bathroom redo

24 Aug

Our bathrooms were ugly.  Most everything except the bones of our apartment is ugly.  It’s builder basic, as the Internet calls it, with a side of cheap and a sprinkling of inexplicable.  Why our light fixture thingamajig?  The lights were cheap and melted themselves so that the glass falls out of the plastic and smells of burning.  There’s this weird dust-collector ledge for our lights even though we have eight foot ceilings.  The wood is fake maple, with plastic-y polyurethane — at least I assume it’s polyurethane.  I think it’s not maple because I can put a dent in it by looking at it wrong.  Same cabinets as our kitchen, where they’ve been stained fake cherry (and this is the most egregious part, because I was raised by a woodworker who loved, loved real cherry) with a slightly less shiny I-assume-it’s-also-polyurethane.  But no less ugly.

I figured the guest bathroom, being infrequently used, was the perfect place to learn.  It’s the first room I painted in this house, and certainly in a long time.

I resolved to paint the vanity with spray paint after seeing it cooed over on so many DIY design blogs. Perfect coverage! So easy! No brushstrokes!  These people are not using it inside.  Or maybe they are crazy.  More on that in a bit.

As much for my reference as yours, here’s how to paint a room the right way:

1. Remove everything from the room that’s not nailed down.  Belongings, furniture, everything.

2. Time for the stuff that’s nailed down!  Remove all light switch covers, grates, and hardware you’re not painting.  Set aside, preferably in little plastic baggies.  If you can lose a screw, you will.

I had my heart set on ripping down the ugly light fixture and its god-awful molding above the mirror.  From what I could tell it was screwed into the wall and I saw caulk on at least one side.  I didn’t have a utility knife, so I took a steak knife and sort of prodded at the caulk until I was satisfied it was perforated.  Then I pried out each of the screws, which spun in place when I used the electric drill (I later learned they were toggle bolts) and had to be twisted out with pliers.  The trick with toggle bolts is to maintain pull while you turn them; the bolt can come out, and the toggle falls into the wall. I was so proud when I pulled it down!

The towel bars were no treat either.  They were attached with enormous drywall anchors — like a screw with metal wings halfway.  (Also toggle bolts.)  Thankfully, half of these had never opened and I was able to pop them back out with wings closed.  When I was done, there were twelve huge holes in the wall, plus the shredded drywall where the vanity light had been, plus the gaping hole (at least three inches) I discovered the contractors had hidden behind it.

Four thin coats of spackle set me back a whole day.  I’d wanted to pull off a magic afternoon bathroom transformation, but instead the Boyfriend came home to find the bathroom swathed in rolls of plastic like I was planning to commit a murder, Dexter-style.

Whoops. I know better now, so I’m going to chalk this up to learning, too.  You can’t sneak-renovate (at least until you’re very, very good).  It will take ten times as long as you think and three times the money and really, you can use all the commiseration you can get.

After your last coat of spackle dries, sand it smooth.  Vacuum all the dust and wipe your baseboards with a damp cloth so your painter’s tape will stick. I know, this seems stupidly finicky … but ask me how I know.

3. Tape!  Tape everything.  I tape the ceiling, although I think some people do not.  2″ should keep your roller from bumping.  It doesn’t hurt to have paint that matches the ceiling and trim for touch-ups.

4. Edge. My $10 “Paint Kit” at Home Depot included rollers and a bristle brush, so that is what I used.  I destroyed my brush, which was the cheapest thing ever to be called a brush.  It looks fine, as long as you don’t look for brushmarks in the corners.  Whatever …

5. Paint! Rollers are your friend.

6. Let dry completely. Try not to stress about the mess.

7. Remove painter’s tape, reinstall any hardware you’re keeping, scrub the paint off the floor, enjoy.

It’s been months and there is still spray paint residue on the tile.  I’m pretty sure there will be forever.  At least I don’t see it anymore, and the Boy hasn’t said anything.  Most of the overspray that filtered onto everything else (toilet, shower, MY LUNGS) has taken care of itself through many cleanings, except maybe the spray in my lungs which will be found on my autopsy.  Repeat: IT IS NOT WORTH SPRAYING PAINT INSIDE, SERIOUSLY IT’S NOT.  Everything smelled like death and chemicals and we didn’t sleep well for a week.

Well, now I know.

I should rename this blog “well, now I know”.

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