Friday, February 1, 2013

Bottle cap tile... What NOT to do.

 Well, we finished the refinance, have some money in the bank for projects and just as we get focused on tackling the bathrooms... we get sick. Off and on for two weeks! I am happy to say that I did manage to get a little done in that time, but the weeks of setting a date and time, arranging child care and then cancelling really frustrated me. Can you tell that I am not a patient person?

Grout - any color will do, since you won't see it. 

We are all healthy now (relatively) AND I am finally done prepping bottle caps for the bathroom! Before we start the actual remodel, I had to turn each of the bottle caps in to a tile that could be used. This meant filling each cap with grout and letting it dry. Now, I could do this as I tile, but that means at least a week of sitting on the bathroom floor every night, filling caps and placing them in the design.

Empty caps set out to fill. I used newsprint for a drop cloth.

(Okay, here is where the DO NOT DO THIS comes in. DO NOT FILL YOUR CAPS. True to form, I made this far more complicated than I should have. I am going to leave this post up, so you can see what I did. I was very worried about rust from moisture under my caps, so I filled them. Big MISTAKE. I had to relevel every tile I placed. It took FOREVER. Don't fill, just tile! And if your floor is very uneven, please please, use self leveling compound before tiling! Read on if you must...)

I chose to set aside a couple of evenings after the kids went to bed and fill as many caps as I could. I tried smearing properly prepared grout in to caps and it took 2 hours to do about 200 caps! With almost 3000 caps to fill, this still meant I was going to be putting enormous amounts of time in to filling caps. Thankfully I am a quick study and realized that a) the grout was going to have to be much thinner to fill the caps so they were level and I wouldn't have to trowel each one and b) I had to find a delivery method that would allow me to fill them quickly and to keep my hands off the caps, since each cap was sticking to my gloves.

Grout mixed too thick - added more water

Enter the pastry bag. Rather, the disposable pastry bag, since this is what I had on hand. A pastry bag would contain the grout nicely, allowing me to fill each cap as it sat on the table top. It also made clean up so much easier, since I could ditch the bag at the end of the night and only worry about cleaning out my grout bucket. For those of you who might attempt this in the future, you could use ziploc bags or something similar. I wouldn't recommend using your regular icing kit, since those are meant to be reused in the kitchen and might compromise food safety in the future.

Bad bottle caps! Time out while I figure out how to rehabilitate you.
I mixed the grout with about twice the instructed amount of water, making it in to a slurry. DO follow the instructions to use an electric drill with mixing attachment. It will eliminate lumps in the finished product. I set my pastry bag in a jar for stability and used a plastic cup to pour my grout in to the bag. Then I cut off the tip and set to work! It was still a long process, taking me a total of 5 hours to do all the caps. If the mixture is too thick, it won't self level in each cap.

Caps being filled. A squeeze bottle would also be an effective tool for filling caps.

 If it is too thin, that is less of a problem, since eventually the water WILL evaporate off, but it does take more time to dry and it is harder to manage while filling because it is so runny.
I also set aside caps that were too bent to use for my project. A floor should be as level as possible. My requirement is that the cap be level on the bottom edge, so if it was slightly dented on the top, it was acceptable. I may decide against using them once I start tiling, but for now I kept them. The bent caps went in to a warped container (see picture) to remind me that they are warped! I will try to figure out how to bend them back to a usable condition before I start tiling. I need every cap I can get!

I filled caps at night, allowing them to cure all night and then sorted them by color in to jars and containers. My kids helped with this. This can get tricky, so my criteria for sorting depended on the general color of the top - if it appeared black overall, it went in to the black jar. If it had teal on it that made it stand out significantly from the other black caps, it got its own jar. I'm hoping this will help when I get to putting the caps down in my design.

Caps sorted by color; the children were also very helpful flipping the caps before and after grouting.
Hopefully the next post will be sharing progress on the bathroom and a preview of my designs ;)

There you have it, basic instructions for prepping bottle caps tiles. Phase one complete, now on to the next step!