Putting “Bath” Back In “Bathroom”

Part of the charm of buying a house that was built in 1925 is stumbling upon all of the wonderful little details common to that era.  Ridiculous molding over closets and doorways.  Five inch baseboards.  An early craftsman-esque bannister for the staircase.  Radiant heaters built to survive a nuclear holocaust.  And what many consider among the most charming of all, a cast iron clawfoot tub.

I’m not a big bather.  I like showers – they’re efficient, ecologically better for the environment, and the thought of sitting in filth makes me feel a bit gross.  That said, soaking in a tub after a long week isn’t such a bad idea, just something I think is a better idea than a reality.  But that’s just me.

Well, the bathroom came with a cast iron tub AND cast iron sink.  Through the usual wear and tear of use while painting the house and cleaning brushes, I noticed the paint started to peel and chip in some parts.  And what I found underneath was yet another very pleasant surprise: porcelain enamel!

According to the guys at This Old House, older cast iron tubs were actually porcelain glazed.  So just like the famous Le Creuset cookware company enamels their signature cast iron pots and dishes, apparently that’s how early cast iron bathtubs were coated.

While paying my almost daily visit to my newly opened local hardware store, Annie’s Ace Hardware, I talk to the plumber and paint guys on staff to discuss my options.  Even Annie joins in the conversation to add her two cents.  You never know what you may find when you strip away paint.  So they were all cautiously optimistic.  That said, I bought a bucket of Ready Strip Paint and Varnish Remover, some scrapers and with a pat on the back and wish of good luck – I was off to the races!

It says it’ll take 4 to 24 hours for the stripping chemicals to work.  The paste will magically turn from green to white when its ready and then it’s time to start scraping.  I started with the sink, to just test the waters.  I already regret putting in a non-period toilet in the bathroom, so if at all possible, I would really like to salvage the sink and bathtub.  It’s just a matter of being able to do so myself, or having to shell out the $$$ to have it done professionally.  Stay tuned!


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