When To Strip Paint in an Old House

Allison Beatty

If your old house has had several owners, chances are that the paint layers have multiplied with each person. While it's easy to put on another coat of paint, there reaches a point when stripping all the paint off is the best solution. Here's how to tell.

As you evaluate your painting needs, it will help to have an experienced painter walk through the house with you. This person should have experience working with old houses, as there are nuances to painting an old house. (The person should be familiar with how to safely stabilize or remove lead paint, for example).

In many cases, you can tell whether stripping is necessary by examining the woodwork. Does the paint chip off in your hands? Are there air pockets in places that would indicate a loose bond with the wood?

The Weight Factor
It is not uncommon for older houses to have five to ten layers of paint on the woodwork. A painter who specializes in old houses can tell you that once you have more than five layers the wood underneath will start to rebel. You'll see cracks, bubbles, and chips from the weight of the layers.

If you try to add another coat of paint, you'll only aggravate the problem. In that scenario, the best option is to strip all the paint off and start over.

Paint Stripping Options
This type of work often is best left to professional painters, although diehard renovators sometimes tackle it themselves. The job is messy, time-consuming and can involve hazardous chemicals.

The benefit of stripping paint from all your woodwork is the potential for discovering amazing wood underneath. You may find solid 100-year-old oak with interesting graining that can be attractively stained. If the wood is not so unique and you plan to paint after stripping, the end result still will be well worth the effort.

About The Author
Allison E. Beatty is an avid old house enthusiast who has been renovating houses and writing about them for more than 10 years. She contributes regularly to national newspaper, magazines and web sites. She lives in an 1888 Victorian era home.


About the Author
By Allison E. Beatty

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