Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bathroom Renovations

Jules over at Pancakes & French Fries invites her readers every Thursday to share how they have lived according to the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

I usually resign myself to reading her always inspiring endeavors, and also click through most of the other readers who have linked up to her post. Then I say to myself, "I really should use this as a push to get some things looking nice (or simply fixed) around the house," to which my self replies by sitting on the couch.

So when sweetie suggested we take our first weekend with no plans to renovate the bathroom, I was glad to accept the push. Oh, plus it was gay pride week. So I guess we could say we were taking part in the festivities by gettin' our dyke on. Actually, we *did* say that - and then proceeded to laugh at ourselves. Anyway, I'll post progress photos below, but first let me give you an idea of how this seemingly simple project was anything but.

When we first moved in (2 years ago!) and were ripping wallpaper from the rest of the house, we had trouble in one room with the paper not coming off. We eventually used a paint roller to apply water to the walls and it bubbled right off. Excellent until we found out that they'd wallpapered directly over wallboard - no paint layer in between to protect the paper. Eek! That's a story for another day but it helps to illustrate how a seemingly straightforward project can go off the rails in this house.

It's suffice to say that when the nasty country-bumpkin border in the bathroom didn't seem to want to budge, we decided it could wait. Every now and then, one of us would get a spurt of motivation and start picking at it again. So after 2 years, we had a border in the bathroom that was glue residue with a few accents of paper residue. It was ugly. Every time I'd go into the bathroom, I would feel a heavy burden and loathing for the project that neither of us wanted to tackle.

Until now.

On Friday after getting home from work, we removed the imposing cabinet from above the toilet and then started scraping what we thought was wallpaper glue from the walls. Glue that's been steamed and dried many many times over the years. Two hours later and neither of us had gotten even a foot section done. That glue did NOT want to budge!

We used the water & fabric softener "trick" that's worked well for us in the past. It softened it just enough to dig into it - at which point I used a putty knife to get it into little balls that stuck to the wall. Then I used a sponge to wipe off the little balls. If this were normal, non-mutant glue the fabric softener would have worked like it has before because it would break down the glue starch but apparently this is special won't-come-off-in-steam bathroom glue from hell.

We tried some sort of store bought gel product that was no more help than the water. My next plan of attack was to use drywall screen sand paper (after the glue had dried from our other efforts) but was only successful in smoothing the glue, not sanding it off.

A little online forum searching resulted in a recommendation to use a heat gun (I have a hair dryer?) and trying to scrape it up while it's gummy hot. I didn't want to try it but Sweetie did while I was at the night job and said it softened the glue but then it had to be rubbed off with her fingers - like balling up rubber cement - and after about a 3-inch section of rubbing her fingers were raw so she stopped.

In the end, the most effective removal method I found was to use a V-notched trowel on the dried glue to get more manageable strips of glue rather than patches. Then I'd spray the glue stripes with a 50/50 solution of vinegar & water. Then I'd scrape the stripes with a putty knife and wipe clean with a sponge. Finally, I'd go over that section with the sanding screen to smooth out any leftover ridges. However, after using this method for about a foot-section each, Sweetie and I declared surrender and bought some oil-based primer and just covered it up. It's a border in a small room that we're in minimally throughout the day. We didn't care that it wasn't perfect, we just wanted it to be done!

Once we started painting, the project went on pretty smoothly.

Before During After

Before Cabinet removed! During After

Before After

Attempting to show the vanity detail tying into the wall color


  1. I love the fresh blue color! Great work on the wallpaper removal. I did the same in one of our bathrooms and it left a texture on the walls that I decided to ignore and just paint over. Of course, now I'm at the point where I hate the color I used and need to paint it over. I think the universe is speaking to me this week and I'm going to have to tackle it. Really, all the hard work has already been done. (I like your kitty checking out your progress. Cats are good at quality control.)

  2. We love the blue! We have a darker shade of it in the bedroom. I love how just a color can make the room feel fresh and clean.

    Melissa, when we got to the point that we decided to leave the glue texture, we thought we'd be putting a skim coat of spackle on before painting so it would still look smooth. By the time we'd come to that conclusion though, neither of us wanted to bother with the spackle. So we have the texture. I don't notice it though. At least not any more than I notice the previous owner's drip spots that we didn't scrape off before painting.

  3. Removing old glue residue can be almost impossible. My sympathies.

    That is a gorgeous colour. Well done!

    1. Thanks Alana! And yes, almost impossible. We will never be putting wallpaper on another wall! We still have one more room with wallpaper. It also still has the window treatments original to the house. We call it our 'retro' room, lol

  4. The room just looks happier! The detail to the vanity adds so much.

    1. Thanks May! The criss-cross was Sweetie's idea and all the vanity detail was her doing. I suggested a stripe and she just ran with it :-)

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks Jules! It's really sucked the motivation out of us for getting the same thing done in the kitchen though, lol