Scott McGreggor shares his tips for making your bathroom look like new again.
Do it Yourself: Top Bathroom Tips
For many of us, there’s one room that we most want to improve, and more often than not it’s the bathroom. If it’s not the right time to put in a whole new bathroom, but there are issues you would like to resolve, Scott McGreggor outlines what you can safely and easily do yourself to improve your bathroom. Outlined here are a few of the more common problems found in bathrooms and how to remedy them, as outlined in the Wet Areas chapter of his book, Fix It.
Please note that these suggestions do not intend to replace work that may be needed to be carried out by a relevant and licensed tradesman, but are intended for minor repairs and improvements that you may want to carry out yourself. For countless tips on how to fix and repair around the home, Fix It is chock-full of expert advice from Australia’s favourite DIY homemaker, Scott McGreggor.
If your interests lie in maintaining or improving your existing wet areas, rather than extending or completely renovating them, you may find the following fix-its useful.
Cleaning and repairing grout:
1. Clean with grout cleaner and grout brush (a stiff plastic bristled brush). Apply the cleaner, wait 20 minutes and repeat the process before rinsing.
2. Once the grout dries out, you’ll have to reseal it with grout sealer — ask the hardware store for the correct sealer for your grout. You can apply the sealer with a medium-sized artist brush. Once dry, the sealer will help protect the grout from staining in the future.
If the grout needs replacing, here’s how to do it:
1. Remove the grout from around the tiles with a grout rake (from the hardware store). A grout rake is a small tool with a handle and short blade with a coarse edge. It’s designed to grind away the old grout. This is probably the most difficult part of the job, so be patient.
2. Once you’ve removed all the old grout, you can rub premixed acrylic based grout into the space around the tile, shape it with a damp sponge and leave it to dry. These products usually come in range of colours.
3. The grout will take a couple of days to dry, so try not to get it wet during this time.
4. If you’ve used a cement-based grout, you’ll need to waterproof it, so paint on some grout sealer with a small paintbrush.
REMOVING GROUT FROM TILES
The excess grout haze on the glazed surface of tiles is not hard to remove — just polish it off with a dry rag or old pieces of terry towelling. If the grout is thick or has become too hard, try nylon scourers with water, followed by the cloth. Finally, if you still have no joy, purchase a grout haze removal product like Aqua Mix phosphoric acid cleaner, which you’ll find at tiling shops. Soak the affected area with water first, then apply the mix and scrub with the nylon scourer.
ATTACHING A TOWEL RAIL OR OTHER FITTINGS TO A TILED WALL
If you need to attach a towel rail in your bathroom or some hooks in your kitchen splashback, you’ll have to take care not to crack the tiles.
1. Mark the positions of the holes to be drilled and then place a cross of masking tape over the spot.
2. For most tiles, a regular carbide (masonry) bit works fine, but for glass or hard ceramic tiles you’ll need a special glass and tile drill bit. Do not use a hammer drill, as the rapid vibrations can crack the tile. The trick is to use a slow drilling speed and minimal pressure to carefully grind through the surface of the thin glaze. Once the drill bit gets into the softer core, the drill will rapidly cut through.
3. Insert the appropriate wall anchors into the holes before screwing in the mount. Equal care should be taken when driving in the screw — set your cordless drill onto a low torque setting or use a good old-fashioned hand screwdriver and don’t over-tighten.
GETTING RID OF MILDEW ON WALLS
The number-one job that will make the world of difference in many bathrooms and laundries is painting out old mildew stains. These occur on the ceiling and the tops of the walls where condensation leaves the surface wet after a shower. Getting rid of the mildew is a two-step process:
1. Clean off what you can and kill the spores with a bleach solution.
2. Cover the stains with a good quality acrylic paint — use low-sheen or semi-gloss and ask your paint shop for an anti-mould additive. If you want a flat finish, buy a paint that’s formulated to resist mould and mildew, such as Zinsser.
REPLACING GRUBBY SILICONE
Mildew stains can affect the silicone seals in wet areas — like where the bath meets the wall or where you kitchen bench meets the splashback. Sometimes the edges of the seal develop a little black line where moisture has obviously worked its way just under the edge of the silicone and harboured the mildew growth. The answer is to remove and replace the old silicone with a new mould-resistant variety:
1. Using a utility knife, cut away as much of the old silicone bead as you can.
2. Using a scraper, apply silicone remover over the rest of the old silicone, spreading it about 5mm thick.
3. Wait about two hours, then you can remove the now-softened old material with the scraper. Clean up the area with a cloth soaked in mentholated spirits. You’re now ready to apply a new seal.
4. Using a caulking gun, apply an even bead of silicone along the entire joint. Give the bead a good spray of window cleaner and then put your hand inside an old plastic bag or a latex glove before wiping away the excess with the tip of your finger. Only wipe it once. The window cleaner on both sides of the bead will stop the silicone spreading up the wall, and the plastic bag will collect the excess for easy disposal. You can use masking tape if you’re concerned about getting a super-straight line, much as you would when painting. You can also rub an ice cube along the silicone for a professional smooth finish.
REJUVENATING AN ENAMEL BATH
Plumbing supply specialists sell enamel repair kits if you want to have a go at fixing chips in your bath yourself. Or you can use epoxy resin filler.
To resurface your entire bath (or hand basin), rub the surface smooth with fine abrasive paper and then coat the area with two coats of matching bath epoxy paint, such as Tub ‘n’ Tile Epoxy Enamel. This is an epoxy enamel paint that’s tough enough to re-colour the bath.
You can also use it on the entire surface of the grout and tiles, and around a shower or bath. Use these products in combination with a grout pen to re-colour an entire tiled wall, then re-whiten the grout lines.
REJUVENATING AN ACRYLIC BATH
If you have a small scratch in an acrylic bath, you can remove it by polishing with an abrasive metal polish like Brasso. You can’t use this on a fibreglass bath, however. If the scratch is slightly deeper, sand it out first with very fine wet and dry sandpaper, then move onto the Brasso.
TREATING TIMBER SURFACES IN WET AREAS
If you have a timber vanity unit or kitchen bench, you’ll want to make sure it’s protected from water damage. I suggest sanding the timber and finishing with tung oil. You may also need the tough protection of a polyurethane coating. Apply some initial coats of tung oil diluted at least 50/50 with pure gum turps. The tung oil can be over-coated with the straight polyurethane, but for a smooth, easy-to-apply finish, blend some more tung oil with the polyurethane. Use straight polyurethane for the final coat.