Holy moly, we just breathed a sigh of relief so loud they probably heard us back in Brooklyn. Our neighbor-friend Jhane (the same one who warned us about the flood) sent us a text while she was walking by our house. Walking. Not swimming. She let us know that our house is still standing and our street is totally dry. Whee! (Thanks again, Jhane!)
We’re still blogging from just outside the flood zone. We’re kinda trapped here because all of the roads around us are closed. Just half a mile away, there are houses covered almost up to their roofs in mucky river water. It’s really scary and sad, and we feel horrible for everyone who lost their homes. We’re really anxious to get back to ours. But in the meantime, we’re going to share another project we started before we had to evacuate.
We’re so close to wrapping up the guest bedroom wing, but there are a ton of loose ends to tie up. Take, for instance, the white door at the end of the hallway:
That’s the door to our bathroom. From far away, it looks great — a standard bright white interior door. And then you get up close and see this:
Jagged edges. Peeling paint. Stains. Pencil marks from where some kid drew on the door and nobody bothered erasing ‘em. They painted over the hardware a few times and it looks pretty crusty.
Still, the old skeleton key lock works and we’re in love with those porcelain knobs. We saw those same knobs at a local antique store going for $30 a pop. We also saw replicas of this exact set going for $70 in a restoration catalog. We’re pretty sure we can restore these puppies for $0 using stuff we have in our garage.
We started by taking the door off its hinges and taking off all the parts we want to save. Everything went into a big glass jar, including all of the screws:
The porcelain knobs went into their own container:
We filled both containers with enough paint thinner to completely cover all the parts:
We did this part outside because paint thinner fumes are no joke. We left everything soaking outside overnight, and came back to scrape them the next day.
The little black toothbrush thingy in front of the paint thinner is a steel wire brush. Bradley was at work so I decided to take care of this easy peasy job on my own. Carpe diem. Girl power. All that stuff.
I drained the paint thinner into another glass jar, pulled out the different hinges one-by-one, and gave them a good scrubbing in the kitchen sink. I brushed the metal in a circular motion and paint starting sloughing off. Perfect. That’s what I was going for. One entire layer of paint came off easily. The second layer, though, wasn’t budging.
I wiped the sweat from my brow. Girl power. I brushed harder and nothing happened. I kicked it up a notch to scrub mode. Still nothing. I scoured, and still nothing. I cursed, I threatened, I spat. Girl! Power! I scrubbed some more, sweat dripping, fingers aching… and then I got a text from Bradley telling me not to use the small wire brush because he had a better idea. He was going to use the grinder with a wire brush attachment and have all the paint off in about 2 minutes. *Single tear.* Everything went back in the paint thinner jar for some more soaking.
And that’s exactly where we left them when we evacuated on Thursday. We’re guessing that after a solid week of soaking in paint thinner, we won’t have to do much scraping to get the gunk off.
While the hardware soaked, we got to work on the door. Up close you can see how gunky the paint is:
It’s not all bad, however. There are some spots where cracks and lines give the door character:
Our challenge is to get rid of all the crusty, gunky bits while keeping the interesting areas in tact. We don’t want to restore this door and have it look like a brand new door from Lowe’s — we want it to look aged and interesting.
We’re pretty sure there’s lead paint in these old doors, so we vented out the room with a window fan and I put on my hot pink ventilator mask (safety first, fashion second!). I spent about 30 minutes sanding this door, and it wasn’t going the way I’d planned.
The sander was scuffing the surface, but the paint wasn’t coming off. Scuffing wasn’t going to do the trick with these doors. The old paint had bubbled up over the years. It needed to be completely stripped off. I needed paint stripper.
Meanwhile Bradley ran out of the caulk he’s using in to seal off the cement window sills so we made a run to the hardware store. We cackled the entire time about getting some caulk and a stripper. Hehe. It still makes me snort. We’re basically 13-year-olds on the inside.
Back at the casa, Bradley showed me how to strip (har har!):
The trick is to put your index finger on top of the blade and use that to apply downward pressure so the blade slides under the paint. Easy peasy. Here’s what the door looked like after scraping off all the loose gunk and giving it a sandjob (once it starts, it’s hard to stop):
The white paint was latex and it came off easily. The yellowish paint underneath? That’s lead paint. Eeps! Bradley was pretty impressed by how hard the layer of paint is (“Say what you will about lead paint, that s**t is durable.“), and we decided to leave it alone. Why bother creating lead dust if we don’t have to?
We were worried that the cracks would disappear if we removed too much old paint, but they were fine. Next step:
Yup, floor & patio paint. For our bathroom door. We spent at least an hour chatting it up with the paint guy at our local hardware store and this is what he recommended for our floors, baseboards, door frames and doors. Each gallon cost a whopping $50, but we splurged on it, but from what we’ve seen so far, it’s worth the extra dough.
We decided to skip the primer because the door was stripped down and scuffed up enough and this black paint gives some serious coverage. Here’s how it looked after one coat:
Still pretty crusty, right? We wanted to get a smooth, even paint application so we decided to do several paper-thin coats. It’s a little more work, but it always results in a very slick paint job. We scuffed the paint lightly with some 120 grit sandpaper:
And gave it a second coat:
This part was really hard to photograph because it was dark outside. I was planning on photographing it in the morning, but then this whole flood thing happened. Still, you get the general idea. What once was clumpy and goopy is now lookin’ pretty lovely. Check out the lovely cracking at the bottom that showed up when the paint dried:
We think it might need a third coat, but won’t be able to tell until we get back to the house. We also have to flip the door over, strip it and paint it white. So the door will be black on the outside but white on the inside. A black door seemed a little too overwhelming for a teeny-tiny bathroom. We’ll wrap that sucker up next weekend and get some better pictures up here.
What we learned from this project:
- Lead paint kinda rocks…if you overlook that whole lead poisoning thing. Stuff was made to last a long, long time.
- Strip first, then sand, and your old door will end up smoother than a baby’s butt. Only with more cracks and wrinkles.