80s builder grade oak everywhere! 

80s builder grade oak everywhere! 

This is our bathroom. 

It has looked the same since the upstairs was added on in 1985. We bought our house two and a half years ago and this is the oldest and most rundown room in the house. I redid my office last year (link here). This year, it's the bathroom's turn and I couldn't be happier. 

We know that down the road we're going to make a master bath, so this is more like a facelift than a remodel. We'll change what we can, but the main structures (cabinets, shower, tile, toilet) will stay. 

Let's go over what needs to change:

The current state of the bathroom

As you can see in the photo above, there are a LOT of cabinets. Great for storage, but wall-to-wall oak is a little much. I plan on refinishing this in something a little more appealing. 

This built-in scalloped sink will be super easy to clean and will stand the test of time, said no one ever

This built-in scalloped sink will be super easy to clean and will stand the test of time, said no one ever

This sink has been the bane of my existence since we moved in. Every morning and every night, I see this cracked and stained sink. This sink that I have bleached, CLRed, and magic erased. I hate this sink. 

The sink is part of the vanity top, which means that we couldn't just take the sink out and replace it. 

I've already written about my disdain over the oak cabinets. The cabinets themselves are actually pretty good quality. They're constructed of actual hardwood, not veneer covered particleboard. Aside from the finish and the dated hardware, they're in decent shape. We're keeping them with a couple of changes...

This photo shows what I like to call the "breadbox." It's a cabinet with a shade... made of wood... Yeah, I don't know why this is necessary either. We always kept this open. No idea why you need to have a "shade" vs. oh, I don't know... a cabinet door! We are obviously removing this shade. 

 

What is this? A breadbox?

What is this? A breadbox?

Damp towels enclosed in wood? No thanks.

Damp towels enclosed in wood? No thanks.

The cabinet below the shade is a wire hamper attached to the door that you open via a pull-down hinge. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think I want to keep wet towels or dirty clothes in an enclosed wooden cabinet. We never use it. It looks like the former owners didn't really use it either.

By relocating the handle and attaching a standard hinge, this will become a normal cabinet. 

The plumbing fixtures are embarrassing. I almost don't want to post them, except that I know the final product will be so much better, that I need to show the before. Sigh... here we go.

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These don't look terrible, but oh, they will later on. As you can see on the handle, the corrosion is coming through the finish. I knew it wasn't good then and I knew I was in for a challenge when I replaced it, but more on that later!

To Do List for Redesign

  • paint walls
  • refinish cabinets
  • add new hardware to cabinets (including hinges)
  • replace bathroom fixtures (shower/tub and sink fauces/drains)
  • change lighting fixture
  • add new trim
  • paint old and new trim
  • replace the sink/vanity top
  • remove old medicine cabinet
  • install new mirror and new medicine cabinet

Alright, that about covers what we're going to do. Now let's go step-by-step as we're doing it.

The Shower

Even though I would love to, we're not replacing the shower right now. It's too much money and since we will be doing a complete remodel years down the road, we don't want to replace it yet again. For now, we'll be content with updating the fixtures. 

I have no idea why I wanted to start with the fixtures. I planned on doing the sanding of the cabinets first and painting the walls, but I woke up last week on a very cold day, and as I laid in bed looking at fixture options and I realized I had no idea what faucet I could get since I didn't know what valve we had. Well, I knew what faucet we had, so I started there. We had the same one in the condo, so I knew it was easy to take apart since we took apart the one in the condo to fix a simple leak.

I got all the tools I knew I would need and started to disassemble. However, the handle would not pop off the way it was supposed to. if you look at the photo above, I mentioned the corrosion. I knew it was bad, but I didn't know just how bad. After a few minutes of working it, we were finally able to pry the handle off... along with part of the cartridge... sigh. 

Almost 30 years of corrosion. 

Almost 30 years of corrosion. 

I knew that the bathroom hadn't been touched since it was built in the mid 80s, but I thought the faucet may have been possibly changed out or maintained earlier on. Not really, and by not really, I mean not at all. 

We have hard water which just eats away at metal. It's one of the reasons most of today's fixtures are made mostly of plastic. This was still metal and because of the level of corrosion, the handle has essentially fused with the cartridge, meaning we couldn't replace one without replacing the other. 

Hours in, still doesn't want to budge.

Hours in, still doesn't want to budge.

A trip to The Home Depot to grab a new cartridge and a retention cap, just in case I needed to replace that too, and I got back to work. Well, of course the corrosion had fused what was left of the cartridge to the cap. 

Hours later, a lot of WD40, elbow grease, wrenches, a rubber mallet and a metal pipe (see below), we were finally able to unscrew the cap from the valve. Phew!

It's all about having the right kind of leverage!

It's all about having the right kind of leverage!

The cartridge freed from its cap prison

The cartridge freed from its cap prison

What looked like a happy, cooperative valve. ( All that gross grime came right off with a magic eraser, phew!)

What looked like a happy, cooperative valve. (All that gross grime came right off with a magic eraser, phew!)

The next part, easy peasy, right? Just grab the replacement cartridge and the replacement cap, screw them both into place and install the new faceplate. Sounds simple! Not quite. 

Once we got the the new cap and cartridge screwed into the valve, we turned on the water. It worked, but a little too well because it didn't want to turn off. As it turns out, removing the corroded-into-place cartridge also seems to have displaced the hot and cold seats inside the valve which could no longer stop the water when we turned the knob off. Oh dear. Did I mention this was at 11:30 at night... 

With no real option but to call a plumber to remove the hot and cold seats, we turned off the cold water for the night (hot water wasn't turned on in the shower, so it wasn't stuck as the cold water was) and called a plumber to schedule an appointment in the morning. 

We were able to get one of the nicest plumbers imaginable. He was on-time, smart and knew that we did what we could and called the pros when it was necessary. He removed the hot and cold seats saying how lucky he was that they actually came out as easily as they did. He kept looking at it afterwards saying, "Wow, that was pure luck I got that out." Thankfully, we called when we did or we may have needed an entire new valve. He replaced the hot and cold seats, installed the new cartridge and retention cap and let us finish the rest!

After that, finishing was simple. We found a faceplate that worked with our previous model and valve and installed it. 

The new shower/tub hardware in all its hard-earned glory.

The new shower/tub hardware in all its hard-earned glory.

The tub drain and the stopper were all very simple to remove and install replacements. The spout was a little harder.

There was a threaded male connection, so we needed to find a threaded spout without a diverter. That's pretty hard as it turns out. Most spouts have a diverter (what allows you to switch from tub to shower), but our diverter is on the handle. With not much available to us, we decided to convert our pipe.

We bought a small pipe cutter (so much easier than it sounds) and cut the male connector off. 

After that, we were able to buy a "slip-on" spout. Slipped it on and voila! We have a fully functional shower! 

The Cabinets

The oak, oh the honey oak. Oak is a fine wood, but this treatment is dated and there's just so much of it that it seems worse than it really is. There's the large cabinets on either side of the vanity, plus the lighting fixture above the vanity and then the shower framing and trim – all oak. In a very tight space, it's too much. 

I really didn't know what I wanted to do though. Just that I wanted to change it. 

The Inspiration

Are those cabinets... blue?

Are those cabinets... blue?

Blue. That was the inspiration I was looking for.

I was searching Pinterest for bathroom ideas when I came across this photo. The main focus seemed to be the towels and the mirror, but I zoned in on the cabinets. Were they blue? They were blue! A deep, rich, non-trendy, but completely traditional, classic blue. I must find this blue! 

After a ton of searching and looking at multiple DIY blogs and product sites, I found it! General Finishes Milk Paint in Coastal Blue. Holy cow! That's it! What the heck is milk paint? Oh, only the best paint ever! 

This paint is an acrylic version of a traditional painting medium. It goes on easy and thin. It's like an opaque stain! This maintains the quality of the wood grain, while covering everything else. Seems way too good to be true, right?

Off to the paint store I go!

The Test

Shockingly great initial test!

Shockingly great initial test!

In every photo I could find of this specific paint color, it looked amazing. I didn't find one photo where it looked any different than what I wanted this blue to be. Being a designer, I know Photoshop can help with that, so a test was definitely in order!

I took the handle off that breadbox cabinet, knowing I wouldn't be saving that piece, but it was great for testing since it still had the same finish. 

I sanded using a fine grit sanding block, just removing the first layer of finish by sanding lightly. Once it was smooth, I mixed the paint and brushed it onto the wood. The first coat went on and it looked exactly like a stain. I was very optimistic. I let that dry, which only took minutes since this goes on so thin and then applied the second coat. Wow! Just look at that test photo. That is an un-retouched photo right there! That is the exact shade of blue I wanted. It went on exactly as I hoped with the coverage I wanted while still letting the texture of the grain come through. To say I'm happy is an understatement. 

Getting Started

Topless cabinets!

Topless cabinets!

Don't feel sorry for it, really. It had a good run.

Don't feel sorry for it, really. It had a good run.

Before we started sanding and painting the cabinets, we needed to remove the vanity top and medicine cabinet. After unscrewing the supply lines and disconnecting the drain from the p-trap, we lifted the vanity off (with faucet still in place since we're not keeping it). Carefully, slowly and painfully we carried it out the bathroom, along the hall, down the stairs, through our entire downstairs and out the side door where it was less than graciously placed out in the snow. 

The Process

I cleaned and then sanded the entire front and sides of the cabinet frame. Then I wiped everything down using a microfiber cloth and a vacuum brush attachment. Mixed up the paint and got going on the first coat!

It was incredible how just the first coat instantly changed the style of the room. While the first coat allowed some of the oak color come through, giving it a green sheen, it was clear we made a good choice in this paint. 

We stopped to let it dry completely and went out for dinner. When we got back, we applied the second coat. The lighting in the bathroom was pretty bad, so I had to wait until the next morning to see the results. 

First coat (horrible lighting that time of the night)

First coat (horrible lighting that time of the night)

Second coat!

Second coat!

After I let the paint fully dry for 24 hours, I applied the first coat of polyacrylic. I used Minwax Polycrylic, their site lists this product as, "a crystal clear, ultra fast-drying protective topcoat for use on interior wood surfaces including furniture, trim, doors, cabinets and paneling. It can be used over bare wood and both oil-based and water-based stains. Polycrylic® has little odor, cleans up easily with soap and water and can be recoated in only 2 hours. Minwax® Polycrylic® resists damage from abrasion, scuffing, chipping, water, alcohol and other common household chemicals."

After 2 hours, I sanded the first coat using extra light grit sandpaper as the instructions recommended. Then a very scary thing happened. In the photo below you can see that when I sanded the poly, it turned white. You can clearly see the grain, which is nice, but the white was not. 

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I thought I ruined the entire finish and would have to start over. I cleaned off the dust and quickly wiped it down with a barely damp cloth. On a hunch, I applied the 2nd coat of poly to a small area just to see what would happen and was relieved when the white disappeared leaving only the blue and grain behind. Scary, but I suppose it makes sense. You can see the gorgeousness below. 

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That photo was after 2 coats. The can recommends 3, so 3 I did. I would honestly say I noticed a slight difference from 1 to 2 coats, but 2 to 3 didn't really have much of a difference. In fact, I feel like even how lightly I was sanding, I ended up taking off more of the finish than I needed to. I would recommend doing 2 coats and stopping there. The third didn't hurt, but I think 2 would have been fine.

Now with the cabinet frame done, it was time to do the cabinets. This was a little complicated. 

First we needed to make sure that when we painted them, they were set up so that we couldn't smudge them or the paint wouldn't drip. We set up all the cabinet fronts on spare pieces of wood and got started. Same as the frame, 2 coats of paint then the first coat of poly, followed by sanding and then a second coat of poly. 

The set up

The set up

After the second coat of poly

After the second coat of poly

We did all the cabinet fronts first and waited a full day and a half before turning them over to do the backs to make sure they were completely cured. The cabinet doors won't be installed until we have painted the walls and trim. 

We worked on the drawers at the same time as the cabinets and since they won't be in the way of the painting, we changed out the old hardware, for new and put them into place. How great does this look?

The gorgeous after

The gorgeous after

Reminder of before

Reminder of before

The Wall

Painting gear selfie :P

Painting gear selfie :P

We didn't really have to do too much to the wall. We liked the color in general, but it had too much pink to it. We ended up picking essentially the same color without the pink tones. It was a little ridiculous when we put the swatch up to the wall how spot on it was. Had no plan on getting that close, but it worked, so we kept it. 

We needed to take down the lighting fixture and tape everything up. The wall isn't perfect and has a lot of indents and lines from previous paintings. Our goal wasn't to fix the wall, just sand down what we could and paint over it. We weren't going to spend a ton of time and money on fixing a wall that will ultimately be demolished down the road. 

You can see below how close the color actually is. 

The seam down the wall is the older color. A little hard to tell the difference, looks almost like a shadow. 

The seam down the wall is the older color. A little hard to tell the difference, looks almost like a shadow. 

Lighting Fixture

I described my intense dislike for the oak being everywhere and the lighting fixture was of course made of oak. It also had that Hollywood light/makeup vanity/bathroom bar look. It was dated and I just wanted to get rid of it. Refinishing it would not cut it in the scenario.

The space the massive medicine cabinet took up, not to mention the horrible light.

The space the massive medicine cabinet took up, not to mention the horrible light.

Terrible late night photo of our awesome new light.

Terrible late night photo of our awesome new light.

When we took the light down, the wire box was not in the middle, of course. Thankfully, Dad was able to help us relocate and patch. 

The new light is just as bright, if not brighter, than the original light and matches the brushed nickel finish of our new hardware.