Home>Discussions>PAINTING & FINISHING>Removing varnish from oak stairs
3 posts / 0 new
Last post
Removing varnish from oak stairs

I am asking for suggestions for removing old varnish from an interior oak staircase. The staircase has treads, banisters, pedestals, and carved trim molding. The varnish is about 30 years old, and is very dark, almost black.

On the Newton project, I saw Jim Clark use a blue paint stripping liquid to remove old varnish. Does anyone know what he used?

Would I be better off to use a mechanical sander instead of a paint stripping liquid?

Re: Removing varnish from oak stairs

It's really like refinishing old furniture, if you've ever done that before. You'll need any liquid, not gel, furniture refinisher, #0000 steel wool pads, safety glasses, refinishing gloves, a steel container, (an old coffee can works great), paper towels and floor covering, (plastic). This is an extremely messy project, but the results are fantastic. I'm currently doing this with my oak trim in my 100 year old country victorian. The proceedure is really quite simple, you pretty much apply the refinisher with the steel wool in a scrubbing motion, until the old varnish disolves, then wipe it off with the paper towel before it dries. You may have to repeat an area depending on the thickness of the old varnish. After your done, and it's dry, just apply the finish of your choice. Oh, while your busy refinishing, remember to open a window or door for ventilation as the odor can become quite strong. If you begin to feel light headed, you need to quit and move to an area away from the room your refinishing. Have fun.

Re: Removing varnish from oak stairs

We removed varnish from oak furniture with alot of intricate work. As the posted above stated about having to strip it several times is VERY true. We took our pieces from a DARK varnish down to a natural wood color. It took ALOT of patience, stripping, sand paper and time. Take your time, don't rush and DON'T get frustrated..It will be beautiful, but will be a labor of love.

Sponsored Stories

TV Listings

Find TV listings for This Old House and Ask This Old House in your area.