I’m a big proponent of architects knowing how buildings get put together. I spent an extra few years in school to earn a postbaccalaureate degree in building construction because I think architects also need more “credibility” when working with the guys in the field who are actually building our design. I was reviewing some older posts from the What’s on Your Mind blog, and came across one where the architect “got a talkin’ to” from the tile setter because the beautiful tile design used tiles of different thicknesses.
Alas, I already knew tile thickness is a bigger issue than only the aesthetics. You see, my kids love taking on building experiments with me. We recently tiled the top of an old wicker table to make a new checkerboard for the living room. We had some 2 x 2 gloss black tiles left over from a previous hearth project (I’m too cheap to buy everything new for an “experiment”). We bought two sheets of tumbled stone mosaics and determined that if it was cut into 2 x 2 sizes, the pattern works great. Contrasting large with small sizes, different surfaces, we know it would be wonderful—except for the tile thickness and the substrate. It was a wicker table and I thought it would “act” like lath. It didn’t; it got really wet from the mortar and the grout and buckled. On the tile thickness, when we realized it, we buttered the back of the thinner tiles with a little more mortar so it could be squished down. It worked, sort of, until the wicker wanted to buckle. So after it settled a little bit, and we got all the tiles in place, we put a few boards over it and weighted it with books. When the directions said it was okay to grout, we did but the buckling problem came back and cracked the grout. We sprayed it and weighted it again and left the “experiment” to bake for a few days. After a week it “healed” itself. We sealed the tile and are using the table for chess/checkers, etc.
My kids (13, 10, and 7 years old) really like experimenting. It gives us additional ways to stay close as a family; it lets them see how else to “learn”; and hopefully teaches them that even when you’re grown up you still always need to learn. We want to rebuild our deck next.
—Lisa Stacholy, AIA