Home Repair and Renovating

August 17, 2012

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, where have you been all my life?


Remember the first thing you ever painted with ‘real’ grown-up paint, not kiddie watercolour paint?

Remember the exhilaration of gobbing on that first transforming brush full? Remember the utter lack of control and the hashmark-style brush strokes? Well, you can have all of that back.  

Modern painting has become a chore to be avoided. It smells up the house, the prep alone is a lot of trouble, and you have to match the paint to the surface you’re covering, which leads to mistakes (i.e. latex over alkyd, wrong primer, bubbling, blistering or peeling because some genius used Plaster of Paris instead of spackle on the ceiling and the lime goes into solution and starts fizzing under the paint...).  

And let's not forget that modern paint comes in 28,000 colours, only 27 of which actually look good in any known home.  

Well, I found a paint that is so fun, relieving, gorgeous and smart that I'm painting everything in the house, including the most avoided task in the DIY roster: the kitchen cabinets.  

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is finally available in Canada. And it only comes in 27 colours (the ones that look good in houses), which can be diluted with Annie's Pure White or Old White to create lighter shades if you desire. (I covered Annie's paint in my column today. But I didn't have enough room to tell the whole story, so I'm adding some more details here.)

The paint has so little odour that my insanely smell-sensitive husband couldn't even tell I'd been painting the kitchen when he came home from running errands.  

And I'm painting right over 30-year-old alkyd. No prep. It's so easy to work with this paint that I can do a little bit every day rather than shut the kitchen down for a week while I remove all of the cupboard doors, sand them, prime them, roll on a couple of coats, and then replace all of the hardware and re-install them. 

(I went with Versailles green, the colour of the kitchen cabinets in Jasper Dale's kitchen on Road to Avonlea.) 

Annie encourages Chalk Paint users to brush the paint on with abandon, crisscrossing the brushstrokes to add texture and depth. The paint lends itself beautifully to arty effects like layering and distressing. Even on plastic! (This is a thick base coat on my plastic iPhone case) 



I was going for 'rustic barnboard'.  This is how it turned out...



I had a lot of fun painting a beat up old table made from Douglas fir...  

Renoir table
Photo: Nora Duffy

(table top was painted with Versailles green and then immediately rubbed with a rag to create a pickled effect) 

I experimented with mixing some concrete pigment into the paint (Old Ochre) because I hadn't bought enough colours. Concrete pigment tends to be lumpy so it creates streaks in the paint.  I found that using a sponge to apply the paint helped reduce the streaking.  I just swabbed it around till the finish was even. 


(Shiny urethane be gone!)

Chalk Paint creates a very soft, velvety matte finish that you can gloss up with Annie Sloan's soft waxes. They come in clear or dark shades.  Both buff to a silky sheen.  The dark wax is great for creating various grunge effects or for aging a piece.  


You can check Annie Sloan's web site for a dealer near you.  The paint is so loaded with pigment that it covers most surfaces quite nicely with one coat.  If you're in the Greater Toronto Area your closest dealer is Kathie Jordan in New Hamburg, Ontario.  Kathie will ship paint and/or wax to you if you don't want to make the drive.  You can also place an online order for Annie Sloan paints and waxes from The Melon Patch in Bath, Ontario.

It's worth the visit to Kathie's shop if you're in the GTA - she's lovely!

Kathie and Mag

TIP: The online palette looks darker than the paint actually is (on most monitors). The best way to experience the colours is to go to a dealer and see for yourself, or do a search for the glorious projects that people have posted online.

Screen Shot 2012-08-17 at 11.37.20 AM

OTHER TIP: This is the recipe to use if you want to try creating DIY chalk paint formula using PVA (white glue) and chalk whiting.

July 27, 2012

Milk paint experiment; it smells great and boy, does it last

I've been experimenting with making my own interior and exterior non-VOC paint this week after reading about the durability of 9,000-year-old paintings found in Asia and Egypt.  

I didn't have room for all of my findings in my weekly column (recipes included), so this is a little addendum.  

Using concrete colourant, which is available at hardware stores, I tinted my first small batches of paint.  I got some nice golds and reds (one coat).

Bird Feeder

Then I added a little titanium dioxide (available at pottery supply places for less $ than art supply places) to some of my skim milk/Borax base and got a beautiful 'pickling' stain, which I rubbed into a rustic cricket bench.  The pigment built up in the rough texture (it's a little hard to see in the photo).  This formulation would look great on an urban fence or deck.

P1310046 - Version 2

Next, I used an exterior grade formulation made from cottage cheese and lime (which I learned about here) to coat this bench top (tinted with 'medium buff' concrete colourant).  On the buttermilk-coloured legs and base I used a two-layer cross-linking alkaline/acid formulation that I learned about from this very smart person. (To get the warm colour on the legs/base, I tinted the acidic topcoat with titanium dioxide and a tiny bit of 'lemon yellow' concrete colourant.)


I literally did NO PREP on this bench - no brushing, scraping, or even wiping with a rag. Okay, I removed one old coccoon, but that's it.  The bench had been outside for about 10 years and the original 5 coats of water-based urethane had flaked into oblivion.  Note to self: never use water-based urethane for exterior applications; it can't hack the Canadian climate.

This is the bench after a borate-laced coat of casein (milk) paint, which I made from skim millk and Borax laundry additive. 


After all of the experimenting, I think the milk/Borax formulation is the easiest to work with.  It produces a clear matte finish on bare wood (bye bye forever water-based urethane) and can be tinted easily by making a paste of water and concrete colourant and then mixing it into the milk/Borax base.  


You can make the milk/Borax stuff into an opaque white by adding lime and titanium dioxide till it's nice and thick.

Of course you can order milk paint powder from either of these two places if you don't want to go the wet 'n' wild route:

The Real Milk Paint Company (U.S.)

HomeStead House Milk Paint (Canada)

I'm aiming to paint 400 feet of fence with my own homemade milk paint later this fall. Anybody want to help?




April 03, 2012

World's best fix-it compound Sugru now in primary colors!

Great news for hackers and fixers - Sugru, the mouldable silicone putty that air-cures to resilient toughness so you can repair or improve ANYTHING - is now available in primary colours that combine to create ANY SHADE on earth!!!


March 12, 2012

The (Kreg) Jig is Up! How you can start building furniture now, even if you're a noob.

One Jig to Rule Them All

Hot tool helps newbies build fantastic furniture  


Stephanie Reavis' beautiful cabinet constructed with a Kreg Jig


As spring sneaks in, it’s fun to go through each room in your house and create a punch list of things you’d like to change, add or replace.  The list can hold all of the items that bug you, from minor to major, not including relatives.  

Don’t hold back; put everything down on that list, from faucet repairs to paint jobs to pictures that no longer give you a happy feeling.  If there’s anything you see that messes with your well being - ping! (magic wand sound effect) - it goes on the list.  

If your list reveals lots of holes in the furnishings department, don't be bummed.  It’s never been easier to build stuff.  And try not to feel overwhelmed if you've got a long list; here are a few of my must-builds for comparison:  

  • pine recycling center for the kitchen
  • wainscoting in basement
  • big framed whiteboard for the home office
  • computer hutch for the kitchen
  • matching nightstands for the master bedroom
  • built-in cabinets and shelves for the master bedroom
  • floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for the den
  • window bench in the guest room
  • bed frame and headboard for the guest room
  • storage benches in the mudroom 
  • storage shelves for dumbbells in the workout room
  • built-in storage for the laundry room
  • tool storage shelves and boxes in the workshop

So, what are the chances of any of these projects actually getting built, whether in your house or mine? 

Pretty darn good.  Even if your desire level is way higher than your budget.  

Continue reading "The (Kreg) Jig is Up! How you can start building furniture now, even if you're a noob." »

March 05, 2012

Tutorial to make a penny-tiled floor

via big-design.blogspot.com

Love this fearless tutorial on how to apply and grout pennies to make a cool looking floor

February 15, 2012

In this Crazy Life: Tips and Tricks

via inthiscrazylife-bethany.blogspot.com

This girl has a fantastic collection of tips for DIY and household stuff. I love the paint can elastic that saves you from gobbing up the rim, and using marshmallows as a hydrating agent for brown sugar.


February 10, 2012

My latest Sugru hacks

This is a food processor lid that snapped in half when I dropped it on the slate floor.  Sugru to the daring, orange rescue. (the food processor body is orange so it all looks absolutely intentional)


The plumbing pipes above the new water heater collect condensation, which then drips on the top of the water heater and wants to run into the electrical well on top of the water heater.  IX-NAY!  I made a nice white gasket around the electrical controls so no pesky water can find its way into the workings.  

Sugru water heater repair

February 01, 2012

Under the Sink Storage by Pink Toes and Power Tools

via www.prettyhandygirl.com

Ingenious method for stabilizing those twisted wonky dollar-store plastic bins - force 'em into shape with runners created from strips of MDF.

January 10, 2012

Amanda Edwards and her penny-tiled floor

via www.mandolinmosaics.com

I know, I know, I'm obsessed with coin flooring this week!  Amanda Edwards' stunning kitchen floor is tiled with pennies using black sanded grout. Then Amanda sealed it with clear polyurethane.  And this is only a sliver of her skill.  Lift your spirits in under 5 seconds; visit her web site to see the breathtaking stained glass works she spins from her limitless imagination. The colours and movement in her pieces will make you feel like you just took a vacation.  

January 09, 2012

Nickel Tile Floor! A DIY Bathroom Renovation

via www.apartmenttherapy.com

After the penny tiling investigation (in the previous post), I discovered some long-suffering souls who figured out one way to solve the coin-embedding mystery in their bathroom renovation. Their step-by-step instructions are a testament to determination.


  • Get ToolGirl's Newsletter
  • Watch ToolGirl's videos


  • Flickr
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest

Mag's Books

  • : We're All In This Together

    We're All In This Together
    Based on four years of interviews with Steve Smith, Mag's unconventional biography reveals the personal stories, sorrows and joys that continue to inspire the man behind the Red Green legacy.

  • : How Hard Can It Be?

    How Hard Can It Be?
    Mag's quirky and entertaining book of home improvement projects for beginners.

Nota Bene

  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot (1819-1880)
  • Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought. - My fortune cookie