What I\’ve learned about working with Marmoleum click tiles

After spending the better part of two weekends on it, the kitchen floor is exactly six tiles away from being complete.

I guess this is as good of a time as any to share what I’ve learned.If you mark the tiles with pencil, the pencil marks come off really easily with a little soap and water. This is good, because I don’t think I ever got my measurements right the first time.

The later at night it gets, the more likely I am to measure something wrong. I cut two tiles close to the counters too short. I can cover up the gap, but I shouldn’t have needed to. Note to self: Check measurements at least one more time than seems necessary.

T-rail is ridiculously expensive. I’m not going to pay $25 apiece for the t-rail I need for the two doors. I’ll buy a couple of $3 3-foot lengths of hobby wood, then I’ll stop off at the hobby shop for a piece of 1/4″ square basswood if I can’t find something similar at the big box store (I’ll probably need a dollar’s worth). I’ll glue and clamp them together, then finish it how I like, and probably have something better for 1/6 the cost.

Quarter round is ridiculously expensive too. The original baseboards from my kitchen are in the basement. A previous owner reused some of it in place of quarter round the last time the kitchen floor was redone, but there’s plenty left. I’ll use some of that instead.

Use at least a 25 TPI blade to cut the tiles. Tom Gatermann came over yesterday to help me cut some tiles. He found that coarse blades just don’t cut the tile as quickly or easily as a fine blade does.

Using his bandsaw, I can cut a tile in about five minutes, even for weird cuts like around doors. I think Tom might have taken a bit longer than that sometimes, but his cuts are a lot straighter than mine too. But that’s the nice thing about click tiles–the cuts will be hiding under quarter round or baseboards or some other kind of moulding.

Don’t leave difficult spots in the middle of the room, like around your stove, until later. It’s really hard to come back and click tiles into place when the surrounding tiles are already down. You can do it, but it takes a lot longer, and your chances of leaving a gap somewhere are a lot higher.

Get a pullbar for laminate floors, and use it to slam the tiles together. You can get one for about $7 at a big-box store, and it’ll save you hours. It might be the best seven bucks I ever spent.

Most of the time, the pullbar is the right tool to put tiles together. Occasionally, you’ll need to bang the tiles with a piece of 2×4 to get them to move together. It seems to me that about a 10-inch length of 2×4 is about perfect for those cases.

This stuff never should have fallen out of fashion. I guess linoleum fell out of favor in the 1960s and 1970s because vinyl offered a greater variety of colors and patterns, but that’s a shame because it’s wonderful stuff. It’s extremely easy to clean. It’s durable and to an extent, it’s self-healing. I’ve watched it heal itself after minor mishaps. Linoleum is expensive, and the Marmoleum click tiles border on ridiculously expensive, but it will outlast pretty much anything else you can put down and it won’t drive you nuts trying to keep it clean.

And now I know why kitchens are expensive. Everything that goes into them is expensive, and you end up needing a lot of little things. Some of these things are easy enough to make yourself–transition pieces for other types of flooring come to mind, but that requires some time and at least a little skill. So you’ll either pay for material, or you’ll spend more time to save some money.

What’s an aluminum can worth?

I saw someone out scrounging for aluminum cans recently. That made me wonder, what’s an aluminum can worth?

I remember my Dad telling me once that as he drove to one of the many remote hospitals in southern Missouri that he used to cover, he got used to seeing a couple on a riding lawnmower, driving along the shoulder of the road, picking up cans. He commented that he didn’t realize aluminum was worth enough to make that worthwhile.

Being a notorious cheapskate–so much so that the indigenous people of the Himalayas have a folk song about me–I decided to find out.

There’s a recycling place between home and work that I drive past whenever I’m hitting the grocery store on the way home. It posts its aluminum prices where they’re highly visible from the roadside. Price varies; I’ve seen it as high as 39 cents a pound and probably as low as 33 cents a pound.

Lacking a scale with enough precision to weigh a can, I did a Web search and found someplace saying that a pound of aluminum makes about 36 cans.

So, in south St. Louis in 2004, an aluminum can is worth about a penny. But I’ll grant that it has the advantage of being more likely to be sitting on the side of the road, and being far more visible.

Why that high? Aluminum isn’t a rare element by any means but it’s more expensive to process than iron or copper or tin. I’ve heard it said that you can estimate the amount of energy required to process an aluminum can by filling the can with gasoline. So a gallon of gasoline produces enough energy to refine enough bauxite into aluminum to make 10.75 cans.

At a penny a can, it’s certainly not worth my time to go out hunting them, as I’m sure I can’t find 500 of them in an hour. And I save a lot more money by not drinking soda than I’d save by saving the cans. (If you don’t want to give up soda, try cutting back and/or changing to generics. How much you save will amaze you.)

But is it worth my while to save the cans I do inevitably end up with? Sure. Also remember, a lot of other food containers are made partially of aluminum. We use aluminum foil all the time in our kitchens. Pie pans and other disposable food containers are often made of aluminum. My yogurt and applesauce containers have an aluminum foil lining under the lid.

Ten pounds of aluminum yields enough cash to pay for lunch at the cafeteria at work. I don’t know yet if I can accumulate 10 pounds in a month, or if it’ll take all year. But there’s only one way to find out.

Maybe I’ll find that it takes too long. But if that’s the case, my church saves cans. If everyone who goes to my church donated a pound of aluminum a month, we’d be talking $300-$400. And that’s enough money to do something at least semi-serious.

What’s an aluminum can worth? If you guessed a penny a can, you have my congratulations.