Let the Tiling Begin!

Once we’d finished shingling the 4th roof we were asked to move to tiling so that trim work could begin as soon as the sheetrock crews were finished. Tiling happens to be my other favorite thing besides roofing and I was pretty excited to start. I love the precision that tiling without spacers requires, and the constant lining up of the squares to other squares. For me, its a very active, deliberate task.

That being said, all the things I love about tiling are the things that can make it so frustrating: again and again I found that when we brought lines of tiles around to meet up with existing tiles they weren’t quite right. The bar for competency, in my opinion, is higher for tiling than most other tasks. As careful as we all were, things were not always perfect. And since I was aiming to make the best possible floors for the homeowners it was slightly upsetting at times when our grout lines were inconsistent.

However, I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to have learned to tile without spacers for anything; I have since tiled at other Habitat affiliates using spacers at their request and have learned that the only difference it that when you rely on spacers instead of trusting your eye you usually still end up with slight inconsistencies – but that you might not catch them in time to mitigate the effect on the grout line(s). Hence, even if it takes more time and induces self-doubt, I still prefer relying on my eye and ending up with a superior product.

Though there were days when tiling was halted for a tasks such as group painting, shingling the last roof, etc., I spent the majority of the next 5-6 weeks tiling the 5 houses. The number of willing volunteers and their expereince dictated whether I’d do more supervising or actual tiling however. Frequently I did both, operating as sort of a crew leader: Doing lay out, making decisions on strategy (usually consulting from the actual Habitat Construction Supervisor!), and teaching other volunteers while laying tile in the meantime. Being a crew leader – a role that requires directing, teaching, and decision-making but also involves actual work – is not uncommon for me at this point. Just as I learned skills and methods working with other more-experienced Care-a-vanners, I now frequently have the opportunity to pass on what I’ve learned and help those who have less experience while working with them. Less common for me is straight-up supervising in which I don’t actually do the task at all but rather instruct people on what they need, where to get it, how to set it up, how to do the actual thing, and how to fix the inevitable issues.

The more I’ve done both crew leading and supervising the more I’ve come to really love the teaching aspect of it – as well as helping people accomplish the task and create a meaningful experience. I love doing the actual work of building houses, pounding nails and laying tile and screwing in sheetrock, but being able to facilitate and empower people to accomplish something they want to do is something I’ve decided I want to spend more time doing. Luckily, the past 3 months at Mesilla Valley I’ve had numerous opportunities to lead and teach and learn how to do it better – for which I’m very grateful indeed. I am looking forward to continuing my education and then passing it on.

Using my Christmas present for the first time to do lay out! I looooooove this laser.

Mixing up some thinset

Steve working the staircase in the main room of Desiree’s house

Desiree’s grouted floor

Harvey working on Juanita and Ernesto’s laundry room

Darnell wet-sawing

Tom tiling the Master Bath Juanita and Ernesto’s house

Bruce tiling in Erica’s house

Celebration of being able to do plunge cuts with the new wet saw

Tom and Steve tiling Valerie’s main room

Steve working on his planks… and also trying to squeeze out excess mortar in order to match tile heights

One of the many intersting positions of tiling

Chiseling out the humps on a particularly uneven section of the slab

Tom tiling Valerie’s house

Bob crafting some tricky cuts on Jessica’s house

Volunteer Rain from Lockheed Martin

Tiling Extraordinaire Janet doing the master bath on Jessica’s house

Finishing up on grout day at Jessica’s house