Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Room That Prime(r) Forgot

I've had a lot of time to think up a bad pun for the title of this post. A significant amount of the past week has been spent with a scraper in hand, attacking our bathroom walls. As far as I can tell, 20 years ago, whoever first laid paint on the fresh drywall of our bathroom did not use any primer. The paint is coming off of the walls in sheets up to a square foot in size, with very little coaxing.

Everything was fine until last Friday. I thought that a three-day weekend with nice weather would be great to finally repaint the bathroom. It needed it, because almost a year and a half ago, Brian and his father re-did the tile in the shower area. They primed the new drywall they put up above the tile, and also the ceiling above the tub. So, the walls in the bathroom didn't match. I volunteered to finish the paint job, then proceeded to stall. Eventually I bought the ceiling and wall paint, then proceeded to stall. Last Thursday I went to the library and chose some books on painting interiors. On Friday I was so hyped about the project that when the cat woke me up at 4 am I couldn't get back to sleep. So, I went downstairs and started planning on a pad of green engineering paper. What needed to be moved out of the room? What needed to be cleaned first? What steps would I need to go through to accomplish my goals? What were my goals? What were the hours and phone numbers of all of the local hardware stores? And so on.

Fast-forward through a hard day of cleaning and organizing, to about 5 pm when I start on the step called "repair wall defects". I started to scrape away at a terrible patch job that one of the previous owners had done over a spot where window hardware once hung. I got the lump of misshapen compound removed, and continued to remove all of the loose paint surrounding the patch. A few minutes later I was wondering if something might be wrong. All of the paint was coming off, easily. I could slide the plastic scraper between the paint and the drywall, and lift it right off.


The drywall is PRISTINE. There is no water damage at all. There is evidence of adhesion on maybe 1% of the surface, the rest is clean paper like it has never been painted. The sheets of paint are sturdy, thick due to many layers over time, and have an imprint of the drywall paper on the wall side. The room side of the flexible paint sheets is glossy, the wall side is dusty. I put a few samples in a zip-top bag and took them to Menards, then to our local ICI paint store. No-one has seen this before.

What caused it? Obviously, in 1988 they did something really wrong, like not using primer, not cleaning the wall after sanding, and/or using really cheap paint. Then, I disturbed it. I mean, obviously this bathroom has been painted many times before, and the 1% adhesion is enough to keep the paint up. (Jessie says it is like a floating floor, but on our walls.) It wasn't naturally peeling yet. But, the walls are in bad shape (lumpy) even without the paint adhesion problem. Some former owners appear to not believe in sandpaper.

So, I'm putting in the work to do it the right way. At the moment, that is:
a) remove as much of the paint that comes off easily, sand the gloss finish off of the remaining paint, clean the walls
b) use Peel Stop on any remaining paint so it never comes off
c) use Gripper primer on the whole wall
d) repair the drywall divots, in one extra-bad place putting in a square of fresh drywall as a patch
e) sand the patched areas, clean all the dust off again, prime over the patched areas
f) paint the ceiling
g) paint the walls

Progress so far: still on step "a". I did accomplish one goal for the project as I originally wrote down at 4am: "Decide if you would like to paint any other rooms in this house." My decision, if you haven't already guessed it, is "DO NOT WANT."

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