Sunday, May 20, 2012

FLOOR TILE: Does SIZE matter?

Janice T. sent this question to Ask A Home Improvement Expert:

"We've been thinking about changing the tile in our bathroom but we aren't sure which size tile we should use. Is smaller tile better for a bathroom?"


That's a great question!.... and it's nice to finally have a woman ask a man if size matters.
My personal opinion is that the more grout lines you have, the busier a floor looks. A lot of people grew up looking at their parents bathrooms with tiny mosaic tiles and mauve colored fixtures.
You've seen how your parents used to dress, do you really want to use their sense of style as a point of reference?


{{{shiver}}} Yikes......Anyway, I always start by trying to use the largest tile I can in a given room. The reason I start here as I said, is that more grout lines make a floor look busier and unfortunately
Busier = Smaller. I don't want a small room to feel even smaller, I want it to feel spacious and open. Larger tiles can make a small bathroom feel bigger. There is no rule saying you can't use 18" x 18" tiles in a 50 sq. ft. bathroom. It's all about the look you are trying to create. However! There are a few issues that can potentially sway the choice of tile size that  you should always take into account.

How level are your floors?

Run a level over your floor before you make any decisions to spot the inconsistencies in your floor and to see which way it may be pitching. Smaller tiles have the ability to conform to these inconsistencies. In a perfect world, you'd never want to have a floor with a lot of pitches and rolls but often in homes that are 150-200 years old, the best you can hope for is to minimize the motion of the floor. If you tried to get it back to perfectly level, you'd likely end up with a floor that's much higher in some areas than you want. This is especially troublesome when the doorway transition ends up being over an inch out of level (unless you enjoy watching your friends trip in and out of your bathroom). In these cases, we are try to get the floor to be as FLAT as possible... not as LEVEL.
Larger tiles such as an 18" x 18" are more difficult to lay flat due to the fact that each tile covers so much floor space. If the area you're working is a little higher in the middle of where a tile lands, you may find that corners of your tiles are left sitting up higher than you would like. Sometimes adjusting the layout of where your grout lines will land can help work around some of these problem areas.

Desired Effect

Is there any other tile in your room? If there is a specific tile pattern on your walls or shower, it may dictate how you want to approach your floor. There are common styles that people are trying to recreate or achieve that can help determine the floor tile. For example, A subway wall pattern: We often see a smaller mosaic tile pattern with subway-style tiled walls.

There are no hard and fast rules but, there are applications that you may have seen and are subconsciously trying to recreate.

If you are simply looking to update your floor, I  would suggest picking color before size. It's often more important to get the color you desire and you may find that the color you love? Isn't available in every size and shape. Your question may be answered before you ask it!

Bathroom usage

Is this a bathroom that gets a lot of family use? If it is, I would point out that for every grout line you create is also one you need to maintain. Grout needs to be cleaned and sealed according to usage, sometimes as often as once a year. A full bathroom with 5 family members and a dog that  you can't seem to keep clean no matter how many times you wrap him in plastic, will be subject to more water and soil on the floor than a half-bath connected to a guest room. (I'm kidding, don't wrap your dog in are optional)
Fewer grout lines can also mean fewer possible areas for moisture to get through to the substrate if those grout lines ever open up over time. Remember: More grout lines = More maintenance.

Grout color

Grout color will affect your choice as well. There are two ways to go with grout color, one that blends or one that pops. Both have their advantages in certain situations but more often I try to find a grout color that blends with the color of the tile itself. This helps keep whatever floor tile I choose feeling like one consistent floor not like a bunch of smaller pieces. I see this mistake a lot, a bad grout color choice making a floor look too broken up. Example:

I also tend to avoid very light grout colors in favor of more neutrals because lighter grout colors are much more difficult to maintain and they discolor quickly. I only use white & off-white grout when it's specific to the effect the customer desires. Which brings me to my last point:

Personal preference

What do you like? I always ask potential customers to pick out a few pictures of bathroom floors that they think are cool. When a customer shows me three pictures of bathrooms all with larger style tiles or perhaps all with a particular pattern, it makes finding their solution simpler. Sometimes I even find they don't like the floors they've shown me at all, they actually like the color, layout or style of a room. It's important that whatever you pick works with the room itself and when in doubt? I would suggest that something simple, clean and neutral often works better than something bold and intricate. It also allows you to update other elements of the room over time without limiting your choices.

So, there are no universal answers but there are certainly considerations in making your choice. Try to ask yourself these questions before you make a decision or Ask A Home Improvement Expert!

As always, I'm Daniel and I'm a General Contractor. (<--- and that's still a link)


Sunday, May 6, 2012

CAPTCHA: Why Do You Hate Me?

I remember a simpler time when the worst thing about spam was how to get it out of the can. Apparently, it's a much bigger problem now because every time I try to do anything online I get hit with a CAPTCHA. It stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart" and it was designed to cut down on SPAM (flooding the internet with copies of the same message). It stops software programs from abusing services and minimizes automated postings to blogs and such. 

You've all seen them. That tiny box of fuzzy words that you have to type in to virtually everything nowadays. It's sole purpose is to prove that you're an actual human being to complete your submission. Wonderful.

Here's my problem:


Let me give you a window into the hell that is my life. Just this morning, I was downloading a picture to use for an article and I was hit with this CAPTCHA:

Okay, this is no problem. It looks like "i" then.... wait, is that an "o"? I think it is. What if it isn't? I don't want to get this wrong and have to retype my information. 
Hang on, they have a little recycle button just to the right of the submission box. Let me hit that and get new words:

Huh? Why are those numbers are upside down? Do I type them in that order or am I supposed to flip them and type them in the other way? Hang on, let me get a new one:

Whoa! What's that inkblot on the right? How do I.... is that....... am I supposed to type that? Im really confused, this is starting to feel like a Rorschach Test. 
Wait, there is a little speaker button there! Will that let me HEAR what I'm supposed to type? That's perfect! Let me hit that button....


OH MY GOD!!............... That was a HUGE mistake!!............................Let's just stick to the letters! 

*hitting the recycle button again*

Come On!! I don't even know what language that second part is! Do I even have a key on my keyboard for that?? NEXT!

ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW?? What the HELL is that?! That's not even a word, its a PICTURE!! Is that a building?? Do I type in "building"?? Why is it so out of focus and why are they showing me pictures?! NEXT!!

STOP!! I can read it!! YES! Oh dear Lord thank you.... Thank you!.... Stay right there, let me just type that in, 'passage toniets'.....

"Incorrect security code entered, please try again"

Wait, what?? Oh God no... I typed it in wrong! I had the perfect CAPTCHA and I blew it! I BLEW IT!! Please, please, please.... I'm begging you, give me another easy one. I won't ever talk bad about CAPTCHA again if you just give me one more easy one..... pretty please......

*Hitting recycle with my eyes shut*

........... I so hate you right now......................

Daniel Batal is a Remodeling Contractor and owner at Focalpoint Renovations

My Zimbio
Image: David Castillo Dominici /

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

7 Amazing Gadgets You Must Have!

What does a Contractor do on a very rainy Wednesday morning? He surfs the internet and finds the coolest stuff ever and shares it with you! May I present my Top 7 in no particular order (I thought five wasn't enough and ten was just plain excessive...)

The Jellyfish Aquarium

Forget the shark tank, here's a 7 gallon acrylic tank that comes with it's own built in lighting and filtration system from Jelly Fish Art.  The entry level package with one moon jellyfish and a 3 month supply of food starts at $382.00, but if your wallet is feeling particularly fat, you can opt for the $709.00 deluxe package. 
Deluxe package Includes:
  •     Desktop Jellyfish Tank
  •     3× Large Moon Jellyfish
  •     12 Month Food Supply
  •     2× Red Leg Hermit Crab
  •     2× Cleaner Snail
  •     Algae Cleaner Magnet
  •     Water Quality Test Kit
  •     Aquarium Salt (10 Gal)
  •     Water Heater
  •     Floating Thermometer
  •     Nutrafin Cycle 1oz
  •     Clear Vacuum Hose
  •     Substrate
No mention of having a second person to pee on you in case you get stung.... It would be worth having just to say to people, "I have to get home to feed my jellyfish" and watch the expressions on their faces. In fact, you could capture those expressions with this...

iPhone Tri-lens


If you're an aspiring photographer or just want to make your iPhone look like it's having its eyes checked.... this quirky little device from Photojojo might rank high on your list of 'must-haves'. The iPhone lens dial spins to offer three optical-quality coated glass lenses: Telephoto, Wide Angle and Fish-eye. The aluminum housing also comes equipped with a tripod mount for landscape and portrait shots. Priced at $249.00 (that's only $83/lens if you're trying to justify buying one) Or maybe you prefer something a little more silly...

BANG! (Shoot the light out)

My girlfriend spotted this one from Bitplay. It's as simple as it looks. This desk lamp comes with a gun shaped remote that you "shoot" the light on and off with. When the lamp is shot to OFF, the lampshade tilts to the side in its "wounded" position.... The shade stands back up and the light comes on when in reverse. All this fun can be yours for a mere $336.00. Okay, maybe that one was too silly. Maybe you prefer something more suited to your sophisticated tastes. How about this inconspicuous device:

Nest Thermostat

"Daniel, what's so cool about a thermostat?" Well, nothing usually but this Nest Thermostat only needs you to adjust two settings: Up & Down. Over the course of about a week, it creates a program based on the temperature changes you've made. It continuously adapts to your adjustments and offers information such as how long it will actually take before you room comes up to the desired temperature. It also signals energy saving actions with its 'Nest Leaf' logo whenever you perform them. Much like the Terminator, this is a learning machine, but this machine will cost you $249.00. Speaking of the Terminator, let's replicate something...

MakerBot 3D Replicator


Tired of two dimensional printing? Why not make your prints come to life with The MakerBot Replicator™,  the ultimate personal 3D printer. MakerBot gives you the ability to extrude your design in single or dual-color ABS plastic with a build space equal to the size of a loaf of bread. The best part about this device is the list of warnings it comes with on the website. I haven't seen such a potentially dangerous device since the Flux Capacitor or...... the Easy-Bake Oven. Just imagine what trouble you could cause for only $1,749.00. What, do you think dangerously cool gadgets are all too expensive? Well then, take a gander at this...

Evergreen Mp3 Player


Haven't we seen enough mp3 players? Yup, but the "DN-2000" from Evergreen can attach to your keychain and plays music directly from SD-memory cards (1GB max) for up to 5 hours on a single AAA battery. Those stats may not be very impressive, but this one is... The price: $8.50. It's the closest I've seen to a disposable digital music player. I'm sorry, are you too old-school for digital music? Maybe this next one is more your speed....

Soundwagon Portable Mini Record Player

The name says it all. Tired of watching your vinyl spin? Why not give them a break and let the Soundwagon do it for a change. This officially licensed VW minibus model is a fully-functional, battery powered phonograph player. It's contains a needle, amplifier and speaker that will run laps around your LP's... that's if your brave enough to turn your precious collection into a race track. $99.00 puts you behind the wheel of this micro-magic......

So, there are my top 7. I'm always on the look out for anything cool and unusual so please, feel free to drop a comment or link below if you've got something unique or kooky that we should all know about... like a machine to make it stop raining.