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Restoring Oak Woodwork in Foyer

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Restoring Oak Woodwork in Foyer

Postby dcosta on Tue Jul 10, 2012 9:20 am

I recently purchased a Queen Anne home in Saint John's Historic District of Richmond. The house was built in 1889. The original owner managed his own millwork company, so all of the woodwork was custom made for the house. The beautiful foyer features a solid oak staircase with a fancy newl post, and the walls are covered in oak wainscoting. The floors are inlaid parquet, and the wood is pine. Originally, the oak was all natural, and we believe the pine woodwork around the doors was stained to match the oak. The house was 'renovated' in the 1970s, and the owner at the time decided to gel stain the wood an ugly chocolate bar brown color. There is matching oak wainscoting in the dining room, which thankfully was not painted. I have wanted to strip the woodwork down to the original oak, as the brown is so dark and looks very '70s. I stripped two panels of wainscoting in the vestible. The oak looks beautiful, but it would probably take years to strip the entire foyer down to the wood. Is there a way I can preserve the wood without leaving it dark brown? I read some forums where other home owners were able to use a faux wood grain finish to make their wainscoting appear like wood. However, since the wood in our house has been gel stained, I don't think it would be possible to put a lighter faux finish over the dark under coat. I have attached a picture of the foyer as well as one panel of the wainscoting I stripped in the vestible. I haven't put any finish on it yet, but at least you can see the difference. If anyone could offer advice, I would greatly appreciate it.
Attachments
Vestibule Panel.jpg
Vestibule Panel.jpg (328.29 KiB) Viewed 6076 times
Foyer.jpg
Foyer.jpg (269.63 KiB) Viewed 6078 times
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Re: Restoring Oak Woodwork in Foyer

Postby Texas_Ranger on Tue Jul 10, 2012 12:37 pm

However, since the wood in our house has been gel stained, I don't think it would be possible to put a lighter faux finish over the dark under coat.

No, that's not really a problem - the base coat of a traditional faux wood finish was a solid coat of almond or beige paint. However, decent graining takes an artist, done by an amateur it looks like something between bad brush marks and cheap wood print vinyl. Oh to have someone at hand like the genius who painted the perfect quartersawn oak in this house! The finish looks absolutely perfect and you can only tell the faux finish because it's worn down to bare wood in spots.
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Re: Restoring Oak Woodwork in Foyer

Postby mross_pitt on Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:22 pm

I'd recommend trying to remove the existing finish in small areas to see what might dissolve the brown finish.

That's a lot of great woodwork. Faux painting oak to look like oak seems like a waste. There must be something to remove the finish. Trying to paint a very beautiful faux finish can probably take as long and cost as much as removing the existing stain/paint.
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Re: Restoring Oak Woodwork in Foyer

Postby Josiecat on Tue Jul 10, 2012 4:49 pm

Wow, this post is very close to my heart. I've spent 3 years stripping the staircase in my 1892 Queen Anne. Take a look. The shellace was very thick and dark. Underneath the dark shellac is a beautiful golden oak. I also found some faux graining on the doors, which I am going to have a local artist restore. There are several broken pieces on the staircase that will be replaced before I stain or shellac it.

Image

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The Wellcome House
1892 Queen Anne Victorian
Topeka, Kansas
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Re: Restoring Oak Woodwork in Foyer

Postby mross_pitt on Tue Jul 10, 2012 6:40 pm

That's the way to go. Pick a section at a time and work on it.


Josiecat,

DId you have paint over the shellac or just shellac?

Shellac usually darkens with age, and if that was the only finish ever, you could go from the dark shellac to the golden oak with just denatured alcohol and some rags.
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Re: Restoring Oak Woodwork in Foyer

Postby GothicHome on Tue Jul 10, 2012 7:21 pm

Dcosta, welcome. Pick an out of the way corner and give it the treatment. If yor lucky denatured alcohol may just do the trick. But because it was a modern gel stain it may not be so easy. You may have to get more aggressive, that's why an out of the way corner. It will will allow you to figure out what it 's going to take to get the look you after. Once known you just need to scale up the work needed over the whole project. You just may find the stain easier to live with. Once started there's not going back.
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Re: Restoring Oak Woodwork in Foyer

Postby PowerMuffin on Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:03 am

Geez, the woodwork and details in your house are just amazing. Lucky you. I would do as suggested and see if denatured alcohol works. I would take the time (and I did) to strip the woodwork rather than paint a faux finish on it. The woodwork is so beautiful that to me it deserves nothing but the best.
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Re: Restoring Oak Woodwork in Foyer

Postby Josiecat on Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:09 am

Mine was only shellac. Many coats of Shellac over the years were added. My clean up method is denatured alcohol and a paint brush. It is very, very time consuming.
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The Wellcome House
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Re: Restoring Oak Woodwork in Foyer

Postby dcosta on Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:35 am

Thank you for all the suggestions. Parts of the woodwork have been painted brown, but most of it was gel stained. I tried some denatured alcohol in a small corner where the wood is just gel stained, and it took it down to the oak pretty easily. Does anyone have a suggestion for how to apply denatured alcohol over a large surface? The entire side of the staircase is just gel stained, and I could probably get it down to the oak in a weekend if I knew the proper technique. Agree stripping it is better than a faux finish: it's taking forever and a day to strip the two panels in the vestibule, and there's almost three dozen panels throughout the main foyer. It would just be incredibly time consumiung, but I appreciate the suggestions.
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Re: Restoring Oak Woodwork in Foyer

Postby dcosta on Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:18 pm

Update: I have attached a photo of the oak wainscoting in the dining room which is completely original. My camera phone may take the worst photos ever, but at least you get a feel for what it should look like. I agree my foyer project isn't really logical; however, every time I walk in there, I can't help but think how silly it is to let a little bit of 1970s brown paint and a gel stain keep the foyer from looking as it should. I guess it's not a question of 'if' I do it. I just need to determine the best approach and work on it little by little. First, I am going to finish the two panels in the vestibule. I will post pics once the project is complete, so you can see a sample of how the foyer would look.
Attachments
Dining Room Panel.JPG
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