A lot of older homes from the beginning of the 20th century were created with beautiful, intricate wood trim and moulding. However, styles changed over the years, and well-crafted woodwork was often painted over, sometimes multiple times. If you’ve recently purchased an older home with painted wood trim, you might be wondering how to restore the woodwork to its original condition. For those who are willing to put in the time and effort, here are a few tips to help you bring back the original woodwork in your home.
Using an electric heat gun, you can heat paint to the point that it softens and bubbles away from the surface of the wood. Keep the heat gun 6-8 inches away from the surface, and never keep it in one spot. Once you can visibly see the paint bubble, then immediately scrape away the paint using a paint scraper or putty knife. Keep a wet cloth or bucket of water nearby just in case you accidentally heat too close and start a fire. This method should be used with caution; if you don’t know the type of paint, you may be heating and scraping lead. Always wear eye protection and make sure the room is well ventilated.
Denatured Alcohol/Mineral Spirits
Depending on the type of paint you are trying to remove, you may need to try multiple solvents. Denatured alcohol works well with latex paint, but not on oil paint. For oil based paint, you may need to use mineral spirits. Wet a cloth with the proper liquid, and then pass the cloth over the paint. Rinse, re-soak, and repeat as needed. Always use eye protection and gloves, and ensure the room is well ventilated.
Sanding may be the most time consuming method. If you’re working on a smaller area with lots of nooks and crannies, you will probably need to sand by hand. Electric or mechanical sanders may work well for large flat areas, but not for small ornate sections. Begin with a coarse grain sandpaper, and work with the grain of the wood, not against it. Once you can see the wood coming through the paint, switch to a medium-grain sandpaper. When all that remains are small bits of paint, switch over to a fine-grained sandpaper.
If you know what kind of paint you have, find the appropriate paint stripper at your local hardware store. Read and follow the instructions on each can carefully. This once the stripper works on the paint, you will still need to scrape the paint away from the wood. Again, keep the area well ventilated and use hand and eye protection when using these harsh chemicals. Whenever you have to scrape paint off of wood, there’s always the chance that you ding or divot the wood while working; scraping methods are best for flat trim surfaces, and not necessarily for small, ornate surfaces.
It’s important to recognize that all of the options above are going to be time consuming, and they some methods might not work depending on the type of paint that was used. Also realize that underneath all that paint, the wood itself may not be in good condition (which might be why it was painted in the first place). But that doesn’t mean you can’t have what you want!
If removing the paint is too difficult or the wood isn’t in good condition, there are other options you can consider. Older moulding patterns can be reproduced by custom milling. You would need a large enough piece of the moulding (at least 6 inches) to be sent to the mill so they can set-up a custom knife for creating an exact replica of your pattern. Milling costs are priced per foot based on the size of the pattern, wood species and the quantity of material ordered. In addition to the per foot cost there is a set-up fee that usually runs $100 – $150 per pattern. This process generally takes 2 – 4 weeks. If all else fails or reproduction costs are beyond your budget you can always replace it with similar styles available through our huge in-stock inventory.