A little paint and gel stain may be all you need for your bathroom update. This was a small dark half-bath that seemed like an after thought. A week later it looks clean, bright and modern.
A few words about gel stain. If you do any DIY you are likely already aware of General Finishes Gel Stain. If you are new to home renovation projects and you haven’t heard about the magic of gel stain, then you should. It can be your new best friend.
Gel stain functions like a transparent paint, it stays mostly on top of the wood rather than sinking in like a penetrating stain so you don’t have to sand the wood bare which saves you lots of time and trouble. In addition, because the base is clear, it still allows the texture of the wood grain to show through while adding color and coverage to wood. It is a very versatile weapon to have in your renovation tool kit. I have used General Finishes Gel Stain on many projects over the years in both the beloved Java color and Antique Walnut. There are other brands of gel stain on the market but I have not used any of them.
For this project, I wanted a quick bathroom update without spending much. There really wasn’t much in this room, so the center piece of this project is the typical builder grade, oak veneer vanity. It was in good shape but it’s appearance was uninspiring. Because I already had a can of paint, gel stain, clear coat, sand paper, drop cloths, gloves and tape leftover from other projects, I literally only spent $16 on this bathroom: $10 on a new toilet seat, and $6 on new vanity hardware. If you have to buy paint, gel stain, top coat and the rest of the supplies, you will spend about $100-$120 more.
I began by painting the walls with I had paint leftover from other projects using Behr Ultra Plus paint tinted to an Olympic paint swatch called Delicate White. Painting a bathroom like this doesn’t take long once you get it taped. I tape fixtures, the floor edge, vanity edge, but not the ceiling. I usually just cut in on the ceiling and baseboards. In this case, I painted the trim the same color so it wasn’t an issue.
It is not a dramatic color change but going from a warm color to a cooler color will open up the space. Delicate white is actually still a warm color but it looks cool next to what was there before.
After painting the room in Delicate White, I removed the drawers and door of the vanity, and did a quick sand with 100 grit sand paper. You don’t need to sand a lot, just enough to rough up the clear finish, always sanding with the direction of the grain. Next, I spread the drop cloths on the floor and taped the wall at the edges of the vanity. I also taped pieces of the plastic drop cloths on the wall because the gel stain can splatter.
For me, the best gel stain applicator is an old sock. Use gloves and put the sock over your fingers, dip the sock into the stain and apply a thin layer in the direction of the grain. The first coat always looks a mess, don’t worry it gets better. I don’t bother wiping off excess since I apply a thin even coat. Just let it dry 4-6 hours or overnight and repeat. I find I usually need 3 coats, sometimes 4. You know you are done when you like the results.
I had a can of General Finishes Outdoor Top Coat left over from re-staining my front door that I used on this vanity because that’s what I had, but an even better choice for an interior space would have been their water based Top Coat. I used 2 coats on this vanity.
This project took about a week to complete mostly because of drying times. With the addition of a shelf and a few accessories I already had, this bathroom looks updated and modern for almost no money.