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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.


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:


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:


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:

dark with wood

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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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.


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!


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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The Great Tub Scrub

I sit here typing with sore arms, gouges on my index finger, and a lack of fingerprints – they’ve been scrubbed off. All in the name of Nicole Curtis – the famous DIY Network star (aka The Rehab Addict), well known for her love of old character-rich homes and especially vintage plumbing fixtures. Well Nicole, just wait until you see this before & after!

I used her recommendations to bring the homes original old tub (dated 1942 on the base) back into shiny white usefulness. Between rust stains, years of layered silicone adhesive, paint, and old stuck on duct tape, this tub had seen better days. But I knew a beautiful vintage white was hiding underneath.

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Not quite a luxury soaking tub, eh? Nicole recommends Mr Clean Magic Eraser for light staining and scuffing. For heavy stains and gunk, she claims her secret is Bar Keeper’s Friend.

Tub Scrub Nicole Curtis

I used almost an entire canister of Bar Keeper’s Friend (BKF), a nylon scratch pad, utility blade, and sponge. And believe me, it took way longer than the half hour she claims.

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The scrubbing takes a lot of elbow grease, and I continuously kept rinsing with hot water so I could see my progress. After about an hour, I had the results below.

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It really did clean up pretty good. I already have the over flow & drain assembly put together (it is easier to do this before moving the tub into place), this way as I rinsed each portion the water could just flow down the drain. Unfortunately, the drain area revealed my fears: more than just surface rust. The enameled finish is completely eaten away around the drain flange, showing the rusting cast iron underneath. The area just above the flange, where decades worth of falling water from the faucet hits, is also starting to show the gray metal through the white finish.

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These aren’t deal breakers for me. From what I’ve researched, Bondo auto body filler makes the best way to fill the pitted areas where the enamel finish is rusted through. Once dry, it can be sanded smooth with high-grit wetsand paper. Several companies make DIY tub & sink refinishing kits, either brush-on or in an aerosol can, that are supposed to be a durable solution for homeowners to refresh their tubs, just like painting. I’ve read varying reviews on these, but it sounds like if they are applied correctly (thorough scrubbing, etching, and then 2 thin coats) they can last 5-8 years looking just like new. I’m not interested in repainting the entire bathtub, but I’m thinking that is my solution for this small area around the drain.

Another 45 minutes or so of scrubbing tonight, and here is the renewed bathtub! There are a few chips, a few deep rust stains that won’t scrub out, and even a strange yellowy discolored area – but that gives it age and character. New plastic or fiberglass tubs have no place in an old home. They don’t look right, and their hollow sound doesn’t feel right. I want authenticity – the chips, the dings, the scratches and all.

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That much closer to a July 4th Holiday Tile Floor & Walls weekend spectacular. The cement board for the shower walls arrives Thursday after work, and then I turn tile pro!

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