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How to strip old moulding...

I have a 120 year old farmhouse in Illinois. Most of the interior trim is painted, probably 10 to 12 coats of old paint. What's the best way to strip or heat and strip the trip down to bare wood?

Re: How to strip old moulding...

If it's pine or other soft and cheaper wood, you might find yourself more frustrated stripping and would be better off removing and replacing. If it's a sentimental thing or an odd profile that you can't find these days, I would first recommend removing the moulding. If it has quarter round, replace it. It's too cheap to worry about stripping. Buy a special moulding removal tool, about $8-$15. It looks like a little bitty crowwbar wxcept one end is flared and flat to squeeze behind the molding and gently pry it away from the wall. Carefully work along a little at a time, being careful not to damage your wall. Put a towel behind the bar where it touches the wall.

Once off, use a chemical stripper as this will reduce chances of airborne lead from sanding - assuming it could be lead based paint.

If you insist on leaving it on, I would still use a chemical stripper but get a gel one that works on vertical surfaces. You'll have to be exceedingly careful it doesn't get on your floor/carpet. I really think it needs to be removed off the wall to make it a good job.

Re: How to strip old moulding...

I agree with Pumpkin Stalker. Removing the molding is the best way but should you want to leave it on the wall, run some poly vinyl sheeting around the perimeter of the room and tape it down cause it's going to really get messy. I'd cover that with a couple layers of newspaper too. You can keep throwing the newspaper away and replacing it, to control the mess.

When you put the stripper on the wood, let it sit for a few minutes until it starts to shrivel. Then, with a good pair of rubber gloves, take some #2 steel wool and rub the paint off and then shake it onto the newspaper. If you run into some stubborn paint, just re coat it with stripper. The steel wool should get into the nooks and crannies of the molding pretty well but you may need to use some sharpened hardwood sticks to run along the tight corners or molding lines. Sanding will give you flat spots and mess up the patina of the wood, if it's stained.

Good Luck.

Liz Savage
Re: How to strip old moulding...

HI PDFuser: I'd highly suggest that you look into a product that I have used with a great deal of success that I actually found through searching the This Old House back magazine articles. It's called the Silent Paint Remover and I really can't say enough great things about it. My husband and I are using it right now to restore all of the original old doors and molding in our 1900 Virginia farmhouse back to the original old growth pine. BTW, I really hope you don't "tear out and replace" all of your old moldings. They are what give your house its historical integrity and character, and are well worth restoring if they aren't sawdust from termites!

The beauty of the Silent Paint Remover is that it uses infared heat to release the paint (the more layers the better!) from the wood itself in a matter of 15 seconds or so. The very best part of the process is that it doesn't heat the paint past 400 degrees so that no toxic lead fumes are released. The pieces of paint that release are large, dry, with no dust and can be simply vacuumed up with an appropriate HEPA filtered dry vac. This is an extremely user friendly, environmentally friendly and time efficient and SAFE way to remove all those layers of lead paint.

The process we are currently using is 1). Use the silent paint remover on all of the moldings first, then go back and remove any small details that the spr didn't release with a heat gun next, and then remove any varnish or shellac if it was the first finish (ours was) as necessary.

You don't necessarily eliminate stripper completely, but between the silent paint remover and the heat gun you really cut back on the amount you might have to use. We've still taken the moldings pieces off to get behind them to really clear them of paint and to clean the joints where moldings meet in the final cleaning. But the silent paint remover works extremely well with the pieces in place first. Then you can detail the moldings as necessary later.

Good luck with your restoration and I hope this is of help! Search the old TOH articles to see the article I'm talking about. It was about 5 or 6 years ago. If you can't find it, then just search for the Silent Paint Remover on the net and it should pop up.

Liz Savage
Re: How to strip old moulding...

By the way, I don't think I really stressed in my first reply how much cleaner and time efficient this has been. I'm a stay at home mom who loves to restore, and this has made my restoration projects much easier to clean up. I definitely am not a big fan of the gummy mess that stripper creates. Wish I could post some pictures here. I've been taking quite a few while we've been working, but I'm not sure if I can do that here. If I figure out how to do that I will. Best of luck with it! Liz

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