Project: Transforming builder grade cabinets to Old World (ASCP Old White with Dark Walnut glaze)

The Project: builder grade, oak cabinets installed when we built the house 14 years ago. They have one layer of stain and varnish to deal with and are in excellent condition, needing no repairs. If you have older cabinets, with more paint layers you may need to do more prep work (more sanding or a chemical stripper) then I did.

Here is our master bathroom (before) ~ nice but still a builder grade cabinet with a medium oak blah finish that is very dated:

Before working on paint colors know exactly what else you will be changing in the room. Eventually the counter, sinks and faucets will be replaced, the mirror framed, new lighting installed and paint color changed (for the Pinterest Idea Board look here). Overall, the room will be in the brown-tan, off-white creamy family (here’s the overall planning post).

Hardware was removed; drawers and doors were taken off and moved to the garage. All the cabinetry was first sanded (electric sander, 80 grit and then 120 grit) to remove the top, shiny coat and encourage paint adhesion.

The Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP) states you don’t have to sand or prime but if you are re-doing cabinetry, either bathroom or kitchen, I would at least give them a good clean with detergent to remove oil, grease, or any residue before painting. I did do a test board that was sanded and another that was not sanded: the sanded side had better paint adhesion and a smoother, end appearance.

needs a cleaning!

To make these cabinets special, I’m adding wood appliques and some very nice hardware. These appliques were found at Lowes but you can also find them online in a wide variety of patterns and sizes:

To apply, two tiny holes are pre-drilled for small (brad) nails. Wood glue is applied on the back and then the small nails are tapped into place after the applique is properly aligned:

checking alignment

Three coats of ASCP in Old White was applied to the vanity, cabinet door fronts and drawers with a 1″ brush and a 4″ foam cabinet roller. Love it!

For the cabinet door appliques, I first painted the door with one coat of ASCP, and spraypainted the wood applique white before gluing and nailing it down. This made it easier on getting the second and third coat to look even.

The first day cabinet door backs, drawer fronts, and the vanity were painted. The second day I painted the cabinet fronts with three coats and applied their wood appliques.

Tip: when painting both sides of a project like doors, be aware when you flip it and the newly painted (but dried) side is down, it can be damaged. Make sure you have a clean and non-stick surface for it to rest upon when you paint the second side.  When I’ve used plastic garbage bags they also removed fresh, but dried, paint. Now, I use a plastic sleeve from a box that originally contained blinds, over the top of the sawhorse.

Quart cans of paint and stain are used to elevate cabinet doors so I can paint the edges and let them dry. You can use cans of vegetables/fruit from your cabinet too.

The drawer runners make these drawers stand slanted, so gallon cans hold the drawers in place so all painted edges can dry without falling over.

Tip: If you are uncertain as to your color choices on your cabinets, it’s always best to do a test board; this will save a lot of time and aggravation! Especially, if it is a project that would be a big pain to redo or is a very important feature to your house (we can all afford to experiment on a small table!).

After doing a test board, I decided to go with ASCP Old White and a glaze of McColkseys (same as Valspars) Buff glaze with the glaze applied with a ragged on/off method (used about 2 cups). This method was done on the cabinet door fronts, the drawer fronts, and the front board where the appliques were mounted on the vanity. Other flat surfaces were left ASCP Old White.

Ragging on is the application of glaze with a clean cloth (i.e. cut up t-shirt). This method works well across large flat surfaces. Depending on the color difference between undercoat and glaze, you can have a high or low contrast. The cloth is saturated with glaze (how much depends on how much color you want applied). I like it soaked but not dripping.

The rag is crinkled in a long tube and then rolled across the surface. I re-crinkle the rag about every 3 to 4 times of rolling and every other roll I change direction. This gives a random pattern.

Ragging on randomly applies paint to a surface

If you get too much glaze or want more exposure of the undercoat you can rag off. Take a clean cloth with no glaze and roll across the wet surface to remove glaze. You will need to keep using clean rags to keep removing; using one that has glaze on it will re-apply the glaze to the surface.

Here I use a clean rag to pat/blot off excess (pat down and lift straight up so pattern is not smeared) or I can use it by rolling it across the surface to remove paint (ragging off) which softens the overall pattern.

ragging off with a clean rag removes excess paint

For comparison, here is a ragged on, glazed door with Buff (left) and an ASCP Old White only (right) cabinet door comparison (click photo for a close up):

You could stop there if you like that look but I wanted to take it further. After the glaze was left to dry for the afternoon, the edges were distressed with an electric palm sander (Black and Decker Mouse) with 120 grit. I blew off the sanding dust with a hair dryer (set on cool) before moving to the next step of glazing with Cabots’ dark Walnut stain (project used about 1 half pint).

A coat of dark Walnut stain was wiped on and off (wear a glove if you don’t want to get your hand stained; I clean my hands with NEXT brush cleaner).  Or you could use a chip brush which I did on the door backs and vanity.

Saturate the rag or brush with some stain and then wipe on your cabinet door, paying careful attention to the distressed areas. Because this is a distressed finish, the stain can be applied in a criss-cross pattern or rubbed on in circles.

worked in circles over center panel

Wherever you have sanded down to bare wood, the stain will be asborbed. Aim for raised areas such as the edge of doors and drawers. Work in circles and straight lines to get the stain worked into the crevices. If you put on too much and it gets drippy, just wipe and blot off with a clean rag.

A stain glaze is asborbed by the undercoat paint more then a traditional, glaze medium; depending on the product it may have a faster drying time then a traditional glaze medium. It’s important you immediately get a feel for how quickly the glaze you are using dries. Different brands have different working times which can be further extended with other products.

The stain on the back of the cabinet doors and the base cabinet was simply wiped off with a clean rag used in a circular motion. The stain on the cabinet door fronts, I wiped off and Ragged Off using clean t-shirt rags. The ragging caused the stain to make a really neat, aged pattern!

Doors for overjohn cabinet

Why did I go with the Dark Walnut stain and not the dark wax? To use dark wax properly, the entire piece has to be coated with clear wax first then dark wax, making this project even more expensive ($28 a can of wax) and time consuming. I also find, for my taste, the dark wax can start looking dirty over certain colors.

I like the clean lines of a liquid product such as stain or glaze and the variety of colors to choose from (ASCP can be diluted into a glaze also). A similar door glazing project (using black glaze over gray paint) is shown for the downstairs bath. I guess it comes down to a personal choice but I prefer glaze over using wax for distressing cabinets.

I left the Dark Walnut stain to dry overnight and the next day (fourth on the project) I darkened the back of the cabinet doors so they would be more in keeping color-wise with the overall project when opened. After everything dried, Annie Sloan clear wax (for water protection) was put over the cabinet doors and drawers. All the hinge hardware was given an oil rubbed bronze spraypaint and left to dry overnight. The vanity was stained and also left to dry overnight.

cabinet door backs

The fifth day the vanity was was waxed and buffed. MISTAKE! When I brought the doors and drawers back in, I realized I had made a mistake on color. The vanity was more chocolate, the drawers and doors a bit lighter. To correct, I sanded them down lightly with 120 grit on my palm sander and applied more stain glaze. This set me back a day as I left them to dry again overnight.

Sixth day, the doors and drawers were waxed and buffed, the hardware installed and the door  and drawers put back in place. Wow!!! So happy with these new cabinets! (but totally disappointed with the photos which don’t show the loveliness as the flash washes out the color)

This was the first time I’ve worked with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on cabinets and here are my thoughts on the matter:

~ The paint dries incredibly fast with good adhesion, has little drip factor (in it’s original mixture it’s quite thick), and has very low to no odor. This makes it great for in-house projects and “get-it-done-in-a-day” projects.

~ This paint screams to be distressed. Over sanded wood that was quite smooth, when being brushed applied at full strength it did not go on smooth and clearly wanted to become distressed when being brush applied. The unsanded, test door immediately displayed craquelaure when paint was applied in the second coat.

~ It gives a flat, chalk feel and color to the paint; there is no shine unless you wax or coat it.

~ It sands amazingly well! This makes it ideal for distressing as over the counter latex paints peel when sanded.

~ I was concerned about how it would work with other products but it did well with the Cabot’s stain and the Buff glaze.

~ The chalky feel concerned me that it wouldn’t be protective for cabinets, but once it was glazed and waxed the surface is very protective.

~ The project went faster then using the enamel white paint in the kids bathroom so working in a team of two we were able to get them done with three coats of paint, front and back of doors, along with a glaze coat of ragging, a stain coat, and a wax coat in five days (not counting a mistake day).

~ It was brushed on over oak, the hardest grain pattern to conceal with paint. After two coats the undercoat of stain and oak grain were still visible. This is not a high conceal paint. If you want a solid, smooth coat, like I did on the kids bathroom cabinets, I would pass on this product for that purpose.

~ The paint produces the same amount of brush strokes as other paints, latex and enamel, when used without Penetrol. Because it dries so fast it is a bit harder to “feather out” brush marks.

After working with it, I do think it’s a do-able paint for the downstairs kitchen as long as I wax the doors twice. I’m excited that we’ll be able to trim costs and have me give the kitchen a professional finish without paying a professional. woohoo!

Updated ~ New hardware has been added

Monogram your terra cotta pots

Through the holidays, I worked on this project inspired from this website about using terra cotta pots for tabletop candle holders and this one about transferring graphic images onto terra cotta pots.

click photo for a larger pic view

The terra cotta pots ready to be painted:

Paint is applied with a dry brush method. This simply means the brush is very dry and has little paint on it. For variation, you might try a slightly damp sponge with a little paint.

Painted with the first coat of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (Provence). Of course color choice is up to you though I like blues, blue-greens, grays, and whites with some of the terra cotta showing:

Left pot has second coat with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (Old White over Provence with Terra Cotta):

The colors are further smeared with a slightly wet paper towel. The ASCP smears nicely; I don’t think regular latex would work because when distressed it would peel off the terra cotta however, you could try Poster paints if you don’t want to go the expense of ASCP.

These candle holders will go down the middle of the table and can be seen from two sides. Here’s how the letters will lay out to spell correctly:

Modge Podge is applied. If going outdoors, use Modge Podge for outdoor use. Put on a nice layer, don’t skimp, where the image will be applied:

Each letter must be put on as a mirror image so check the alignment. I also measured from the bottom of the pot to keep them the same from pot to pot:

Let sit from 6 hours to overnight to dry. Once fully dry, use a wet washcloth to wet the paper. Experiment with how wet, but I found getting it thoroughly wet all over the paper so the paper seemed transparent worked well:

To start removing a layer of paper, use the pads of your fingers to roll off the excess paper. Work from the outside corners inward:

Here are some tips:

Start from the outside corners and work inward. This gives you a feel for how much pressure you want to use.

If you find yourself rubbing too much off, set aside and let dry before trying again with no or less water.

Realize that removal doesn’t mean removing all the paper. You will have some left where the image remains on the pot.

If the black starts to smear, set aside and let it dry before trying again.

If too much image is being removed, I let it dry some and then go back and roll off more.

This does randomly distress the lettering. It’s not supposed to look perfect and that is okay!

After it was completely dry, I used a metal brush to file off any excessive paper – or you could use very fine sandpaper or a sanding block. I also put one last coat of diluted Old White over it all which I immediately wiped off just to bring down the brightness of the lettering. I put a layer of AS clear wax on it (or you could have sprayed with with a protective coat) and let it sit overnight

Floral foam goes inside each pot. After the candle is set, the top is decorated with greenery such as moss, spare Christmas tree branchlets, Rosemary, berries, mini pinecones, and/or acorns. For Valentines Day, I’ll be making a LOVE set with red glass stone/beads with the candles. Use your imagination!

Download a 4 circle blank, HomeLove or Noel graphic (the circle border is from the Graphics Fairy, and the font is Book Antiqua) in a jpeg. These images are reversed for application and ready for printing. 2 rows will fit on a 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper.

Project: bathroom vanity with laminate over laminate

The kids bathroom in our house is one of three baths, used (of course) by our two teens (13 and 17 year old). While we are updating to sell the house in a year, this isn’t a make-or-break bathroom that needs to be over the top, it does need to be clean and updated throughout.

One part of the up-modeling is the counter. This bath originally had a blue laminate countertop that we put in 14 years ago when we built the house. It’s way overdue for that to go.

I first considered granite ($800), and then buying a premade vanity countertop with laminate ($225), but in an effort to keep cutting costs with DIY and sweat labor, decided to buy a sheet of laminate (Formica Flint Crystal) from Lowes. Wow! I picked it up from my local Lowes store within three days. It came rolled up in a box and easily fit in my hatchback.

I picked this color and pattern for several reasons. A similar pattern in Corian is at a local chain of gas stations as their counter (TIP! ~ commercial spaces often give a lot of good design ideas). I’ve noticed that it doesn’t show spills or stains easily and that it is a great neutral color scheme.

Gray is very big in design at this time, and with the white (cabinets and moulding), it should be a neutral color scheme appealing to buyers. TIP! ~ Gray could be paired with blue (think French), yellow, fire-engine red, or a neon color such as hot pink, lime green or lemon yellow.

Before laying your laminate, do some research first. It will make the job go easier with fewer mistakes. It’s not that laminate is hard to lay but a mistake or a scratch means re-doing the job and who wants that?? The Cabinetry Expert channel at Youtube has some very good DIY laminate tips:

Cutting Laminate with hand tools

Using a Table Saw to cut Laminate (if using this method, it is ESSENTIAL that your blade be new and sharp; anything dull will cause damage to the laminate. Laminate lays good side up with a table saw.)

Applying Contact Cement Glue (btw I would go with the glue and roller over the spray – and this stuff STINKS!)

If you need a file, he has directions on how to do this properly.

Basic instructions on how to laminate a kitchen countertop from start to finish.

There are some other great videos out there:

From start to finish – building the laminate countertop with an undermount sink. This video shows a beveled edge to the countertop that has been pre-made and just needed to be attached.

Laying over existing laminate – hits all the high points with a bulleted slideshow.

Making your own beveled edge. We couldn’t remove the countertop without damaging it but this would have been the preferred method if we could have (adapted for home materials).

Explanation about Router bits and how to use them.

Okay, so let’s move on to how we did our project. First thing we shut off the water and removed the existing sinks and faucets and plugged the open pipe (to prevent wood debris getting in).

Older houses may not have shutoffs at the sink – you may have to shut off at the curb. If you are going to all this time and trouble, I would recommend putting in sink cut off valves when you re-install the sinks. It provides some real future insurance against disasters such as frozen pipes and leaks.

We pulled off the back and side splashes and cleaned the counter top. If doing a kitchen counter with grease residue, use thinner. We wanted to remove the counter completely but it turned out the builder put it in pretty tight! So in an effort to save it, we left it in place but this meant the project took longer and had to be adapted.

The existing countertop surface is sanded using my electric Mouser sander and 80 grit sandpaper. It has to be roughed up for a better gluing attachment.

Before going past this point – use PROTECTIVE EYEWEAR — laminate really produces a lot of pointy and sharp debris. You could poke your eye out!

We used a circular saw and router to cut the laminate. Holding laminate sheets for cutting can be tricky, especially if they are large, due to their flex. Use sawhorses, boards, clamps, and a helper to support it.

We shortened the length with a circular saw; to minimize splintering, have the good side down when using a circular saw (if using a table saw, good side should be up). The pencil line is slightly off – cutting it a bit wider this first pass allowed room for error.

The Router (with a Straight Bit) came back to get a closer, cleaner edge. When using the Router some things to keep in mind: fatter blades cut slower and chops off more; and thinner blades cut faster.

TIP! ~ The Router must be moved around the OUTSIDE of a rectangle (or circle) on a COUNTERCLOCKWISE movement.

Photo shows a first cut with the Router and a visual verification we are on the right line (look upper left corner).

Clamps, straight edge and boards provide a guide and something to push against when using the Router.

If the Router is a bit off the line or too rough, and you have room to cut closer, make a second pass with the Router. If the roughness is slight then use a hand file to make smooth.

BTW the countertop piece was deliberately cut a little longer in depth so AFTER IT IS PLACED, the Router can do a final trim, getting it a perfectly against the front facing. Trying to cut this exactly before installion wouldn’t give as fine an edge.

TIP! ~ You can always trim back but you can’t add on after you cut 😛

When cutting the long leg, make sure your laminate is supported both at front, back and sides. The cut edge will become the front of the counter and it is marked with pencil and a piece of tape as such. This will help when we lay it on top of the existing counter and mark the holes for the sink.

Next, cuts are done on the long scrap piece. This piece will become the front edge.

The counter front has glue (contact cement) put on using a foam paint applicater. The back of the laminate is also brushed with glue. Both pieces are allowed to dry per the instructions (about 15-20 minutes) before being placed together. When the glue sides touch, it will form a chemical bond that will NOT BE MOVEABLE!

Contact cement is strong smelling; be aware of the need for ventiliation.

Note how the piece is actually taller then the eventual height. This allows it to be cut with the 45 degree ANGLED Router bit and gives a nice beveled edge. Before using the Router to trim it, rub the surface with a block of wax or candle. This prevents the laminate from being scratched by the Router.

The first pass of the Router left too much. We reduced the height on the bit and cut again. A final pass with a hand file trimmed it up nicely. The ends, where the Router couldn’t reach, we hand filed.

Router is used counter-clockwise

NOTE! This is the hard way of making a beveled edge. Since we didn’t remove the countertop we had to improvise. If at all possible, I would recommend removing the countertop completely and making the beveled edge the more traditional way (as shown in the above referenced video).

The counter top is ready to go on. Glue is applied to the old counter top and to the bottom of the new laminate to be placed. The blue painters tape on top of the new laminate marks the front of the laminate. No glue was placed where the sinks were marked out with pencil on the rough side of the laminate.

sticks separate the new from old laminate before laying it down

Again, a helper and some tricks (using sticks – see some of the videos listed above) can make this happen without it being a problem. Work from the center, outwards on removing the dowels and pressing it down.

Once the laminate is down, smooth it outwards to insure there are no pocket bubbles under the sheet. They sell a special J-roller for this; we used a 2×4 block wrapped in clean cardboard because this was a one-shot project. If we were laying a lot of laminate, I would have gone with the tool.

A hole is drilled in the center of the sink area (an empty cavity) to allow the Router access.

The Router (with a Flush Bit) uses the sides of the existing sink holes as a guide to cut a circle in the laminate. TIP! ~ When using a Router to cut the INSIDE of a circle or square, it needs to move CLOCKWISE.

The front edge of the countertop top is cleaned up using the 45 degree angle bit on the Router. It is traveling, left to right, which is a counter-clockwise direction.

Some paint thinner cleans up and removes any glue residue on the laminate. Sinks are re-installed and a line of white, bath caulking is put around each rim. The beveled edge that we weren’t able to cover with laminate, I will paint white next weekend. BTW the price for this project was about $60 as we owned the saws, Router, and bits needed. Cost was only the laminate and the glue.

Woohoo!!! So much nicer already!!

The backsplash will be a tile one; I just felt repeating the laminate as a backsplash would make it look cheaper. I’ll post about the backsplash install after we get the right tile ~ probably around Thanksgiving.

Project: tiling the bathroom floor

In the end, we decided to go with a small tile pattern on a connected grid 12″ x 12″, instead of the 6″or 12″ tile for the bathroom floor. The first reason was, once the 6″ and the 12″ was laid out on the floor we would have ended up with an odd cut against the wall, no matter how we arranged it. 

The next reason was this bathroom has two rooms that do not match in size. Putting larger size tile would have made the adjoining rooms look even more lopsided then they do now.

It’s a problem also because the toilet is not centered in the bathroom so when you enter the first room and look forward, the toilet is off-centered. BTW toilet location is determined by code as it must be so many inches away from the wall and so many inches away from the tub (as determined by your city).

New light in toilet area and yellow paint brightens it up

Because we are changing the floor, I always like to paint before the new floor goes in so I don’t have to worry about paint splatters and drop clothes. I paint the ceiling first, then walls and cabinery. Any electrical work (such as adding the side sconce in the toilet area) should be done before painting and tiling.  

It’s best to completely remove vinyl before proceeding; we used a mat and putty knife to remove it. If you have a lot of layers or old fashioned linoleum, they do sell a floor scraper for removal; it has a broom handle and a blade scraper on the end.

Plug the toilet drain to protect yourself from sewage vapors

The tiles are mixed thoroughly between boxing. Mixing the tile ensures, if color is different between batches, it won’t be noticeable once the floor is laid. The same (mixing wood from all boxes) should be done if you are laying wood floor.

Dry lay just means we are setting out the pattern without afixing it. Take your time here and make sure you get the layout you want.

wood block along wall is the new moulding depth

It’s also the time to make guide line marks in pencil or with a chalk line. This helps keep the tile line straight when being laid. For this project, laying the tile started from the back wall, behind the toilet. But it needs to be measured and aligned from the front entry door so the tile appears straight when entering the bathroom.

pencil grid keeps laying of tiles straight

When going through a doorway pay particular attention that tile is straight both horizontally and vertically. Because these tiles are attached to each other on a 12″ x 12″ sheet they are easier to lay and keep straight then free, individual tiles.

Dry laying helps you check alignment

Most houses don’t have perfectly straight corners. For this reason, dry lay and keep adjusting and make marks where you visually want the tile to lay. For example, we wanted the doorway to be the straight line but that meant it was a bit off from the tub (on the left) so the line was slightly adjusted to appease both area.

TIP! ~ make sure you measure by the true width of YOUR tile. Our so-called 12″ inch, square sheets actually measure at 11 3/4″.

Door way jambs have to be trimmed to fit the new height of the floor.

A Coping or hand saw used to trim out door jamb

Here’s a video showing more detail:

Professionals recommend mixing your own custom Thinset so you can increase the latex and thus the flexbility of the floor (for example if you decide to lay over plywood which can be dicey), but we couldn’t find those materials easily so went with a pre-mixed Thinset by Mapei which had added latex.

Follow your package instructions on making your Thinset and make only as much as what you can do within the drying time the product gives. Make too much and you won’t get it down before it dries. Our floor (about 50 sq. feet) used the entire 50# bag for Thinset and Grout.

Thinset is applied using a grooved trowel (link shows trowel sizes due to tile size; also check the Thinset bag directions; the type of flooring subsurface can effect groove size too). Too little and it won’t adhere – you want an even coat throughout. Too thick results in bumpy tile. It’s not as hard as it sounds – it’s like frosting a cake!

Trowel shown mixed thinset

Because we used a smaller tile, we were able to use a hand tool (nippers) for trimming tile for toilet and wall edges (wear protective eyewear when cutting tile!). For larger tiles (6″ or 12″) use a wet tile saw.

Clamps hold tile for trimming

The tile is left to dry 12-24 hours (read your Thinset directions) before grouting. Grout is applied with a tile float at a 60 degree angle. Excess grout is then removed with a slightly damp sponge. Have some buckets on hand to rinse and clean the sponge as you work through the project.

After grouting, we left the project to dry for 5 days and then I applied a protective topcoat. Without it, your grout will become dirty and change color over time.


original toilet light is on in this photo!

(tile grout still drying so some variation in color is noticeable)

Before the new toilet goes in, we are putting up Board and Batten halfway up the walls with new baseboard and trim.

Beginner Tips:

Tiling isn’t out of your reach but it does take some research and planning beforehand to have a great end product. Great website with lots of information and tips on tiling!

Definitely do some research about your specific floor and what would work best – especially if you have an older home. Size of your tile, the surface you are laying on, and type of tile (i.e. popular glass tiles take a special Thinset) effects the choices for trowels (i.e. size of teeth) and grout.

Depending on how bad the subsurface is you may even have to replace it or smooth it beforehand to get the best end result!

It’s wise to invest in some knee pads if you plan on doing any tile job. They really REALLY help!

Choose tiles for floors that are labeled FLOORS! Some tiles are only graded for use on walls.

If tiling a kitchen or bath, make sure your tile is rated for slippery, wet areas. You may be better off going with a rougher, surfaced tile in a bath area if you think the bathroom users may need  extra security under their feet when stepping out of the tub or shower. Smaller tile with more grout lines also gives additional foot security.

If cutting 6″ or 12″ tile, use a wet tile saw – NOT the small cutting machines sold at home improvement stores. A wet tile saw can be rented from tool rental companies and is well worth the investment. The cuts go faster and are very professional in appearance. If you have used a regular saw of any type they are not difficult to learn how to use (wear protective eye gear when cutting tile!).

For your first project, try to use a tile that is mounted on mesh backing or attaches a group of tiles onto one sheet (our used glue dots). It provides a straighter line, goes down faster and is easier for beginners to work with as opposed to individual 6″ or 12″ tiles. It will also not require spacers since the distance between tiles is set by the mesh backing or glue dots.

Laying tile on the diagonal can be tricky. Wait until you are more experienced before attempting it. This also seems to be going out of fashion right now.

Spend time dry laying your tile and experimenting with how it will cross the floor and where the cuts will be. When we did this project, the smaller tile was definitely more attractive in the cut placements then 6″ or 12″ tile.

Project: Cornice of Crown moulding over door

I posted about some overhead door moulding cornices that we saw on the Parade of Homes and that we already did a large moulding Cornice on the inside, over the front door. I’ve had a lot of hits on those pages and since there is so much interest, here is a DIY Tutorial on how we did it.

First, we sketched out what we were going to do, along with planning measurements for the moulding’s height and width and calculations for lumber. For two door cornices (one above the pantry door in the kitchen, and the other, the under-stair closet in the front entry hall) we needed 6′ of trim moulding and 8′ of Crown, and all the lumber came out to be about $36.


Using your level, mark the moulding pieces where you will take it off:

Use a mat knife to cut the paint/caulking seal around the top piece of door moulding. This makes it easier to remove.

Level the top of the vertical moulding pieces with a small hand saw such as a Coping Saw.

Once all the top trim is removed, pull out any leftover nails and measure the width (left to right form the outside of each vertical moulding) for a total width.

To do this project you need three types of wood – crown moulding, base or trim moulding, and a board that fits the size of your project’s height.

Cut a horizontal board the width you measured earlier. Sand or rasp smooth the ends and any rough edges.

Cut the small, bottom trim. This is a 45 degree cut using a radial arm saw. You can also use a miter box but it is a bit more time consuming and you need a steady hand. Do the front piece first, then the two, smaller side pieces.

These pieces are assembled at what will become the bottom of your horizontal board. Wood glue is applied to the end pieces, and they are nailed in using a finishing nail. Tip: if not using a finishing nail gun with a compressor, pre-drill a smaller diameter hole (i.e. pilot hole) for your nail to use as a guide.

The middle section also gets some wood glue and is nailed into place with finishing nails (through pilot holes) onto the large horizontal board.

Repeat with the Crown Moulding. Crown Moulding is also cut at a 45 degree angle but takes some special handling which I will cover in a later post. If this is your first time working with Crown Moulding be sure to research some videos to show you how – it’s not impossible but does take some careful planning and know how.

Again, glue, attach and nail the Crown at the ends first. Ends are attached using smaller finishing nails (or brads) as the Crown moulding is too thin for the larger finishing nails.

The corners need to be attached to each other for support (nail shows diagonal nail path, but we used a smaller nail then shown).

It takes a little extra time, but drilling a pilot hole let’s nails easily go in.

Finishing nails are recessed using a nail-setter.

After the Crown moulding was nailed into place, the corners were taped with painters tape and it was left to dry for a few hours. After glue is set, use wood putty applied with your finger into the recessed nail holes and the joining corners of moulding.

…and after it dries, it’s sanded smooth.

It’s painted first with a brush to get into all the lines of the moulding. Because this is bare wood, the paint is soaked up quickly; if you prefer you could use primer at this stage. Two additional coats are applied with a 4″ cabinet foam roller; generally, I give a light sanding between coats for a very smooth finish.

Tip: it’s much easier to paint before it goes up!

Now you are ready to get your Cornice up on the door. First, drill pilot holes and push in your finishing nails so they are aligned correctly. There generally is a stud running the same direction as the side moulding so be sure to attach along the side for extra, holding strength.

Construction Adhesive on the back is helpful.

Set on top of the door and make sure it is centered. Finish hammering in the nails, recess the nail heads, fill with wood putty, let dry, sand smooth and give it all one last paint coat. A line of interior caulking on the inside bottom of the door gives a clean look.

Pantry door with new overhead moulding – the paint on the left is allen + roth Rock ar720, the paint on the right is the old color. We are waiting on some drywall repair and then that side will also be painted with the new color (just couldnt’ wait though!). View through the formal dining room doorway to the pantry door:

View from kitchen to the entry hall, showing closet door on left, and front door on right.

Entry door with a larger, overhead Cornice moulding (the moulding in the middle covers a seam) which was about $125 due to the height of the board used and the size of the crown moulding used..

LOVE IT! And only $18 each for the smaller Cornices! Well worth the money investment especially if you have higher ceilings; the cornices draw your eye right up, enhancing the height of the room.

BTW if you want something simpler, Lowes is now selling a kit (called Archetype Over Door and Window Moulding) found in the moulding section of the store. It’s not as fancy but would be easier for those who don’t want to do all the work shown above.

How-To: painting furniture 4 ~ selecting paint

When selecting paint (other then spraypaint) your options fall into two, broad catagories:

1.) Oil based paint. Nowadays it’s almost impossible to find for interior use though is still commonly used with stains, primers and exterior paints.

Oil based paints are as durable as hell and was the choice for mouldings, cabinets, kitchens and bathrooms where hard usage was expected. They also take longer to dry so were great for those that wanted to play with the paint’s effects. I also think sometimes oil based paints give a richer color then latex.

If you can find it, oil based primers will give you a better base to work with then a similar product in latex. It should be applied with a brush, not a roller. Be sure to let it completely dry; I prefer overnight.

Oil based paints are more toxic then latex, require specialized disposal of it’s waste product, and needs paint thinner to clean the brushes vs. water for latex. When working with oil based products be sure to do so in a well ventilated area and wear a mask if not working outdoors.

Be aware of your city’s ordinances. Oil based paint cans usually have to be disposed of in a certain manner, as well as the waste product of paint and cleaning products to prevent ground water contamination.

JMO but if you are a casual DIY person who wants to do a couple of projects, I would skip straight to latex paints.

2.) Latex paints. For their ease of use and cleanup latex can’t be beat. However, because they do dry so quickly you can end up with more brush strokes, drips or errors. For most painting furniture projects you will most likely be working with latex.

NOTICE! There are some issues with combining latex and oil paints and primers. A primer can be oil-based and have a latex paint applied on top or another oil-based paint. If the primer is latex, it CANNOT have an oil based paint put on top.

For example, you put on a latex paint and then get an oil-based poly for the protective coat – wrong! This will cause issues later down the road because the oil is on top of the latex. A latex paint should have a water based poly coat or other water based protective product put on top, not something like varnish or shellac.

3.) Enamel can be either Latex or Oil based. Generally, it refers to a hard wearing paint that has a glossy finish. It is often used for mouldings, trim, cabinets and exterior uses.


Interior vs. Exterior: Use Interior for furniture that will be kept indoors. Although, you may want to consider exterior for porch furniture as it is designed to deal with wet, rain, humidity and changes in temperature.


Both latex and oil based paints come in different sheens. For example, flat, eggshell, semi-gloss and gloss. JMO but the paint guy and gals don’t really seem to understand how a furniture painter will be using their paint; most of the time their recommendations are wrong so read up and know what you want before you go.

Flat – not really appropriate for furniture projects. This paint sheen has little durability to being cleaned. Unless coated with some protective topcoat, it will show the most damage over time from use and cleaning. Goes the furthest in coverage. If you want to do a lot of walls, try this as the first undercoat to save money as Flat is cheaper then the other sheens.

Eggshell or Satin – A step up from flat, it is easier to clean. Some brands put Satin as a step up from Eggshell; just depends on the paint manufacturers. Depending on the brand of paint, this level of sheen may not be noticeable – it can almost be too subtle in shine. The shine is mostly seen when you are looking at the surface from an angle.

It’s a personal choice, but for me, this sheen does not provide enough durability or shine. I’ve used this on walls and as long as you don’t have kids, it’s okay. For kid areas, high traffic areas, or kitchen/baths go up to semi-gloss.

Semi-gloss – My personal favorite. It has more durability then satin and cleans easily. Traditionally used in high traffic areas such as kitchens, baths, moulding, doors etc…. As exterior paint, often used on shutters, doors, trims and porch ceilings.

Because of the increased shine, it does show off imperfections of the piece. It also costs more then the lower shine options, and needs more paint to finish the project then flat, eggshell or satin.

Gloss – Because of it’s high shine, you may find that in your furniture painting projects it shows every mistake and imperfection. It would be most appropriate for smaller projects – small side tables – or surfaces you expect a lot of wear and tear – such as a table top. Often used on door trim, window trim, cabinets, and bannisters.

Keep in mind:

As sheen increases — durability and cleanability increases.

As sheen increases – coverage decreases. The more shiny the paint, the more coats it will take to achieve complete coverage. This is where using a tinted primer can help you cut costs on your furniture painting projects.


A word about paint brands – I’ve used stuff from Lowes, Home Depot, Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams. JMO but there really isn’t a great deal of difference between them EXCEPT when you are buying their lower quaility store paints.

Where I see a great deal of difference is the color options provided by these stores. It’s why I generally go by color choice and not store when selecting paint. Buy good quality paint and, irregardless of the brand, it will look great if applied to a piece that has been correctly sanded, repaired and primed.

For most furniture projectsInterior, Latex Semi-Gloss applied over an oil based primer (if you choose a primer) and protected with wipe on poly for dark colors or polycrylicfor light colors will do well.

How-To: painting furniture 3 ~ painting tools

I’d like to take a moment to talk about what tools you’ll need to apply your paint…

Brushes: don’t waste your money on cheap ones. Cheap brushes lose their bristles during the painting process and don’t clean up as easily. They also give a crappy, brush mark appearance to your job.

I prefer something from Purdy or Wooster and if you care for them they should last many jobs. My favorite size of brush is the Sash (2”) angled brush. I also have on hand a 1” (in photo), 2 ½”, and 3”, however, the 2” is the one I use most. The angled brush allows me to really penetrate into crevices and allows me to paint the edge of moulding without needing to tape off the wall.

bristled brush used to paint in detailed areas

If using latex paint, brushes can be cleaned with warm water. Here is an excellent article about how to care for your brushes. I’ve learned my lesson from reading his advice, so need to be better about caring for my tools.

If working with latex paint, wet the brush lightly before dipping into paint to extend the dry time; if oil paint, use paint thinner before dipping. Stopping for work but don’t want to clean the brush? Then wrap in a slightly wet rag for latex, slightly damp with paint thinner for oil, and place in plastic bag (remove as much air as possible) and put it out of the sun.

If you want to lessen brush marks from laxtex paint, try Floetrol. I saw this recommended on another blog.

Tips for minimizing or eliminating brush strokes:

1.) Use less paint then you think you need. Dip your brush into paint about 1/3 of the bristle length. Don’t put in the entire brush. The common mistake I see hubby making is too much paint on the brush and this lends to more visible strokes. It also leads to more drips!

2.) Brush strokes can often be “feathered out” before the paint dries.  Do one straight stroke and come back, stroking the paint outwards from the original line. This often reduces or eliminates the initial brush stroke.

3.) Come back over it with a 4″ foam roller before the paint has dried. If I am painting large flat areas (front of dresser, top of dresser etc…) I start with a 4″ foam roller over a paintbrush anyway.

4.) Brush strokes are usually more visible on the priming coat. Since this becomes covered with another coat it generally doesn’t concern me. I just sand smooth and put on the next coat with a roller. Another option would be to prime with a spray.

5.) Brush strokes are often found where you begin and end. Begin the stroke off the project, “land” and then lift off at the end with one smooth slide.

Foam Rollers: for furniture painting, I find the 4” foam rollers for cabinets and doors fantastic for working over large flat surfaces such as table tops however, grooved and detailed areas I use a brush or a spray. They are also excellent for painting doors as their name suggests.

cabinet door foam roller to paint furniture

Foam Brushes: I rarely use these for an entire painting project anymore as they disintegrate too rapidly. However, they can be great to use for touchups and for squishing paint into corners and crevices. To avoid brush marks, apply paint with the tip and then feather away with the side of the foam applicator.

Speciality Brushes: Depending on how creative you are going to be you might need some brushes specifically to fit a purpose such as these stencil brushes.

Sprayer: this would be a machine you load in your paint of choice and then spray it. I’ve used one to paint a large trio of bookshelves and for a room’s walls. They have their big pluses and big drawbacks.

PROS – completes job quickly; gives an even spray; great for carved or highly decorative pieces, and makes a huge job be finished in little time. If I was working on a new house where the flooring hadn’t gone in yet, this would be my choice for painting walls or exterior. If I had a garage dedicated to painting furniture and could set up a corner with drop clothes covering the walls and a turntable for the furniture to sit upon, this would be my choice.

CONS – loads up with a huge amount of paint (actually lost half a gallon for the machine to load); spray goes everywhere (and I mean EVERYwhere! – be sure everything is taped off or you are working in a spray cabinet area); you need a professional machine – those sold at Lowes and Home Depot lead only to frustration; and not cost effective for small jobs.

Spraypaint: Working with a paintbrush is something I really enjoy. It’s like another person working in clay – I want to get my hands onto the project. It’s why I generally prefer liquid paint that is applied with a brush or roller over spraypaint.

great for small jobs;
Great for projects that are metal or have a lot of curves, detail which would make using a brush difficult.
Has a lot of variety in speciality finishes (i.e. metallic, hammered, for glass etc…)
Works better over plastic, laminates, glass and ceramics then liquid paint.

it’s far more expensive to use spraypaint primer project after project then to buy a can of primer. For example, for $10 I still have gray primer left in a can for many more projects vs. the one can of spraypaint primer which is already used up on one job (and didn’t even cover that one job).
The color choices are very limited and I prefer having paint chips to choose from.
Drips are extremly difficult to deal with as it dries so quickly.
Take the stench and the toxicity very seriously.
It also oversprays into other areas, despite drop cloths, as my garage will testify.
Disposal is a serious problem if your city requires payment for toxic paints (and mine does).
Used on metal, laminate or plastic, scratches will easily reveal the undercoat, original layer (I have yet to see one blog or DIY state how to avoid this – would love to know – Krylon recommends sanding prior to get a better attachment).

spray primer to cover pine knots

While I’m not a fan of spraypaint I have started using it on smaller projects just because of it’s ease of use. However, I still would not use it on a large project such as a dresser or a hutch. The cost factor alone would make it infeasible.

Spray paint links ~

FAQ on spraypaint from Centsational Girl

Video of spraypainting techniques by Centsational Girl

Pros and Cons of Spraypaint from Centsational Girl.