When a bathroom needs updating you don’t have to spend thousands replacing all the fittings. A coat of paint and one or two well-chosen pieces can breathe new life into old cabinets.
Handyman managing editor Lee Dashiell’s bathroom had 1980s timber cabinetry that was still sound, but over the years had become scratched and the surface looked patchy.
‘To change the look, plus modernise and brighten the room, we decided to paint the cabinets,’ says Lee.
‘We also wanted to add some personality so we tiled over the benchtop with Mexican tiles and installed hand-painted sinks.’
To install a sink, place it upside down on the benchtop and mark its outline on the timber with a pencil.
Make 10mm marks inside the outline every 50mm, then connect the marks to form the cut line.
‘I used a drill with a 10mm bit to make a starter hole inside the cut line, then made the cut with a jigsaw while supporting the cutout,’ says Lee.
‘I smoothed the edges with a sanding block and sealed them with finishing oil to stop moisture damage.
Painting the doors
Preparation is key to a good finish, so the doors were scrubbed with sugar soap and undercoated with a primer and sealer.
Priming timber before painting is essential and Lee used a product with a stain block to stop any colours leaching out of the timber and showing through the paint.
‘I was surprised how well the primer-sealer adhered to and coated the glossy doors. I didn’t have to sand them down to prepare them, which was a great time saver,’ says Lee.
The cabinets were given two coats of primer and two coats of paint, then finished off with new handles.
Laying the tiles
When creating a splashback using tiles in varied patterns, Lee advises first arranging the tiles on the floor to avoid similar ones being placed together.
A tile cutter should be used for straight cuts and can be hired for about $60 a day.
For angled tiles near the sink, use an angle grinder to cut the tiles halfway through then snap them.
‘Prior to tiling, I applied a coating of primer and bond-enhancer to create a porous surface for the tiles,’ says Lee.
Lay the front edging tiles first to ensure even spacing, followed by the bench tiles then the splashback tiles.
Finally, install the sinks then apply silicone around the edges to seal them. Have a plumber connect additional taps and re-route the drains if necessary.
Clean the surface of all dirt, dust or oily substances. Use a brush or roller to apply the primer undiluted on to the surface. Some very porous surfaces may need two coats. The primer should be touch dry before applying the tile adhesive.
Apply tile adhesive to the back of each tile using a notched trowel, then lay them in position on the benchtop and splashback.
TIP Decorative tiles vary in size so set them out to check the fit before applying the coating and adhesive.
Prepare the grout and work it over the tiles with a sponge float to fill the gaps in between. Leave it to dry then remove the excess with a wet sponge, buffing the tiles with a towel.
TIP Use a grout additive to strengthen bonds and increase water resistance.