Stripping trim

justducky22October 3, 2010

This is a project I would like to start on this winter. The PO of our home had painted all of the baseboard and window trim in the entire upstairs. The original trim still exists downstairs with stain and I just love, love, love how it looks. My plan was to start in one of the smaller rooms upstairs so that I can close off the room while working...I have 2 very curious cats and one of them has asthma. I was wondering if anyone else has done this and if so what is the best product to use? I would love to use something that does not have awful fumes but I don't know if that is possible. I know that this will a looong, slow process but I feel like it will be worth it. Any thoughts?

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PeelAway 7 will be just what you need. We've done alot of stripping with Peel Away products and they don't smell...and they work very well. Our last major project for stripping paint was our upstairs hallway (last house) - 7 doors, 1 window, baseboard and picture rail molding. Citrus Gel products are also supposed to be good, but I've not used them.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 10:37AM
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Are you sure the PO painted them and that isn't their original condition? Many times in old houses the nice trim was used in the common rooms that visitors would see and in the bedroom areas upstairs cheaper trim was used and painted. It was a way to save on cost.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 5:39PM
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Citrus products do work and are a great alternative to more caustic strippers (i.e. "Dad's")....though they don't work as well and you may need additional coats to fully remove the paint. It is well worth the tradeoff IMO, especially if you have ill family members :)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 6:34PM
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Carol is right, not all wood trim was what they considered "display-worthy"! They splurged sometimes on the more public areas of the home & not on the private areas. Also - and I believe it's important to note, since it was a surprise to me - not ALL of those before us that had houses built were financially able to do as they wished. Sometimes NONE of the trim was the more costly variety of wood. Believe it or not, but some houses built 100 years ago had woodwork that was ALL painted originally. Compare "then" to "now"... Do people wait until they can afford the best? Or have a home built when needed, and go with what they can (hopefully) pay for?

Several of the books I've read have had this advice, and I like it. Remove small amount of paint (carefully, layer by layer) in an appropriate area. If you get down to a layer of varnish over wood, better chance that it was "meant to be", and get busy stripping & restoring. If you get to bare wood, with no "clear" surface covering, it was more likely meant to be painted.
Not an exact science, I know. Any PO could have stripped it down, sanded and painted. Also, what was considered "cheap & less attractive" then, (in my opinion, lol), is still better than decent stuff NOW. So, should it not be taken down to bare, and made naturally beautiful? (GASP!). Even if it wasn't intended originally? I say, if that's what you want, GO FOR IT!! If that trim/floor/whatever has lasted this long, patiently covered with pretty paint, give it the spotlight it deserves.
I know that the "go against original" thought is not popular, here. But I'm not talking about rip-&-replace... So no yelling at me allowed. :-).

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 6:35PM
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Ditto what the others said---do you know for sure the PO painted it? If not, there's a possibility that it's just paint-grade wood underneath...but more importantly, a strong possibility if it was first painted before the 70s that there is a LOT of lead in there, and that makes stripping it a much more involved job (still doable, but you need to be extra careful).

I had excellent luck with Soy-Gel paint stripper, which smells disgusting but is supposedly green otherwise. The trim in our house that was originally stained stripped very readily in sheets because it had shellac; the trim that had not been painted originally did not strip at all, so that was an easy way to tell. The thing that did our project in was the cost of stripping or replacing the windows, which are all painted. We gave up in the end---left it to a future owner. :)

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 1:50AM
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You might also consider that unless the trim is very ornate it is actually faster (and arguably safer) to remove the old stuff and replace it with new wood in the same pattern.

Many old trim patterns are available locally from lumber yards.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 10:07AM
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I just wanted to step in and say that one day of using Peel Away made me VERY sick. I was using it outdoors, too, and I am normally not sensitive to odors. It felt like a cross between the flu and the spinning room feel you get when you drink too much. It was seriously awful - I won't be using it again!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 2:32PM
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Thanks everyone! Yes, I am sure that all the trim is the same throughout. Actually you can see in some spots where the paint has come off (you can actually peel it off in some spots but not all...gloss paint right over the stain). My father also thought that this was strange and that the original owner must have had some money. After some digging and talking w/neighbors we found out that the man who built the house was acutally the town pharmacist and also has a building in our city named after him, so perhaps he had money? Either way, I guess they decided to just run with the same trim in all areas. Also, the stairs going to the unfinished walk-up attic are the same stairs as the main stairs right down to the stain color...thought that was odd but neat.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2010 at 2:42PM
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Just thought I'd add that I used 3M Safer Stripper. It worked very well. Ours had maybe 2-3 coats of paint and you do need to cover it with plastic wrap (dry climate here) and let it sit about 8 hours before scraping. However, it is a wet product and if your wood is more soft than hard this may be an issue with the wood absorbing the water and gouging when scraping. I was going to try soy-gel because I wanted something environmentally friendly, but it was not available in my small, rural town. The 3M Safer Stripper was on my hardware store shelf and it seemed to be enviro-friendly too. We have 2 cats too and no problem there. Good luck with your project. Post pictures!

    Bookmark   October 6, 2010 at 11:47AM
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Let's get practical for a moment here... you're stripping trim that is still on the wall, and all the strippers I've ever used are liquidy enough that they'll run down the wall. We've removed all the trim we want to strip (17 years ago, and a lot is still in the basement!) and while removing it is risky and messy, boy is it ever easier to strip when off and horizontal.

I do have some stuff I can't remove (wainscotting) and for that my husband has used a heat gun in the past... now that we know the heat gun releases lead fumes, I'm going to get an infrared paint stripper to do the rest. Reason is, and maybe others can correct me if I'm dreaming, but I can't figure a way to protect the floor finish while stripping the wall with chemicals - it will creep under tape or anything put down to protect the floor. I'm hoping the infrared will allow the floor to be protected.

There are many other threads on this forum about paint stripping.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2010 at 4:34PM
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Don't waste your time stripping. I can tell you first hand "It ain't worth it". First of all the older homes with paint were originally designed this way. Paint, up until recently (the last 60 to 70 yrs)was expensive, stains were OK ,but a lot less desirable. Very few newer homes I have been in use stain. The reason , it was cheaper to a carpenter to make sure every thing was presentable for stain than it was to buy paint. My times have changed, today even a hack diy'er can trim out a room and with caulking and paint can make it look great.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 6:21PM
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My house, remodeled in 1907 with some simple but good-sized trim, was originally shellacked in every room. Every room I have worked on I have stripped the trim, and I like the way it looks. I use a heat gun and chemical rinse. The paint mostly peels right off the shellac with a little heat; not hot enough to vaporize lead, which happens at about 1600*c.
I use the chemical stripper Kutzit to remove the old shellac. IMO (as a preservation carpenter) if you solely rely on a chemical to remove the overlaying paint, you do yourself no favor. All of the pigment and goop is there waiting to be ground in to the grain. You'll never get wood cleaner that with the heat+chemical method. If the wood was originally painted it is in many cases impossible to get it out without removing a whole lot of surface, (scraping and sanding) and as has been stated, you may as well buy new.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 10:30AM
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I'd say definitely strip the upstairs! Since you have it original down, it should match--the next owners will love you for it.
I'd have to agree that heat followed by cleaner is the way to go, it worked in my kitchen--but I have to do the pantry, bath and one bedroom still.
As to removing the trim first, won't that destroy the plaster?

    Bookmark   October 10, 2010 at 10:34PM
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"The paint mostly peels right off the shellac with a little heat; not hot enough to vaporize lead, which happens at about 1600*c."

Lead vapor is created well before the boiling point of lead (1749C).

The most common source of lead in paint is lead acetate (AKA 'sugar of lead') used as a hardener and gloss improver with a melting point of only 280C (anhydrous).

It decomposes before actually boiling, but at heat gun temperatures it is likely to release lead vapor.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 9:23AM
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But the vast majority of "lead" in lead paint was white lead, litharge, or red lead, if a darker color. White lead, lead oxide, also has a very high vapor pressure temperature. The lead acetate, at one time an ingredient of Japan drier, was present in very small amounts by weight. A gallon of paint would get 1 oz. of drier, of which only a few grains might have been lead.
I wonder how it would be possible to quantify this question of how much lead a carefully-used temperature-controlled heat gun may release per square foot. (or per pound of paint removed).

    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 7:01PM
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I can get the layers of old stuff off with a chemical stripper, as long as I've removed the moulding from the wall. I know I keep flogging EZ Way, and honestly I have no investment there, but it works. I soak shop towels in it, put them on the moulding, and then wrap the whole thing in plastic. Give it half an hour or 45 minutes, and the layers of paint almost wipe off. The bottom layers of shellac or whatever it was then can be wiped off with a scrub pad/shop towel wipe. I can't think of a way to do that on upright wood, hence the appeal of the infra red unit - the smell and noise of the heat gun drive me nuts, lead vapour or no.


    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 11:08PM
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"But the vast majority of "lead" in lead paint was white lead, litharge, or red lead, if a darker color. "

Lead pigments went out long before lead acetate except in a very few cases (red lead for metal roofing).

It is what gives the paint chips there sweet flavor and attracts children to eat them.

The lead in lead acetate is VERY available to the body from ingestion.

It is a lot harder for the body to break down lead oxides.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2010 at 1:49PM
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I cannot tell you which products are the best as we really only tried a couple. We managed (with lots of hired help) to strip our living room and dining room wainscoting and box beam ceiling. We started out with the Silent Paint Stripper, but that didn't work very well on anything but the large flat areas. And it was really a two-person job on walls; one to hold, one to scrape.

What worked best for us was a $60 heat gun and paint scrapers, followed by a chemical stripper, Klean Strip, from Home Depot. After getting off almost all of the paint, we had to sand the woodwork. All the doors and windows were dipped off-site.

I am really happy with the newly stained rooms. Despite the trouble, we would do it again.

Here is a link that might be useful: Stripped and Stained Woodwork

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 8:58PM
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I'm in the process of stripping the almost all our trim and will eventually do the doors. I find the heat gun works the best, the top layers come off almost without any heat - in large strips, it is the old stuff that sticks hard. I remove most and than sand it. I too purchased the silent paint stripper.. save your money!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 5:37AM
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SK97232 - welcome to Gardenweb! Lovely woodwork!

Does anyone have a recommendation on scrapers for windows? Silent Paint Remover has a 7 piece set for $170 plus $20 shipping(!).

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 9:01AM
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graywings - I spent a ton of $$ on the Silent Paint remover & Scrappers, most not that great, but my favorite one for trim & windows is the CHANNEL SCAPPER, the Shield Scraper works "okay" here and there...

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 8:34PM
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I rarely use anything beyond this for scraping with a heat gun:
3/16 blade long-shank cabinet screwdriver, keep scraping the paint goo off of the blade as it gums up, and dress it with a file occasionally, sharp corners help the work.
A 1" Red Devil paint scraper with the double-ended blades. These have become really hard to find on shelves in the last five years.
A 1 1/2" Red Devil paint scraper, same pattern as above, just wider. This style of scrapers are the _only_ style which will not clog up with strippings.
A 1 1/2" flexible putty knife, sharpened to a 90 degree (not chisel!) edge.
An old file (elderly, rusty triangular saw files are perfect) with the tang bent into a hook and sharpened. The hook is shaped with a file to fit whichever bead molding you have before you.
A fine-cut bas tard file, to sharpen all the scraping tools.

Here is a link that might be useful: Preferred Scraper

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 7:18PM
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An old file (elderly, rusty triangular saw files are perfect) with the tang bent into a hook and sharpened. The hook is shaped with a file to fit whichever bead molding you have before you.

I was kind of looking for something ready-made that I could buy on

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 8:24PM
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I love to use a dental-pick, for cracks & crevices. Mine's actually a pick-scraper for tartar, I think?
Here it is on amazon... The "right" end is sharp & pointed, the "left" side is like the one I use. Just like the right, but "flattened".

A 5-in-1... I like this because it has the blade for flat surface scraping, with the bonus of the curved inside edge (designed for cleaning paint-rollers?), for round edges - like table legs, etc. Drag/pull, don't push & it works great.

Between the two of these - both cheap & on amazon... I'm a "Happy Stripper"... (That just sounds wrong, somehow...).

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 11:07PM
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Sombreuil clearly has more experience in this than I, & should be taken more seriously! For myself - it's been a hobby since Mom let me help her strip much paint from Grandma's table & buffet when I was about 10... Hooked ever since, but haven't done much in past 13 years.

I'd LOVE an infra-red... Not gonna happen, though. My favorite weapon is the heat gun, also. Haven't used it in ages - due to pregnancies, kids, & fumes, etc.

One thing I discovered, darn-it-all, was an issue I've never seen mentioned... My trim, was (IS) many layers of white paint - With an original glossy varnish(?) layer under. While being SO careful not to get anything hot enough to catch fire, the paint softened up nicely & all - just a few seconds too long & varnish underneath got too hot! Bubbled, boiled, (toil & trouble), stuck to trim like caramel. I'll have to sand it off, to make it pretty again - someday. :-(

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 11:41PM
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