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Home Improvement Is Exhausting — The Action, Not The ‘90s TV Show

, , , , , | Romantic | October 3, 2022

My wife and I moved into our new place right after we were married. She hated some of the flooring options we took with the place, but the massive price markups for simple upgrades deterred us from paying and going with them.

The basic flooring option was vinyl inside the front door, the kitchen, and the bathrooms in the house. To go with wood flooring or ceramic tile would cost thousands of extra dollars that we couldn’t really budget into the cost of everything, so we went with the basic vinyl flooring.

After five or six years of living there, my wife really wants to get rid of the vinyl floor and install ceramic tile. Neither of us has ever installed ceramic tile, but I work at a place that sells installing supplies. Plus, growing up, I watched my dad install different floorings for his job, so I have an understanding of how it is done.

We go through the irritating process of pulling up the vinyl and then removing the adhesive and cleaning the floor. Thankfully, [Wife] is more than willing to do this work so it isn’t just me doing it.

We go through the grueling process of finding the “right” tile [Wife] wants to use, and once we find it, we order enough to cover the flooring, plus a few extra boxes just in case. I borrow a small wet saw from my stepdad, I purchase all the floor installation supplies; mortar, grout, spacers, etc. All products are now in our possession, so we can start the installation process.

I figure we’ll do the kitchen first; it’ll be the most annoying place to do since it’s the area with the most foot traffic, and I want to get it done first. The floor has to be done in sections over the course of a week to allow the moving of appliances, dry times, and so on. (Remember, my only cutting tool is the wet saw, so doing intricate curves or cuts is almost impossible.)

I drag the stove out and tile under it and as far out as I can. I let the tile set and mortar dry and move the stove back the next day so I can continue installing tile. As I’m starting to move along the floor and line things up before making my measurements and marking my cuts, I can tell that the walls have settled over time and are no longer square. I have the tiles laid out how they will go and things look almost square, but you can see a slight angle if you’re looking hard enough. The grout line won’t be perfectly square or straight. I explain this to my wife and show her and tell her that making things perfectly square might not be possible, but I’ll try my best. I don’t think she really understands me; she just kind of nods and goes along with what I am saying.

I go about making cuts on the tiles I need to cut pieces out for and begin to mix and put the mortar down. I start setting the tiles into the mortar the exact way I had them laid out when I showed [Wife]. She comes into the kitchen and stands behind me. She’s pissed that one of the tile pieces I cut isn’t lining up perfectly and wants me to remeasure and cut a new piece. I take measurements again, mark a new tile, and cut the piece I need.

That’s still not good enough, so, again, at [Wife]’s request, I measure and cut one more piece. It really isn’t any different, but she says it’s acceptable. I lay down the edge piece I just cut for the third time, drop in spacers, spread more mortar, and lay the full tile next to it (this is the area I told [Wife] about and showed her it would be slightly off). She loses her mind and starts yelling at me that the grout line won’t be perfectly square and it’s not good enough.

Me: “I showed you and explained to you why things would be slightly off. I’m not a professional tile installer. This is the first time I’ve actually done this.”

Wife: “It can’t be that hard to make it a straight line. I don’t see what the problem is here. I don’t want it like that! Fix it so it’s straight!”

I’m already pissed she’s had me remeasuring and cutting multiple pieces over and over again.

Me: “If you think it’s that f****** easy, you do it!”

I stand up as fast as my sore knees let me, drop the trowel into the mortar bucket, take my car keys off the counter, and leave.

I come back home a few hours later. I walk into the kitchen and see that [Wife] has put down two tiles and no more. I also notice that she left the trowel in the mortar and the mortar bucket was left sitting on the floor. The mortar has now hardened enough that both the bucket and trowel are ruined and I will need to buy new ones.

My wife comes downstairs and into the kitchen. She looks at me and sees that I’m still pretty pissed.

Wife: “I’m sorry I yelled at you about this. It’s a lot harder to do than I thought.”

I got an apology, which I am kind of surprised about. I clean up. The next day, I pick up a new trowel and bucket, and I go back to finishing the tile work over the next few days. I do the grout and sealant and things look pretty good in the end. There is just that one grout line that is slightly shifted, and you can’t really notice it unless you are looking hard for it.

After all the ceramic tile is installed on the floor in all the rooms, I now get the fun job of doing the backsplash in the kitchen. [Wife] found some tile she wanted (I think it is kind of ugly and too busy) because it will help accent the ceramic flooring and paint color in the kitchen. I get all the backsplash tiled and grouted, and things are all done.

Fast forward about eighteen months. [Wife] has been complaining about how she doesn’t like the backsplash in the kitchen anymore and she wants to change it out for something more simple.

I explain to her that when you tile drywall, you don’t just simply pull off the tile and replace it. You have to be very careful or you’re going to ruin the drywall and just end up having to cut out the drywall and replace it. I tell her I don’t want to have to deal with that crap, and it seems to deter her — that is until I come home from work a few days later.

I walk into the kitchen and [Wife] has got my set of good flathead screwdrivers and a hammer, and she’s been slowly chiseling off the current tile on the backsplash. She’s already ruined one screwdriver and she’s doing a number on the second one.

Me: “What the h*** are you doing? And why are you using my good tools? Look at this! You’re ruining them!”

Wife: “I told you that you can remove this tile without having to replace the drywall! Look. The first sheet came off without a problem.”

Notice how she hasn’t even addressed the abuse of my tools.

Me: “I never said you had to replace the drywall. I said that if you’re not careful, you would have to. Also, you’ve wrecked my good screwdrivers. They’re not designed for this.”

Wife: “I didn’t know what tools to use. I just grabbed what I thought might work.”

She continued to work on removing the tile on the backsplash. At some point, I heard her cussing from the kitchen. I walked into the kitchen and the section of tile she’d been trying to chisel off had taken a huge chunk of drywall with it, leaving a gaping hole in the wall. At that point, she got upset and just started ripping the tile off and ruining the drywall on the backsplash area.

I was pissed, but there was nothing I could do to stop her since she had started, and I just had to go with the flow.

I had to cut out the ruined drywall and get my stepdad to help me pick up and deliver a couple of 4×8 sheets of drywall to our place. (He’s got a nice truck to move things in; the drywall wouldn’t fit in my hatchback.) Thankfully, he helped me cut, hang, and mud the new drywall. Then, I went through the process of putting the new tile up for the backsplash.

I told my wife that this was the very last time I was fixing up her mess like this or installing tile. She’d have to find a way to pay for someone to do the work. For the next ten years or so that we lived at that place, she never tried to remove any more tile, nor did she ask me to tile anything else.

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