Should we strip the paint off our trim?

JogaMay 11, 2011

Hi Guys--

A month ago we bought a foreclosed 1921 Colonial Revival(?) in our town's historic district.

We have no plans do anything to the house soon, but the one thing that is driving me crazy is the trim--I can't decide whether to strip it or not.

We peeled the (6 layers!) of paint off a small portion last night and discovered it's oak that has never been stained.

On one hand I do like white trim, it seems it was originally painted white, and it would be so much easier to leave it that way.

But I can't shake the feeling that it's paint wood.

What are your expert opinions? Pics below...

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I've stripped more feet of paint off wood than I can count. I'd do it again in a minute! Restoring the trim is THE MOST GRATIFYING project that I've undertaken...and I've done it in 2 homes!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 10:16AM
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I think the best policy when buying a home is to wait a year to make non-necessary changes. This gives you time to get to know the house, further defines the way you live in it and allows you to make decisions after reflection instead of reaction. Given this philosophy, I think you can wait until you are more sure of what direction you wish to go.

I love painted trim and stained trim. I removed all the paint on our trim, which was originally shellaced, not painted. But if it had been originally painted, I may have just sanded it down and repainted.

Give yourself some time before doing anything. You may be surprised about how your feelings change.
Congrats on your new house.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 10:25AM
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The trim in colonial style homes of that era was often painted. Stained wood is beautiful, but the painted wood may be more true to your home's style and its past. Me, I'd leave it alone!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 5:23PM
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I got lucky with my 1908 foursquare with greek revival/roman touches--all but two rooms were the original stain except for the rear bedroom and bath--I started stripping both, but found they were never stained--so far, I've left them that way, and it's been twenty years. :) The weirder thing is, my attic which is plastered, had original stain, which was later painted--since that is rarely seen, I've left it painted.

I may yet strip it, but I would be removing it first...still have to decide...though normally I'm a nut about keeping wood stained.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 6:18PM
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Don't underestimate the magnitude of the stripping job. I know, it's been hanging over me for 16 years as I advance, one board at a time, but mostly still look at untrimmed doors and floors for which the trim is still in the basement. OK, I'm exaggerating a bit. But think hard before turning a functional house into a work-in-progress. (We removed the trim in the course of a full reno).

I have a near mania for removing thick coats of paint from old wood, but I would never characterize the task as a small job. It's actually quite horrid. Also, it cannot be claimed that every piece of wood that emerges from beneath its paint is beautiful. But once I strip it, it is almost impossible to get myself to paint it (or to talk my husband into it). As such, the freedom to have coloured trim is somewhat reduced by stripping. And darkish wood/brown is not necessarily the best trim colour for all spaces - light and clean, for example, has its attractions.

But my trim, which has a lot more profile than yours does, is so heavily marred by drips and bubbles that its original condition is almost unbearable. Painting over the old paint is not a solution for me. For you, it might be.

You can always paint first, and then strip later if you decide that's what you want to do. If you have to strip, then one extra coat of modern paint is not going to make the job much more significant one way or the other. That way you get to figure out your colours with relative impunity too.

If you do strip, research methods carefully. Search the topic here on the forum for previous exhaustive discussions. And also, think lead. I would never sand - sorry to disagree, powermuffin! - unless maybe just to rough up the surface a tad. But mostly, if I am painting over old paint, I don't have any problem with adhesion.


    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 4:06PM
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Not every old house had stained wood. Many were painted right from day one. Some the lower floors were stained and the uppers were painted. The one word of caution is that in homes that have a number of PO's and additions the woods can be of different types even in the same room. So if you are the sort that needs to be matchy, matchy be aware you might not get it not without making some big dollar changes.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 6:03PM
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