A tiled terrace at last

The problem with older workers is their (or should I say our) joints; be it wrist, shoulder, knee or back, they always have somewhere that hurts. The French have a name for this type of person; les tamalous, derived from the phrase “tu as mal ou?”, meaning “where do you hurt?”. We’re both feeling rather tamalou-ish at the moment.

Nick having finished cementing the terrace, the obvious next step was to tile it; we’ve had the tiles for years now, so we dug a box out and were relieved to find that we still like them. They’re fairly plain, so we decided to do a border around the edge with a herringbone pattern in the middle. But when we took out the rest of the tiles, there didn’t seem to be very many boxes, in fact the area of tiles was very little more than the area to be covered; so I drew out the planned design to scale – there certainly wouldn’t be enough to do a herringbone. The only explanation I can think of is that we bought them on a whim, without measuring properly first, as it usually takes us months to find tiles that we like; we obviously underestimated.

Not willing to wait till lockdown is over in order to find toning tiles that would work as a border, we went for plan B; a brick design, with a border around the edges if possible. I drew it out and it looked possible, provided we had no breakages, but whether or not we’d have enough to go into the two doorways leading off the terrace remained to be seen.

Since he tiled the downstairs of the house, Nick’s knees haven’t been as good as they might be and the tiles were too big and unwieldy for me to spread with tile adhesive, so Nick buttered while I laid them in place.

Day 1 saw the border done, and found a broken tile in the first box; day 2, just a long morning, saw us about halfway through the middle, with only 40 something tiles still to fit. I know it’s never a good idea to compare yourself with others, but I had to think of Rob, our neighbour, who can lay 65 square metres of tiles in a day, single handed! He really makes me feel inadequate as we were only laying 24 square metres. On day 3 we thought we should be able to finish in another long morning, but there was a lot of cutting to do, not to mention the carefull planning to use as much of every tile as possible; we had no room for error or unnecessary waste. Somehow it was after 6pm by the time we’d packed everything away. It was a nailbiting finish, in tiling terms; the middle section completed, we had two tiles left. Our bedroom doorway needed 4 large halves; if we turned the tiles the other way, two would do, but there’d be a 3cm wide gap behind them, to be filled with cement or grout, not an attractive finish. Nick had just about convinced me that we had no option but to use the indoor tiles, a similar shade, for the doorway, when I spotted the bucket of waste. There were enough left over strips to fill in the gap. Problem solved. The door to the chaufferie had to be done in chaufferie tiles, but that’s not too important. And looking at the bucket of waste pieces, I have to think this must be one of the meanest bits of tiling ever!

The total waste from 24 square metres of tiles.

Now there’s just the long, slow task of the grouting to do, a bit at a time and for this it’s possible to work either sitting or stretched out, but definitely not on our knees. We’ve lived with the concrete terrace for so many years now, that we hardly noticed it any more; it’s a treat every day to look out at the tiles.

We really should have stopped at lunchtime on day 3; I’m sure that one day soon we’ll both stop aching, but at the moment Nick’s back is a bit creaky and my knees object to my going downstairs – a real couple of tamalous!