Making Old Closet Doors Look New

by Rachel Blackburn in ,

Caden and Emmy’s rooms both have brass-framed mirrored closest doors.  

Have I told you how much I love brass?  Um, yeah no.

The doors are not cheaply made.  They are big and heavy.  They also make me a little nostalgic, reminding me of the big antique-brass trimmed closet doors in my grandparents’ place in Palm Desert.  

We looked at replacing the doors, but for a number of reasons decided to refinish them.  Reason number one was money.  Good quality doors like these are expensive, and we are trying to renovate this house on a really tight budget.  Reason number two was eco-friendliness.  Reduce, reuse, recycle.  And reason number 3 was that we couldn’t figure out how we would dispose of those big heavy beasts if we were to get rid of them!

We’ve already filled one three yard dumpster with stuff from this house, and we’ll probably need at least 3-4 more before the house is done.  Just saying…

So, we decided to reuse the closet doors.  They didn’t fit our design plan though, so they had to be given a facelift.

Enter, my good friend spray paint.

Don’t get me wrong.  I use spray paint as little as possible.  It’s definitely not zero VOC and it makes a mess, but there are some times you just need some good old metal-adhering spray paint.  And it’s cheap.

Michael took this project on.  We took the doors and track out of the 2 closets and painted them outside.  It took many layers and quite a bit of time, but we have brand-new looking doors for $25.  Quite the budget-booster, (mostly) eco-friendly and much more convenient than hauling the doors away!

- How to Paint Metal Trim on Mirrored Closet Doors -

1. Take the doors off the track and the track off the floor and wall.  

2. Put the screws and hardware in a baggie and store it somewhere safe, but not so safe that you won’t find them until you’ve given up and bought new screws and hardware.  Not that I’m speaking from experience here…

3. Clean the doors and hardware.  Get dust and rust off.  You might need a wire brush.  

4. Either tape plastic over the mirror part or resign yourself to scraping paint off of mirror with a razor blade.  Michael did the latter.

5. Spray several coats of spray paint on the metal frame.  Plan on many light coats of paint.  Too heavy and you’ll have drips.  Be sure you bought a spray paint that adheres to metal.  Read the label.

6. If you decide to scrape paint off of the mirror, do so once it’s dried.  Use a razor blade.  Otherwise, remove the tape and use a razor blade to touch up where the paint leaked through.

7. Run a line of painter's caulk around the inside of your door frame (smooth it with your finger or a little tool you buy at the hardware store) to hide any areas the paint couldn't reach.  Scrape the excess off with a razor blade.

8. Reinstall the doors and admire your work.  



- A few things we learned -

1. Don’t try to paint when it’s below 50 degrees, no matter how tempted you are.  Trust us.

2. Michael found that scraping the paint off the glass was best done around 3-5 hours after painting on a warm, fairly un-humid day.  He said doing this kept the paint from chipping or peeling away from where we wanted it to stay.

We Decided to Stain the Ceiling

by Rachel Blackburn in ,

Our wood-beam ceiling has been the center of much discussion.  Neither of us liked it.  It was whitewashed or bleached and (to quote Michael) it looked “thirsty”.  

I originally wanted to *gasp* paint it white.  

I know, big mistake.  Thankfully our realtor talked me out of that.  Someday I will have a beach house with white beam ceilings though!

Michael originally wanted to sand the whole thing (all 1700 sq ft of it) and stain it a dark brown.  

I thought he was nuts for wanting to sand 1700 sq feet over his head with a run-of-the-mill orbital sander, and I wasn’t sold on super dark ceilings.  I was afraid they would make the house seem dark and closed in.

Both of us were concerned about how a stain would cover the imperfections and existing bleaching on the ceiling.

So we compromised.

There is a section of beam over the kitchen wall that we are planning on removing, and we used that as our guinea pig.  Michael sanded part of it, and we put a medium-dark semi-opaque stain on both the sanded and unsanded parts.  Then we let it dry and spent a few days thinking about if we could live with the color.  

Sanded is on the left, unsanded on the right.  Yes, the trim and outlet are wallpapered.

Sanded is on the left, unsanded on the right.  Yes, the trim and outlet are wallpapered.

Turns out we could!

I know, technically Michael should have been wearing a mask.  He did, for most of the process.

The semi-opaque stain covers the bleaching nicely, and it actually looked better on the unsanded beam than it did on the sanded part.  In the end, with Michael doing the labor, it will cost us $200 for the brush and stain to do the entire ceiling.  It’s a cheap facelift with a big payoff!  





How to Make Old Walls Look New Again

by Rachel Blackburn in ,

Aka, how to do a skim coat.  

Michael has a thing about the walls in this house.  He wants them to look perfect.  I was a skeptic, but he has made me a believer.  

Behold, the skim coat:  

It's hard to see, but there is a thin layer of drywall mud on the walls and a thicker layer over by the window where there was more damage.  When we took the wallpaper off of the small bedroom walls, we discovered that they were lumpy.  Add to that the gouges from us removing the wallpaper, and it wasn’t a pretty sight. 

Michael did some research and decided to do a skim coat to make them smooth rather than hunting for and patching every divit.  What a difference it made!


- How to Skim Coat Walls - 

1. Test for lead.  You can never be too careful in an old house.  Lead test kits are available in the paint section of your local hardware store.

2. Lightly sand the lumps down with a sander (orbital is easier) and rough sandpaper.  Michael used 80-grit.  Be sure to wear a mask!

3. Wipe down the walls with a damp cloth, or blow them off with a shop vac.  Wear a mask for this part too!

4. Use the biggest drywall knife you can find and a drywall tray.  Load the tray with top coat drywall  mud.

5. Load a little mud onto the drywall knife and skim it onto the wall as thin as possible.

6. Let the mud dry.  Make sure it’s really dry before you sand.

7. Sand the dry mud with a sander and very fine sandpaper (mask here too!).  Michael used 120 grit.  If you can, hook your sander up to a shop vac to cut down on dust.

8. Check to see if anything needs touched up (follow the above steps to touch up).

9. Blow off the walls with the shop vac again.

10. Prime and paint!


Michael found this video to be very helpful.  There's a whole series by this guy that is great!

How to Remove Wallpaper On The Cheap (And Eco Friendly!)

by Rachel Blackburn in ,

This house is full of wallpaper.  I’m sure you’ll hear about it many times - my apologies in advance.  

When we decided to buy this house, I went to my BFF Pinterest and did some research on wallpaper removal.  I also talked to friends and family who had removed the stuff.

The result?  I was sure this was going to take FOREVER!

We went to Home Depot to pick up wallpaper removal stuff.  I had a pinterest-approved list - chemical wallpaper removal gunk, tool to punch holes in the wallpaper to make the chemical stuff soak in and scrapers. 

Then I was introduced to a magical device: the wallpaper steamer.

This thing is cool.  It was $50 and required no chemicals - water only.  The chemicals would have cost us about $150 for one room alone!  

Talk about cost savings.  

The steamer worked great, but I would call this a two-person/no kids around job.  One person steams, the other person scrapes.  Plan on lots of quality time to talk while steaming.  Do this after your kids have gone to bed or while they are being babysat - the steamer can spit really hot water from time to time.  

So, how did we do it?

Have one person steam the wallpaper.  We found 15 seconds on each section to be ideal in our situation.

The other person comes behind and scrapes the wallpaper using a plastic scraper.

Repeat.  Many, many times.  It took us 3 evenings (maybe 8-10 hours?) to do one room.  


A few things we learned: 

Get all the backing off.  Every last bit.  If you don’t, it will cause problems with your paint job afterwords.

If you happen to build up enough steam in the room from working on the wallpaper and your wallpaper is old enough, it will start to peel away from the wall without your having to apply direct steam to the wallpaper.  Big chunks come off - very satisfying!


In the end, this job was not as awful as I thought it would be.  In fact, it was pretty satisfying.  I recognize that not everybody’s wallpaper will act the same way and in some instances, the chemicals will be necessary, but try the steamer first - you just might be pleasantly surprised!