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Even Little Projects Bite

February 7, 2012
by

A short update on the Bathroom progress: installing a small towel/accessory bar in the shower.

Sure – that sounds easy, but even the tiniest little projects at BAB like to bite back.

For this towel bar (that would have a max of a few pounds of anything hanging from it), some plastic sleeve anchors would work fine. As I wrote in a previous post, I like to make extra long lines on tape, like crosshairs through the hole center, in case the drill tries to walk away.

Drilling holes for first anchor

While I used the hammer drill, I did not use the hammer action; it’s just that I happened to have the right sized special stone bit in the hammer shank style.

Speaking of the stone, these stone tiles are a type of limestone, and in the closeup pictures you can see lots of fossils and sea shells. The walls take on a beautiful depth & richness when wet, and while showering we see all kinds of abstract images in the wall. But since this is a PG-13 blog, we’ll have to save the wet shower photos for another time.

The holes for the first anchor were pretty easy.

The other side, another story.

The top hole gave me a lot of resistance, as though it was a harder piece of stone. (Which is quite possible, since there is such a range of material across any given tile.) It took twice as long, and right near the end, a small little donut of stone popped away from around the hole. Not a big deal, because I knew the flange of the towel bar would cover it.

But ohhhh, the last hole was a booger. I was not making much progress at all. I wondered if should turn on the hammer action – since I do have the “tiny hammer” icon selection on the drill, meaning “low”.

Sure!

Go ahead! It’s the Tiny Hammer.

Big hunk of stone popped off!

Crap!!! Within three hammer taps, a large hunk of stone surrounding the lower hole popped away and hung loose around the drill bit. I stopped immediately and grabbed it so it didn’t fall and crash into tiny pieces.

I’m not one to get upset other than yelling an expletive, which means Sue comes to check what’s up; after which I immediately go into problem-solving mode and review my options.

1) Will the flange cover THIS? Test fit = No.

2) Fill it with some waterproof filler? Ummm, maybe; but that would require GETTING some special filler, then filling the recess, then letting it cure/dry, then grinding, polishing, etc. Definitely a multi-day sub-project, and I did not have a lot of confidence the color would be a good match.

3) How about just gluing it? Well hmm. What’s the best glue for stone? Not sure how I’d glue it yet, but I knew that if I was going to glue it, I would not want to be hammering a tight-fitting anchor through a possibly unstable patch of stone.

So I continued drilling through the lower hole (light pressure with Tiny Hammer) and it was fine. Then I inserted the plastic anchors. The anchor didn’t go in all the way in the lower hole, so I had to trim away the excess sticking out so that it didn’t interfere with the piece getting glued back in. You can see that in the next close-up pic…

Test fit the patch piece

(Okay, I admit it – the second photo was taken a few minutes after I inserted the anchors, not right after the piece broke away. I was after all in expletive mode when it popped and not documentation mode.)

I also had to brush away tiny granules of stone that turned into dust along the fracture line; I could feel that they were keeping the patch piece from matching up with perfectly with the recess. At the same time I examined the piece – it appeared that there was a dark vein of different material along one surface and it looked like the piece broke along that vein. That would explain why it popped in the first place.

So it seemed it would fit, and I had the anchor tightly in place; now for some glue.

If not for the internet, I would have cleaned up the shower and wrapped this up for the evening, then made time to go the library the next day or so. BUT, we have the webs now and I researched what others have used to glue natural stone. I saw several articles stating that Gorilla Glue worked well. I thought: “Really? Gorilla Glue?”… So I checked the label on my g-glue, and sure enough, “Stone” followed right after “Wood” in the “Suggested Uses” listing, and it was also noted to be 100% waterproof. Sweet!

But — a slight challenge; Gorilla Glue expands a lot, so I’d need to use just a tiny bit but also need to apply pressure to keep the popped piece in place. Another brain-race through options: tape: No; old shower rod pressing across entire shower: Overkill, would need flat blocking, hard to adjust pressure.

Light Bulb!

Wait – there’s that “test bar” I made for the mirror support – it had a variety of holes and I could put a skinny long screw through a wide hole in the bar, through the stone piece and into the anchor, allowing the bar itself to press the piece against the wall. And the anchor was grabbing the stone/wall BEHIND the patch piece, allowing the patch piece to be pushed inward. If you didn’t follow all that, maybe the next pic helps.

Test bar's second life as pressure bar...

And if you still don’t get it, and if you’re really interested, I can come up with a diagram and post it – just ask.

The angle of the bar is not random either. I wanted to maximize the surface area of the stone piece that came in contact with the bar, and the majority of the piece was in the lower left. I couldn’t change the location of the hole of course, to cover ALL of the piece, so the best I could do was rotate the bar for best possible position.

The hard work over, I cleaned up the shower, let the g-glue set for an hour and had a glass of wine.

Next was attaching the metal mounting brackets… would this be as easy as it SHOULD be?

mounting bracket one

Yup, fortunately it was… Then the bracket on the other side; and a couple of set screws later and the bar was all done!

Completed towel bar in shower.

So in the end the bite wasn’t too bad, and I was glad that I was able to finish it in one evening and without a special trip to Lowes.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. rick permalink
    February 8, 2012 5:57 pm

    Nice job Tom. Looks awesome. We will have to come to St. Louis some weekend and check out ALL the inmprovements you guys have done.
    On another note concerning the gorilla glue, did you get it wet like the directions say too ?

    • Tom permalink*
      February 8, 2012 6:10 pm

      Directions?! I don’t need no steenking directions!
      Yes I did wet it, in fact rinsed the [expletive] piece off under water.
      Thanks bro.

  2. February 8, 2012 2:29 pm

    The tile is beautiful! With all the variations in it, it really isn’t noticeable in the finished picture. Mike is like you though, he would notice it, and even point it out to every one who walked through the door. Unhappy unless perfection has been achieved. Think about how much money you saved by doing it yourself – it more than makes up for the little things you’ve had to “get creative” with in this room, and the end result is very impressive =)

  3. Cindy Petzoldt permalink
    February 8, 2012 6:37 am

    What an accomplishment — bet you’ll think about all that sweat equity every time you use that towel bar.

    • Sue permalink
      February 8, 2012 12:46 pm

      We even have a mirror to reflect on our sweat equity! Har!

  4. Dan Conery permalink
    February 8, 2012 4:27 am

    I wondering if you used the same expletives as I did during the Super Bowl :).

    Wonder if you will keep looking at the patch thinking everyone will notice when the fact is you will be the only one that notices it. I often look at “mistakes” I have made in my various wood working projects with that thought.

    BTW, the shower looks outstanding.

    • Tom permalink
      February 8, 2012 10:11 am

      Dan – you soooo nailed it. There’s a dark line on the surface, where everyone will see (well, everyone that spends time in our shower) that it’s just a natural variation in the stone, but I see that it’s where that [expletive] piece of stone popped off!

      thanks!

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