Monday, November 16, 2009

Step Two: Stripping the Paint

Note: I should probably back up here a little bit. If you are not sure whether or not your house's woodwork was originally finished or painted, test a small area with either stripper or a heat gun. If the paint slides off easily, and you can see the wood underneath, you have finished wood. If it is harder to get the paint off, or if the wood has paint "in its pores" and it has a whitewashed look, it was originally painted.
Tools You Need (From top to bottom):
  1. Respirator: Kevin and I tend to be overly cautious maybe when it comes to safety, so go at your own risk. Personally, I kind of like the respirator. Also, it's a lot easier to breath for a long time in a respirator than in a dust mask. Just don't sneeze....
  2. Gloves: The temperatures can get pretty hot when using heat to remove paint, so a good pair of leather gloves is important. FYI for good quality leather gloves that fit small hands (or oddly shaped hands) go to Ubers .
  3. Goggles: just to be on the safe side. A burning paint chip in the eye just sounds really painful.
  4. Pull Scraper: The one we have has a lot of angles (convex curve, concave curve, right angel, point etc.). It works well for curved and detailed pieces.
  5. Five-in-One: a stiff putty knife would do the trick, too, but my five-in-one has a blunt blade, meaning there's less chance I'll nick the trim.
  6. Heat: We recently purchased a Silent Paint Remover, and though they cost a lot, there are deals to be had. We got a deal on ours at Ebay.
It really does work a whole lot faster than a heat gun, but our trusty heat gun still has its advantages over the SPR sometimes (hard-to-reach corners and details). Why no chemical strippers? For one, that can get expensive. Two, they're a mess. Kevin wrote his one and only blog post about stripping a door using various methods, and I think it is a good case-in-point.


I will also talk briefly about how to use the heat gun, for now I will focus on the SPR.

Find a good, heat-proof surface to lay the SPR on when not in use. I actually just worked on my basement floor, but I did get sore after a while. Choose a flat, no frills board to begin with. Put on the respirator and gloves, and turn on the SPR. Once it's heated up (only a few seconds), place the SPR on the board you want to strip. It has a nifty arm that can make it rest at an angle if needed, as seen in my pictures.
After a few attempts, you'll get the hang of how long to leave the heat on the board. If it's not left on long enough, the paint won't come off, and for whatever reason, it always seems to come off best with the first pull. If left on too Basically, when the paint is bubbly and smoking a little, take off the heat. Note: you should also know where a working fire extinguisher is, and maybe even keep it close, just in case.

Once the heat is off the board, work fast; it cools quickly. Take the scraper and either pull or push the paint off, depending on the type you are using (the wood handled one in the picture is a pull scraper, the five-in-one is a push).
Get off what you can in the first pull, then heat it up and go again.

If you are using the heat gun, it's more of a fluid motion. With one hand you hold the heat gun, and the other you use the scraper. Move slowly along the board pulling the heated paint with you as you go. The heated paint should be bubbly and smoking a little.

At the end, your boards will look like this:
Don't worry, they don't stay this ugly.

ONE LAST SAFETY NOTE: The SPR should be used with its protective screens in place. It keeps the heat at a safe distance from the wood. The heat gun should be used on the lowest effective setting. Both of these tools have a real and serious risk of starting a fire if not used properly. Yes, we at Bungled House have started fires with both. Both times we were being stupid. And yes, I did it twice before changing my method. Please be safe. And learn from your mistakes the first time.

As always, if you have comments and or advice, please write!

1 comment:

Mary said...

Great post! My husband and I are renovating our 1917 bungalow and purchased a Speedheater this summer to strip the paint from our front porch. (we got a deal on ebay, too). Love reading the blog--it reminds me that we're not alone in this endless succession of projects :)