What would you do? Plastic tile on old plaster walls

atlantic123November 21, 2010

We live in a 100 year old house. Our only bathroom is tiny! 6x8. We have plastic pink tiles from the 50s on all four walls. The plastic is dingy, stained, and in some places you can actually see the old glue through the plastic!

I removed 2 rows of plastic tile on one wall. Including using a heat gun to remove the old adhesive. MISTAKE. We had to patch up the wall, because our plaster was crumbling! What would you do?

Prime and paint over the tile?

Live with it?

Ruin the walls behind the tile?


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hmmm I can't figure out how to my subject to the post. Actually, I am not completely sure if the wall behind the tile is plaster. It certainly looks different than the horse hair plaster we had in the kitchen!

I added a link with two photos of our bathroom.

Here is a link that might be useful: two bathroom photos

    Bookmark   November 21, 2010 at 1:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The glue won't come off without a fight, so resign yourself to doing some resurfacing of the plaster. Did you somehow expect it to come off and be paint-ready?
Old plaster always need some prep work to get a decent finish.
I used a heat gun to get the mastic off in my bathroom, but it was really slow, and like you found, sometimes the white coat pulls off along with the glue.
You'll need to consult the threads here on plaster repair for materials and hints.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2010 at 1:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That's what our kitchen looked like where we pulled old cabinets off---so could be plaster for sure. Horsehair plaster is older, so if they redid the bath in the 50s, they'd likely have used plaster over wood or metal lathe instead.

I'd get the tile off first and worry about the plaster afterwards---it's not too hard to fix. You can either do it yourself or hire someone with plaster experience. (We did the latter with our kitchen since there's so much of it to be done and they're faster, but have patched it ourselves in the past----you just need the right tools to get the surface level and smooth.)

Get the tile off, patch any holes/chunks that come off (there will probably be some!), give it all a smooth coat on top, sand it, and then prime and paint it and you'll be good to go. I would *not* paint over the tile, though. Seems like that's asking for trouble. Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2010 at 1:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Atlantic, first I have to say I LOVE the woodwork in your house! ("Love", "envy", whichever lol).

I don't know what to tell you about your bathroom, I can only tell you what we did - as a TEMPORARY fix in ours. POs put drywall in (over plaster) & funky vinyl wallpaper - it had to go! However, they didn't prime the drywall before papering so... Yep. I pulled off most of the drywall paper also. Couldn't paint it, removing it wasn't an option (yet!) So we were in a similar pickle. We ended up putting panelling - the cheap simple white 4'x 8' sheets - as a temporary solution. It's not ideal, but is working fine for now. (It's white so it looks ok, and I've found that w/2 kids & a DH I kinda like how easy it is to clean).
Someday it, and the drywall, will come out - but that bought us some time (& saved us some $) for other projects. I know most would probably not recommend it - but it might be better than the "live with it" option. :-)

    Bookmark   November 21, 2010 at 1:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm not sure, but... I think I've been hearing "gasps" from all over the country, so loud I can hear them in Ks! Lol! (It's only a temporary "band-aid" for us, I swear!).
However, I realize now that it's NOT a viable solution for Atlantic. We didn't have to concern ourselves with "saving" the drywall - even if it hadn't been ruined already - but adding more adhesive to the plaster would hardly help the problem and would make it worse. Sorry!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2010 at 2:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We patched up the area where we removed the tiles. We do know how to repair the plaster. IâÂÂm not sure how much time or money I want to invest in this project now. We have exhausted ourselves working on our house all year long. HUGE undertakings too. However, I canâÂÂt stand the bathroom! We havenâÂÂt used the easy patch up mentality for our house yet, but IâÂÂm actually considering one for this room.

Artemis, you have me considering removing all the tiles and repairing the wall. After all, we are capable. Maybe I should just dive in a do it when our other projects are âÂÂdone.â I donâÂÂt know if I am prepared for the potential of a smallish job turning into a monster of a problem though.

ks_toolgirl, No worries! I have considered installing paneled wainscoting over damaged areas. So I totally get it! And thanks for complimenting our woodwork!!!

    Bookmark   November 21, 2010 at 2:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think beadboard/wainscoting would look great in your bathroom! I think you could actually get away with installing it right over top of that tile stuff...and do a nice deep chair rail or ledge-type shelf on the top edge.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2010 at 3:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would also go with the beadboard--stay away from cheap 4x8 stuff which would be removed later. You could stain or paint the beadboard, either would work in the bath; mine is stained a walnut color. Some day I might strip the woodwork, but it was never stained--underneath the paint is bare wood, alas.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2010 at 4:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We did beadboard in our bath when we renovated it. I love it. Only halfway up the wall, and then I repaired the plaster above it. It might not be 'era' appropriate, but in 1820 you'd have used a chamber pot or trudged to the outhouse. So, no bathroom is age appropriate to this old house.

Oh, gotta tell you this one, however since I got off on this tangent. I was visiting my DD and SIL in England and she and I decided to take off to Wales for couple of days since her business often took her there. We stopped at one old castle and found a little room tucked by the stone staircases and it had what appeared to be a stone bench under one of the windows. The big stone slab had a couple holes in it. I'm a farm gal.........I know what that means. LOL. so, I look down through it and sure enough, you could see forty or fifty feet below to where it emptied into the river. Talk about old indoor facilities.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2010 at 9:23PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

OK, so I'm obsessive. Our old house is small, and inches (or centimetres in Canada) count. If you put something over that tile, you lose a half inch or more all around the room. It may not matter... until you can't fit a basket you like or a small cabinet into this spot or the other. Or you keep bumping your elbow on the wall.

So I'd remove the tile. And in the bathroom, I'm wondering just how good the plaster is still likely to be. Your fastest removal job would be to rip off the plaster WITH the tile, and then do beadboard or drywall. So that would be fastest, maybe most sound, and give you the most space.

Being a purist always takes more time :-)


    Bookmark   November 21, 2010 at 9:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Just tear the tile off and then skim the walls with setting type joint compound (NOT the premixed stuff) unless you can find a real plasterer to make the repairs.

Do not let a drywall mechanic use pre-mixed drywall mud.

A bonding agent will be required to prevent the old plaster from pulling water out of the setting compound before it hardens.

There are commercial bonding agents available, or Elmer's white glue cut 50% with water can be used.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 9:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The tile is 5' on the 3 walls around our clawfoot bathtub. We, of course, have two shower curtains that completely surround us when we take a shower. The tiles generally don't get wet. But with the occasional accidental spray and moisture, my bet, is that real wood wainscoting would not be a good idea there. Am I right?

aggghhh stupid ugly tile.

KarinL, You are exactly right about using every centimeter in a small space. As it is when I sit on the toilet I only have an inch or so between my knees and our clawfoot tub.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 11:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I also wanted to do a wood beadboard wainscot in my bathroom, but it was going to be more money and time than subway tile, which was the option I took.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 6:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have written this before about wood in the bathroom and I'm sure it makes woodworkers cringe, but here is our experience: Next to our bath we have a tiled alcove for the shampoo (built between the studs) with a wooden sill on it, plus we have a wooden window sill at the foot of the tub. The two sills are finished with just diluted paint - I think it was latex. Both of them get wet every day from bathing and having wet things put on them (and usually sitting indefinitely, as I'm not one of your persnickety housewives), and we have no bath fan... the room gets damp when the kids seal themselves in there for a long bath.

After 16 years of this, the wood is spotless. The paint might have worn off a little, but there is no warping, no swelling, nothing. Not even spots or stains. I think they are both fir.

So, can wood get wet? In my experience, yes - I wouldn't hesitate to put wood wainscoting up. With even a modest finish it should be fine. That would be, however, an absorbed finish... our wood floors in the bathroom, finished with a water-based clear coat, DO look the worse for wear.

PS you are obviously just the right height for your house!

PPS Calliope, love the story. Brrr!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 6:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I had the same plastic tile in a rental!

After I took it off, it took about a gallon of joint compound to level the walls, and even then...those were my newbie days. So dumb I used ready patch instead of mixing up some good stuff that I could breathe while using.

The house had been moved three blocks in the 50's and the walls were really off, above and beyond anything my simple patching could do, so I added textured wallpaper in a nod to the lincrusta/analgypta style (except it was the 12.50/roll stuff from HD because my landlord was thrifty-minded):

Wish I had a picture without the sagging oak leaves and with the chair rail we eventually added. We enjoyed that bathroom for a good three years until we finally bought our own fixer. And I was glad for the practice on that place; gad what a newbie I was (and I'll be saying the same thing of myself now in 5 years). but at least thanks to casey, worthy, brickeyee, and macv, I use the right stuff on plaster now (bonding agent, durabond, and sometimes easysand, depending on the situation).

Anyway the lincrusta look worked very well for us. We painted it with BM blue lapis, then bought the bottom of the color strip (darkest, I think it was simply called Navy or Blue), mixed 50/50 with glaze, and rolled on, then wiped off with paper towels until we had the tone-on tone look we were going for. Man I loved those walls, and got lots of compliments. They were inspired by the bar in the the British show As Time Goes By, if you ever saw that one. Except those were a brownish red instead of blue.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 8:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I am pretty certain we are going to do wainscoting now. It just seems to be the most realistic option at this point. I don't want to paint the bead-board white though. I feel it would interfere with the white frame of the window. Hmmmm

What started out as trying to find the easy way out is turning into a mini-renovation Now we feel that since we are doing the walls, we may as well replace the lino floor too. Old homes... :)

Slateberry, I think your tile was in better condition than ours. :) I really love the lincrusta look and totally know the bar you are talking about in As Time Goes By!

Thanks for your input, everyone!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 2:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think staining the beadboard wainscot would look better than paint, and would stand up just as well. My bath has had it for about fifteen years, and still looks nice!
Anything wrong with the linoleum? If not, why remove it when you could either grow to like it, or go over it? A small can of worms beats a large one, which is what removing it would be. :)

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 1:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

We did the plaster in ours, we did put wood ceiling in with bead board and trim around ceiling,vertical wood ,random width boards up to chair rail..

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 7:27PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Old-Growth Heart pine paneling -- reused as flooring?
Hi, My new 1939 colonial has a family room and foyer...
Stair striping and refinishing advice
I ve been stripping and refinishing my stairs in my...
interesting plaster job - what to do to fix it?
I'm doing some work in my dining room that includes...
Extruded Mortar
I have an older home built in the 1950`s which has...
stone house
Do any of you out there own a real stone house? Not...
Sponsored Products
Sample-Spa Torpedo Pattern 3/8 X Random Super White Glass Mosaic Tiles Sample
$2.99 | TileBar
Istra Wall Sconce by Tech Lighting
$280.00 | Lumens
90 Degrees II Wall Art
Grandin Road
Hudson Valley Aberdeen Modern Contempo Wall Sconce
Montrose Mahogany/ Antiqued Silver Beveled Oval Frame
Reclaimed Wall Caddy
$49.99 | Dot & Bo
Iron Wall Shelf Set
$59.99 | zulily
Bruck | Ledra Ice Round with J-Box and Driver
$312.00 | YLighting
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™