My Biggest Project to Date: The Bathroom

The very first time I toured my house, I knew it was the one for me.

It called to me, it welcomed me, it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I had only been to one other house before looking at this one and I knew after 15 minutes that I was home.

There were a few things that really stood out to me about this house. First, the porch was nice enough and the owners had left their front windows open, so I knew it was a safe neighborhood. Second, the back yard was adorable, the patio, the fence and the fresh mulch were all a reddish color and their was a decent sized shed in the very back of the yard. There was also a swing set back there, which was perfect for my 4 & 5 year olds to play on. Inside of the house it looked simple and cozy, very organized and it felt huge. The defining moment was when I saw the pantry or as we now call it the “trap”.

See that piece of wood along the right side? Yeah, that folds down and that is how you walk into the pantry. It’s right off of the kitchen, in the stairwell to the basement. It’s original to the house and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

This post isn’t about the trap or the pantry though.

This post is about the other really cool thing I loved about my house and about how naïve I really was as a first time home buyer. The bathroom.

DoomDoomDoomDoom DOOM!

Ah. The bathroom. I can remember describing it as a Ralph Lauren bathroom. Why? I really don’t know, the wall paper just seemed so quaint but looking back I realize Ralph Lauren was definitely not the style. Nope, the style was really what I would now call “Shabby Cover Up”.

It looked cute. Wooden (laminate) floors, a cloudy looking (textured) ceiling and cheerful but classic (mold trapping) wall paper. It was a nice long room with a large window on the outside wall.

With no ventilation system.

Here’s an idea folks, lets add a textured ceiling and paint it with flat paint then throw up some wall paper in a room with terrible ventilation and air circulation! Oh, and just for kicks, instead of refinishing the original tile floor, lets put laminate squares on top of it so that water can get trapped under them and make them brittle and trap odor!

Now, I am sure that honestly whoever decided to add these “features” to this room didn’t foresee the huge problems that they would create further down the line. Sometimes it takes making a mistake to learn things right?Unfortunately, those people don’t live here any more and may not ever learn the lesson behind these “upgrades.” Luckily, for me, I have learned two things.

1. Dont buy a house with out a ventilation fan in the bathroom if there is flat paint, a textured ceiling, linoleum, or wallpaper on the walls.

2. Don’t add flat paint, a textured ceiling, linoleum floors, or wall paper to a bathroom. Whether there is a ventilation fan or not.

I will never take the risk of having to go through what I went through to get this bathroom in a mold free and mold resistant state again. EVER.

It was about 3 years after living here that I realized that this bathroom was becoming a big problem. Despite leaving the window open at all times, I noticed that not only was the wallpaper peeling off of the walls, but even worse, little black specks of mold were growing. I tried bleaching the ceiling as best as I could, but it never fully worked and just seemed to get worse.

That year I decided it was time to remove the wall paper and started to do some research. I was scared to death to take the wall paper down, not because of what was to come (I had NO idea what I was in for) but because I heard somewhere along the way that wall paper was hard to remove.

I spoke with my Dad, I read the articles, I went to the Home Depot and picked up the spray, sponge and needle tool scraper thing I was told I would be using to get the paper down.

I was scared.

I let that stuff sit in the basement and collect dust for a few months before I worked up the courage to remove the paper.

Around that time I was also doing research about the proper mold removal and the removal of a textured ceiling. If it was possible to remove I wanted to do it because the ceiling was looking like this:


Then one day (about a year and a half ago) I decided I was armed with enough knowledge and nerve to finally remove the wall paper. I was feeling confident and I will admit, the first hour went pretty smoothly.

Then from there everything went down hill.

The wallpaper removing supplies worked well. So well in fact, that they started removing the paint from the walls. Yup layers of 1 hundred year old paint. But only in some places. The other places, the upper layer of paper came down, but the stuff under that (the glue paper stuff) wouldn’t budge. 

I worked on “removing the wallpaper” for hours and days but was finally so pissed off, frustrated and in over my head I gave up.


For a year in a half.

And so my bathroom looked like this:

and this:

Did I say I gave up for a year and a half? Well, it is true.

I left the bathroom like that and laughed about the dilapidated state it was in when people came over for all that time, but deep down it was eating me up inside.

Another epic fail just eating away at my core.

So onto my list it went: Finish Bathroom.

I should have broken it down much better though, had I known truly what it installed it would have been more like this:

  • Remove remaining wall paper
  • remove 12 layers of paint
  • remove 1 layer of lead paint
  • re-plaster and skim coat walls
  • bleach ceiling
  • bleach walls 
  • scrape down ceiling
  • sand walls
  • remove new plaster that was not put up correctly by me
  • skim coat those areas
  • sand walls again
  • prime walls and ceiling with MOLD and MILDEW RESISTANT PRIMER
  • paint ceiling and walls with MOLD and MILDEW RESISTANT PAINT *sidenote:  can you imagine? they make that stuff, just for bathrooms?! wow, you don’t need wallpaper and flat paint?!
  • second coat!
  • sand and repaint window frame, over the toilet shelf, and heater cover.
  • second coat
  • remove linoleum floor tiles
  • get high as hell and almost die from the fumes of the turpentine needed to remove the glue from the tiles
  • scrub the shit out of the original tiles
  • silicone the edges and crack of tile until I can re-grout


Of course it took me over two weeks, a shit load of pain meds and self pep talks to get through it. I threw myself into one hell of a flare and prayed that I would die nightly but I have to tell you that for once, the pain was worth it. I am so proud of myself. So flipping proud.

So I am crossing off “Get bathroom done” and any other physical thing I had on my list, like go to the gym, do a cartwheel, etc. because Lord knows, I worked my ass off on this project and didn’t list it properly. Also, I won’t be doing any of those things, any time soon, maybe even ever again.

Mind you, I still need to remove the old floor grout and replace it and I only used supplies, including the paint that I had in my basement, so I think the walls might get repainted a better color sometime before the end of the year.

I also want to refurb my tub, get a new sink, vanity lights, a new ceiling light, a ventilation fan, a window treatment and some art but I don’t have the money for that fun stuff yet and the hard part is over. The bathroom is done but it will be looking prettier by the time I am really finished.

And here she is today:

Victory is mine!


29 thoughts on “My Biggest Project to Date: The Bathroom

  1. WOW! I don’t think I could have done THAT!!! The fumes alone would have put me 6 feet under. I think the before and after pictures speak for themselves and that you should be proud. 😀

    P.S. I would have been scared spitless of all dust flying off of that lead paint… Weren’t you?

      1. I had my face covered with a bandana and a pair of sunglasses and just used my scraper to chip it off. It wasn’t coming off in a dust for, more like paint chips. There were some areas that didn’t come off easy so they were the places I used thinset and plaster on. I didn’t want to sand those areas off.

        The fumes were bad and I had low voh paint but couldn’t use it because it didn’t specify mold/mildew resistance or for the bathroom. 😦 I just kept the window wide open. I had to take a lot of breaks any way so I wasn’t suffering too much. Plus the bandana really does help, if you can stand having it on your face 🙂

  2. I am flipping impressed!! I know women are very handy and when you put you mind to something great things can happen…but I know that is something I could not do!! You should be extremely proud of this undertaking and the results show your hard work. You turned it into a safe and healthy bathroom, future new paint for decorating will be a breeze!!

    1. I know, us women are surprisingly handy! I think I had a lot of anger and emotional issues that motivated me and kept me going also. It was theraputic lol.

      I cant wait to refinish the floors, it feels so great to finally see the room and its full potentional now! I had no idea what the condition of the floors were underneath. I am so happy the tiles are in good shape! Yay, girl power!

    1. I love the original tile, it’s priceless. At first, I wanted to remove all of the wall tile but once I saw the floor I fell in love with the wall stuff. That would have been real pain and something I would have needed a pro to remove because it is set in 1 inch cement. Back in the day they really did quaility work. I really can’t wait to refinish them, it’s going to look so fantastic and charming, I just know it!

      Wallpaper sucks. Haha, I have a true hate for it now!

      1. “Wallpaper sucks. Haha, I have a true hate for it now!”

        AMEN! I had to remove A BUNCH of it when we moved into my husband’s parent’s house! Both bathrooms, the dressing room and entryway were completely done wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and two DOORS as well. It sucked. A lot. 😛


  3. No wonder you are very proud of yourself! And so should you be! In fact, I am very proud of you…that was a huge, daunting job to tackle by yourself but you didn’t let it get the best of you. Love the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures. Now you’ll have to invite some company over so they can see the wonderful change you brought about.
    I guess we never know what we are capable of until we are pushed to the wall. Congrats on a job well done!

    1. Thanks Sylvia, I can’t believe I actually did it! It was the biggest job I ever took on without my Dad’s help! It made me feel great about what I can do! I’m still flaring really bad but my confidence is soaring! I think my parents might be coming over this week so my Dad can help me with a different project on my list, so they will be able to see my handywork! I wish I could invite all of you over lol, that would be a fun time!

  4. That is awesome. I have a couple of house projects that I have started and then realized that it required way more work than I had planned. So they’ve been put on hold for a while. Recently though, I’m getting my nerve up to tackle them again and finish them.

    You are a great example of buckling down and doing it. Thanks.

    1. I feel like that’s how most projects go, don’t you? It feel so good to finally get them done, maybe the longer it sits in disarray the better you feel when it’s done 😉 Good luck with your projects, you can finish them for sure, just do your research and believe in yourself!

  5. more really old house empathy. Mould in the bathroom, totally something I relate to. Peeling wall paper, relate, ventilation… relate. Only mine has carpet too so its extra fun when stuff starts leaking.

    you did a fab job though. love it.

    1. Oh I feel terrible to hear of the carpaet! Can you pull it out? That is most likely contributing to the mold! Yikes! I was thinking of getting a dehumidifier until I can con my friend into installing my ventilation fan, have you thought of one of those?

      Gotta love our old houses, at least it gives us something to complain about and work on 🙂

  6. You are a Tiger! Good job! I have to paint my old bathroom too ! i’ve got that ceiling in my livingroom and dining area! My reno job presently is shoring up the old woodshed so wish me luck.
    Thanks for reading my stories too, it is encouraging!

    1. You’ve did great with cleaning out the shed, I can’t wait to see how far you’ve come. What is “shoring up”, I’m not familiar with that term. The living room and dining room are huge compared to my bathroom, I hope you aren’t planning to remove that, espescially without help. It comes off easier than one would assume, but it is messy! I’m sure your sweet son will help you with any projects you ask for help on too! I love reading your stories, I know I’ve been absent for a little while when I was working on this project, but I am back!

    1. Thank you! I think it was a huge confidence boost and it really felt good to get my anger and frustration out! It also feels good to be able to blame the pain on something specific instead of laying there wondering what it is that I did wrong to trigger it!

  7. Hi again! Pedicure done! A nice coral -gold and hint of green shade.!( hair cut too!_ Ready for boundary crossing! Thanks for your support and interest in my creative reinvention.. Now I must go bleach my ceiling, you’ve made me feel guilty.

  8. Hi again !!! Shoring up means just fixing it as the old wall is rotten so i am taking off the wood, replacing it, putting on critter control mesh, insulation and siding as it is at the back of my house and attached. I’m having the work done but I’ll be helping. Good to get these things done but money is always a factor so i plan for a few things each summer. (No vacation but that’s ok haven’t had one in 30 years)

  9. This is such a big difference! I’m so glad to be back on line and be able to read your blog again 🙂 A bad bathroom really can be depressing, my new bathroom isn’t as nice as the one I just left and I’m having bathroom envy. You did such an amazing job, you should be very proud! Yay for you.

  10. WOW! Congratulaaaations Ginger! I got freaked out by just reading your detailed descriptions, really! Never coulda imagined how tedious such a “small” renovation could be, but you truly made the best out of it! So stoked to see your new bathroom and hope you’ll be able to accomplish all the rest of what you got planned. Yeah, two weeks of hard work is a week’s worth of going to the gym, I believe! So cross it off!
    Also, you have a new design for your blog page, it looks very nice! Appropriate switch.

  11. Wow! That’s amazing! You are by far the toughest person I know. The bathroom looks fabulous. You should be beyond the moon proud of what you accomplished!

    1. Thanks, Dacia! I am pretty proud 😀 Just wait until you see my next project, though I’m left with no choice to hire a proffesional to do some it, not for a lack of me trying, I just know it ‘s WAY over my head!

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