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January 30

Home Renovations: Paint Stripping

Last time I gabbed about my new house it was all – look at these pretty kitchen inspiration images.  But things have changed quite dramatically on the house renovation front and I have much to report.

Since I have so much to share for just one post, I’m only going to touch upon what I’ve been working on the past few weeks (aka couple months).

I’ve been stripping woodwork:

Stripping woodwork:

Stripping more woodwork:

(Outside looking in.)

And look… my mom has also come to help me strip woodwork:

And guess what I’m planning on doing this coming weekend?  Stripping woodwork would be an excellent guess.

Back Story:

Pretty soon after we bought the house, my mom and I spent a day cleaning out the (creepy) attic.  Once we were done, my mom went downstairs to *just see* what kind of woodwork we had underneath all 4 layers of paint.  I had some stripping supplies at the house and she removed a section of paint from our pocket doors to reveal we had southern yellow pine.

For all of you peeps reading here’s a mini history lesson for you on wood… Southern yellow pine was used quite often back in the day – until we ran out of it in the US.  We used it so much it was all gone.  Between then and now, some great people in Georgia decided to plant some more trees for me.  But it’s only available in Atlanta, and they don’t ship anywhere.  It’s precious wood for us vintage homeowners – so removing it and tossing it into a landfill was just not an option.

Once my mom saw I have southern yellow pine in our house, she made an executive decision and we are now stripping my entire first floor’s painted wood surface to reveal the lovely wood that it is.

One of my handy skills is that I do know how to strip and refinish woodwork.  The (now) old school way is to use chemical stripper and apply it – wait for 20 mins or so – and then strip it off along with as much paint as you can get.  Apply & Repeat.

For my woodwork, this was a three-time or a four-time application of the stripper.

This is manual labor & takes time and patience.  I’d say in an evening’s worth of work with the chemical stripper I’d get about 12-18 inches of wood stripped.  It took me an entire 14 hr working weekend to do the perimeter of a window (not even the interior sections) with the chemical stripper.

Window is now completed, but this is my victory (aka defeated) pic since this window took so long:

But… I have now learnt the NEW way to strip wood and let me tell you it’s amazing!  It’s called  Infrared Heat stripping.

Apparently this is THE way to strip woodwork quickly.  (This video sold me.)

How IR Paint Stripping Works:

You hold the heating element over your woodwork and allow the heat to melt & release itself from the varnish that is underneath it all.  After that you can strip all layers of paint right off the wood & only need to apply 1 layer of chemical stripper to get the stain and varnish off.

The one caveat with this is that there should be a layer of varnish on your woodwork underneath the paint otherwise the paint won’t be peeling off quite as easily – more rough scraping is required & more chemical stripper after the fact.

Where I generally get 12″ done in 3 hours, I can now get 48″-60″ done in the same amount of time (not including the varnish chemical stripper portion).  Once I got on a rhythm with this new paint removal process & had my mom to help me last weekend, I can now say I’m at least 1/2 way done 3/4’s of the way done with the dining room.

This built in bookcase unit in the corner was my first Infrared Paint Stripping test section and the bottom of the door on the right wall was done with the IR heating gun also – done much better than the test section.

The more often my mom (or Felix) has come to the house to help me work on the woodwork, the more we’ve been progressing at an every speedier pace – well… comparatively speedy than if we were just using the chemical stripper for everything.

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I feel like we’re nearly done with the woodwork in the dining room; two more full weekends and I think we’ll be done!

Paint stripping is just ONE of the projects we’ve been tackling since early November.  I’ve been stripping woodwork while Felix has been working with my step-dad Bob on all things heating, gas lines & general infrastructure to the house.  Much much more to come.

FYI: I’ve been better at taking quick instagram photos of the house when I work if you want to follow me to see more.

  1. Debbie / Jan 30 2014

    Wow, that’s good to know! I’ve never heard of Infrared Heat stripping before, but I have a ton of woodwork that I’d like to strip this year. Anything that makes the process easier would definitely make me happy. Thanks for sharing Liz, it really looks great.

    • Liz / Jan 31 2014

      The IR heat gun was kinda expensive and I couldn’t find anyone that I could rent one from. So I coughed up the 400 bucks to buy one online since I have so much to do.

      I know there were websites out there instructing people how to make one for much much less money – which is worth it if you’re not on a time crunch. Totally love this IR heat stripper!

  2. Gail / Jan 30 2014

    Wow! I also never heard of that infrared gizmo! So cool! It’s really coming along!

  3. MadeByMeg / Jan 30 2014

    Setting up a new house is SO. MUCH. WORK. and I’m impressed with all you’ve been taking on! Can’t wait to see how it all looks!

  4. Shannon / Jan 30 2014

    The woodwork looks beautiful! Well done, Liz!

  5. Siri / Jan 30 2014

    I’ve done some home renovating in my time. Over here (Norway) we use hot air guns for stripping. http://www.amazon.co.uk/1500W-HEAT-nozzles-Paint-Stripper/dp/B003JH4VL0

    Looks like a mean hairdryer (and is used like one), and is lightweight and easy to use.
    That infrared thing looks big and heavy…? But anything has to be better than chemicals ;)

    Good luck with your lovely home, it is worth all the hard work in the end ;)

    • Liz / Jan 31 2014

      Hey Siri,

      The IR thing isn’t actually too heavy for me to use. I only hold it up to the woodwork for 1 min 25 seconds at a time then set it down to scrape the paint off. So it’s really not too tiring to hold it in place where it needs to be.

      The additional bonus of the IR heat gun is that there’s minimal risk of burning the wood since it doesn’t get as hot as a traditional heat gun – like the one you linked to. This IR heat is relatively new technology for homeowners to use & it’s much safer all around – I think. Perfect for me as I don’t want to accidentally burn down my new house. :)

      I know people do use those traditional heat guns – but with having lead based paint they will give off toxic fumes; with the IR heat gun, there aren’t any.

  6. Vicki Kate / Jan 30 2014

    That wood and those window and door frames are gorgeous. I know it’s taking a lot of time and effort but it will be so worth it!

  7. Rachel / Jan 30 2014

    Your wood is absolutely beautiful- definitely worth the time and effort! Glad your infra-red device makes it a lot faster for you!

  8. Liz / Jan 30 2014

    Those window surrounds are lovely and well worth the effort. I presume you have checked the paint is not lead based? I had that problem at the last place I renovated, I was using a heat stripper but apparently that is quite dangerous (as is stripping) lead based paints.

    Your house is going to be fabulous when it is all done :)

    • Liz / Jan 31 2014

      Yes! There is lead based paint here — I presume. See below for my comment about this.

  9. sewlittletime / Jan 31 2014

    That’s going to be stunning. You couldn’t leave that gorgeous wood covered up. So much work but so worth it in the end. Can you have removable things (like doors) dipped and stripped? You get them back stripped to bare wood for varnishing or whatever.

    • Liz / Jan 31 2014

      Hmmm … Perhaps. I know I wasn’t going to do any doors yet & was planning on removing them all to strip them in the basement. But… if it’s cheap enough it would be so much easier to have them all dipped as there’s a lot of wood putty in the cracks that is hard to work out even with the Infrared heat stripper I’m using.

  10. Ruhan / Jan 31 2014

    Great job, Liz! I love the wood work in your house. Just gorgeous! Well worth the effort you are putting in.

  11. Liz / Jan 31 2014

    Thanks so much for your kind words everyone! Yes – I really do love the fresh woodwork that is exposed now. It’s such slow (tedious & messy) work, but it really does pump me up to be able to move on to another part of the house to strip some more.

    Someone mentioned lead based paint… YES! Since this house is more than 100 years old, I’m sure one or multiple layers of paint in there is lead based. But… the wonderful thing about IR heat stripping is that it doesn’t give off any toxic fumes like a traditional heat gun would. So that’s a *win win* for the Infrared heat stripper & me.

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