Tuesday, August 7, 2007

In Which I Inhale a LOT of Epoxy

Tonight I finally began a long-anticipated project: the resurfacing of our upstairs pedestal bathtub (ca. 1920-30). Our guest room has this wonderful old tub, rather like the one below, only dull, dinged, stained, and with a very unattractive tap. Just to clarify the intrinsic--if currently obfuscated--coolness of our tub, check out this reproduction, available from Restoration Hardware for the perfectly reasonable price of $4,299.00

A shinier, snazzier version of our tub

So it's a very cool tub. However, it's so scroungy, you don't really want to touch it with your bare hands, let alone your bare bum.

Rather than trying to extract the beast (which is larger than the bathroom door--we rather suspect that they moved the tub into place and then built the bathroom around it) and send it to a workshop that re-enamels your tub for you, we're doing the drastically downmarket version and coating it in this epoxy stuff:

It's called "Tile Doc," and it's an epoxy coating that you spray on top of your existing tile/porcelain to refinish it.

We're doing the guest tub first, so that we can use it during the 4 days it will take our master tub to dry.

The guy at the Sherwin Williams on Braker very sweetly agreed to tint the base for me, which meant a lot of eyeballing, adding a smidge, mixing, eyeballing, adding another smidge, and so on. It was really rather above and beyond of him. And it's so nice that he agreed to, because the color we've painted our trim and cabinets (white with a soupçon of moonglow) looks really awful paired with pure white.

Anyway, last night I prepped the tub with xylene (to take off any lingering traces of shine and to remove residues). I kind of like the smell of xylene--it reminds me of the hobby paints Dad uses for his model train. In addition, I'm told that it can be used to make meth; it's always so smart to have backup career plans. I think it can be used in explosives, as well. Versatile product.

Today I put down the first coat of Tile Doc, and let me tell you--when they warn against fumes, brother, they aren't kidding. You don't want to try talking while spraying--the stuff will literally make you gag. We had the vent going, the window and door open, and two fans blowing, and we were still swimming in a toxic miasma. The rest of the house still reeks of the stuff--I'm considering sleeping in the back of the Jeep.

Another key tip: do be very disciplined about putting down very light coats. I had problems with spraying too much, too closely, resulting in drips. You can try to soften the drips a bit while it's partially wet, but obviously it's better to avoid the problem altogether.

Incidentally, you may be wondering what kind of sprayer I used. I was only ever able to find Preval (the brand that gave me so much grief this past weekend), but I got a tutorial from the S-W guy, and either because of that or for some occult reason beyond my comprehension, it decided to work today. Very pleased about that.

I'll be putting down the next (last) layer in an hour--I'm blogging right from the thick of the action today. You are, in effect, embedded in the combat zone. Matt will be watching me, so if I keel over from the fumes, he can drag me off by the ankles. If you don't hear from us in a few days, you may want to send the police around to make sure we didn't suffocate in our sleep.

Just kidding.


Wed. a.m.

Okay--we survived the night. The 2nd coat didn't go quite as well as the first--the stupid spray canister wasn't working properly. It blew in spurts and stutters and suffered from low flow. I used a brand new air canister for the 2nd coat, too.

People. I implore you. If you ever take on this kind of task yourself, buy a power sprayer. Of course, they do require an air compressor, a fact that only serves to remind me of lost opportunities for buying useful tools back when we were bambooing. But we went through 2 air canisters last night, one of which didn't work properly, and we'll have to buy three more before this one project is finished. It'll presumably take 5 or 6 canisters to complete the master bath. Between the cost and the heartache, a power sprayer would definitely have been the prudent choice.

Nevertheless, the tub looks better this morning than expected. Because the spray flow was so low last night, the paint job came out all blotchy and we ran out of air before we had gotten through half the bottle of paint--so it was not only blotchy, but incomplete.

But epoxy is a viscous, oozy sort of substance, and I think that as it dries, it expands a bit and kind of mudges together, so it's less blotchy this morning than it was last night. Interestingly enough, it's still quite tacky, even wet. I'm not entirely sure when we'll be able to put down the next coat. But even with the splotches, it's already looking much, MUCH better, which is ever so gratifying.


Anonymous said...

Just wondering how long it took for the "tacky-ness" to subside. My tub was done a week ago and, although less tacky than it was, I do not think it could yet withstand someone showering without leaving tacky footprints - or having said person getting stuck to the tub floor!

bob said...

you still monitor your blog? I just redid my whole bathroom with this stuff, walls, floor, shower, tub. Had similar issues as you did, like the stuff running, and my wagner sprayer splattering when the reservoir got low. Anyway, I was wondering where you bought your stuff? I went through 5 quart mixes already and I bought it online. no paint stores so far I found carry it. I need to find this stuff in a gallon can.
BTW, I bought a respirator to deal with this stuff.

Elgin_house said...

Hey Bob--
Intermittently :-)
Re the tackiness, I think it should have subsided by a week. You might want to give it another week, and if it doesn't dry, remove it and start over. I found it was really important to measure the recipe very precisely. I measured 1/2 c water and poured it into a jar and marked the water line. Then measured a second 1/2 c, poured it on top of the first, and marked that waterline. This really helped the stuff dry better.

I bought mine from Sherwin Williams (the actual brick-n-mortar, not online), but unfortunately, it didn't come in gallons.

If I had it to do over, I'd (a) be more scrupulous about measuring, (b) buy a power sprayer, and (c) get a respirator!

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