Old House, Old Paint: The Best Methods for Stripping Paint
Editor's Note: Please also see our article, "Lead Poisoning and Children - The Risks in Your Old House."
Old homes come with a variety of old charms--and lots of old paint. Years of paint layered on an old house can lead to chipping, cracking, and flaking, and that can wreck havoc on your plans for a new paint job. The only way to make it perfect is to go back to square one, and that means stripping paint is in your future!
Tips for Removing Paint
Some older homes can have up to a dozen layers of paint, and that means a lot of work ahead of you. Before you pull out those scrapers, consider these tips to make the process easier:
- If the house was built before 1978, the older paint might contain lead. When you strip the paint, tiny lead particles fly everywhere, poisoning the ground and leading to health risks for you and your family. Before you chip away at the old paint, take the time to learn about lead paint, the proper protective equipment, and regulations for removal in your area.
- Place a wide, disposable tarp next to the house underneath the area you are stripping. The paint falls on the tarp and can be easily cleaned by rolling up the tarp and disposing of it properly.
- Choose the method of stripping best suited for your house. Grinding and scraping is a good option that uses a lot of elbow grease, but it is also the least suitable if your old paint contains lead. Heat stripping is also an option, but the downside is the small risk of fire associated with this method. Stripping paint can also be done with chemicals, but those require their own set of safety precautions. Weigh your options carefully before you begin.
- Consider the "Silent Paint Remover." This method of removing paint uses infrared rays to heat the substrate underneath the paint, which makes it very easy to remove all the layers down to the bare wood in minutes.
- Break out the sandpaper! A nice, even surface is required for a good primer coat, but scrapers can make the surface a bit too smooth. After removing the paint, go over the area with sandpaper to ensure an even coat of primer.
If you are unsure about any aspect of stripping paint, or if you are working with a larger house, you might find the time saved is worth hiring a professional painter. The proper paint job not only protects your investment, but keeps it looking beautiful for years to come.
Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.