Renovating and remodeling an old house built in the early 1800s is always full of surprises. What you think will take you a weekend can end up taking you over a week to complete. Even a simple paint job in a small bathroom.
The Turquoise Bathroom Disaster
In October 2019, my new husband and I moved into our new home, an old house built in the early 1800s.
With yellow wood floors and high ceilings, it was the home of our dreams.
Come 2020, and the dreaded Covid-19 hit. In complete lockdown and with little else to do, we started renovating our home to our preferences.
One of the tasks was to repaint our bathroom wall. Our bathroom was a bright turquoise color that we had inherited from the previous homeowners. While it was definitely a statement, it did not suit our personalities.
The bathroom was also small and dark, with only a small window for light. The walls made it look dark and dingy, and we wanted something more light and airy. On top of that, the walls looked moldy, and the paint always looked wet.
One day, we noticed that the paint was literally dripping off the walls! With only the small window and no bathroom fan, the bathroom was quickly becoming a disaster zone, and with constant humidity and moisture from the shower, it was deteriorating quickly.
We had to take action, and soon.
My husband always says the most important job of any project is prep work. Make sure you have everything you need at hand, and always ensure your workspace is clean and organized. It may seem like extra work and a waste of time, but in the long run, it helps make the project go smoother and faster.
So, we collected and put aside all the tools we thought we would need and headed to our local hardware store to purchase all the other materials and paint. We knew we wanted something light because the bathroom only had that one small window and was very dark.
After much debate, we settled on a light blue color that we hoped would brighten up the space. We also knew we needed a waterproof primer coat because of the bathroom’s damp conditions, so we chose Plascon’s Dampseal.
Materials for the job:
- Paint scraper (Amazon link)
- Chisel (Amazon link)
- Hammer (Amazon link)
- Screwdrivers (Amazon link)
- Crowbar (Amazon link) (seems strange for a paint job, but you’ll understand soon enough)
- Brush and pan (Amazon link)
- Gloves (Amazon link)
- Overalls (Amazon link)
- Sugar soap (Amazon link)
- Cloths and sponges (Amazon link)
- Patching cement (Amazon link)
- Painters tape (Amazon link)
- Drop sheet (Amazon link)
- New Paint
Removing the Fixtures
We prepped the bathroom as with any normal paint job. We started by removing the old towel racks and the old bathroom mirror.
Because we wanted to do a proper job and get in all the nooks and crannies, we decided to remove the skirting boards as well. With crowbar in hand, we got to work, and much to our horror and dismay, some of the skirting boards had started to rot.
This added more work than we had anticipated.
- New skirting boards
- Measuring tape (Amazon link)
- Sandpaper (Amazon link)
- Saw (Amazon link)
- Varnish (Amazon link)
Prepping of the Walls
As with any paint job, you need to remove as much old damaged paint as possible to start afresh. The best way to do this is to grab a paint scraper, get in behind a bit of old paint and scrape it off.
With most paint jobs, scraping paint is a relatively easy part, as most of the paint should come off in thin sheets.
It started off smoothly, with most of the paint coming off quite easily. The tricky part was the wet drippy paint. That took quite a lot of scraping, scrubbing, wiping, some good old elbow grease, and a lot of patience. Finally, we managed to remove as much of the tacky paint as possible.
The Hidden Work
We were feeling pretty confident at this point and started to remove some of the old cracked plaster. Until disaster struck; part of the wall started to crumble along with the plaster.
You know that old saying, “They don’t build things like they used to”? This doesn’t really run true for all aspects of an old house. And this is the biggest lesson we’ve learned from living in this old house.
Our walls were old stone walls put together with clay and water. Now clay is very durable and can last over 100 years. But when your house is almost 200 years old, that’s a different story.
The clay in our walls had dried up, and the “cement” started to crumble. When we removed the old plaster, a lot of the old clay came with it. We were not prepared for this turn of events, and it quickly became clear this was not a simple DIY paint job anymore.
With a giant hole in our wall, we now had to halt the paint job and repair the hole.
- Expansion foam (Amazon link)
The hole was big; it was elbow deep, and we were going to need quite a lot of concrete. Because we wanted a high-strength concrete, we mixed one part cement with two parts sand and two parts stone. If you don’t have a cement mixer at home, this can be quite tough on your hands.
I suggest mixing the cement and sand first to get a nice, even mixture. While wearing gloves, I used my hands to mix the cement and sand in a large bucket. I found this method the easiest.
Don’t forget to wear a mask as the fine cement particles can irritate the airways.
Next, I added the stone and to mix, I used a large stick to help save my fingers. Once I had a consistent mixture, I slowly added the water until I achieved the correct consistency. You don’t want it too wet as it won’t hold its shape, but you also don’t want it too dry as it won’t bond to the other surfaces.
Ensuring the concrete mixture is properly mixed before adding water will ensure you won’t get patches of cement or sand. Having patchy concrete will cause it to crumble when it dries. So you want to ensure the mixture is consistent throughout.
We cleaned out the hole and removed as much loose clay and rock as we could find, and started packing in the concrete. It was messy, time-consuming, and not at all fun. But we soldiered on, and eventually, we had a somewhat stable surface to work with again.
Once we had the hole packed up, there was still a very large crack all the way up the corner of the wall. So my husband went out and bought his new favorite DIY tool. Expansion foam.
This miraculous foam comes in a tube similar to silicone, you spray it into holes and crevices, and it starts to expand, filling in all the gaps. It hardens and creates an airtight, waterproof seal. It’s often used in homes as insulation.
With the big hole repaired, we could turn our attention to the smaller cracks. We used patching cement to fill in and smooth any cracks we saw. Because it was an old house, there were quite a few cracks to repair.
I quite enjoyed this part. It was like icing a cake. You need your patching cement to be the perfect consistency, not too wet but not too dry. Then apply it with a trowel and make sure it’s as smooth as possible.
Unlike a cake, though, it doesn’t make too much of a difference if it isn’t as smooth as you’d like. Once the patching cement is dry, you can easily wipe it smooth with a wet cloth. If it’s really bumpy—like how my husband leaves it—a light sanding with high grit sandpaper will do the job as well.
Just don’t go overboard with the sanding. You don’t want to end up removing too much cement or you’ll have to redo the crack.
Cleaning and Masking
Once the walls were dry from their extensive makeover, the next step was to make sure they were clean and free of any dust or dirt.
To achieve this, we used sugar soap, a powerful cleaning solution that’s specifically designed for removing grime, grease, and other stubborn stains from surfaces.
While wearing gloves, we mixed the sugar soap with warm water and then used a sponge to apply it to the walls.
We made sure to work in small sections at a time, scrubbing the walls thoroughly to remove any dirt and leftover paint residue.
Once we had cleaned the entire surface, we rinsed it with clean water and then left it to dry completely.
After the walls were dry, we masked off all the areas we didn’t want to get paint on. This included things like the shower, the toilet, and any fixtures that couldn’t be removed from the bathroom.
We used painter’s tape, a special type of masking tape that’s designed to stick firmly to surfaces without leaving any residue.
For larger areas like the floor, we decided to take extra precautions and cover it with black painting sheets. This not only protected the floor from any accidental paint spills but also made it easier to move around and work in the bathroom without worrying about scuffing up the wooden floors.
The Big Paint Job
Six days later, with the prep finally complete, it was time to start painting. We put on some music, donned our painting clothes, and got to work. We painted two layers of the waterproof primer, leaving the first coat to dry overnight before applying the second.
Already the room was looking lighter, cleaner, and so much brighter.
We were feeling pretty good at this point. We had repaired the damage, applied the primer coat, and chosen the right color. It was time for the final two layers of paint.
After a full day of painting with two hours in between coats for drying times, we were finished. We removed the painter’s tape and cleaned up.
It looked great, but we weren’t quite finished yet. We replaced the bathroom mirror with a vanity and attached it to the wall, and we put up new towel racks.
We still had to deal with the skirting boards, which we had removed the week before. We measured, cut and varnished new ones and then screwed them into place. We decided to screw them in as opposed to nailing, so if we ever decided to repaint the bathroom, we could easily remove them.
What we had hoped would take us the weekend actually took us just over a week. It was a tedious and time-consuming process, but when we stepped back and looked at our handiwork, we felt a sense of pride and accomplishment.
The bathroom looked brand new, and the light blue color transformed the space into a tranquil oasis.