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I have a ton of experience stripping paint

Posted by Chris in DC on June 24th, 2002 08:03 AM
In reply to window trim & molding paint removal by Peggy H. on June 24th, 2002 07:34 AM [Go to top of thread]

I've just finished an on again off again 2 year project that required stripping at least 60 years of paint off of the trim in my front hall. My wood was oak underneath.

Simple mechanical scraping like you are doing is not very efficient, potentially dangerous as it releases lead from the old lead paint, and can mar the wood. I suggest a couple of alternatives.

First, you can use a heat gun set at the lowest setting that will release the paint. All the layers come off together and it works best on surfaces that had been varnished or shellaced first (as yours appears to be). Working with a heat gun can take a little while to get used to, but after an hour, you should be a pro. Secrets are to keep the gun moving so as not to burn the wood, and to work slowly, too fast and you aren't letting the gun do the work. THe paint should come off with a putty knife like ribbon candy. Hold the gun in one hand, and follow it with the putty knife. You may need to improvise tools and make some up to get into crevices. I even made a set of picks out of fondue forks. Follow this up with a chemical stripper to remove the residue (see below).

Chemical strippers: These take some time and I haven't always had luck with them for the bulk of paint removal. There are 2 types, methylene chloride, and the safer removers. Methylene chloride comes under the names of Zip Strip, Dads, Stripeeze and similar names. They are noxious and are deemed carcinogenic by the state of CA. That said, I still prefer them with a lot of ventilation and a lot of protection (hands, eyes, etc) to remove the residue.

Safe strippers: Unfortunately, I've had little to no luck with the safer strippers. Citristrip does work okay if you give it time and don't let it dry out. It smells like oranges, but is a lot safer than Meth Chloride. Peel Away products do now work exactly like they are advertised (despite what HY will say, since he is an employee of the company). Peel Away 6 or 7 is the hardwood version and is meant for surfaces that will be restained and finished. It doesn't discolor the surface, that much is true, but it does not remove as many coats as they say. Truth be told, my experience has taught me that it will not remove more coats of dissimilar paint. For instance, lead based paints covered with latex paint, which is virtually the norm in all old houses, will not come up together and become a gunky sticky mess that soaks into the wood. I spent more time trying to remove the peelaway residue than I did stripping the paint in other areas. It does not come off like a sheet. The price is also prohibitive for what it does. This is my opinion, but I am not alone in this one. Many of my neighbors feel the same way and we all have old houses.

So, I would make sure you want to do this first, as it is a long and time consuming process. Make sure the wood really looks good stained. Many times the woodwork in older homes was meant to be painted (if it was pine) and some people want to stain it because they feel it must have been. It ends up not looking so great since pine, especially old pine, doesn't stain very evenly without more prep than hardwoods.

This is a lot of info, but I told you I've done a ton of removal.

If you have more questions, fire away.


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