Beautifying a Half Bath – Wallpaper, Paint, and Paneling

All our prep work over the previous weeks (see here if you missed that) allowed us to nearly complete this 1/2 bathroom remodel in just one long weekend (Thank you Snow Day!) Most of the prep work was Tony’s realm: plumbing, installing flooring, removing toilets, etc. Now my work would begin, and the first step was the ceiling.

When Tony replaced the old metal pipe there was a lot of jiggling from the saw, which created some major cracks in the ceiling. Upon further inspection, I saw there was also some weird texture to the ceiling and I was telling Mom how much I was NOT looking forward to painting it and how I’d love to put that tin stuff up there, but it’s too expensive…. Then genius struck, and she suggested we use the paintable textured wallpaper that I’ve come to LOVE!

Bright and early that weekend we started with the paper. The sink and toilet had previously been removed for the new floor installation, so Tony set up the scaffolding for us. This project would have been really difficult without scaffolding. It wasn’t a necessarily easy project to begin with, but the scaffolding made it miles easier! The first task was just measuring and cutting the paper, leaving 3-4 inches extra on each side. Since our room was really long and thin, we decided to use shorter strips and go side to side. This was an excellent idea when it came to hanging!

Then we took a little break to attend yoga class. Mom and I have found that starting a major project like this with a yoga session is highly beneficial!

After yoga, though, it was back to work! We laid all the strips of paper out on the counter to apply the paste. The paper itself was prepasted, and it had worked really well for my previous projects (Kitchen Cabinets and Pantry), but the woman at Home Depot suggested using a can of paste instead. This made sense, as we’d be pushing this up over our heads and didn’t want wet glue to fall down on us.

20140321-001035.jpg We “booked” the paper and let the glue set for 10 minutes, as directed on the package, and tried to figure out how to go about this.


Applying wallpaper, in and of itself, is not a particularly challenging task. You line up the first piece straight and just base everything else off that. But that was our problem. Nothing in that room was straight… Let’s be fair: Nothing in our whole house is straight! So what would we compare it to? If we’d been thinking, we would have used Tony’s chalk line to really prepare for hanging that first piece. We didn’t do that though. We just winged it. As a result, our first piece came back down and went in the trash, but the second piece was nearly perfect! Tony inadvertently helped us when he refused to take down the light that was hanging by a chord from the ceiling. I said, “but what do I do when I get to that point? I can’t cut a hole in the middle of the paper!” since I’d been planning to start at one end and work toward the other.

He replied, “Start in the middle instead! Then cut your hole on the sides.” This was another genius statement, which, of course, annoyed me immensely at the time, but ended up being extremely fortuitous.

Lessons learned about papering a ceiling: 1.) Use scaffolding. 2.) Start in the middle of the room. 3.) Enlist the help of a friend!

With that first piece up, it was pretty smooth sailing for most of the ceiling, as the paper is made to line-up really well. I do have to say though, that papering a ceiling is definitely a two person job. I could not have done this alone. We’d both stand on the scaffolding holding the paper while I lined it up with the previous piece. Then Mom and I both would smooth the paper from the middle. This had to be done quickly or the paper would fall right down on our heads. Then we each pressed firmly into the creases at the edge where the wall meets the ceiling and would go back to the edges of that sheet, pushing extra glue in with a sponge brush. I imagine it would have looked rather comical to someone watching us try to maneuver around each-other on the narrow scaffolding. Luckily for us there wasn’t anyone there, so there aren’t any pictures – darn!

Once we got to the laundry end of the room though, we had to make a shift. In order to reach the far edge of that wall, I had to actually sit on top of the dryer . This made me rather uncomfortable, as it didn’t seem particularly stable, but it worked out fine!

The wallpapering process was tiring, particularly for our necks and arms as we spent so much time looking and pushing up, but it was so worth it! The paper looked so good as it was, I decided just to leave it white. I knew our efforts had been successful when my dad stopped by and said it was “awesome!”


I did trim the paper around the perimeter of the room with an Exacto Knife, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to get the edges really straight, so I also went around the entire edge with a bead of caulk and my handy caulk tool after all the painting was done. That extra little step gave the paper a finished look and ensured I wouldn’t have to install crown molding!


Here you can see just how crooked these walls are! Look at the left corner compared to the right.


Replacing the ceiling light was a little more challenging though. Thankfully for me, anything electrical is back in Tony’s realm, but he wasn’t too happy about putting a chandelier in a bathroom to begin with. He doesn’t really see the point. I look at the chandelier, purchased at a local antique mall, and think, “How can you not want a chandelier in every room?” Anyway, he wasn’t nearly as excited about it as Mom and I were. And he was even less excited when he realized the previous light was literally hanging from the wires that powered it. It looked like someone had shoved a screwdriver into the sheetrock and just ran some wires through. That meant Tony had to create an actual hole and install a real electrical box. Just as with the floor-dissintegrating-around-the-toilet that started this whole bathroom re-do, it was a good thing that we realized the problem before it actually became a big problem. Wires just shoved through sheetrock – talk about a fire hazard!

There was still another issue though. In most houses the sheetrock is thin enough that the electrical box in the ceiling and the wires in the chandelier just hook up and you screw the chandelier in. It’s pretty straight forward. But in this old house, we have sheetrock on top of plaster on top of lath – almost an inch and a half of material between the box and the place the chandelier sits.

A trip to the store for three extenders fixed the problem, thank goodness, and now look at my amazing ceiling!

Painting was a snap, then it was time to install the board and batten with my new favorite tool – the nail gun! We were keeping the existing baseboards, which I’m pretty sure are just a 1×6 board, so I used 1x3s for the battens. Each one had to be measured and cut individually, since our floor is so uneven!

20140321-004823.jpg Then I placed a board horizontally at the top and a smaller one horizontally about 8 inches below the top piece. The shelf that caps it all off is just another 1×3 set perpendicular to the top piece.

The next step was to caulk like crazy!

20140321-005124.jpg Even the smoothest plaster walls can be extremely uneven, and these weren’t smooth at all. This was my Frankenstein wall, held together with plaster screws and a lot of joint compound. The caulk worked wonders though, and after a final coat of paint, it all looked like one piece. A friend of Mom’s came over and thought the wainscoting was all original to the house!

Tony put the pedestal sink back in, but with a new faucet, and I added a little shelf to the corner to hold the lotion bottle.

The shelf is made from scrap pieces in the same way as the upper shelf around the perimeter of the room: one board fits flush on each wall and another board sticks out on top of it, attached with nails from the nail gun.


That curtain hides away our washer, dryer, and a foldable hanging rack. And since it goes all the way to the ceiling, I can store big packages of TP and paper towels up there, freeing up space on our little storage closet!


On the other side you can see those great shelves Tony put in for me! The boards are just simple unfinished shelving, cut to size, of course, but they stained beautifully! The boxes at the top hold extra detergent, fabric softner, etc… All the laundry related stuff that you don’t use very often, while the detergent and dryer sheets I’m currently using are on a little shelf hidden behind the big long curtain – exactly where I need them!


We still need to finish off that last 5% or so… essentially just the shoe that attaches to the baseboards to hide the laminate edges, and that curtain below the shelves is temporary. My dad is making a custom cabinet door to hide away the plunger and toilet brush. But even without all that done yet, this former “eyesore on the face of our house” (Tony’s words) is now a beautiful extension of our kitchen. Just look at what a warm view people see from the back door! Every time I walk in and see this view instead of the old green with holes in the wall, it just makes me feel good.


Let’s look at the before and after shots again:


I think Nancy said it best last week when she said it doesn’t even look like the same room. Thank goodness!


Make It and Love It
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6 Responses to Beautifying a Half Bath – Wallpaper, Paint, and Paneling

  1. stacyg says:


  2. Pam McNicoll says:

    What a HUGE difference this project has made!! I love your creativity! Your personalities are shining through room after room!!
    And I love being able to be part of -This Old House!!!
    Love, Mom

  3. Nancy Clewell says:

    Love the transom above the door….wow!

  4. Beth and Bob says:

    Coolest bathroom ever!!! Please move to green bay to re-do my house!!! Awesome work. Thanks so much for sharing the pics!!!

  5. Pingback: It’s Always Something  | A Guy, A Girl, and a Really Old House!

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