Help me understand the Wood trim on my Foursquare

rrschmitzApril 9, 2011

HI Everyone,

Well I've been 'googling' for days and decided its time to reach out to people who probably know what they are talking about.

We bought this 1914 American Foursquare 2 years ago, and really fell in love with the exposed trim. Though, most of the trim in the house is painted white (boo!) the living room is exposed.

The thing that is bothering me is why doesn't our trim color match the trim color of what I consider to be the norm for old houses. Its a very Golden color, fittingly stains I've used to match is Golden oak. When I walk down the street and see other similar style houses and glimpse inside their windows everyone has a much darker tone.

Personally my wife and I love that darker tone that everyone else has, and wish we could change ours.

So is there anything we can do to get that? Why is our color different than everyone elses? Some words I've seen thrown around when trying to figure this out is that most old wood was shellacked or ammonia fumed. Could it be as simple as adding a dark shellac, or would we have to sand everything down and restain? Sorry lots of questions, thats why I need help!

I considered that maybe the wood was replaced before the sale to make it look nicer, but I started stripping some of the window frames upstairs with several coats of paint, and found the same color wood underneath.

To help me illustrate my point here are some pictures of our home trim, and then below that pictures from our last apartment that has the darker wood color I'm talking about.

Thanks in advance for your help!


House Photos/trim color we have:

Old Apartment Photos/trim color we want:

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A new coat of darker shellac might be enough.

The old shellac needs to be clean (paint thinner works well, with a lot of rags) before a new coat of darker shellac is applied.

The new coat will melt into the old one.

Most of the color in shellac comes from the grade of shellac.

Do a search on shellac and you will find vendors selling the different grades dry.
The dry shellac is dissolved in denatured alcohol for application.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 11:43AM
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I would love if that were the case, that there just needed to be some shellac applied.

However, I guess I dont know what finish is on them now. I saw a different post where someone said to test if its a shellac finish you could put alcohol on a q-tip and rub it on, it would come off on the q tip or get sticky, so I tried that with rubbing alcohol and didn't really see anything come off or disolve.

So if theres not already shellac on there, can I still put a new coat on, or do I have to find out what is on there and remove it?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 2:34PM
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Wonder if that trim had also been painted white and an earlier owner stripped it and refinished it with poly?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 3:44PM
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Ask over at the Woodworking forum too....

Here is a link that might be useful: Woodworking forum

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 4:28PM
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"So if theres not already shellac on there, can I still put a new coat on, or do I have to find out what is on there and remove it?"

You can try.

Shellac sticks to most finishes.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 4:55PM
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I think this link is an amazing example of what you can do with shellac. Bear in mind that this is amber shellac over white paint.

Here is a link that might be useful: Shellac over paint

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 4:17PM
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