Painting the bathroom (They say the tortoise wins in the end, right?)

Hello world!  Happy new year!  With this delay, you probably thought that all of my tile fell off the wall and I completely gave up on the bathroom, not to mention the many other projects that await me.  In fact, the bathroom has been basically done since October, with the last pieces (shelves) taken care of in November.  I also did some landscaping and undertook yet another furniture refinishing project, but I digress.  Today’s topic is painting the bathroom, which took it from construction zone to almost-done.

The tiling was finished in early August, and Mark the contractor kindly came back and installed the shower fixtures in the nick of time for our friends from NYC to come and visit.  They got to use a freshly tiled shower in a completely hideous bathroom (imagine it with fixtures):

…at least there was a wall hanging…

Not as good as where this post is going:

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Paint’s done! Yay!  Curtain is from West Elm.

 

But still, that’s better than this original bathroom from last January:

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The next most ghastly thing to do, after installing a shower where there was none, was to paint the bathroom.  Masking off my fresh tile and the counter and the toilet without having plastic flapping around proved to be a pain in the butt.  Such a pain in the butt that I apparently did not take a picture.

Figuring that my tiling would be a bit rustic and I had a wooden countertop, I decided to theme this bathroom after a vintage Yosemite poster and even pick an object from which to pick a paint color.  Yosemite is quite possibly my favorite place on earth and appears in many places in our house.  This is the poster I liked, found at art.com:

yosemite poster

An aside on what this poster means: Camp Curry was (and is) basically a village in the park at the back of the valley with tons of campsites and tent cabins.  When the park opened, if you weren’t rich enough to stay in the luxurious Ahwahnee Hotel, you stayed in Camp Curry (named after the Curries, the couple who managed it).  The cliff you see behind it in the poster is Glacier Point, where there was another mountain house you could stay in (ironically: has since burned down).  In 1872, the keeper of that joint would put out his evening fire by kicking it over the edge of a cliff, right into a giant pine forest.  The campers below starting viewing it as an attraction to watch the fire fall off the cliff, and it remained a Yosemite practice until 1968 when the National Park Service put its hiking boot down and said no more.  (Read more.)

So, I admit a little scary that fire safety was that questionable, but it’s a cool piece of history.  I decided to paint the bathroom light blue (this was the last bucket of paint I bought before I got interested in whole house color schemes, like this method or this method), but I had a feeling that a dark green bathroom would be out of place and a bright orange bathroom would just be absurd – so I went for the blue of “Camp Curry”.  Our greenish wedding towels would also fit in well I thought.

Lesson #1: Yes, I frikkin’ learned it again: test the paint on the wall before you buy!  You see, this time I thought I had it figured out since I was just matching a poster.  I decided to try out Sherwin-Williams paint in Liquid Blue since they advertise mold/mildew-deterring paints and our old house didn’t come with bathroom fans (and I didn’t want to pay to add one in a guest bathroom).  I sprung for a quart of eggshell Emerald paint (answer to BM’s Aura) for the ceiling, this time going a shade lighter than the walls (instead of bright white) to test out this effect.  For the walls, I originally choose their Duration line because it was much cheaper. (Read the next lines really fast while I turn pink with embarrassment that no one but myself has caused….I’m choosing not to lie to give you, the reader, more confidence – you can’t possibly second guess yourself as much as I did!) Then I started putting it on the wall and it looked a whole shade lighter when wet.  I panicked.  The guy at the store offered to darken the paint a shade for free, so I took him up on the offer.  I put it on the wall.  I panicked again.  It was way-too-dark-neon-blue and the bathroom was claustrophobic.  I didn’t take a picture because I loathed the thought of revealing this publicly.  (At least I didn’t paint my garage doors pink, right, Dad?)  I crawled over to Home Depot in shame and bought Liquid Blue again (HD has all the famous brands’ colors in their computers) and slapped that on the walls, giving us this:

photo 1

This is pretty true to color on the left side of the photo.  You can also see our lovely Moen Caudwell fixtures.  The tile looks a little pinker than reality.

So, the color’s pretty cheerful (sky blue – like waking up in your Yosemite tent), but I think if I did it again (and I am not doing it again for a long while) I would’ve gone a little more teal to stay with the whole house color scheme or a little lighter so as not to shock sleepy guests!

 It may be ok to pick a color off of a thing to match the room to, but the house can end up looking like an easter egg if you tend to like very colorful things!  Fortunately, I can keep this in mind when I eventually repaint our hazelnut cream hallway and red office…oops.

Lesson#2: Of course, paintbrushes do not fit behind a toilet.  I am sure there is more than one way to deal with this, but I found that using an edger (which I did not like for actual edging) worked well.

edger

An edger from Home Depot. There’s a little fuzzy, washable pad that snaps into the other side.

 

Start at the bottom and work your way up, moving the edger back and forth behind the toilet by sliding it from hand to hand.  This way you don’t cover your arm in paint.  Probably a paint stick duct-taped to the back would do the trick nicely too.

Lesson #3: Painting your bathroom at night is a great reason to consider green energy.  The guest bathroom was the one room we hadn’t changed out the incandescent lightbulbs for LEDs or CFLs yet, and the plastic that I wrapped the fixture in sort of melted around the heat of the bulbs.  You’d think it wouldn’t take more than a PhD to figure this out, but apparently it does…  In case we forgot, that’s an awful lot of electrical energy getting wasted as heat.  I have since replaced the electricity-and-plastic-burning bulbs with CFLs.

I actually bought CFLs enclosed in globes, like these, which look just like regular lightbulbs (instead of funny curled up fluorescents).  These look great in the fixture, but do take 30-60 seconds to warm up completely to have full light.  I was surprised because this is the first time I have seen such significant delay.  My dad loved it when he visited: he said that when he got up in the dark to go to the bathroom it was great because it gave his eyes time to warm up to the light.  I find it minorly annoying since I’m impatient, but then I again, I’m also one of those people who type 33 seconds into the microwave because it’s faster than typing 3-0.  Anyway, once the bulb warms up, it looks great.

Lesson #4: I had more trouble with the SW Durable paint leaching under blue painters tape than Behr or Ben Moore Regal paint.  This paint seemed a bit thinner than these others.  Maybe this same property made it a bit more mold resistant?  Personal preference.  I’m not anti-SW though: The SW paint store has better hours, discounts, better brushes and a little sprayer thingy you can load any kind of paint into (not used for this project).

To check in after the paint job, we went from this:

No way around it.

To this:

photo 3

still more to go…

 

The vanity does not belong, the mirror is just in place so our guests could see themselves while I bought a new mirror and I ended up adding a few more features for convenience.  Stay tuned (or rather, tune back in):

Want to catch up?

Tiling: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Bathroom countertop and the dud

 

Refinishing a pic-a-nic table

“I say there, Boo Boo, I am in the mood for a pic-a-nic … table!”  -paraphrasing Yogi Bear

Everyone does know who Yogi bear is, right?  If he and his little pal were to take a trip from Jellystone and visit our yard, they would find a nice space for dining with their stolen pic-a-nic baskets.  Here is the saga of sanding and refinishing (and selecting a finish) our picnic table.

When we bought our house, the former owners asked us if we would like to keep their picnic table.  It was purchased circa 1952 from gypsies for two cans of peaches, two cans of tomatoes and five dollars.  Considering its rich history, its perfect fit to our porch, and the fact that it is in good condition and will probably seat 12 people, keeping it was a no brainer.  It might have even been made of a giant redwood that wasn’t protected by government yet, so all the more reason to keep it in service.  We found ourselves eating there a lot while we were doing some renovation before moving into the house and we like have dinner out there when it is still light.

Image

Yes, that is our kitchen table sitting behind the picnic table.  It was hanging out on the porch during the kitchen renovation.  And, if I ever finish tiling our bathroom, I have plans for it too!

There are two benches, but you get the idea in the photo.  The surface was worse for wear and pretty dirty – but since the surface was so rough, we couldn’t get it clean either.  After going in this circle a couple times and forcing guests to eat at it, I decided it was high time to refinish it.  Besides, nobody needs a splinter in their tush either.

Once again, sanding was the first step of the refinishing process*.  After my sanding experience with the bathroom countertop, my goal was to only sand this project once.  I fired up my little plug-in hand sander and went to town.  The light area on the left in the photo below is sanded and the other area is unsanded.

photo 2 (2)

First lesson: I have this 1/4″ sheet Ryobi hand sander.  It comes with two surfaces: a foam meant to soften the blow of sand paper that is clipped on, and a hard plastic piece that is for sticking adhesive sand paper to – at least I think that is the point of the hard plastic.  I can tell you that you should NOT stick adhesive sand paper to the foam pad, because it will remove the foam, especially at the corners.  And then your hand sander will cut nice circular groves in the wood, even if you cover the exposed hard corners with painting tape.  Fortunately, you can replace this assembly (or almost anything else you can figure out how to break) for about $1.00 by buying the spare parts here.  The fix took me all of 5 minutes and led to much higher quality surfaces.

sander

See how everything is kind of orangey?  That’s this dust AFTER I shopvac’ed the whole thing.

Anyway, I digress.  When I started sanding this picnic table, I really had no idea what type of wood it was even made from.  After removing the first couple layers, I concluded that it was redwood.  It seems that not all approve of using power tools on redwood, but I had a lot of damage to erase and a lot of area to cover so I just sanded away.  I actually didn’t have any of the issues I read about online – once again, there is no right answer for home improvement.

Lesson #2: Soft wood is much softer than hardwood.  🙂  I sanded the oak bathroom countertop in the garage for one of the repeats and didn’t generate noticeable dust.  My wrath on this picnic table, however, left piles of dust all over the drive.  I actually had to shop vac the driveway after the top AND the bottom of each bench and the table.  My clothes were also pretty gross.  I definitely took off a good 1/16-1/8″ of wood and damage in practically no time at all, which could be why folks don’t use power tools on soft woods.

I always wear a respirator and safety glasses when sanding since dust masks don’t fit my face well and I don’t like to breathe wood dust (nor 50-year-old gypsy paint dust).  It is surprisingly not good for you, especially in the large doses that this project generated.  This is kind of funny in a way since we visited Redwood National Park the weekend before undertaking this project, which is full of decomposing redwood dust!

After sanding, quite a bit of this dust clung to the table.  I did not have tack cloth, plus there was a complete coating of dust so I think it would’ve been futile.  Instead, I hauled the stuff into the yard and hosed it down with a jet attachment.  Again, I’m quite sure that I violated the many Rules of Handling Soft Woods, but it was very fast and efficient.  I have noticed that logging companies hose down the piles of logs, presumably to prevent fires, so one dose of water can’t be that bad.  I then toweled down the pieces and let them dry overnight.  The furniture seemed no worse for wear afterward. Here is a before (right) and after (left):

photo 3 (2)

Lesson #3: Redwood discolors after sanding.  The difference in the photo above is a dead giveaway, but that is 50 years.  What surprised me is that the sanded surface actually discolored slightly after only the week between sanding and refinishing.  It wasn’t too noticeable so I just plowed forward, but I did make an effort to sand and refinish the other bench and the table on the same weekend.

Lesson #4: There are many types of finishes that one can apply to wood.  I’m not an expert by any means, but here are the options I considered (read more here):

  • Polyurethene – oil-based coating, hard finish that goes over the wood.  Protects from scratches, hardens by cross-linking polymers (which means an actual chemical reaction leading to hardening), nasty to deal with
  • Poly-acrylic – water-based coating, hard finish, dries quickly, required sanding between coats, protects from scratches, hardens by cross-linking polymers
  • “Varnish” – this word is a general name for clear coatings, but also means a specific finish based on resin dissolved in solvent.  It dries and hardens as the resin evaporates.
  • Shellac – similar to varnish, but the resin is specifically derived from a insect’s secretion
  • Drying wax – hard finish, ingredients seem to vary – maybe like a drying oil?
  • Drying oil – naturally derived oil, dries as reacts to oxygen.
  • “Exterior wood finish” – typically oil-based (above), soaks in (won’t peel off), semi-transparent stain colors or no colors, weathers a little and protects the wood.  I am not totally sure what falls into this category or how they all work, but think naturally-colored porches.  I have found one water-based version.

My goal for finishing the table was to give it a durable (remember Tilley, who has no idea what is and is not hers?  Everything in our home must be “durable”) and water-resistant finish.  The table is under a covered porch so it will not see rain, but it does see pollen and want to be able to wipe that off with a wet cloth.  The durability was also important since I don’t want to redo this project anytime soon.  Along the same lines, I did not want to apply more than 2 coats of my chosen finish; while I’m sure tung oil looks nice, I was not up for 12 coats with a month of dry time.

I also wanted to try out a finish that is environmentally friendly.  Water-based products have more environmentally friendly options (and you don’t have to deal with flammable, hard-to-clean oil-based products).  I have come across two options of water-based sealers through searching around the web.  The first, Safecoat Acrylaq,  I found out about here.  I couldn’t tell how well this would weather.  When I emailed the company, I expected that I would be staining this wood (didn’t know it was redwood yet).  They were very helpful but they actually recommended another of their products, WaterShield, for outdoor furniture.  I couldn’t find this product locally so I can’t comment on it.

Instead, I used the other option that I found, Polywhey ExteriorWood Finish by Vermont Naturals in Caspian Clear.  I also found it to be a good sign that Vermont Naturals had a picture of folks finishing a picnic table on their website!  This product I COULD find locally in a paint store, except I think their stock was out of date so my can looks like this:

photo 3

On the website, it is labeled “Exterior Wood Stain”, which is perhaps a bit confusing since stain is not usually clear.  I emailed Vermont Naturals to ask about the discrepancy and they assure me that it is the same product.  It is actually made from whey, a cheese-making by-product that is usually waste.  So, we get double environmental points for repurposing waste AND not harming the environment with toxic chemicals in a paint finish.  For this surface area, I used two quart cans completely.  I applied it with an angled Purdy paintbrush in the middle of the afternoon.  I mention the time of day because it was HOT in direct sunlight.  The finish dried quickly on the furniture but it also left my brush a little tacky, even after cleaning, since it was drying at the top while I was finishing.  I would recommend using this finish out of direct sunlight for the comfort of your paint brush.

The finish went on purple and even milky in some places, which was a little scary at the time.  After drying, it had a nice clear color.  The wood looked a little darker than right after sanding, but this is standard for clear finishes.

photo 2

The purplish tint only lasted about 10 minutes before drying away.

I liked this product.  It was quite easy to work with, did not smell at all (no respirator needed for terrible fumes!), dried quickly and left a nice coating.  More like an exterior porch finish than a polyurenthene, the polywhey soaked into the wood (that’s the “penetrating” part) and left a subtly shiny finish.  This particular finish is not supposed to be as “hard” as a polyurethene finish, but it is perfect for an unassuming, outdoor picnic table with a history.  As to appearance, the coating isn’t as reflective as the Minwax polyacrylic that I used on the bathroom countertop.  I did not sand between coats like I would’ve with the hard finish and had no issues.  In fact, this finish did not bubble at all.  The can says to wait 2-3 days for the second coat to dry before using, but we put a water glass down after 5 days and it left a ring 😦 .  I would recommend waiting a week to avoid any issues – water glasses do not leave marks anymore.  Spilled water even beads up, as advertised:

photo 2 (3)

Here’s the finished product:

photo 1 (3)

Much nicer than the before.  (The kitchen table moved back in and now there’s backerboard there…)  Here’s a direct before and after:

photo 1 (2)photo 1 (3)

*Want to read about my first experience refinishing and appreciate what is possibly the ugliest piece of re-finished furniture in the blogsphere?  Try here, here , here and finally here.  I’ve published every mistake I’ve made so you can get off scot-free.