Wood Refinishing: Stripping

May 21st, 20104 Comments

In efforts to have a proper housewarming party by the end of summer, we have picked up the pace on getting the main floor done once and for all. All told, that would put us about 3.5 years to get to completion. That’s almost a college education. I guess that’s a good analogy, as we’ve learned so much since March 2007. The biggest lesson: Never buy a house that you have to add a dormer to unless you are wealthy!

Since last week, we’ve been busting out the trim work. Since I’ve never posted in detail about the fir refinishing process in detail before, now is as good of a time as any.

We’ll go over wood stripping first and then about the steps to refinish it back to its almost-original glory in future posts.

The stripping process is only the beginning. In our adventures, we’ve tried practically every popular method. Our favorite method is carefully removing the trim and paying a local service to dip if you have the money. In Portland, we used Houck’s Process Stripping Center, and highly recommend them. Our second favorite method is hiring a contractor that specializes in stripping wood without damaging it. Locally, we hired Pasqualle’s Home Remodeling and Construction LLC to strip the large built-ins, buffet and window interiors in place.

For those severely budget constrained, you may have to go DIY.

For chemical stripping, you’ll need:
  1. Drop cloths: plastic and/or canvas
  2. Optional but recommended: contractor paper for floors
  3. Strong painters tape (I recommend the green kind)
  4. Protective clothing and stripping gloves
  5. Flat scrapers
  6. Optional but recommended: profile scrapers
  7. Optional but recommended: dental picks
  8. Optional: Course stripping pads
  9. Chemical stripper like CitriStrip (our personal favorite as it doesn’t smell awful and is less caustic). For a more hardcore solution, use a Jasco product.
    • Peel Away may also work, but make sure that you are using a version that doesn’t darken the wood.
  10. 5-gallon bucket or old waste basket lined with a heavy duty bag to dispose of paint gunk and towels.
    • One special tip is to get a flat piece of metal duct work to swipe your flat scraper as it fills with gunk. I loaded that into the bucket and the gunk would just slide down. This minimized the need to use so many paper towels.
Chemical Stripping Process:
  1. Prep area: Protect walls and floors.
  2. Wear protective clothing, stripping gloves, and equipment based on manufacturer instructions and common sense. Keep kids and pets away from the solution and possible fumes!
  3. Apply product according to package instructions and wait recommended time.
  4. Use paint scrapers to remove paint layers and residue. Use special profile scrapers to get into special molding styles. Dental tools can help get paint out of crevices and cracks. Course stripping pads can also get into some crevices, but are messy to use.
  5. Clean tools of gunk between swipes.
  6. Repeat the process as necessary to get down to bare wood.
  7. Use a neutralizing solution to clean the wood and remove stripper residue. The type of solution will depend on the product you choose.
  8. Dispose of paint gunk according to your local regulations.
  9. Clean and store tools
For heat stripping, you’ll need:
  1. Drop cloths: plastic and/or canvas
  2. Optional: contractor paper for floors
  3. Strong painters tape (I recommend the green kind)
  4. Optional for work on windows or glass doors: Reflective aluminum tape and/or tin foil to deflect the heat away from the glass so that it’s less likely to crack.
  5. Protective long-sleave clothing and gloves. Burned forearms hurt!
  6. Respirator (a must when dealing with lead paint!)
  7. Fire extinguisher
  8. Heat gun. We recommend the Ryobi Variable Temperature Heat Gun is a great tool. Make sure to get the model that has interchangeable heads to target crevices. These run about $60.00 at Home Depot.
  9. Optional but recommended: Infrared Silent Paint Remover We recommend the basic 1100 model Silent Paint Remover. (Around $400, but some have found deals on eBay or really handy people have made them at home!).
  10. Flat and triangle scrapers
  11. Optional but recommended: profile scrapers
  12. Optional but recommended: dental picks
  13. 5-gallon bucket or old waste basket lined with a heavy duty bag to dispose of paint scraping chips.
  14. Optional but recommended: metal cookie sheet.
Heat Stripping Process:
  1. Prep area: Protect walls and floors. If you are stripping windows, protect glass with foil tape.
  2. Wear protective clothing and equipment based on manufacturer instructions and common sense. A lead filtering respirator is necessary if you are dealing with lead paint.
  3. Have a fire extinguisher on hand as you are working with high temperature equipment. Again, make sure to keep pets and children far away from the area.
  4. Open windows and doors to increase ventilation. You may want to use fans to increase ventilation as well.
  5. Turn on your heat gun and if you have one, the Silent Paint Remover.
  6. Apply heat to the paint area for the time recommended by the tool you are using. You don’t want the old paint to start smoking or turning black!
  7. Set down heat gun
    • We set the SPR on a cookie sheet so that we didn’t accidentally burn anything else.
  8. Immediately scrape paint before it cools. You may need special profile scrapers to get into special molding styles. Dental tools are key for crevices and cracks.
  9. Repeat the process as necessary to get down to bare wood.
    • You may need to also follow the chemical stripping process above to remove the varnish, or use denurated alcohol if dealing with shellac. Heat guns and the SPR wouldn’t crack through the varnish we had. This is partially why we gave up doing it ourselves and ended up hiring it out because it was so labor intensive.
  10. Dispose of paint shavings and scrapings according to your local regulations.

Here’s a walk down memory lane of our stripping adventures!

My first trial with the Silent Paint Remover. As you can see it didn’t remove the varnish, but the paint came off in a snap after a couple of hours all told.
DSCF1300 (Large)

Here’s some progress after using a chemical stripper:
IMG_1288

An in-progress shot of some of the great work that Pasqualle’s did for us:
IMG_1309

Next up… Wood bleaching, sanding, staining and varnishing! Stay tuned!

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4 Responses to “Wood Refinishing: Stripping”

  1. Sharon says:

    Thanks for the awesome post as we embark on our own paint stripping adventure!

  2. Nina says:

    Wow! Who on earth would paint that beautiful woodwork PINK!?? I am doing the same w/ my house. http://1914foursquare.blogspot.com. I am stripping the built ins and all the baseboards and window and doorway moldings…and eventually the windows themselves. I am also currently in the process of stripping the entire exterior clapboard siding after removing aluminum siding. For interior I am using peel away 7. It is basically odorless, doesn’t darken wood, and works great once you get the hang of it. I might use the heat gun on the baseboards to save money. And I have removed them (that was fun). What brand of stain are you going to use to finish your wood? That is beautiful woodwork! I wish I had that much.

  3. Jason Lesh says:

    Great site and thank you for the tips. My wife and I just bought an old foursquare in Hollywood (http://portlandfoursquare.wordpress.com) and the painted trim is starting to wear on me. I’m thinking we might need to break down and buy the Silent Paint Remover.

    Good luck with your projects – we enjoy following your progress!

  4. Debbie says:

    Are those columns separating your dining room from your living room? They look almost exactly like the ones in my living room that I am stripping right now. I also have a built in cabinet that is accessable from the kitchen and the dining room.

    Can’t wait to read more of your blog to see your progess!
    Debbie

    http://yeoldebrickhouse.blogspot (dot) com

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