Stripping takes Work

Stripping PAINT, that is!

Every preservation, renovation, and old-house enthusiast book says it is inevitable. In almost every older home where the woodwork is worth saving, there will be paint to strip. And the humble bungalow is no exception (check out the photo tour to see the woodwork & built-ins, noticing almost all if it is painted). And most likely, layer upon layers of old paint. If I could meet the owner who first took a paintbrush to nearly every piece of trim and floorboard in my home…

So as I tackle room by room, it is my goal to strip the paint and reveal the wood underneath. Worth the work? I’m not sure. But it will be a good test in patience. Besides, long tedious work like that is therapy for my OCD tendencies.

Since I removed all the woodwork from the bathroom before demo, I could strip them piece by piece in the garage. My weapons of choice?

Heat gun and an old school Red Devil paint scraper.

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Heat, scrape, repeat. And try not to scorch the wood underneath the paint. Luckily those dark spots sanded out pretty well.

Then it was time to find the perfect stain. I don’t have photos of this process, but it involved about 17 different cans of Minwax stain. Just imagine wiping on, wiping off, applying a 2nd layer, letting them dry, applying a 3rd layer, overlapping different colors in more than a dozen color combinatinos. And still no luck. So I hit my local Sherwin Williams store armed with a piece of unpainted trim as my sample color, and a piece of stripped & sanded board to have them mix a custom color. Sure enough, she walked over to the shelf and grabbed the only can of Minwax I apparently don’t already own (Rich Mahogony Gel Stain) and it turned out the be the perfect color.

So away I went, using a soft rag to stain each board with 2 coats, then brushing on 2 coats of polyurethane semi-gloss. I decided to stain & poly them before re-installing around the door & window frame so I wouldn’t have to be so careful not to get any on the recently painted bathroom walls.

I had to cut down the window trim quite a bit. As a refresher, here was the window before bathroom demo:

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Now with the tub moved, I tiled up about 3/4 the height of the window. I found this photo early on of another bathroom with a window in the rub/shower area, and decided I liked the look:

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The tile ends and the woodwork finishes around the upper part of the window just like if it were any other window frame in the house. Of course my house doesn’t have bulls-eye rosettes, but I followed the same idea using the craftsman trim in my house.

bath window trim rough

I am still on the fence about the stained wood look in the bathroom. It’s a little old school but I like how masculine it looks. Granted these photos were taken at night so the lighting isn’t great, but the woodwork does help make the walls look navy and not black. And I still have to fill the little holes made by the trim nailer. I found this photo when I was looking for bathroom inspiration, and this contrast is the look I’m after:

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Perhaps if I throw in some pale green towels & artwork as accent color, it will start to feel perfect. Until then, I’m still admiring how far the bathroom has come – and trying not to think back on how long it has taken.

bath window before after

 

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Getting a Handle on Things

Following this year’s Christmas celebrations with family and friends, it is rewarding to be in my own place! Yep, the weekend before Christmas I finally got moved into the house! It was a push to finish the cleaning & scrubbing every room needed, but several friends pitched in and many hands make light work. The move wasn’t all that terrible either, I actually drug it out an entire week. Each day after work I would fill up my car with boxes and slowly unload them into the house, allowing me to unpack slowly and not get overwhelmed. (It was also a chance to realize that I might be a little bit of a pack rat, so I did quite a bit of purging, putting to work my recycling & trash pick up services these last two weeks.) And after all those family Christmas parties, it was nice to relax. At home. Alone. And quiet.

Beyond unpacking, organizing, tossing out, & cleaning more, I haven’t gotten to a whole lot of work inside the house. But now with a working bathroom, it was time to finish the drawers for the bathroom vanity. I had already completely disassembled & rebuilt each drawer to fit around the sink and drain plumbing. Unfortunately though, the drawers didn’t open or close well because the drawer faces were so tight to the dresser frame.

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So before I attached the handles, I found where they were rubbing the dresser openings and got acquainted with my block plane to hone down the top edges of the drawer fronts. A small pile of wood shavings later, and they open & close without scraping. I even had room to attach little plastic drawer glides inside the dresser to help them operate more smoothly. Once I stained and sealed the raw edges with polyurethane, all that was left was to attach the handles.

What handle do you affix to an antique dresser turned sink vanity? The ones that were on the dresser when I bought it were made of cheap metal and the gold finish was rubbing off. The rest of the finishes in the bathroom are brushed steel, so I found these unassuming handles and I think they are just the right size. Enough that I can easily open the drawers, but they don’t take away from how bold the dark wood vanity looks in a sea of white tile.

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The bottom drawer was entirely busted apart, I didn’t even attempt to fix it. I’m thinking eventually I’ll put a thin board underneath and have a couple baskets to hold towels, soaps, etc.

Next project? Stripping paint & staining the bathroom woodwork for around the window & doorway. The boards are already pulled off their frames, I just have to strip & sand years of old paint off. And once that is finished, I will let myself build a medicine cabinet.

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Great Porcelain Scrub, Part II

I’ve learned from the DIY host Nicole Curtis that sometimes old plumbing fixtures just need some tough love in the form of elbow grease and lots of scrubbing. I realized what she meant when it was time to either clean or scrap the old cast iron tub. So now it was onto the original kitchen sink that was still in the house.

What that really means, is I’m starting to actually transition from demo/messmaking mode into cleaning and putting away mode! I’ve set the move-in date for the end of November, which means I have an entire workshop of tools and such to move OUT of the house and then a total scrub down of every surface in every room! No, it won’t be the Taj Mahal, but at least it will be clean and I can then work on 1 room at a time – no more tearing out floors or demoing plaster walls.

So I started with the kitchen area. Tonight after work I went to town on the kitchen sink and window.

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The kitchen sink is the same to me as the bathtub – sure they are filthy and a few dings here and there, but they are original. They give the house that bit of character and charm that says old but loved. Sure there are a few blemishes, but so do all vintage pieces – and those imperfections make it perfect for this house and for the kitchen I have in my mind.

But an hour and some elbow grease and voila!

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It’s shiny and white again, thanks to a little Bar Keepers Friend and a well worn Scotch-Brite pad. Not a bad before & after! (Ignore the extra hole to the left of the faucet – I’ve got it plugged from underneath for now, but when I finally – or if I ever- get to the full kitchen renovation, that will be a great spot for either a faucet sprayer OR this handy air switch for a in-sink disposal!)

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