Stripping or sanding

cfmuehlingMarch 25, 2011

Hi again!

Another project.

My front doors are solid mahogany. They were "stained" with a wipe-on poly that looks like brown deck paint. After a little weather, they look dull and dry. Another coat looks great, but still looks like brown paint and dry.

Well, the husband who insisted on this color is history and I want to do something with these doors. Given it's a poly and ostensibly a stain, should I just sand them? I admit to trying stripping them and have gouges I now do need to sand out. It came off some, but as overwhelmingly unsuccessful.

I might have answered my own question, but if there is a better way to remove this color from the doors, I'm interested.

Then, of course, I would like to find a finish that looks like old, burnished, polished wood. I'm not adverse to many coats of something (I'm patient) if necessary.

As always, thanks.


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Sanding is usually the last choice when chemical strippers have failed.

It is a lot more work, and runs the risk of removing more than just the finish.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 4:25PM
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Being a stain, even a poly one, I can't see stripping doing anything but what I've managed to do, which is create more damage.

So far, the concensus here is sanding. Luckily solid doors sand better than those which are not.

I'm open to suggestions. I have enough dire warnings stacked up. The suggestions on removal and a new finish would be more helpful!


    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 8:47AM
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There are numerous strippers on the market, some may be safer than others, but anything designed to remove the finish is not something to get all over your bare skin.

If it is a panel door you are going to have a nightmare sanding the detail at the edges of the panel.

You also need to be aware that many 'solid' doors are made with chip board of various types in the core and then only a thin veneer on the faces.

Sanding veneer without going through is often difficult, especially using power tools.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 9:45AM
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Before sanding, look at using a cabinet scraper (sample below at link). These make scrapings rather than dust, and while they can also gouge if not used carefully, might do the trick in this case. Be warned, you have to sharpen them or have them sharpened after some use. On the other hand, they're not that expensive either and one or two should do you for this job :-)

If you've gouged the wood while stripping, I'm also guessing you had an ineffective stripper or hadn't waited long enough or something. Been there, done that. Stroll around this forum and the Old House forum for extensive discussion of various paint strippers. Buy a couple, try a patch, see what works.


Here is a link that might be useful: Cabinet scrapers from Lee Valley

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 2:08PM
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"So far, the concensus here is sanding."

Not really.

The consensus here is to use a paint stripper. Get one with Methylene Chloride. Buy the stuff with the most dire warnings on the label. Follow the instructions, especially the dire warnings. Allow the product to dwell on the surface of the wood longer than the directions indicate. I usually let strippers work for a couple of hours, even sit overnight, followed by another coat in the morning.

I like Jasco Paint and epoxy remover. This will take off just about any film-forming finish.

Here is a link that might be useful: paint stripper

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 6:11PM
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Given this is a stain, I've understood to get it out of the grain, I'll have to sand. ..?

The doors are solid mahogany, so I could sand forever.

Aidan, among others highly recommended, I've tried the Jasco. I left it on for 3 hours, then when nothing would come off, I just left it. Occasionally I'll take a plastic scraper (learned I'm very bad with the metal ones) & fiddle with it a bit. No go. It's been there for about 2 years now. Along with the gouges, the discoloration and the ugly.

This summer, if it's not 69 days over 95F again, it is my outside project.

KarinL, these scrapers look very percise. I can't see where they would work to remove stain. Wood & paint, yes. What am I missing? And BTW. I can't blame the stripping tool. I am the implement of destruction.

I just want one thing finished on my house. The front doors would be nice! :)


    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 10:10AM
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Jasco makes many products.

If the stripper does not contain a methylene chloride warning it is not going to be as effective.

Did you cover the stripper with plastic or aluminum foil?

If you allow it to simply evaporate quickly it can be made pretty ineffective.

Depending on what "stain" was used it may come off with little sanding.

Pigment stains are really just very thin [paint, and sit on top of the wood surface.
The binder holding the pigment particles is usually rather easy to strip (the binders do not need to be very good since another top coat is applied over the pigment stain).

Dye stains will be in the wood and may require bleaching to remove the color. Sanding them out would likely take off a LOT of wood.

Some commercial products mix dye and pigment together, but you will not be able to tell until you start stripping.

Be careful with water based products (anything that cleans up with water) since it can swell wood and cause warping.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 10:33AM
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Well, in a flash of brilliance, how 'bout this:

Stain: Olympic Wood Stain, Premium Interior, oil based "Mocha Brown". Two applications.

Minwax Wipe-On Poly for Hand Rubbed Beauty w/ Poly Protection, clear satin. Many applications.

Cover it with plastic? Aluminum foil? Huh? No. I followed directions on the different strippers. None were water based.

Does that help?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 11:44AM
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Poly, of any sort, even the oxymoronic "Exterior Poly" is likely to fail in short order.

Here is a link that might be useful: a better approach

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 1:19PM
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"Cover it with plastic? Aluminum foil? Huh? No. I followed directions on the different strippers. "

This is commonly required to contain the stripper active chemicals from evaporating before they can do their job.

You might want to read up on some of the 'tricks' for stripping with minimum damage to the wood.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 1:23PM
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I suggested the scraper because it works the same way as sanding but is neater: it removes the portion of the wood that has absorbed the colour.

But as I said before, stripping should work. Stripping is really a bit of an art, from selecting the right product for a given project to getting the most effect out of it.

My product of choice for most projects is EZWay, which I mail-order from Washington State (I think it might be similar to Kutzit, but I've never tried that).

I only use it outdoors, and it is a very thin liquid, so what I do is this: I use it only on items I can remove and lay flat - pieces of molding, a door, etc. I soak shop towels in the stripper. I cover the item with the wet shop towels and plastic sheet over that. If it's a piece of moulding I actually wrap the whole piece; if it's the edge of a door I use big plastic clips to hold the wet towel plus plastic on. I leave it just long enough but not too long - say 45 minutes. If I'm working on a paint layer, I then scrape, but if it's a stain-type finish, then I use a combination of 3M pads or more shop towels dipped in the stripper to wipe, wipe, wipe, ad nauseum. Toward the end of the process (if I'm really obsessed with getting all the colour out) I work with white paper towels that allow me to see better whether I'm still pulling out colour. I forgive myself for the shop towels going into landfill on the basis that the whole item isn't going in!

Because EZWay is so volatile, it all evaporates and you don't need to clean it off with water or a solvent afterwards.

You could use it on a door that you have not removed, but if you can't hold the wet shop towels on the surface in some way, you don't get as much pre-wipe softening as would be optimal. The company actually supplies a hand sprayer and suggests spraying as you work, but I feel this likely loses you a lot of product plus doesn't get you the soaking effect, so I "dip and damp" instead.

For paint inside my house on the wainscoting, which I can't remove, I will be using my new IR paint stripper instead. But for your door, it's going to have to be chemical. NB: I wear a respirator-type mask, not just a dusk mask, to do all this, plus glasses.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 2:46PM
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