Dream house, dream life, yeah right. Dream on…

De-Pinking the bathroom

My first renovation project in this house was the bathroom. One thing you can almost guarantee about houses built around 1954 around here is the bathroom will be either pink or puke green. A new neighbour started to describe the ‘horrific’ bathroom they had just pulled out of the house – it was a carbon copy of my own. Pink wall tiles, to match the pink bath tub, which of course matched the pink basin.  Beside the basin is the world’s smallest vanity, which was covered with, pink laminex! All of this sat above terrazzo (polished concrete) floor in a fetching, wait for it, yes, matching pink with black and gray pebbles. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate pink?


My bathroom contains a bath with a shower over and a basin. The toilet is separate. On the other side of the bathroom is another room, a separate walk in shower bay. This room was also pink terrazzo floored with pink tiles. At some point my father tiled the upper wall (which was just lathe and plaster and not coping with the moisture) with white tiles with a pink vein.

A couple of decades later not only was the grouting starting to leak but I quickly figured out when I thought I might just regrout the room, that the original tiles were so crazed that the water was actually leaking through them as well –  hence the spectacular inch high blossom of mould that pushed the plaster off the bedroom wall on the other side of the shower.  Showering over the bath (which we rarely did) simply made the back of the wardrobe in the spare bedroom black with mould. So we stopped using the bath.   White Knight came out with a tile paint.  They sell a primer and a tile paint combination, which I used on the shower walls.  The primer was hopeless – despite cleaning and sanding it simply peeled off in sheets if damaged – like a water based paint applied over an oil. I had to run a craft knife around tiles and remove the damaged primer in spots and repaint a tile or two over the first 12 months. When I did the bathroom later  I skipped the primer and simply used ESP to prep the walls and have had no problems – but then again the bathroom walls get a lot less water than the shower walls do.

Somehow I never end up with enough before shots – it’s a shame because the cracked, dirty pink tiles were really special. Here’s the  shower floor, scrubbed and ready for painting. The terrazzo was totally disgusting, so worn that the mould never seemed to scrub out of the hollows.


There aren’t any paints that are really made for wet areas (except pool paints), but painting was my only option – the curved sides weren’t tileable (and I couldn’t afford tiles anyway). I decided against the acid etch that was recommended for priming  concrete and instead wiped ESP all over the floor, then painted with a water based paving paint.


2006OCT04 010

For the first time in  30  years the shower felt clean, the water wiped off the tiles, the floor cleaned with a sponge. It was wonderful. About 3 months later I had to patch a couple of spots on the walls where the water seemed to be getting behind the paint (esp near the handrails where it apparently wasn’t sealed well) and a few spots lifted on the floor under the direct flow of the shower, but they were quickly fixed and given a  day or so to dry.

After 18 months however this was the view.


I ESP (I think it stands for Extra Surface Preparation, it’s great stuff, claims you could even paint glass using it) primed the floor and gave it another coat which lasted pretty much another 12 months.  Repainting a tiny floor every 12 months is well worth it to me to have a shower that doesn’t look like the bottom of a swamp.

Despite the fact that I had bought the paints to do the bathroom I wasn’t allowed to until four years later, after Mum died.  Trust me, de-pinking was a great way to start the Summer holidays.

First up was the pink basin. The cabinets, which had been painted gray were painted with white semi gloss. The enamel basin had a very worn old drain surround and several hairline crack radiating from it, and a couple of dents/cracks in the bowl (although I have no recollection of how they occurred).  I bought a two pack epoxy enamel (White Knight Tub n Tile). The bath tub wasn’t done for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it wasin near perfect condition. Secondly, this stuff is not cheap and the pack I had just did 3 coats on the basin) and thirdly, I don’t think I had a hope if getting a really good surface on the bath with it without using a spray which I didn’t have.   Using a brush (and luckily keeping the leftovers in the fridge because after the second coat dried I definitely needed to do a third) I can still see some brush marks in the basin, and I know where the dent is. I sanded until my hands fell off and I still think I probably could have sanded more, especially around the rim. 3 years later, it still looks pretty good. I’ve had to fix one chip where it was hit by a hairdryer, and I patched that with the tile paint which hasn’t been a problem.  I took the tap off and painted the hole cover to match the sink. I had to borrow a friend’s hubby and his mate who finally managed to undo the drain. I’m very proud of the fact that I put in the new drain (with pop up plug) and reinstalled the tap by myself  (although I had to borrow a friend’s father to stop the tap connection dripping. He taught me about PINK teflon plumbing tape which is the best thing ever (I’d been using white). I’ve since replaced toilet cisterns, showers, taps and installed an in line water filter all without a drip 🙂


It took so long to get to the point where I could actually run water in the sink (It needed to dry for at least a week, then the delays with the plumbing…) that it actually took me a week to get out of the habit of walking into the laundry to do my teeth.

The walls took a few coats to really get rid of the pink, but you can’t tell they are painted. (I filled the holes in the grout first). And then the floors. Toilet, bathroom, and shower all got a lovely couple of coats of Berger Jet Dry paving paint, which is oil based and seems much hardier than the water based version.  I still have to patch up a couple of spots in the heavy water area in the shower every Summer, but it’s a small price to pay for the lovely floor 🙂



Note the holes in the tiles. I took down the shabby old chrome towel rails (before they fell down). The  wooden plugs in the wall were  rotten and loose. I thought I would just buy new rails to put back up, but of course it wasn’t that simple (nothing is in an old house).  First, I needed to match the new rails with the existing holes. Drilling into tiles over brick  was not among my skills at the time. The problem was, of the 4 metal rails in the room,  3 were completely different designs. different end shapes, different wall brackets, different screw holes.  So I cut and stained some pine (walnut stain) and using blutack and textas and a bit of luck managed to mark where the holes were on the posts and mounted them to the wall and then attached the rails.



I deliberately made them nice and deep so when a folded towel was thrown over them it wasn’t pushing them off the wall like the old chrome rails.

I learned a lot from tiling the tiny vanity, I know lots of what not to do next time. But it’s still better than pink laminex. 🙂 And the new wooden strip across the front finishes it beautifully. One day soon I’ll get around to putting some stained timber around the mirror to hide the horrible edges.


The bath caddy I got at a garage sale for $2 and painted black. The shower curtain I found online for $14.

I hardly even notice the bath is still pink these days

 bath done

All up cost, well under $300. Cleanliness factor –  priceless.

De-pinking an old bathroom

De-pinking an old bathroom



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