How to Strip Paint From Woodwork

It’s a uncommon home that doesn’t have a drop of paint on authentic quarter-sawn oak or Douglas fir woodwork. Conversely, many houses constructed earlier than 1950 have been trimmed with wooden that was particularly paint-grade—that means it’s alleged to be painted. The difficulty is available in when incompatible paints or finishes (actually) gum up the works. Floor  issues are legion (calcimine paint, anybody?)

Right here, we’ll discover how two completely different householders approached the stripping course of. Within the first home, a late-Nineteenth-century transitional Colonial Revival, Stacy Grinsfelder struggles with an incompatible coating over paint-grade wooden. Within the second venture, Gina Bellous laboriously strips casings, doorways, and baseboards in an 1895 Queen Anne. Her purpose is to stain and polish the hand-stripped wooden. (That’s a narrative we plan to publish in a future subject). —Mary Ellen Polson

cobra infrared heater
The light warmth from a Cobra infrared heater loosens paint with out releasing poisonous fumes, together with lead.

Stripping Paint-gradewood

The grand entry staircase is among the jewels of my 1895 transitional Colonial Revival house. After my husband and I refinished the stair treads and landings, as a part of a floor-refinishing venture, the shabby situation of the balusters (which have three distinct turned patterns) stood out. Long-established from paint-grade Douglas fir, the balusters, wainscot, and ornamental tread trim had been given a fast coat of latex over previous oil-based, shortly earlier than we moved in. The paint started to crack and flake nearly instantly.

All of the stair parts have been meant to be painted, however there was no method to take away the failing latex with out disturbing the oil-based paint beneath. I thought-about sending the balusters out for dip-stripping, going as far as to make an appointment with a stripper in a close-by state. For the uninitiated, this can be a technique of stripping previous paint and polish off wooden or steel by dipping parts in a vat of chemical stripper which will include methylene chloride or different caustic chemical compounds. The dipped items emerge prepared (after neutralizing and generally sanding) for refinishing. It’s an aggressive technique of stripping wooden, however helpful for one thing like my turned balusters, which have so many nooks and crannies.

For good motive, my state of New York and several other others  ban the apply as an environmental hazard. Already uneasy in regards to the dipping course of and fearful in regards to the fragile situation of the softwood balusters, I modified my thoughts. My buddy John Rodgers of Phoenix Preservation had identified that the chemical compounds might doubtlessly alter the wooden floor in order that paint wouldn’t adhere correctly.

One baluster at a time, I experimented with chemical strippers. Whereas liquid stripper eliminated many of the paint, the appliance of light warmth from a Cobra infrared paint removing software labored simply as effectively. For the reason that latex by no means bonded to the oil-based layers, it got here off with out a lot muscle. I began utilizing the Cobra on the Greek-key accents, and the latex layer crackled and virtually leapt off the wooden. —Stacy Grinsfelder

1.  Harm ranged from the apparent, to screw and nail heads hidden underneath layers of paint. Repairs grew to become a part of our ongoing restoration.
   2. Balusters prepared for stripping.
 3.  Balusters in varied states of stripping and restore. 
  4. Fully stripped and sanded, these balusters are prepared for primer and eventual reinstallation.

Stripping Turned Components  

My stripping technique is laborious however not tough. All it takes is time and endurance:

  • For the turned balusters, I first soften the paint utilizing a stripper akin to Peel Away or Good Strip and canopy it with wax paper, for about 24 hours.
  • Then I take away many of the Peel Away utilizing an offset-handle, nylon-bristle brush (e.g. Allway Instruments) meant for stripping or grouting. I scrub the wooden with mineral spirits and a clear dishwashing  brush and permit it to dry fully.
  • The remaining residue turns into powdery when dry, so it’s straightforward to scrape it out of the curves, cracks, and crevices.
  • I put on a P100 respirator and use a HEPA store vac. I depend on a spread  of instruments, from crevice and dental instruments to a flat-head screwdriver.  Lastly, I sand down surfaces utilizing 120- or 220-grit sandpaper, relying on whether or not the wooden feels spongy or stable.


Left: Latex paint pops and chips away from older oil-based coats on the ornamental key element on the spandrels. Center: Partially eliminated paint after the primary cross. The low warmth causes the paint to bubble and soften. Proper: The stair after remedy with infrared warmth and a cleansing with mineral spirits.

Stripping Particulars

For the reason that Greek-key element beneath the treads is flat and the oil-based layers now principally gone, I stripped the paint utilizing a Cobra infrared paint remover and a scraper, retaining the software shifting on the uniform floor. (This didn’t work effectively on the balusters as a result of they’re dry and spongy—I’ve discovered infrared warmth depends on oil and moisture within the paint to work successfully. The time it took the Cobra to work on the balusters elevated the danger of scorching.) The remainder of the method is much like strategies used for the turned balusters, together with scrubbing down with mineral spirits, permitting the wooden to dry, then selecting out the residue. with varied instruments and brushes.

Bellous’s stripping setup for millwork contains sawhorses and a ground masking in order that gloppy stripped-paint residue received’t hurt the flooring.

Stripping Varnished Wooden

The wooden trim in my 1895 Queen Anne was by no means meant to be painted, nevertheless it got here to me with six to eight gloppy coats of paint. Since all the unique plaster was failing and needed to come down, I rigorously salvaged and saved the pine and Douglas fir doorways, baseboards, and door and window casings earlier than the drywall went in. I strip woodwork in my free time, finally getting it to the place I can apply contemporary stain and shellac. The venture is taking years, however that hasn’t stopped me. 

Early on I found that many of the trim had been sanded earlier than portray. That decades-old prep work made the paint actually persist with the wooden. In a single room, I used to be overjoyed to find woodwork that hadn’t been sanded earlier than it was painted. After I utilized stripper, a number of coats of paint simply slid off the previous varnish, leaving little or no paint behind. Over time, I’ve streamlined the stripping course of in order that it’s environment friendly, if nonetheless time consuming.

I start by making use of a thick layer of stripper (often Good Strip, a low-toxicity stripper that’s odor-free and stays in place effectively) over a chunk of trim, akin to a door casing or baseboard. I cowl the stripper with odd wax paper or plastic to maintain the stripper from drying out.

After about 24 hours, I take away the previous paint with a putty knife that’s somewhat uninteresting in order that there’s much less likelihood of gouges. The paint comes off simply all the way in which to the varnish layer. To take away paint from crevices, I rigorously angle the putty knife sideways to take away as a lot materials doable with out damaging the wooden. 

If any residue stays, I exploit a bristle brush dipped in somewhat water to wash
it away. The water barely raises the grain, however the wooden shall be sanded earlier than it receives stain and polish. A fast wipe with a moist rag removes any remaining stripper. The wooden feels clear and squeaky to the contact as soon as it’s totally clear. 

I pick any remaining paint from cracks and crevices, with a collection of instruments, earlier than the wooden dries, utilizing mineral spirits to assist loosen it if it’s cussed. That is very labor intensive! Darkish bits of stain and shellac left untouched by the stripper are sometimes embedded underneath the paint, so I decide them out little by little utilizing the contour scraper with a pointy level. It’s a gradual and delicate course of. I make certain to get all of the paint out of the crevices earlier than it dries. Then I sand flat areas with an orbital sander. I sand contoured areas by hand. —gina bellous

1. Gina Bellous applies stripper with a paint brush, working it into your complete floor. above
2. She then covers it rigorously with family wax paper, taking care to take away bubbles.
3. After the stripper does its work, it peels away from the trim simply with a putty knife, leaving solely small quantities of residue.
Bellous has stripped all the trim on the highest ground of her Queen Anne house.


For the reason that early years of OHJ, stripping expertise has advanced—from caustic, high-VOC chemical strippers and warmth weapons to extra earth-friendly strategies at this time. At the very least one chemical big makes stripping options that adjust in make-up from these containing some caustics to different merchandise that include nearly none. Listed below are a number of the choices for the DIY stripping arsenal, with tips about learn how to assess them.   Chemical Strippers   Keep away from any paint stripper that incorporates extremely poisonous solvents together with methylene chloride or N-Methyl-2-pyrrolidon (NMP). Overexposure could cause injury to the eyes, inside organs, and nervous system, and should trigger most cancers and even demise.

Learn the specs of any stripper into account to see what toxins it incorporates. In any case, put on a protecting respirator, eyewear, and gloves for those who suspect the stripper incorporates hazardous chemical compounds. Ventilate the world. 

Non-solvent Strippers 
Far more pleasant to the atmosphere, your pores and skin, and your nostril, solvent-free strippers can successfully take away a number of layers of caked-on paint and polish, however they’re not as quick as extra caustic merchandise.

Strippers together with Dumond Chemical’s Good Strip (Superior and Professional formulations) and WB Barr’s CitriStrip are among the many lowest in toxicity, however each could cause pores and skin irritation and are harmful to the eyes.  

Infrared Warmth Instruments 
These instruments are the environmentally pleasant heirs to the previous warmth gun. Good ones are costly, however they safely and successfully soften and liquefy previous paint formulations (together with lead paint) at temperatures between 400 and 600 levels F. That is decrease than the temperature (900 to 1000 levels F) at which the lead in paint turns into invisible poisonous fumes.

When utilizing an infrared heater, put on heat-protective gloves, eye safety, and a respirator. Eliminate any suspected lead paint correctly and legally. —mep



American Constructing Restoration Merchandise
Cleaners & enhancers for wooden and so on.

Paint & varnish stripping gels

Dumond Chemical substances
Makers of Good Strip, Peel Away & Secure ‘n Simple paint removers 

Earth+Flax Paints
Ottosson, Viking, Allback linseed-oil paints & wooden conditioners

Eco-friendly gel-based paint & urethane strippers from soy

Howard Merchandise
Woodenend restorers & cleaners 

Wooden finishes, stains, cleaners

Rubio Monocoat
Pure pre-treatments (growing older, fuming) & finishes for wooden

Unique tung oil end from 1910; resin-modified & color-infused tung oils

Wooden Care USA
Wooden oil pre-treatments & finishes

Velvit Merchandise
Stains & oil finishes for wooden flooring & surfaces

Vermont Pure Coatings
All-natural ground finishes, stains & sealers


American Worldwide Software
PaintShaver EPA-approved paint removing software

Speedheater and Speedheater Cobra infrared paint removing instruments; Brouns & Co. scrapers

P100 and N100 particulate masks & respirators

Rotary sanders, HEPA mud extractors 

Hyde Instruments
Contour & different scrapers

Jasco Merchandise
Strippers, cleaners, odorless mineral spirits

SRS {Hardware}
Paint stripper instruments, particularly for home windows

Viking Gross sales
Silent Paint Remover software works with infrared warmth

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Welcome, you are reading the article How to Strip Paint From Woodwork published date 2022-12-16. Thank you for visiting Corarchitecture

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