• Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
sunshine & unicorns: a blog about love, learning, and life in the upper midwest

24 March 2010

old painty-can ned*

This post was inspired by the following anonymous question, but then kind of morphed. First, the question:

In a home that old, how did you handle lead paint remediation?

Should I feel guilty reading this question? Because I do. Because we um... didn't? We did have a team of professional home inspectors go through the home (before we bought it) looking for any type of issues, and they did not mention lead paint.

Our house doesn't have much flaking paint. Any places that did, we requested to have repaired prior to moving in. We have (for the most part) vacuumed up anything that's been sanded. Honestly, we don't have children, so I never really thought about lead paint. That said, it's a pretty safe bet that the rooms in our house have been painted every color of the rainbow over the past 80 years. Most of the paint on our walls is fairly new. There might be lead paint under it, but I will just pretend that there also might *not* be. Maybe we need a rule for our house: if you see flaking paint, try to resist eating it or stuffing it up your nose. Hmm.

So speaking of paint...

Olivae asked this next question in the comments section of an older post. I thought it was a good one to address here...

Do you have tips for painting stairwells? The previous owners of our home must have jabbed aimlessly at the crease where the wall meets the ceiling, so it needs some major (and by major, I mean MAJOR) touch up work. I'm just not sure what the best way to approach the project is...

YES. YES YES YES YES YES. I feel you. I FEEL YOU! Attention, people who buy in a tract-home/townhouse: what your house might lack in character, it also fortunately lacks in Previous Owners Who Must Have Spent More Time Drinking The Paint Than Actually Applying It To Walls. For this, you are lucky. And now you get to read as I rant about other people's sucky painting.

Seriously. Who just decides that making the majority of the room the goal color is enough? And so what if it gets on the ceiling and trim and tile grout and carpet (?!!!) and fixtures and wherever else it might get? It's like it never even occurred to these people that, hallelujah, you can REMOVE railings and towel racks and curtain rods BEFORE PAINTING. That's some innovative shit, I know. But it CAN BE DONE. With a miracle tool called a screwdriver.

Anyway, if you're like us, by the time you have finished inspecting any given room or hallway or stairwell in your beloved new-to-you home, you will find yourself screaming "SERIOUSLY THAT F%$#ING BLUE TAPE IS NOT THAT EXPENSIVE, YO!"

Here is some photo evidence.

Tan-splashed trim in the office

Sloppily-painted doorknob

Terrible job cutting in

Multiple colors slopped all over vent and wood floor
Those register vents come off with two screws, people. TWO. It is not difficult. Do I get bonus sympathy-points for the paint smeared on the floor? How about some previous owner's idea to tear up the carpet but leave all the tacks in the floor?

Why bother masking your trim?
Some of the worst painting horrors are located in this bathroom. I'll show you in a minute.

Now here's what we've done. For the majority of the house's trim and registers: not much, yet, as you can see above. Before we moved in, we did paint the ceilings in most of the house. That helped a lot with the overspill onto the ceilings in particular. And then, there are some rooms I've painted. The dining room, master bedroom and downstairs bathroom were done right away. The hallway, stairwell, and landing (which is what Olivae asked about) were done New Years weekend, and the extra bedroom was done in late January on a snow-day.

In each of these rooms, we've had the touch-ups issue. The major problem is that a lot of the dripping and smudging and general mess is on the wood. And sanding it off doesn't seem to work (at least for us). I'll sand an area, and the varnish and stain around the paint smudge will come off before the actual smudge does. I also haven't had luck with those "old paint slop paint remover" products. And a razor blade is questionable. We've found that it works well for floor and windows, but not so much for trim-work, railings, hardware and fixtures.

The extra bedroom was the easiest to fix: I painted over the trim drips. The trim and doors are white in that room, so it wasn't a problem. Annoying, yes, but not a big problem. The floors weren't bad, so we just scraped any wayward drips up with a razor. And we had already done the ceiling before we moved in. I knew at the time that I'd eventually be painting that room, so I over-slopped the ceiling paint onto the walls purposefully. I wanted to make sure there would be no yellow 'artifacts' left in the cracks after I re-painted the walls.

In the formerly red bathroom, the trim is not actually attached to the walls/floor. I pulled it off easily. It is awful, by the way, and I plan to replace it. See?

Can you tell this bathroom used to be red?

Not only is it covered in red paint, but it's all chewed up. I think someone used to lock their dog or cat in here while they were at work. I eventually want to replace it with some stained trim (rather than white) to match the rest of the downstairs. That's why I never touched it up. But pulling it away (and removing the wall-register also) allowed me to paint behind it. So when I do replace the trim, it will look seamless. The ceiling, again, we took care of when we painted it prior to moving in. And most of the red paint that was slopped all over the pedestal sink, pipes and fixtures actually came off easily with my fingernail.

Now with the stairwell. That *was* the subject of the original question, after all. If it's not going to be too much of a problem to take off your stairwell trim, do it. Ours was going to be a huge problem, so we didn't. And they are FAR from perfect-looking. Whomever painted it [white] before did an OK job, but not great. When painting with wood trim present, my primary goal is to NOT MAKE IT WORSE. I just tape it up the best I can, and when I make a spill I wipe it up immediately with warm water. Then after the paint's dry, I survey what's left. Usually it ends up being my new color, then the trim, and the trim has a bunch of splashes of the previous color on it. And this is where I am honest with you all and tell you that I use a brown Sharpie to color over the previous painter's drips. Yep. I do. Check this pic. You can see that the tops of the trim are still pretty white. I didn't go all-out coloring-book on them. We can live with it. I'm just happy that they aren't green.

After, looking down to the 1st floor.

And of course, I tell myself that someday I will take off the trim and sand it down and stain it up all nice-like and paint behind the trim. But I might not. And for every-day looks, the marker does the trick. Our stairs are in pretty bad shape -- I'd love to sand those down and refinish them. If I do that, I might (MIGHT!) tackle the trimwork too. But we'll see how this summer shapes up.

As far as the ceiling? All I can say is: extension ladder + stairs = MAN JOB. Does this look like me?

Some jobs are just not for me

Hell no, it does not. Because that is Pink Hubby. I tried to go up there and my legs got shaky on like the second step. For the crack of ceiling and wall, we actually used makeup brushes. This is something my dad taught me. You know those free little eye and lip-liner brushes you get free when you spend an unbelievable amount of money on face cream at the department store? They are great edging brushes for those of us who are cursed with 'cottage cheese' ceilings. Here I am using one on the less death-defying part of the stairwell.

Painting the lines on this high ceiling kind of sucked

I won't lie and tell you our high-ass ceiling came out perfect. It did not. But it's better than it was, and it's pretty straight. Most importantly, it doesn't look like a drunk monkey did it.

The moral here is, painting is time-consuming, especially when you have to clean up the old messes of Lazy People Who Suck along the way. I generally just take it one room (or color) at a time, fixing what I can and minimizing the rest. I don't have the time or money to get it all done Right This Second, as much as I would love it when it's done.

OH! And I was going to tell you about those painting horrors in the blue bathroom I showed above. So here it is. Have I ever mentioned that someone, at some point, got the brilliant idea to paint all of the tile in our bathroom?

Painted over the tile. Who does that?

Painted over bathroom tile
And why bother cleaning the area first? Just paint over the hair and it will barely be noticeable!

Also! A tip for all you lazy-painters-to-be: Slopping paint over your bathroom vent, effectively sealing it to the wall, is a good way to put a stop to pesky issues like cleaning and overall ventilation efficiency! Case in point:

Some jerk painted the fan/vent to the wall
Gawd. What were they thinking?!

We've changed a lot of colors in our home, and have made a variety of minor upgrades and repairs. I have a mental list of possible future projects, some big and some small. What to [affordably] do to this bathroom is the only thing that truly stumps me (and scares me a little). That is all.

*Anyone catch my title reference? (Hint: #7.)

*P.S. Even though I am no longer answering questions on a regular basis, I am still accepting new ones here. My ongoing plan is to answer them on this blog, whenever I have time, until the inbox is empty. Once it sits empty for a week, I'll disable it. Also, please note: I do skip around when answering questions. I promise I'll get to all of them. If you asked your question a while ago, it's not rejected; I just didn't feel like writing about it today.