How do I get 115 years of paint off my rosettes and molding?

moonsunskyMarch 7, 2014

We just purchased a 114-115 year old home and it has beautiful moldings that are covered in paint. Any suggestions to get it off?

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The linked blowtorches will make all the paint shrivel away immediately, but you can burn down your house if you aren't careful and you will certainly be vaporizing the lead in the old paint so you'll need a respirator.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bullfinch

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 9:58AM
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I would not recommend using a blowtorch to remove paint.

I have used a heatgun and scrapers. You can use chemicals (such as Smart Strip by Peel Away) followed by scraping carefully. It's a long, tedious process any way you do it.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 11:15AM
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I second graywings: 1) A good thermostatically-controlled heat gun to get most of the paint off. You will need a good set of scrapers/dental tools. If you adjust the temperature correctly you can soften the paint without vaporizing much. If you don't create any dust, you are not like to breathe any lead. 2) Soy-gel pain stripper to get the rest. It does not burn.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 2:11PM
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Blow torch - good grief! Heat gun or infrared heat is the way to go, but first try to find out if the first layer was shellac - if so the heat will just melt it off like butter and the layers of paint come off in nice sheets. If the first layer was paint going over bare wood, then I think I would still try to get it off, so the profile of the trim looks sharp and clean again - but then repaint or do a white or color stain or something.. Reason being paint will have gotten into the pores of the wood and be next to impossible to get out.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 2:48PM
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Of course context is everything. While I wouldn't recommend the use of an open flame in an area that could ignite material in an inaccessible area, the intense heat of a blowtorch, much more than that of a heat gun, will make much shorter work of, say, heavily painted porch balusters. This intense heat causes paint failure before the wood below is even heated. By the time a heat gun has softened the paint, the wood is pretty warm.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 3:36PM
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Not so much for the rosette part but the rest of the trim: the scraper that attaches to the shop vac that I got my dh is great. Soften with a heater made for painted surfaces and scrape, sucking most of the paint into the shop vac. He did our outside trim with these two tools. Of course we repainted, not trying to finish the wood. But I must say some of the wood was beautiful clear oak, it was a pity to paint tho who is going to see it up by the roof line for example anyway.
The scraper I got was made in England and is shaped well for less wear on the wrist. It is imported by someone in this country for scraping boats. There is one made here too (an imitation) that is cheaper but doesn't look like such a good shape.
Good luck

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 10:38AM
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I have to recommend the Soy-Gel. We used it recently with amazing results. Easy to use, no smell and it didn't cause skin irritation if you happened to get your hands in it. It cleans up with water too! We've also done the heat gun thing before, never tried the blowtorch, but after finding soy-gel, not sure I'd try anything else - even used it to strip paint off our concrete porch.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 9:18PM
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Ditto on eco-friendly! I use SmartStrip. Has made a huge difference in my life.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 6:08PM
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Just my two cents' worth: consider using steam. A heat gun can easily burn fine details like that, which is irreversible damage. Heat guns also vaporize the lead in lead paint, and even if you wear a respirator, the fine lead dust travels a long way and settles on everything. Chemical paint strippers soak into the wood, so if you want to stain, varnish, or lacquer the wood later on, the absorbed stripper can mess with the adhesion of the stain/varnish.

A steam generator produces moist heat, so the lead in the paint doesn't vaporize. The paint that you remove becomes sodden and falls straight to the floor. It can't burn the wood or start a fire. And it's REALLY effective. I've tried all three methods and in my experience, steam gets the paint off fastest and cleanest. It's really effective on multiple layers of paint, just peels of like a big thick ribbon once you get the hang of it. Using steam can raise the grain of the wood, so if you notice the wood starting to get rough as you scrape it, just take a break until it dries out. Invest in a good detail scraper that you pull toward yourself, not one that you push away from yourself.

I'm including a link to a Youtube video from John Leeke. He specializes in restoring old windows, but the principle is the same for wood trim. You can read more about steam paint removal at I'm not affiliated with John Leeke or Historic Homeworks, but he's a personal guru of mine. :)

A decent steam generator is kind of a big-ticket tool (around $150 I think) but useful for all kinds of things: paint stripping, window work, steaming wrinkles out of garments, stripping wallpaper, and even steam-cleaning your floor!

Here is a link that might be useful: Removing paint with steam

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 10:50PM
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