Bathroom Remodel Part 1: A hot and steamy weekend

The weekend before last was a hot and steamy one for CJ and I.  We got to spend a lot of good quality time with each other in close quarters.



The smaller of our two bathrooms had developed a small problem in the ceiling above the shower.  The paint had been cracking and peeling, and we were concerned if we let it go we’d have a mold problem.  Since we were going to have to redo the ceiling, CJ thought we should also get the wallpaper down, which was also peeling and cracking.

In fact, it was peeling so badly in places that in the days leading up to this fateful weekend, CJ had the girls help her pull some of it down with their bare hands.  But the real prep work would be saved for the weekend, when we would presumably have more time, and even some support from the Grandparents in watching the girls.

The first step was getting the wallpaper off.  That actually was pretty easy.  Getting the wallpaper BACKING off?  A little trickier.


Yes, keep those silly feelings coming dear.  We’re going to need them.

We thought that it would be fairly straightforward to simply run the shower on high, and get the room nice and steamy.  And honestly, that did work.  Much of the backing – especially the stuff above waist level, came right off.


We kept the door shut to prevent the steam from leaving the room too soon, and with both of us in the room stripping the paper and backing off, the water in the room was literally rolling off my face and arms within a few minutes.

I had an additional challenge.  I couldn’t be in the room for more than 10 seconds without my glasses fogging up.  I could actually see better WITHOUT my glasses – and that’s saying something.  I spent most of the experience squinting, and get up close and personal with a moist, sticky, peeling, wall.  Wahoo.

As we worked our way around the room, we discovered that the area around the sink was going to be particularly troublesome.


We’re still not sure what our predecessors did, but the walls were not smooth.


In fact, it looks like they took all of the scrap drywall they had leftover from the rest of the house, and tacked it up here – in pieces.  Then “forgot” to sand or prime anything.

The next challenge appeared over the shower when I was scraping away wallpaper backing.  My putty knife would slide along the painted surface fine, and then hit something that was clearly NOT drywall:


It was far softer, almost like spackling that hadn’t fully cured yet, and white.


Oh goody.

Then there was most of the rest of the room.  Apparently they had started from the top of the room and worked down, but run out of paint AND primer when they got to waist-level.


You gotta be kidding me.

CJ thinks they had half-height paneling that ran around the room at one point, and then removed it to put the wallpaper up.  The problem was, no one even bothered to prime the drywall, let alone paint it.  That made it much more difficult to get the wallpaper backing off.

The final challenge was self-inflicted.  We did not intend to take the sink and toilet out originally – we thought we could just work around them.  However, once we started seeing the problems emerge, we decided to call in a friend and get those pieces out of our way so we can see what was behind them.  (Thanks Brad!)

It was a decision we never regretted.  Over the course of the next week, we would make some variant of this comment at least half a dozen times – “I’m so glad we had Brad help us get the fixtures out of here!”

Similarly, we were not intending to take all of the wood trim – again (naively) thinking we could work around them.  With the major fixtures gone, we decided we might as well go all the way.


Now that we had all of the wallpaper down, it was time for the sanding!

For that lovely task, CJ thought that we should rent a small electric sander.  She did not relish having to spend one or more days sanding the walls by hand.  A trip to Home Depot took care of that nicely.

This was Monday the 10th.  Our next challenge was health-related.  Lucy had been running a fever for most of the last 24 hours, and the night before had been complaining about her ears hurting.  On Monday morning, she woke up and clearly had pink eye.

So, not only would Lucy NOT be going to school today, we would have to juggle the bathroom and having her at home, AND we would have to get her into the pediatrician.

After hitting Home Depot first thing in the morning, CJ and I split up.  CJ went home to start getting the bathroom prepped for sanding, while I took Lucy into the doctor.

It was nearly lunch by the time Lucy and I had gotten home, by which point CJ was able to set up our new oxygen tent.


Now, I had fully intended to help CJ with the sanding, but with Lucy sick one of us pretty much had to be on call if she needed something.  Since CJ had already started the sanding, and since we only had the one sander, I decided to play a supporting role, and bounce between CJ and Lucy.

At one point, I heard “Woohoo!  It’s Christmas!”.  I walked to the bathroom, amused.  CJ explained that while she was sanding the painted surfaces, the dust being kicked up wasn’t too bad.  As soon as she touched the raw drywall, though, the room exploded into a fine white dust.  She literally couldn’t see anything for a couple of minutes, until the cloud settled.

After the sanding was pretty much done, CJ emerged from the tent, and went outside to dust herself off.


She then walked out to our driveway and shook.  The dust cloud rising off of her was very impressive.  (For the record, she was wearing a mask and safety glasses the whole time she was sanding; it’s why her face appears so red in this shot.)

Next up was spackling the many ding, dents, and holes in the walls.  As expected, the area around the sink was particularly bad.


The ceiling, which started this whole adventure, turned out pretty well after the sanding.


Once we had everything spackled and had let it dry, we had to sand it down again.  Luckily, that only required some sanding sponges.

Next came the tape!


I still can’t decide if we went a little overboard with the tape and plastic, not to mention the newspaper we taped down to the floor, and the dropcloths we laid on top of them.


But it sure made priming and painting easier.


Not more sane, just easier.

We really only expected to have to put down one coat of primer, but after it dried we saw how the sink section was STILL looking rough and ugly, so CJ put down a second coat.

That made a world of difference.


Overall, I think all of the preparation turned out well.


We got to this point by Wednesday.  The next step was painting.  Unfortunately, even while Lucy’s health was on the mend, mine and CJ’s was about to go downhill.

See Part 2 for the conclusion of this epic adventure.