How do I remove layers of old, resistant paint from my doors?
—Dave, Lake Villa, Illinois
A: Tom Silva replies:
There are lots of different paint strippers out there. Some products do say they will attack many layers of paint at once, but most strippers will do only one layer at a time. At any rate, getting the majority of the paint off is easy. The worst part is trying to get the final bits out of all the little nooks and crannies. That usually takes longer in itself than taking off the majority of the paint. The other option is the heat machines. With these you must be sure there's no lead in the paint you're trying to remove. No matter what, you should find out about the lead content of paint on your doors. But certainly, if yours are 19th-century doors or older, you can bet they've got lead paint on them somewhere, and in that case you don't want to use heat. You also should avoid sanding a door with lead paint. The sand particles will get in the air and you'll breathe the lead. The unfortunate bottom line is that getting layers of paint off of doors is never easy. Whatever your approach, you've got your work cut out for you. Just be sure you cover the ground really well, protect yourself and be careful.
For a pro secret for rejuvenating an old door, see How to Prep a Wood Door for Refinishing
and How to Refinish a Door