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Posts Tagged ‘downstairs’

So I was browsing through the American Radiator Company’s “Complete” catalog, which is available in full scanned version here, and it looks like our downstairs bathroom radiator may be installed sideways! Note the original ad (with my highlighting) below:

Image

And the view in our bathroom where three large ones are installed one on top of the other:

downstairs bathroom radiators

Never even crossed my mind that they could go in a different way. I suppose it makes sense that the top pipe curves to the left though, since that would be “down” into the floor. Oh my. I had a moment of panic but then realized if they’ve made it okay for 104 years now, they’re probably alright to last a while longer.

You can see a few before and afters of this bathroom, including the mirror glass we put in the old window to cover old wallpaper, here.

Thanks to Anna of the amazing blog Door Sixteen for posting the radiator catalog link in her awesome post about having old radiators powdercoated – my dream to do throughout this house one day!

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When we first walked through our house four years ago, several rooms had wallpaper or paint colors that weren’t to our taste. It’s to be expected, really. And like everyone says, you have to have the vision to see past colors you dislike and look at the bones beneath.

The bones were good.

But the wallpaper? The wallpaper was bad. How bad, you ask?

Initial visit to our house

This bad.

We imagined that the dining room would be one of the first rooms we’d repaint, because it seemed like such an “easy” payoff. Big windows, a neat floorboard pattern, a built-in china cabinet, and a chandelier that, while over-the-top for sure, was original to the house and had a certain ragged glamor to it. Yet we never got around to it.

We had paint chips hanging from a nail on the wall. We even scraped a little of the wallpaper off one weekend, to see how hard it would be. We scraped a patch of the popcorn ceiling and sent it to the lab.

And then we just… stopped. We did other rooms. We worked. We watched lots of Netflix. We had a baby. And still the dining room remained in all its ridiculous glory.

The wallpaper border, when viewed closely, shows a rich variety of wildlife: birds, insects, hermit crabs and a horned tadpolish creature a friend once termed “fetal goats.” Not something you see every day, really.

Closeup of old wallpaper border

Unless you’re us. We saw it EXACTLY every day. For four years. But at long last, after far too long, and due almost entirely to the hard work of my father-in-law who was visiting (and swears he enjoys this stuff), we can finally say that the dining room is quite different now!

Dining Room Before & After

Dining Room Before & After

So the basic steps of the transformation (again, all credit to my in-laws, especially for the hard initial steps of scraping!)

  • Put down plastic and tape it to the baseboards.
  • Put very hot tap water into trigger spray bottles.
  • Spray a 3′ x 3′ patch of popcorn ceiling, move onto a second one, and then move back to scrape the first. (Side note of caution: We had our ceiling texture tested for asbestos and other evil things not long after moving in – don’t skip that step because you do NOT want to be breathing in all that bad stuff if it’s in your ceiling. The $50 the test cost is nothing compared to the chance of possible medical bills and heartbreak years down the line.)
  • Scrape the popcorn texture off with your putty knife lying almost parallel to the ceiling. Be careful not to gouge through because patching is no fun.
  • Patch the inevitable few gouges with joint compound.
  • Sand out the gouges and any weird spots in the ceiling.

If your popcorn texture is like ours, it leaves a chalky residue behind. We tried washing this off, sanding it, scrubbing it, etc. but sometimes it still causes the first coat of primer and paint to peel off.

Dining Room Project

This is not a happy moment. Not at all.

The good news was that when it all came down, it brought the worst of the chalky residue with it, so the next coat stuck. We used high-bonding primer from Lowe’s and Behr Ceiling White paint from HD.

For the wallpaper:
Seriously, wallpaper is different every time we remove it. In this room, here’s what worked.

  • Score the wallpaper with a scoring tool.
  • Put very hot tap water into trigger spray bottles and add a few drops of dish soap (this was the inlaws’ idea, and it seemed to work).
  • Spray the scored paper and let the water really soak in for a while while you keep spraying other parts of the wall.
  • Scrape off the wallpaper — ours was super old and came off in annoyingly tiny bits. But it did, eventually, come off.
  • Scrub the wall well to remove the wallpaper glue residue as much as possible (we used microfiber dishcloths for this, rinsed in hot tap water.)
  • Use joint compound to smooth any gouges or weird spots in the walls — in an old house, there are always weird spots — and sand smooth.

The people before us had painted a pink stripe UNDER the wallpaper border — probably to keep the blue paint from showing through? Who knows. Nothing a little high-hiding primer couldn’t handle!

Dining Room Project

This stuff is very helpful for putting dark colors to rest – we’ve used it in the foyer, too, and it really saved some time when we were painting that burgundy trim white. I’d say one coat of this is equal to 2-3 coats of Kilz2 latex primer, for color hiding at least.

Once the walls were primed it was time to pick a new wall color. With such a big shiny light fixture dominating the room, we wanted something that would blend in to the background and let the woodwork and lighting be the main attention-seekers in the room. We tried a few pale colors:

Dining Room Project

Left to Right these are:
Mild Mint by Behr, Lincoln White Sash by Valspar above Spring Melt by Martha Stewart (color matched to Behre Ultra), Valspar Luna, and Valspar Churchill Hotel Ecru.

They looked different in different parts of the room, and (as always) in daylight vs. lamplight, but we ultimately settled on the color-matched Spring Melt, because it was a nice pale grey/green/blue and we thought it looked kind of timeless and clean and light. Again, it’s a much paler color than we would usually go for, but we wanted the lighting to be the noticeable thing about the room, not the wallcolor.

And so, again, with the amazing help of my in-laws, we finished it up… two coats of paint on the walls, two or three on the trim, and all the cleanup.

But so far we’re feeling pretty good about how it turned out.

Smooth ceiling with the paint finally sticking properly:

Dining Room Project

Walls painted, in lamplight:

Dining Room Project

Walls painted in daylight, and the furniture back in!

Dining Room Project

We still have some finishing touches to do — notably finding some stuff to hang on the walls which look so much EMPTIER without all that busy wallpaper going on. But so far, so good.

Honestly, it will be really nice (kind of weird, but really nice) to be able to have people over and talk about something at dinner that is a topic OTHER than the walls. 🙂

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Had a salesperson from a local flooring place out today to give us some estimates for the downstairs bathroom. He was very very nice and gave us some good news that

  • The floor below the carpet is actually in good enough shape to lay a new floor over. (I thought it was all broken and horrible but it’s not.)
  • Our options are sheet vinyl, ceramic tile, or engineered wood.
  • While my preference is for tile, and Henry likes wood, vinyl is the only thing they could give us a warranty on because of the subfloor being tongue-and-groove wood rather than some modern substance like concrete or whatever it is they make house floors out of since 1910. With tile there is a chance it could crack, because of the “give” of the wood subfloor. I’m not feeling particularly pro-wood since it’s… a bathroom… and I can see water being a problem. But we do have hardwood in the kitchen that’s done okay. And it would look nice… So, maybe.

So we’re going to go in and look at some of our options. The good news is that since the bathroom is so small (only about 30 square feet) it might not be an INCREDIBLY expensive project after all. A lot of it depends on the price of the flooring we pick, of course, but still… overall it sounds doable, which is exciting. 🙂

And the sales guy was really excited about our house and went down in the basement showing us how the subfloor works, etc. and talking about how well our house is built, and how much detail the old builders put in, and how they used much higher quality materials than you see today, which is always nice to hear. Especially after another morning of thanklessly steaming wallpaper off the walls and CEILINGS of the downstairs bath today, kind words about the house are a balm to the amateur-renovator’s soul.

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