Paint removal

Questions and answers relating to houses built in the 1800s and before.

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Paint removal

Postby marisasmom on Thu Nov 30, 2006 10:31 pm

So is it practical or possible (or sane) to attempt to remove paint from woodwork inside a 1895 home?
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Postby Sherwood Farm on Thu Nov 30, 2006 11:34 pm

Yes, it is, with some caveats about how you remove it.

With a house that old, you are likely to have lead paint, which is a health hazard, particularly for young children, when it is sanded or scraped. It is the dust and particles of the paint which are unhealthy.

Another common method of removal is heat, but these have the risk of heat damage, fire and, still have some lead risk. This covers heat guns, plates and quartz (Silent Paint Stripper). Heat is efficient, and effective, though.

Another way to remove paint is using various chemicals, from the truly vile petroleum-based ones to the less nasty ones like citrus-based solvents. I have had good luck with a stripper made from Soy.

And finally, there is a way that is gaining some currency because it combines heat, without fire risk, and reduces the lead dust issue and avoids smelly chemicals: using a steamer. I have not tried this in a serious way, though I think it is promising.

Now, having explained how it's done, I feel I should also point out that it can be a very tedious job, depending on how complicated your trim is.

If the paint is not too thick that it distorts the molding profiles, it might be best to simply paint over it. Leaving the existing paint also preserves the historical record of which colors were originallychosen. A recommended way to handle even lead paint is to encapsulate it in place. The paint is not dangerous, just the dust from degradation of the surface.

Hope that helps!
Sherwood Farm
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Postby HappyInHartwood on Fri Dec 01, 2006 10:24 am

You haven't given us much to go on, but I'll attempt a general reply. The answer to all of your questions is, "yes", with some reservations. It all depends upon your goal.

Our house was built in 1848. All of the original interior woodwork is, and has always been, painted heart pine. POs, many of them, applied endless layers of paint throughout the years, and most of the details were completely lost. Our goal was to strip down to the original layer, if possible, and apply a quality paint job. To do this, my heat gun has been my best friend. With a little practice, I have learned to heat the paint only as much as necessary to loosen it from the wood, and scrape it away, using a variety of scraping tools (putty knife and carbide scraper for the flat portions, 5-in-one for the grooves, and an OXO melon baller for the concave areas, leaving crunchy paint chips that I sweep away.

It's not fast, and it's definitely not easy, but depending on what you want to achieve, it can probably be done. It's like all the other things associated with old house renovation -- you have to balance your time, your money, and your sanity.
1848 Gothic Revival
Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.
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Postby Dan on Sat Dec 02, 2006 8:59 am

Each job often requires a different method of attack. My favorite so far, when it works, is Citri-strip. I recently decided to strip my picture rails, and dreaded it because their profile is complex. As it turns out, they had one coat of lead-based with one coat of latex on top, and no shellac underneath. I tried a small section of Citri-strip, because you never know how each product will respond to each item, and left it on for maybe 18 hours. It came of in gummy strands and I had the whole 15 foot piece done in about an hour. I use denatured alcohol on a wet-dry foam-based sanding block for the grooves and curves.Very little risk of lead poisoning using Citri-strip although I wear a HEPA mask for the fumes anyway.
If you get really lucky, your woodwork was originally shellaced, which prevents almost all of the original paint from penetrating the pores of the wood.

Bottom line; you need a tool box arsenal of weapons to strip paint cause you don't know which one will work best. It's the ultimate "labor of love" that most people would never have the patience for. I put on some classical music or something soothing to get my mind in a calm state so I can focus on each piece and not gouge the wood, taking frequent breaks for a cup of tea. If successful, the satisfaction of having restored a natural woodwork interior exceeds the labor and mess required.
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Postby artfox on Sat Dec 02, 2006 12:28 pm

Dan, please tell me where in Houston can I buy Citri-Strip? Also, what brand(s) of paint are you using for interior and exterior?

My work-in-progress is in the Broadmoor section of Eastwood. What area are you located in? No, I'm not stalking you! It's just that there are so damn few of us in this big city who are restoring structures instead if tearing them down. As a native Houstonian, it's reassuring to know that not everything 50+ years old going into a landfill.
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Postby Dan on Sun Dec 03, 2006 8:15 am

Artfox! We sort of already know each other, I think......from the HAIF forum (houstonarchitecture.info). It's me, danax. I'm a fellow Eastender over in Pecan Park. I recommend Broadmoor for anyone I talk to who's wanting to buy over here. I'm amazed how cheap it is over there still. I can visualize that nabe once gentrification is many years underway and the place will be desirable. Great location too.

I bought several bottles of Citri-strip when the old K-Mart went out of business over on the Gulf Fwy and still have a little. I would be surprised if you couldn't find it at Wal-Mart etc.And I'm going with wallpaper, not paint. 5 years ago when I moved in here wallpaper was the last thing I wanted. Sitting around in this old house has been good as I now have a more appropriate vision of how the house will be restored. I'm not to the wallpaper stage though, far from it, I'm still at the "keep it from falling down" stage. I did paint part of the art deco bathroom with Ralph Lauren's Hallard Barn, a pale pink/beige, and I really like that.

Citri-strip can be hit or miss though.
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Postby artfox on Sun Dec 03, 2006 3:52 pm

Yes, danax, it's me all right - silverartfox! Thanks for the info on Citri-Strip. I'll look again for it. My place was sheetrocked in a '50's remuddle so I'm painting the walls. The woodwork was always painted. I just don't know which good brands of latex to use .Some original features remain - brick fireplace with built-in bookcases, picture molding, big front porch.

The prices in Broadmoor are escalating. My 2/1 brick bungalow must have been one of the last of its kind for under $100k. Sometimes I check the offerings on har.com and even the tiny vacant lots are $50k and up. Nine years ago a friend bought a 3/1 fixer-upper on a larger lot in the neighborhood for just under $35k.The gentrification is underway.

Apologies to everyone for my hijacking this thread!
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Postby RioG on Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:46 pm

Just bumping this for a bit of clairfication... I was just proudly talking about my new heat gun and success in removing the glue/paint on our stairs to my sister-in-law only to be met with lecture about lead paint and poisoning myself. Thank goodness I was on the phone so she couldn't see me roll my eyes! (In my in-laws family we seem to be ignoramuses - everything we do is met with disapproval and lectures as to why it is stupid. This is no exception).

I was not overly worried about the pain on the stairs being lead based because there only appears to be one layer. And even if there IS lead involved, I am not sanding it so should be okay, am I correct?

I guess I'm just looking for some safety tips when it comes to lead paint removal so I can at least appear to have done my homework when met with more lectures. As far as I understood it the heat gun is a safe and effective way of removing lead paint as the fumes aren't the issue, the dust is. When it comes time to sand than a mask will be in order. Is this right?
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Postby lrkrgrrl on Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:56 pm

Here's the skinny:

It's a practical guide to lead-safe work practices for the home owner.
Lead vaporizes around 700 degrees farenheit, so a heat gun is not neccessarily the safest, as some have settings over 1000 degrees.

For further info, feel free to search "lrkrgrrl lead rant" in the archives here. :twisted:

Mostly, it's just a question of working clean and smart, and considering the risk not just to yourself, but to others around you: pets and kids, being smaller are at greater risk.
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Postby CThomp on Wed Dec 20, 2006 8:29 pm

I dig citristrip.

You just have to leave it on over night for it to work the way it probably should. But as some have found it won't work on milk paints.

But I think it eats most other things. I know it eats through poly like nothin.
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