Heat Plate Questions & Answers

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Heat Plate Questions & Answers

Postby Margaret on Thu Mar 25, 1999 10:50 pm

Our house was built in 1930 and still has the original primer and paint. There have been many layers of inappropriate jobs over the original paint. This has caused extensive cracking, peeling, and alligatoring. We must remove all of the paint from our cedar siding and apply paint appropriately so that it will last.

We want to obtain an electric heat plate to help us properly remove the layers of old paint. But I am having great difficulty finding one, since I don't know what companies to check into.

Regular Web searches may have 800,000+ results, but still not provide me with a way to actually obtain an electric heat plate. Your website is the closest I've come so far in my search. Could you please head me in the right direction, since part of your website mentions the use of an electric heat plate? I would most certainly appreciate your concern and promptness.

I really like your website. It is a wonderful tool for taking care of one's house and making it into a comfortable home. Thank you for your work.


Re: Heat Plate Questions & Answers

Postby Ken Holmes on Thu Mar 25, 1999 11:20 pm

Hello Margaret;

Heat plates became difficult to find several years back because a fair number of people burned their houses and buildings down with them -- and most everyone got out of the business of making them.

As of a year or so ago, Warner was still manufacturing a heat plate, similar to the ones that used to be advertised in the old house and restoration magazines. They cost about $50. I'd try a couple of local hardware stores where you live -- perhaps Trustworthy, True Value or Ace. While they might not have one, they probably can order one for you. Again, what you're looking for is a Warner Heat Plate.

Good luck, and thanks for the nice words about The Old House Web.

Ken Holmes The Old House Web
Ken Holmes

Re: Heat Plate Questions & Answers

Postby Margaret on Thu Mar 25, 1999 11:24 pm

Thank you for the help you gave me. Our local hardware is able to order a Warner Heat Plate for me and they are approximately $50, just like you said. They are willing to order it for me, if I so wish. It could be here in a few days.

But, the hardware personnel was wondering if I should be using a heat plate for removing what might be lead paint. We feel, but are not positive, that the original primer and paint was lead based, because we can see that the original colors were white with a red trim. That was the style in the 1930's when the house was built. Was there any other paint available, other than lead based, in those days?

I took off a small chip of paint, going down to the cedar wood, and examined it under a magnifying glass. The total thickness of the chip is approximately a thirty-second of an inch. Next to the wood is a grey layer, then white, and finally the last two coats of grey that were applied.

The hardware personnel thought there might be some sort of safety concern in removing lead paint with a heat process, but he was not sure. He wondered if we should contact what he called a "lead abatement company" to remove it professionally. The problem there is that I'm sure that would be very costly and we simply don't have the money.

Are you aware of the safety factors in removing lead paint with a heat plate? Is it, in fact, a vital factor only for those who chose to be careless and not follow advice? Is it mainly a fire hazard or a health hazard? The hardware personnel had no clue as to what the factors might actually be.

My thoughts, so far, have been to: 1) use the heat plate on several laps, 2) use a scraper to remove that section of paint, 3) wash that section, and 4) go on to another section and repeat that process. Does that make sense?

I have talked to a number of professional painters. None of them are enthused about actually doing a thorough job of fixing this house up right, e.g. getting all the paint removed and starting from scratch to apply primer and paint properly. They all seem tired at the thought and say it would not be cost effective because of the amount of labor involved. But, they all note that this cedar siding is in excellent condition at this point. Of course, it won't stay that way with all the peeling and alligatoring that is taking place.

I might be rambling on too much, but these are the things I am trying to consider in my efforts to preserve what I feel is a beautiful home and a wonderful part of America's heritage. I've even been saddened by the fact that not everyone cares about this home as much as I do, as they attempt to convince us to put on new siding, vinyl siding, or metal siding.

At this time, I think I would feel most comfortable doing the whole job ourselves and personally making sure it is done right, with love and care.

From your storehouse of knowledge, could you tell us what factors we need to be concerned about, what makes sense with our financial limitations, and what is the historically correct way to restore our Tudor cottage.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise. I want you to know that we greatly appreciate your concerned advice.


Re: Heat Plate Questions & Answers

Postby Ken Holmes on Thu Mar 25, 1999 11:58 pm


You raise a number of interesting questions and points. I'll try to answer them as best as I can -- and would invite anyone else out there to chip in.

First, concerns about lead paint on your house are well-founded. Paints in the 1930s through early 1970s usually contained lead, often quite a bit of it. Lead is not to be trifled with. I've no doubt inhaled a bunch of the stuff over the years -- and I've written about it, too. In adults, it can cause circulatory problems, elevated blood pressure and damage to your organs (if I'm remembering what I wrote in a magazine story a few years ago.) It's slow to work its way out of your system, too.

As for heat plates and heat guns: When you heat lead-based paint to the point that it gets soft and bubbly (as you need to in order to easily scrape the stuff off) you also vaporize some of that lead. Vaporized lead is like many toxic substances: It gets into your body even more quickly, if you don't take precautions. What precautions? A respirator rated for lead vapors, for starters. Also: Gloves, clothing that will be segregated from your other clothing, etc. (The clothing won't have vapors but will have plenty of lead-tainted dust.)

So should you use a heat plate to remove the paint on your siding? Well . . . If you want to spend the next couple of summers wearing a respirator, I guess you could.

Would I? No.

Personally, I'd teach myself (as I once did) how to use a file to keep a sharp edge on a double-bladed scraper -- and then I'd have at the siding using a scraper. Using a scaper, you'll want to wear an OSHA-rated dust mask -- and you'll need gloves, and clothes that you'll keep separate from your other clothes.

Scrapers are an under-rated tool, I think. If you keep them sharp (which means re-sharpening them quickly every 10 or 15 minutes) they can remove an amazing amount of paint -- bringing your siding back to the bare wood in many places, and taking off newer, poorly bonded layers everywhere else.

Then I'd sand any places I'd particularly roughed up. Then I'd wash everything with a solution of TSP and bleach.

And then I'd have at the place with the best oil-based primer I could afford.

This is the approach I used in Maine when painting old houses, and overseeing crews who worked for me painting old houses.

In the end, the concern I'd have with trying to remove every bit of old paint using heat (or stripper, for that matter) is that the job would end up being so time-consuming that it would never get completed -- and the results wouldn't be all that much better than what I just outlined.

Does this make sense to anyone else out there?
Ken Holmes

Re: Heat Plate Questions & Answers

Postby K. C. on Fri Mar 26, 1999 12:40 pm

Lead vaporizes at about 1000 to 1100 degrees F. Most heat guns or plates, when properly used don't get the surface that hot. The best rule of thumb to use is if the paint is turning black, it's too hot. This also keeps you from setting your house on fire. My usual method is to scrape the siding to remove all loose paint, then use heat on the badly built up areas, then go back and scrape them, then prime and paint. Don't forget to wear a good respirator to protect from the dust. Also, put down plastic on the ground to catch the scraped paint, that might otherwise be tracked in the house. The safety precautions for your clothes apply. Don't forget a painter's cap, to keep the dust out of your hair. Good luck and be patient. I'd do one side at a time, beginning to end. If, in the middle of the summer, you start to feel overwhelmed, go look at the side that's finished, and it will perk you up.
K. C.

Re: Heat Plate Questions & Answers

Postby Ken Holmes on Mon Mar 29, 1999 9:55 pm

Our how-to library now contains a nice story offering insights into use of scrapers, heat guns and heat plates.

To find it, go to the "how-to" section (using the menu at the top of this page -- and then scroll down to the section listing stories about Paint & Painting.
Ken Holmes

Re: Heat Plate Questions & Answers

Postby Dave Atkins on Fri Sep 24, 1999 9:08 pm

This discussion was very helpful, although there is contradictory info...the Warner Electric Paint Remover: (see http://www.warnertool.com/ item #380: Electric Paint Remover. 1,000 Watts. Opening Shield Door. Wire Support for Tool When Not in Use. U.L. Listed. (Not Recommended for Lead Paint Removal))

clearly discourages application to lead paint removal, but if I can locate one, I think I'll follow K.C.s advice.

Dave Atkins

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