Household Tips

How to Get Rid of Old Paint

After years of looking for the perfect home, you’ve finally found one that suits your taste. It’s a bit old, and there are many renovations you have to take care of, like faulty fixtures, broken walls and cracked floorboards. The paint also has to go because it’s peeling everywhere.

Now the question is how are you going to do it. Many people think that even if they don’t commonly do a paint removal job, they’ll manage to come up with beautiful and neat looking walls. The result? They end up with poor-looking, uneven surfaces because they haven’t properly removed the paint.

Removing old paint is not a piece of cake, but as long as you know how the right ways to deal with this home improvement task, you’ll end up doing a pretty good job. A blank, paint-free space that you can beautify again.

Here are some effective methods you can try to get rid of all that old paint.

A Tip Before You Start

While you might be enticed to repaint the place or you just want to finish the task, there’s one thing you should remember before starting removing the paint: your safety. Paint is a hazardous material, containing different kinds of harmful chemicals. If the place you’ve bought was built before the 1970’s, chances are the paint used in it is lead-based, which is very toxic for people.

Before you begin working on the paint, make sure you’re wearing the right protective gear. Get appropriate clothing like a long-sleeved shirt and painter’s pants. You should also use proper eye wear, like safety eyeglasses. A good dust mask is also advisable. If you’re dealing with a place with lead paint, consider getting a special lead-proof dust mask.

The environment you’re working in must be well-protected too. If you’re working indoors, seal the rooms and the furniture with plastic. The place should also be well-ventilated. After all the paint has been removed, wash and vacuum the area.

If you’re working outside, cover all the plants nearby with plastic or drop cloths. If you have vegetable gardens, make sure they’re well-covered. Otherwise, harmful paint substances will get in your food supply.

Now that you’ve ensured both the place’s and your safety, you can now begin the paint removal job.

Scrape It

One of the most common methods many people use to remove paint is scraping. This is effective whether for a small or large area of peeling paint, and is also used for places a sanding wheel cannot reach, like tight spots or corners.

There are different tools used for paint scraping, like a moulding scraper, or a typical paint scraper. These come in different shapes and sizes. For small places, gutters, downspouts and laps of a clapboard siding are useful tools. A wide blade putty knife and a wire brush are also effective. If you’re working on metal, a wire brush attached to an electric drill can remove paint and rust without any effort.

If you’re going to do an extensive paint removal task, a sharp pull scraper might be a better option. This is a tool with a replaceable blade that can strip old paint down to bare wood with just one scrape.

To begin scraping, put two hands on the scraper and hold it perpendicular to the wood. Then, drag it along the surface, while applying moderate to firm pressure. To loosen as much old paint as possible, try scraping paint from every direction. Just make sure the blade is flat against the wood, so it won’t gouge the surface. If gouging does happen, you can either fill them with a vinyl exterior spackling compound or sand them down, so they won’t show through a new paint job.

One tip before you scrape: sharpen the blade as soon as you buy it. If you feel that the scraper is becoming dull while you’re working with it, resharpen it with a grinding wheel or a small file to keep its efficient cutting edge.

Sand It

If you only have minor problem areas of peeling old paint, sanding is an effective method you can try. You can use different materials for this job. The simplest is a piece of coarse sandpaper. Wrap it around a wooden block and move it back and forth and up and down across the surface. Not only does it remove old paint, it can also smoothen round edges.

If you’re working on a larger surface area, a more effective and less tiring option is to use an electric orbital sander. You’ll get those old paint off in no time. Using a belt or electric disc sander is also okay if you’re working with concrete, but not with wood, since these tools will cause dips or swirls.

Sanding quickly and effectively removes paint, but it has one disadvantage: it removes some of the wood under the paint.

Melt It

Muscle jobs like scraping and sanding do work well, but there are instances when the old paint deposit is so heavy, it’ll take extreme effort if these are used. The best solution is use heat instead. Heat melts and destroys the film in the old paint, making it easier to scrape away.

Most people use electric paint remover to apply heat onto the surface. This is a device that has a plate-like heating element that “cooks” the paint. It also has a built in scraper that lets them remove the paint quicker. A heat gun paint remover is also an effective tool.

If you’re trying to melt the paint, make sure you don’t let the heat gun or electric remover to stay in just one place for a long time. It’ll burn the wood or the concrete underneath, causing darkened or brown spots. You should also wear protective gloves.

Another reminder: never use a propane torch. While it does melt away paint effectively, it can also burn your house down to the ground because of its open flame. Stick to electric ones.

Opt For Chemical Removers

While melting, sanding and scraping works well for smooth surfaces, you are likely to come across painted areas that are uneven, like cut-out, rounded or curved surfaces. These methods are inadvisable because they might ruin the area. To remove old paint from these places, you can use a chemical paint remover. Also called a paint stripper, this is a toxic chemical that is applied to the painted surface. After a few moments, the old paint loosens and can be scraped off or scrubbed away easily. A chemical paint remover is also very useful for hard-to-reach areas.

You can get chemical paint removers in different forms. They can be grouped into two types:

  • Liquids – These are used mostly for clean coatings and removing one or two paint layers. They aren’t very effective on multiple layers because they dry quickly. They work well for irregular surfaces.
  • Brushables – These are paste-like, gluey formula that works best for multiple paint layers, up to ten or more. They can be used for overhead and vertical surfaces. Most brushables are also “water wash” or “wash away” types, meaning they mix with water, letting them be easily rinsed away with a hose.

Using a chemical paint remover is easy, but if you’re thinking of using it for the whole painting job, it’s not a great idea. A chemical paint remover is also usually toxic, and if you use too much it might leave residues that can be harmful. This product can also be expensive. Imagine using it for the whole house. It’s very impractical.

You can’t avoid paint removal job when you’re dealing with home renovations. If you find this task a bit cumbersome, try these methods. They will help you say goodbye to that old paint dilemma and let your new home have a fresh, colorful start!

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About the author

Nicole Harding

2 Comments

  • Question regarding lead based paint. Would the emulsion paint on the walls have been lead based as well as the paint used on wood? (house built prior 1970)

    If so how can you stripe walls of paint?
    or can safely cover it up with new paint?

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