February 18, 2010

Exploding floor, part 2

Carlos busting concrete

Well, we have been living with the busted floor for a few months now so it time to DO SOMETHING, El Jefe says. (I've adapted very well to the mañana culture.)

The weather has been rainy again and our old reliable worker Carlos needed indoor work so we have been filling his days with this awful job. For the background on what happened, please see The day my floor exploded.

Bad news gets worse: It turns out that at least 75% of the ceramic in this large room is loose to one extent or another.

Tip: Here's how you can tell if the ceramic is loose. Drag the head of a hammer or other heavy metal object across and around each tile. You'll hear a tinny, sort of metallic sound from the secure tiles and a distinctively different, louder, hollow sound from the loose tiles.

In a twist of cultures (or perhaps it's a male-female thing), El Jefe was set on removing all the loose tiles and repairing it properly. Me, knowing what we were in for since we've been through this before, said, "Just kill me first" as I picked up a screwdriver and made a motion of sticking it through my heart.

See, the problem (besides the noise and mess) is that though the tiles are loose underneath, the grout in the rest of the floor is still 100% intact. That means that the grout has to be sawed first and then scraped out to remove the tiles. The chances of doing that without damaging more tiles than we have replacements: 0%. The chances of finding replacement tiles: 0% (I know, we've already called every tile store in Honduras.)

Sawing also means that concrete dust will seep into every corner of our house, into every nook and cranny, coating every dish, every spoon, every book, everything. We will clean and clean and still be breathing concrete dust for weeks.

So, with a sad face and a few tears, not to mention the threats of suicide, I convinced him to just do the immediate repair and if the others get worse, repair them later. The tiles will, of course, get worse, and I will, of course, later hear, "I told you so", but always put off to mañana what you don't want to do today, I say.

Carlos is on day two with probably at least a day and a half to go. I encourage him to take a break often, not only because it is hard work, but because, I'll admit, sometimes I feel that I cannot take another minute of listening to the pounding. The best part of the day is when I say, "Carlos, that's really hard work. Go ahead and quit early!".  Here's a video of Carlos working. It's less than a minute but I challenge you to listen to the whole thing! For the full daily effect, replay it about 360 times. ;-/

In case you didn't read the original article, the reason the concrete has to be chipped away is so that when we replace the tile, it will be level with the rest of the floor.

Thanks to a reader, we got the idea of wetting the concrete before chipping it out. That makes a huge difference in the amount of dust. Thank you, Reynaldo! We still have two tiles in which we'll have to use the saw to cut the grout and for that Reynaldo recommended placing a wet sponge nearby to absorb the dust before it has a chance to take wings. Isn't it great having expert readers?
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