Projects & Improvements

Renovation Awards: Tess’s Favorite (& Not-So-Favorite) Products

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Tess Wilson)

We’re nearing the end of our whole-house renovation, so I thought I’d share some of the products that have helped make our dream house dreams come true— and those that have thwarted us at every turn:

Favorite Paint To Work With: Valspar Latex Gloss Porch & Floor

This stuff went on like a creamy dream, and I declared that I was only going to use floor paint from now on, on everything. I used it on old, worn stairs (primed) and a beat-up concrete floor (unprimed), and both look great- though to be fair, the stairs are poorly lit and the concrete floor was a wreck, so my standards weren’t quite as strict as for a perfectly smooth wall in a well-lit room.

(Image credit: Tess Wilson)

Least Favorite Paint To Work With: Dutch Boy Cabinet & Trim
My mom and I both worked with this paint, and we both independently came to the conclusion that it was like painting with super-stiff icing. It was insanely thick and sticky, if you dripped on something it did not wipe off, and it dried in a plasticky, peel-off sort of way. (I couldn’t get it off my skin for days.) That being said, the windowsills that we used it on look awesomely shiny and are rock-hard, so they should last for many years. The doors, door frames, and window frames look less perfect, but I hope they’re just as durable. Also, my mom had much less trouble with this paint than I did, for what it’s worth.

Shouldn’t Even Call Itself Paint: Dutch Boy Dura Clean
I picked this paint in a panic (the employee helping me was waiting for my choice so she could continue helping a customer on the phone) and it was so disappointing. I used it in our laundry room and pantry, and you guys, I had to do the cutting-in twice. Both rooms really needed a third cutting-in, and if they were any other rooms in the house, I would have. I’d planned to do the kitchen with this gallon, too, but all of the paint was used up doing the necessary multiple coats on the smaller rooms. Boo.

(Image credit: Tess Wilson)

Favorite Overall: Style Selections Swift-Lock Laminate Flooring
I love our new floors so much. If we ever move out, those floors are coming with us and this conversation never happened. We looked at every flooring option in the tri-state area, and this was not only by far the most attractive, but also one of the cheapest at $1.25/square-foot, including underlayment. I did not do the installation, but I hear it was nice to work with, straightforward, and not very frustrating.

(Image credit: Tess Wilson)

Cheapest DIY Fix: Ardex Feather Finish Concrete Countertops
Thanks to the the wonky shape of our kitchen counters (one of our new house’s many handmade quirks), getting new ones from Menard’s would have been over $400- and not for anything special! Just standard, boring, decently attractive countertops that have to be cut and combined in non-standard shapes and sizes. We ended up using Ardex Feather Finish to cover the old countertops— and by “we,” I mean that I did the research and my partner did countless hours of coating and sanding. They look fantastic, and cost about $40.

(Image credit: Tess Wilson)

Most Likely To Lead To A Breakup: Tuscany Marianna Faucet
We chose this faucet because it was affordable and reasonable looking, but apparently it’s “low-profile,” meaning narrow front-to-back. It does not say anything about that on the packaging, and it definitely doesn’t say that low-profile means basically impossible to install the drain-closer thing. There’s the teeniest, tiniest amount of clearance to work with, the instructions are vague, and it seems poorly designed overall. Installing it, with one of us squeezed in the cabinet below the pipes and one of us struggling to understand what the hell was going on, was highly frustrating. But remember! Your partner/roommate/sibling isn’t the enemy, the faucet is the enemy.

What are your favorite/least favorite products when renovating?