If we’re going to get the master bathroom functioning while Darwin’s off the week of 4th of July, that means we have a lot of prep work to do. For my part, I was determined to scrape and paint the clawfoot tub this weekend.

I researched it first on Houseblogs.net because I knew I’d read about other folks doing this. I came up with this practical advice from John at The Devil Queen. He gimped up his hand while going at his tub with a drill and wire brush grinding attachment. I planned to tackle my tub the same way, only I hoped without the gimping.

Darwin and my dad lugged the tub out of the shed where it’s been hanging out since December 2004 and into a shady spot on the grass, the better for me to contaminate nature with lead paint.

On one side the tub appeared to have two layers of paint (we discovered later it was actually three layers), the top one dirty and so dry and cracked I could brush much of it off with my hand. The other side of the tub had no paint at all, just a little rust.

I started working on it with two different wire brush attachments, one a flat disk and the other a cup shape. Both worked fine at getting off the loose top layer and any already-exposed rust.

But when the second layer of paint saw the wire brush coming, it simply yawned and went back to playing solitaire. The brush had no effect whatsoever.

Meanwhile, Darwin was standing around watching me, interjecting the occasional word of advice, his fingers twitching (while I gave him my patented Death Glare). It makes him insane when I tackle a project on my own because he is convinced he could do it better. Maybe so, probably so. But just back off, okay?


Then he actually made himself useful by taking the corroded old chrome hardware off the tub. I won’t tell you what short and curly parts of another human he found in the drain. Blechhcchhelaccchhhh. Shudder.

Okay. So then he went and found a scraper and started working on the second layer of off white paint and the old beige paint underneath it. The scraping worked, but it took a lot of brute strength, which I’m sorely lacking.

So here we were again, Darwin doing all the work while I was standing by with my drill and grinding attachments feeling useless.

Well not entirely. I did use the drill to work on smoothing the rusted areas.

Then Darwin got a blister on his hand from all the scraping and had to quit. I tried it, but all I could manage was to make a few chips in the paint when I wielded the scraper pickax style. The paint is hard to scrape because it’s on slightly bumpy metal, which doesn’t let the scraper slide along.

So I decided to bust out the trusty heat gun. But even the heat gun proved no match for that dastardly paint. The off white layer didn’t budge at all, and the bottom beige layer only got gummy and smeared everywhere.

In the end, we had to give up on my plans to get the tub fully scraped and at least primed. We decided the only thing left to try is chemical stripper, which we’ve never used before. Our local hardware store was already closed by then (why would a hardware store close at noon on Saturday, I ask you?), so the project had to be discontinued until we could make our next trip to Evil Empire (aka Lowe’s).

But I wonder if this stubborn (or as we say in Alabama, “hardheaded”) paint is the dreaded milk paint I’ve heard so much about. If so, will even chemicals phase its diamond hide?

Darn you, tub. I thought at least this part of the bathroom project was going to be easy.

Before During After

The one bit of good news for the day was that we finally found the date mark on the bottom of the tub. 9-7-1931. Our new goal is to have this tub in place and fully functioning by it’s 75th birthday.

posted by Kristin | filed under Clawfoot | 10 Comments


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