also, with the bull-nosed tile in place along the front of the counter, it was time to install the wooden paneling along the face of the counter.

  January 24:

     First task today was to glue up the door for the front of the counter we're working on. One of the really nice things about the way we work is that by processing our own materials, we're able to select choice pieces for work like this without having to pay top dollar, or any dollar for that matter :-)

gluing up the counter doors

     Now that the tile has had plenty of time to set, it was time to apply the grout. In keeping with the color of the tile, we went with a green grout. The first step was to work the grout down into the gaps between the tiles. That's done using a rubber faced float and a diagonal stroke that forces the grout in and the air out.

working in the grout

     Once the grout has had a chance to dry a bit, it's time to start wipping down the surface with a sponge, let it dry some more, wipe it again, and so on until the extra grout is removed.

the tile, grouted and cleaned

     Final pass is done with a damp paper towel to remove the last bit of grout film from the tile surface.

  January 25:

     After some sanding to remove the glue squeezed out of the joints by the pressure of the clamps, the doors were taken up to the dining hall to check the fit. Usually some trimming is needed, but this time they fit just right.

checking the fit

     The cabinet doors got a first coat of poly-urethane finish (they'll get another late this evening) and then to finish out the afternoon work session, we dragged the granite dolly out from it's storage place to give it a second coat of enamel.

Gina checking for spilled drops of paint

  January 29:

     Jacque helped select the hardware for the cabinets this weekend, so I got busy this afternoon installing the cabinet doors. It's really nice to see the final details on the counter falling into place.


     The next step was to cut the brass sheets to fit.

  January 30:


     The only tricky part here involved cutting the opening for the electrical outlet. While you can't tell from the picture, the outlet we installed is a heavy-duty 20 amp outlet that's distinguished from the usual 15 amp wall plug by an extra slot that makes one of the openings look like the letter "T" laying on its side.

     The purpose of the odd design is that it will allow you to plug in the usual sort of electrical appliance which doesn't draw more than 15 amps. In addition, the heavy duty outlet will accept a plug where one blade is vertical and the other horizontal; the sort of plug that's used on equipment that draws the extra current. The horizontal blade insures that it can't be plugged into an outlet that's not wired for the extra load.

     I don't know that we actually have anything that draws that much current, but the main reason we're doing this area in tile and brass is that this is where we'll plug in appliances such as a deep fryer that draw heavier loads. By going with the stronger hardware, we're able to incorporate an extra margin of safety; we've already lost one kitchen to fire in our history, and it was an experience we never want to go through again. So, a few bucks spent on installing a plug made for the larger draw is cheap insurance.

     The brass comes with a plastic coating that makes it look rather dull in the pic, but it'll give you an idea of how it's going to look when the trim's on, the final grout is laid and the brass gets a coat of polish and wax.

  February 3:


     Even thought the focus is shifting on to other tasks, we'll continue adding more pieces of trim to the counter work. The trim is cut and milled down at the landing, and then it gets a couple coats of poly-urethane to seal it before it eventually gets nailed into place. It's the sort of work that's best fitted in as convenient rather than as a main focus since it involves a considerable number of trips up and down the hill.


     But each piece that goes in makes the job look just a bit more finished; it's a pleasing transition to watch unfold.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67