Bathroom renovations = nightmare

Jennifer and I are in the process of “redesigning” our downstairs main bathroom … the one we use since the one upstairs is small and not fit for “daily” use.
As in most older homes, the downstairs bathroom is small, so size isn’t the issue here. But everything else seems to be an issue:

• We peeled the wallpaper from the walls and ceiling (yes, ceiling), only to see a layer of water stains and mildew that we’ve had to use bleach to get off.
• The aformentioned ceiling has a second thinner wallpaper layer that is sticking to the ceiling. We’ve purchased the spray that’s supposed to dissolve wallpaper, but it doesn’t work well. The heat gun only catches it on fire. Any suggestions, I’m open to them.
• The bottom half of our wall is more of a concrete surface, and while peeling the paint away with a heat gun, we discovered a layer of green paint from probably the 30s … a layer that is almost surely filled with lead, which means we can’t use the heat gun. I did anyway for about an hour yesterday, and now I’m scared that I have lead poisoning.
• Parts of the wall around our bathroom mirror is chipping away … like big chunks … so I used a half a jug of spackle yesterday to fill that in.
• There is not real “ventilation” in the bathroom, except for a window, so I’ve been breathing in paint fumes and bleach fumes for a week now.

So now I’ve made our bathroom a construction zone. It’s currently completely unusable, unless you like bathing with paint chips, and I’ve got family coming in for Thanksgiving.
Once we get the walls primed and painted (as well as the cabinets and window panes), it will look 100 times better … something we can be proud of. But up to now, it’s been a giant mess and a pain the butt. We’re going to leave the ceiling alone for now and come back for that after the walls are done.

I just thought I’d share. I don’t write as much as I’d like to at this site anymore, but I want to start again. And what better way to get started than to vent about poorly done housework?


9 thoughts on “Bathroom renovations = nightmare

  1. Billy, swing by and get my wallpaper steamer. It will save your sanity and help it peel off much easier. It has a good sized plate. Just score the paper lightly and apply steam. Big time results.

  2. That is exactly what I was going to recommend the wallpaper steamer. Much easier job. Wear long sleeves when using it as the steam can burn your arms.
    And for future use: instead of buying that expensive liquid to peel wallpaper, Downey fabric softner in a spray bottle with a small amount of water works just as well.

    And yes – ahhhhh love old home renovation. Have redone 4 baths from ugly to guts to totally great. Don’t pity the work.
    But it will be amazing when you are done.

    Good luck and hurry company coming soon 🙂

  3. Yes, second on the steamer and be sure to get one of the perforator rollers for the wall-paper which will help the solvent and/or steam get behind the paper.

    With regard to the lead, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. You have to just about ‘smoke’ the old paint to release enough lead as fumes to matter, and as adults the issues with paint induced lead poisoning is greatly reduced anyway versus children as a matter of body volume. If you are ‘smoking’ the paint with the heat-gun, you are letting it get too hot.

    If you are still fighting with the gun, I also have a infrared paint remover you can borrow along with specialty scrapers:

    With regard to paint removal, as you are no doubt discovering, there is no one solution for every surface or paint. You’ll likely have to use a combination of chemicals(recommend soygel, safe non-toxic, well LESS toxic), heat(gun and/or IR), and of course good old scraping. Old dental tools are ‘the bomb’ for the last fine work.

    Just be glad you don’t have ‘milk paint’ as no normal modern solvents will touch it!

    One last consideration, choose your ‘spackle’ carefully and find one that is more water resistant. Most aren’t water friendly, and if you take lots of hot steamy showers, or the patches are close to a source of water… your patches can start to swell, crack, or even dissolve. If you had real plaster, try to replace it with the same. It still isn’t waterproof, but it is more resistant than skim coat or some spackling. Your final paint coats will help to protect it, but moisture will still penetrate if given the opportunity. You mention a ‘concrete’ like wall, so I’m thinking it may be real plaster… it’s odd that wouldn’t go all the way up the wall though *shrug* I wonder if you had tile at one point that someone removed??

    Good luck, and although I always fail to live by my own advice 🙂 ….just pick one big project at a time, wrap it up, then you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something versus being overwhelmed.

    I’m sure it will turn out great 🙂


  4. I had the same issue when we re-did our bathroom (except we didn’t have wallpaper on the ceiling). For the walls, we steamed off the wallpaper only to find another layer of wallpaper that wasn’t coming off.

    A friend of mine who is a general contractor gave me this advice. Go get some Joint Compound. Spread it on the walls as evenly as you can. Let it dry and go back and sand down any parts so that it is smooth. Basically at this point you have unpainted drywall. Then when you paint you can add texture or whatever to cover up any of the imperfections.

  5. I have another suggestion for removing the wallpaper. A jug of 99-cent washer fluid (the normal stuff, not the stuff with Rain-X or bug repellent) works better than fabric softener. It doesn’t leave a film on the wall, which makes it much easier to paint later. Just score the wallpaper lightly with a razor blade or scoring tool, spray the washer fluid on the wall and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Don’t let it dry out. It should peel off easily… if not, spray it again and let sit it a little longer.

    This was the only thing that worked on the vinyl-like wallpaper in our guest bath. I am not sure how well it will work if there is paint over the wallpaper, but for 99 cents, it’s worth a try.

  6. Sent you an earlier email on topic of wallpaper removal. Try half liquid fabric softener and half warm to hot water in a spray bottle. This works for most people. It helps to lightly score the old wall paper as well.

    google “remove wallpaper with fabric softener” for more tips.

  7. As a chemist that used to produce those 99 cent washer fluids, check the label!! If it lists Methanol or methyl alcohol, don’t use it in a poorly vented space. The methanol will evaporate and fill the space with alcohol vapor, this creates a fire/explosion hazzard. Even if you keep all flame sources away you will be breathing it in and absorbing it through your skin. This might give you a buzz like a couple of shots of booze or just the mother of all headackes. but while it it is attacking your brain it will be destroying your liver. Methanol or methyl alcohol is also known as wood alcohol and you must have heard stories about the results of drinking it. It is just as dangerous when inhaled or absorbed! It is used because it is cheap and for outdoor use, usually not used in household window cleaners which I suggest you use instead.

  8. Yeah i can imagine, its hard huh? I remember our bathroom reno we tried to do it ourselves and its turned up into a mess and the last straw was when the plumbing gave in and there was water everywhere. We called in the pros at St Ives Bathrooms and we had ourselves a new bathroom in 3 days!

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