Q: I’m looking to add a little pizzazz to my bathroom. Since I was recently laid off, I’ve got more time than money. Depending on how the job hunting goes, I may have to sell my home. That’s not in the foreseeable future, but you never know.
My house is about 20 years old. The bath is original — a light-colored Corian countertop with textured white tile on the tub and shower walls. The floor is off-white vinyl with a yellow cast and is in good shape. I’m looking for an inexpensive way to add a little life to my otherwise pedestrian bath.
A: Two really inexpensive things you can do is paint and regrout. You can do the job for around $100 and some elbow grease.
First, tackle the grout. Give the walls a good washing to remove any soap scum or hard-water stains. Use products such as CLR and Lime-A-Way with a "scrubby" to remove stubborn patches.
Next, check out the caulking at the joint where the wall meets the tub. If it’s bad, scrape it out. Use the pointed edge of a five-in-one painter’s tool for this work. Now inspect the grout.
Check the color of the grout for yellowing. Also check for voids. If either is present, use a grout saw to remove the top 1/8 inch of grout from between the tiles. Wipe the shower down again and regrout with unsanded, bright-white grout.
Use a rubber grout trowel to force the new grout into the joints. Tool the joint with a wet fingertip. Wipe the excess grout from the wall with clean water. Let the grout dry and buff the tile with a clean dry cloth. An old washcloth does a good job. Finally, recaulk the wall-tub joint.
After the grout and caulk are completely dry, apply a grout sealer to retard moisture and inhibit staining.
Now, on to the paint.
The fun part of painting is selecting a color scheme. The rest is work. Since your bath is mostly white, it’s a blank canvas. Because the floor tends toward yellow, think about complementing it with pale yellow paint, which tends to warm up a room and provide a calming effect. A lighter shade can create the optical illusion of a larger room.
The Paint Quality Institute is a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Co. that provides educational information on paint quality and techniques. The institute recommends spending the extra $5 or $10 a gallon to go with the best quality. We concur.
Purchase only top-quality 100 percent acrylic latex paint. It’s more durable, resists moisture and mildew better, and it is more washable than its cheaper cousins. Use a glossy finish to enhance these qualities.
These days, top-quality 100 percent acrylic latex interior paint functions as a primer and finish coat in one. Because of increased "hiding" capability you may well get by with one coat instead of the two or three coats you should expect with lesser-quality paints.
As we’ve always said, an excellent paint job begins with excellent surface preparation. First, fill and sand smooth any nail holes or dings in the walls. Then clean the walls, ceiling and woodwork by scrubbing them with a sponge and mild detergent solution.
If mildew is present, use a solution of 2 parts water to 1 part bleach to kill it. Make sure to wear rubber gloves and safety glasses, especially when working overhead.
An important safety note: Never mix household products together. Combining bleach with ammonia or a product containing ammonia can result in toxic gases.
After washing, rinse with clean water and allow surfaces to dry before painting.
Work from top to bottom. Start by painting the ceiling to prevent any paint spatter from marring a just-painted wall. Roll the paint to within a couple of inches of where wall and ceiling intersect, then cut in with a brush for the corner. Work your way around the ceiling in this manner. Next, paint the walls using the same method.
Finally, paint the window trim, door trim and baseboards. Don’t forget to use a drop cloth and painter’s tape and paper to keep drips at bay.
If you can afford it, consider updating the shower curtain or shower door with a new model. Other nice touches if your budget allows are new mirrors, light fixtures, towel bars and faucet.