1911 bathroom project - help!

Questions, answers and advice for people who own or work on houses built during the 20th century.

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1911 bathroom project - help!

Post by HydePark »

I am a bit overwhelmed with my next project, which is the restoration of my only full bathroom, on the second floor of my 1911 Dutch Colonial Revival house. Between the flooring, the sink, the lighting, the medicine cabinet/vanity, and the beadboard stain and paint color, I can't figure out what to concentrate on first. It's a very small room, around 50 sf, and I might need to install some shelving, possibly over or to the right of the toilet, since there is no storage other than the dated medicine cabinet.

A couple of "before" pics:



I finally got the cracked plaster ceiling repaired, and purchased an exhaust fan to replace the old one with. I have some time off next week and want to get the fan installed, and also install a ceiling fixture, but I can't for the life of me find one that I like that is damp-rated. The closest thing I have found is this, but I can't decide if it would work or just look silly in such a small room: http://houseofantiquehardware.com/Bath- ... ount-Light
I would appreciate any suggestions that you guys have.

Next step is to try sanding the nasty old dirty wainscoting/beadboard to see if I can get away with not painting it. There is years of dust and dirt and grime worked into the grooves. Anyone have experience with this and tips to offer? Even if i decided to paint it, it is very far from being a primable surface. Should I try working into the grooves with a folded piece of sandpaper, or just go straight for a scraper or 10-in-1 to try to clean them out?

Once I figure out if I can stain the wainscoting, I'll pick a color, scrape the walls, and paint and prime.

The clawfoot tub I want to keep and have re-finished inside (there doesn't seem to be a company with a good, long-lasting product here, so I guess I'm rolling the dice), paint the outside a bright primary red or blue, and refinish the feet in silver. So far I'm leaning toward a black and white painted checkered pattern for the floor, but I'm not sure about that yet. Again, suggestions welcome!

The toilet and sink will probably both be replaced. Definitely the sink, even though I love it; the middle overflow drain section is all rusted out and not salvageable. Hoping to find a suitable period replacement here: http://www.nedsalvage.com/

The last thing I want to do is obviously get rid off the godawful modern medicine cabinet and replace it with something nicer-looking, but I have NO idea what. Maybe a couple of sconces for shaving and just some sort of vintage or vintage-style piece... it would be nice to recess something into the wall but I don't know where the studs are yet.

HELP!!! :D What should I do first?
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Re: 1911 bathroom project - help!

Post by HydePark »

I just realized I forgot to ask about replacement plumbing & shower curtain surround for my tub/shower. Anyone have a good source for that?
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Re: 1911 bathroom project - help!

Post by KirstenN »

Wow, what a wonderful bathroom to be starting with! I'm surprised that it's in a 1911 house - although I'm new at this game - because I thought by 1900 bathrooms were usually all-white, tile on floor and wall, and they weren't using wood panelling anymore because it wasn't "sanitary".

The best pictures I've seen of baths in your style were in a book called "Bungalow Bathrooms", by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen, that I got at my local library. Despite the name, she goes through a pretty exhaustive history of American bathroom style. I like the way she has sidebars with "obsessive restoration" and "compromise solution", admitting that not all of us actually want to *use* a 1911 bathroom, just want some of the look! I've put it on hold at the library and will post a picture or two later in the week when it comes - it might help you to visualize what you want.

Rejuvenation Lighting has not only lighting, but also medicine cabinets and the shower hardware (that's if you're rich!). For medicine cabinets I like the ones at Restoration Hardware - both the Shutter and Cartwright come either inset (if you find those elusive studs in exactly the right place) or wall-mounted, and in either wood or white. They're a bit pricey too, though. Historic Houseparts has quite a few salvaged medicine cabinets, so maybe your salvage place will too?

As for what to do first, someone more intelligent than I will have to comment! I have a bathroom to reno in the next few years too, so this is fun to think about!
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Re: 1911 bathroom project - help!

Post by catya »

What a nice bathroom - where do people find these pristine un-remuddled places? Im jealous!

Basically, your job is to just clean it up and paint - and take it back to what it was. The sink is refinishable - they can rebuild the rusted part and since a bathroom sink doesn't get all that much abuse (not like a kitchen) it might last a while.

Have you tried just attacking the wainscot with hot ammonia solution and a scrub brush or scratchy pad (with ventilation of course). That stuff cuts thru grungy soapy residue really good. Then with the crud gone you could at least see what youve got there. I imagine all it might need is a good sanding (get a palm sander - well worth the $$$ - & dust mask). Re-finishing is much preferable to painting. Original wood in a bathroom is a rare gem!

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Re: 1911 bathroom project - help!

Post by wletson »

For the crud in the grooves, I think I would try a plastic bristled brush, similar to a toilet brush. Don't get anything with really stiff bristles, so you don't dent or scratch the wood (especially if the beadboard is softwood) TSP, and a good scrubbing should get the majority of the crudglies out. Sanding the grooves would likely drive you bananas! :D
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Re: 1911 bathroom project - help!

Post by angolito »

I don't see anything wrong with it . Paint is a simple fix. I'd agree with some shelving, done with actual old brackets ( not some uber expensive RH product) and an equally appropriate old wooden medicine cab..... there are PLENTY of those available.

To clean the beadboard ( PLEASE don't paint it) just use a fine steel wool pad and wipe it down with denatured alcohol. You don't have dirt in the grooves so much as you have valuable original shellac. The denatured alcohol will completely refresh the old finish without changing the beautiful color of the patina.

I like painted floors. Consider a stencil.

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Re: 1911 bathroom project - help!

Post by KristenS »

Your bathroom is the bathroom I desperately want!

Instead, I have a 1950s update, a 70s update, and a 90s update all smooshed into one. It's horrendous. And essentially unsalvageable.

I would give anything to be starting with what you're starting with. (Can you see me turning green over here?!) I wouldn't change a thing, except to repair anything broken. And then I would just sit in that tub and love the hell out of that room!
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Re: 1911 bathroom project - help!

Post by melissakd »

Oh my HECK. You've got, if my eyes do not deceive me, everything original except the toilet and the tub faucet.

I'd be interested in closer photos of the sink and tub. I'll bet the tub just needs a cleaning.

I'll try to dig up some pictures of 1910-era bathrooms for your inspiration.

Here's one typical setup of the sink area, with various accessory holders

In this ad from 1908, you can see a medicine cabinet on the wall to the right, separate from the mirror over the sink.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/verylastex ... 540617193/

1904 medicine cabinet
http://www.flickr.com/photos/fessendena ... 069813629/

Last edited by melissakd on Wed Oct 05, 2011 5:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: 1911 bathroom project - help!

Post by PowerMuffin »

Whoa, that sink is wonderful! I would go to extremes to save it, if it were mine. That whole bath is just awesome! No way would I paint that beadboard. You are so lucky to have such a classic bath.

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Re: 1911 bathroom project - help!

Post by lisascenic »

Why why why are you replacing the plumbing????

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