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Removing paint from Bungalow Woodwork and Trim

I have a 1902 Craftsman Bungalow with all of the original wood trim (windows, base boards, doors and door frames) however all of it has been paint several times over the years. I would like to remove all of the paint and refinish the wood.
I've heard of several different methods for removing the paint from these areas such as Heat Guns, Chemical Paint Strippers and so on but what is the best method for this?
Much of the paint on the door frames easily chips off with a simple hand scrapper revealing the natural wood underneath but there is still alot of old chipped varnish left that won't simply sc**** or chip off.
Will the paint stripper remove this last layer of varnish as well or should I start sanding the wood once I get to the varnish?

Re: Removing paint from Bungalow Woodwork and Trim


Very many new owners of older homes have contemplated doing what you're wanting to do. And, really, the best idea is to simply buy new trim, stain and varnish it the colour you want and replace your old painted trim with new stained and varnished trim.

Using paint stripper to remove the paint off your old trim while it's still in place is likely to create a mess that you're going to get very tired of real fast, not to mention the potential damage to your flooring. Also, when you strip paint off of wood, it takes an awful lot of patience and effort to get it clean enough to stain. New hardwood is not that expensive.

It takes a miter saw and a bit of practice with a coping saw to learn how to install baseboards and such, but it's really the only practical option.

Re: Removing paint from Bungalow Woodwork and Trim


The fact that your woodwork so easily chips probably means that the original finish was varnish. This works to your advantage in that the paint pigment is not down into the grain of the wood, but sitting on top the varnish. For this reason, it makes it much easier to clean the wood sufficiently to take new stain without traces of old pigment showing through.

If there are indeed many coats of paint on the wood, a heat gun might be affective in getting the heavy coat to break loose. The rapid heating of the outer paint works to break the bond of the paint as it expands faster then the cooler varnish underneath.

If your woodwork is oak or other open grain wood, you may never be able to completely clean the wood. However, if a tight grain birch was used, pigment will not get stuck deep in the grain.

You will probably still have to resort to chemical strippers after the heat gun to clean the wood enough to accept stain. I dislike sanding wood as it opens the grain unevenly and results in the new stain being taken up unevenly. Rather, I prefer to use steel wool and solvents to give the final cleaning.

There are paint dip tank operations which can handle the stripping of removeable items such as doors for you.

If you go this route, you will not lack for things to do for a couple years of weekends!

I would disagree that replacing the woodwork would be all that cost effective in a house of this age. First, you probably have hard wood trim. This is not inexpensive to replace. Also, the profiles that were used a hundred years ago were different from those used since the end of World War 2. This means that unless you are a talented woodworker with many expensive milling machines at your disposal, this will really be expensive to have milled. Were you working with a post WW2 house with stock off the rack profiles, the outlook would be different.

A few years ago, I did a classic Chicago bungalow, somewhat like yours. The owners were fanatics about bringing the woodwork in the house back to its original state. It cost them many thousands of dollars, but the result was super!

Re: Removing paint from Bungalow Woodwork and Trim

Here's a few pics of the wood on the pocket door frame.
Why does some of the wood surface appear smooth and other places jagged and rigged? It looks to me like it was originally varnished more that once.
Will this jagged and rigged appearance go away after stripping and sanding?
Any ideas on what type of wood this might be?
Sorry for the horrible photos :p

Re: Removing paint from Bungalow Woodwork and Trim

there are chemcial strippers which arent nearly as runny as mentioned earlier, sirca or circa cant remember the spelling makes a couple furniture strippers which are more of a gel though are very toxic and will kind of stick to the surface. though they work extremely well you will require heavy duty gloves, goggles and a charcoal filter respirtor rated for vapors. i have used it a couple times, the last time for a job where i had to refinish hardwood stairs... because of the fumes i forced myself to wait an hour or two afterwords before i drove home at the end of the day..

Re: Removing paint from Bungalow Woodwork and Trim

You have antique oak trim; strip it, refinish it, treasure it! To replace it with new wood is a crime of unspeakable barbarism.

Re: Removing paint from Bungalow Woodwork and Trim

If you are not planning on sanding the wooden floors, you should protect them well from the stripper falling upon it. In the bungalow I mentioned above, we covered all the floors with a double layer of rosin paper. Also, all tape should be double or trippled over, as stripper will works its way through a single layer of masking tape. We used blue painters tape to tape down the perimeter of the floor, followed by a double layer of masking tape.

You might want to make things a little easier by backing off such things as the base shoe. This will allow you to tape closer to the baseboard and lessen a corner that is difficult to clean out. Similarly, such things as door stops can be backed off. Again allowing you to clean better with less corners to clean out.

I have seen that dippled varnish in many older homes in Chicago. I am not sure as to what caused it. I suspect that someone varnished over somekind of residue or wax, causing the varnish to pull back and dipple. Aligatoring was not uncommon too.

In any event, given enough loving labor, I think you can restored your woodwork to near its original beauty.

JKirk is right, there are many heavy bodied paste strippers that will not run down the verticle woodwork. Follow the instructions well. Most encourage you to put a heavy, even coat of stripper on by brushing in only one direction. I don't know why that makes a difference, but it does.

Try to get the paint pigment off before the varnish lifts. This will aid in not getting white pigment down into the grainy oak, where it is difficult to get out.

Re: Removing paint from Bungalow Woodwork and Trim

Any lead in that paint your stripping off ??? :eek:

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