Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Quick Restoration & A Small Disaster!

I don't recall exactly when I bought this little medicine cabinet, but I'm fairly sure I shared some photos of it before (on this blog). I bought it for a few dollars (possibly even just 1$, I can't remember), and I remember it was in the basement of a "whole house contents" type sale. The kind of sale where it was likely an old lady (or couple) who lived there and passed away. I remember buying several neat things at this sale, and I bought this cabinet right off the wall. I had to unscrew it (which was luckily just 2 screws).

I'm not sure how old it is, but it's AT LEAST 1950 (I know this for a fact, see below), but more likely 1930s or 40s.

This is more or less how I purchased it: absolutely filthy. It also sat in the basement for maybe a year now.

Let me just say that these two photos (above) don't do the grime justice. It was pretty plastered with a layer of old dust, making the formerly white paint a dingy yellowish grey. The interior (which you'll see shortly) was far worse.

The mirror is not the original one (which must have broken), and this replacement (but still OLD) mirror was loose in the door, so I removed it. In doing so, I found a folded sheet of newspaper, dated April 23rd 1952.

The mirror BARELY fits in the door (it's smaller than it should be and I had to use spacers around it when I put it back in), but it has a wonderful aged look (I'm a huge lover of antique mirrors, and I have over a dozen), so I wanted to clean it and reuse it. The mirror must have been a low-end one, since the backing paint was hand painted with a brush (higher quality mirrors have a sprayed or rolled painted film on the back). The black edges appear to be in between the glass and the paint, so it's actually the silvering that is "damaged" or tarnished. It might have been originally in a frame that covered these edges... who knows.

Here's how the interior looked (I also removed the back to be able to clean inside it properly). When I said it was filthy, I wasn't kidding!

You can see how the glossy old oil paint cleaned up pretty well in that photo. I used a damp cloth dipped in ample amounts of Comet, and a little bit of dish soap as a lubricant. I went over EVERY INCH of this cabinet with this mixture. It took about 1/2 hour or so, but I was left with this:

Far from perfect, and it did nothing for the poorly painted spots (the original paint was a mustardy beige (see above), or all the paint chips, but everywhere else, the paint is now shiny and clean.

I installed one of my new repro catches on it, since it was the closest hardware that fit (including some old catches I had on hand). It looks a bit odd to have the bright brass unpainted, but unless I paint over the whole thing again, I can't match this "aged off-white" old enamel paint, so it's staying as-is. The other option might seem obvious: remove the hinges and strip those, but they are really heavily painted, and the paint around them would probably chip badly, and then I'd have to repaint the whole thing again...

Like I said, still lots of paint chips, but it's CLEAN now.


Alright, I've said it before, but it never stops me from doing it anyways: Don't Pick At It!

What do I mean? Well, here's a little story. As you know, I've been working on the L Room casings for the past 2-3 days, getting it ready to paint. In doing that, I was using a chisel to scrape and pry-off large chunks of drywall mud (and paint, and wallpaper bits, and specks, and staples, and...) and when I was working on the left-side window, I uncovered a "soft spot" where the wallpaper (and dozens of paint layers over it) was loose off the drywall. I already knew about this, but I didn't think it was very big, and I thought I'd ignore it.

Here's where the "Don't pick at it" comes into play. I had the choice to either ignore it and move on, or scrape away the loose stuff. Guess which option I picked?


Now, let me just explain to you exactly what you're seeing. See that pinkish papery section at the top with a brown edge? That's not wallpaper. That's the actual drywall paper! The portion of wall below this must have gotten wet (leaky window, or the window might have been left open in bad weather), and the drywall soaked up some water. The actual paper facing came loose off the interior plaster/fibre layer. The light fuzzy brown portion on the lower part is the interior plaster layer showing, with just "fuzz" left from the paper.

The other issue (other than the missing paper), is that now the difference in thickness is about 1/8". No I'm not exaggerating here. There's a lot of plaster/mud smeared around on the walls, maybe 2-3 layers of wallpaper, dozens of coats of paint, and that pink you see above is Calcimine.

Luckily, this old 1920s drywall is pretty hard, and it won't crumble or do anything awful with the paper layer missing, so I secured it in place with extra screws (to keep this section from flexing around).

This whole wall is absolutely TERRIBLE (one of the worst ones in the house), so I don't feel bad about just doing a "good enough" patch job here.

Coat 1:

Coat 2:

I laid on the mud fairly thick, and as evenly as possible, so I'm hoping this will be enough. I will do a rough sanding, then another "patch" coat to fill in any valleys (I know there will be some). Basically just 1-2 thin touch-up layers, and I'm calling it good.

What do you guys think? Have you had to do similar "good enough" repair jobs?


  1. Man these "good enough" repair jobs are the story of my life. The walls in my house have so many patches all over the place (many have been there for a VERY long time), I don't really feel bad when I make one too. Even the walls that are supposed to be plaster have drywall patched in. With a bit of skim coat and new paint, nobody will know the difference.

  2. Same story here. We found lots of those sort of "fixes" in our house thus far, and I'm sure there are more to come. I've found lots of painted over blue painters' tape, too, so we know it's not that old. I'm not really sure why I bother tearing out the bad patches to replaster- what am I proving?