5 Steps to Remove Paint from Your Antique Doors

Shannon Lee

Old houses can often come with equally old doors. They can impart a special kind of charm or they can be an eyesore. It all depends on how liberal the previous owners were with the varnish and paint. Layers of varnish can build up over the years, leaving the doors feeling tacky to the touch. Those layers of paint can be unsightly when they inevitably begin to peel, showing you hints of the previous colors that graced the doors.

Uncovering Old Doors Step by Step

To find the true beauty of your antique doors, strip the paint away. You can often do this in a weekend, and you may find that you have a stunning new reason to appreciate your old house.

  1. Get suited up. Any kind of chemical strong enough to strip paint is sure to be strong and have potential health risks. Always use in a well-ventilated area--doing the work outside is a good idea. Be prepared with a long-sleeved shirt, rubber gloves, and a charcoal filter mask if you are sensitive to fumes.
  2. Pour it on. Methylene chloride is a good choice for removing layers of paint. Lay the door flat and pour the thick liquid directly onto the door, spreading it well with an old paintbrush. Immediately cover the door with wax paper to slow evaporation. Then sit back and let the chemical work for the period of time recommended on the container.
  3. Scrape it up. When the appropriate amount of time has elapsed, peel back the wax paper and begin scraping. Use a plastic spatula to remove the "sludge" that was created by the methylene chloride and melting paint. Put the sludge in an empty paint can as you work.
  4. Do it again. If there are still layers of paint to be removed, follow all the steps again. Keep going until you hit bare wood. Some areas might have more paint than others, so adjust the amount of chemical you use until you work down to a smooth, clean surface.
  5. Clean up. When the paint is gone, clean the door well with mineral spirits. Place the paintbrush, rags, and other materials you used into the empty paint can with the sludge and seal it closed. Call your local waste-management office to determine how to properly dispose of the sludge.

Now that the door has been stripped of all that old paint, it's time to make it your own. Choose your favorite stain or paint and give those old doors a lovely new life.

About the Author

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.

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