Saturday, August 4, 2012

Paint Stripping Tips

Now that we've gotten 2 rooms stripped of paint, I thought it would be nice to mention a few of the lessons we learned over the process. Our process has certainly evolved over the last year and we've gotten much faster and efficient. Many of these comments have been mentioned in earlier posts, but I figured it would be easier to find if I consolidated them all in one post.

Our big break-through to success was audio books. Paint stripping is not a mentally challenging activity and boredom quickly sets in. If you can find a way to listen to something interesting, like audiobooks or podcasts, the time passes more quickly. By listening to audio books, we were able to spend far longer days working on paint stripping projects.

The comparatively inexpensive variable-temperature heat gun was the most successful heat stripping tool we found. (We bought ours for $60 at Home Depot). In our house, the heat gun, used in combination with profile paint scrapers, got off most of the paint. We tended to use the lowest temperature that worked, about 800°F on the paint in our house, and it really wasn't hot enough to burn the wood as long as you didn't stay in one spot too long.

After we stripped the paint with the heat gun, we would follow-up with an application of Klean-Strip or Jasco premium chemical stripper. To remove the stripper, we found the most effective tool was a stainless kitchen scrubby. It didn't scratch the wood like the wire brushes, in fact, it helped smooth the wood (and perhaps even reduced the amount of sanding required). And even though it would clog up with stripper goo during the process, once it dried, the dried goo would just fall out to be swept up for disposal. We had several of these going at a time, and they lasted for quite a long time.

In order to reach those uncooperative corners, try dental tools. They can often reach those difficult crevices. (We bought ours at a local army surplus.) First, apply the stripping chemical and allow it to work for a couple minutes, then use a dental tool to remove the last bits of paint.

Next, if you're going to fill holes with a stainable wood filler, do it before you sand. We found the filler would sometimes get onto the wood surrounding the hole and would discolor it, necessitating more sanding. Better to fill the holes before you do the final sand.

When sanding edges or tight corners, try contour sanding grips. They were a life saver for sanding the edges of the raised panels on our bedroom doors.

For small spots of paint embedded in the wood, don't sweat it. The stain may cover it. And if not, simply cover it with a matching paint.

All this said, we are not professionals and are still figuring this all out. So experiment and figure out what works for you and we look forward to you sharing your tips.


  1. I haven't tried the scrubby. Might be worthwhile-- I go through an absurd amount of steel wool.

    But hey, when I came on your blog a few minutes ago, there was a post full of pictures showing the progress you'd made throughout the house. Now it's gone, and I didn't get time to admire it all.

    (No, I was too busy noticing that the "before" vinyl sheet goods in the kitchen and bath looked a lot like the junk I'm afflicted with . . . )

  2. Try the Before and After link at the top of the page. Thanks!

  3. Really good post! I just discovered those steel scrubbies recently. So much better than steel wool! #nomoresplinters