How to Remove Numerous Layers of Old Paint

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RON HAZELTON:
Phil and Kiki Tura of Bourne, Massachusetts want to take a hundred years of paint off their front door.  I'm going to see if I can lend a hand.  I understand the project's got to do with the front door.
PHIL:
That's correct.
RON HAZELTON:
What's going on here?
PHIL:
Well we have an old door with - needs some help.
RON HAZELTON:
This looks like the original door.
KIKI:
Yes, it is.
RON HAZELTON:
Probably with the original paint.
[BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
RON HAZELTON:
So what would you guys want to do?
PHIL:
Well we'd like to strip it down and see what's underneath.
RON HAZELTON:
Removing the door means lifting it off these hinge pins to get some leverage and save our backs, we use a pry bar and a block of wood. And off it comes.  There we go, okay we're off.

You know this is fantastic that you've got a barn here to work in.
KIKI:
That's true.
RON HAZELTON:
And this is built about the same time as the house you think?
KIKI:
Yes, it was.
RON HAZELTON:
Okay.  There's probably a hundred years of paint on here.  One concern I have is that some of this paint undoubtedly contains lead. So we're going to take some extra precautions today.  We don't create a health problem with that.

But for right now, let's take off all this hardware.  As the hardware comes off, some of the door's paint history reveals itself. Giving us an idea of just how many layers we're dealing with. 
KIKI:
I found 2 more colors.  So we have some cream and a blue color so that's 4 so far. 
RON HAZELTON:
Now here - here's my concern.  This glass is held in here with glazing putty.  And it's in really bad shape.  So Kiki and Phil go to work scraping out the old glazing. Can't you just tell they're newlyweds.

How you doing over there sweetie?
KIKI:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
Okay we're free. That did it.  Hardware is off, glass is out.  Now it's time to start removing one hundred years of paint.  Much of this paint undoubtedly contains lead.  Lead was a common ingredient in house paints until the late 1970s.  Although removing paint with chemical strippers - it's much safer than sanding or scraping, we'll still need the right safety gear.

Respirators, disposable paper coveralls, rubber gloves and eye protection.  We're going to use a paste type stripper that will cling to the moldings and detail work. We apply it with brushes by just laying it on the surface. Over brushing can cause the active ingredients to evaporate, making the stripper less effective.

After a few minutes, the paint begins to soften and then bubble.  By using a wide putty knife, we can lift off several layers at a time.  Brass bristle brushes are the best tools for removing loose paint from the moldings.

Finally, we've gone about as far as we can go. Boy we got a lot of paint off this.  I'd say 8 to 10 coats. But when we got down to the last 2 or 3 which are probably 75 or 80 years old, that stripper that we were using just wouldn't touch it.

So we're going to have to change to a different kind of stripper.  This is a paste alkaline-based stripper.  It doesn't have any fumes - it's water based. But we do want to keep our eyes and hands protected.  The way to put this on is with a putty knife.

Just sort of spread this onto the flat surfaces like that.  Our brush works best when applying the paste to moldings and other irregular surfaces.  Now we've got to keep this wet for 24 hours for it to really work. And to do that, we're going to use some freezer paper.

There we go.  Now this has a shiny side and a dull side.  Put the shiny side up.  It's important to press the paper firmly in contact with the stripping paste to eliminate as much air as possible.  We also cover the paper with heavy plastic sheeting.

So let's leave this. We'll come back tomorrow. Take it off and see what we've got, okay?
KIKI:
Great.
PHIL:
Okay.
RON HAZELTON:
Goodnight.

We've let that sit overnight. Let's see what's going on here.  Ah, look at this,   Let's take it off guys.  Boy you can see that it's really done something here. It's pulled a tremendous amount of pigment out of this paint.

As we lift off the paper we can see that much of the paint has released right down to the bare wood.  We use the putty knives and get them under the paper and lift as you go like this. So we're definitely right down to the wood here.  Right down to the wood yeah.

Whatever stripper and old paint we can't scrape off, we wash off with a sponge and water.  Looking very nice huh?
PHIL:
Very nice.  Great.
RON HAZELTON:
So let's do the next section.  Remember we want to keep this damp so we're doing it one section at a time.  And as we lift this, you need to have a putty knife under here.  We don't want to rely on the paper.

Kiki, Phil and I use wide and narrow putty knives to remove the stubborn hundred year old paint.  But it finally becomes clear that even using this method, some of the old paint just hasn't given up its hold on the wood.
KIKI:
It's reassuring to have you here and this not work perfectly.  If I'd done this by myself I would have felt like I had done something wrong.
RON HAZELTON:
Well that's very interesting. So having the so-called expert here and seeing it didn't work perfectly for him -
KIKI:
Right.
RON HAZELTON:
- makes it okay for you.
KIKI:
Yes, it does.  It's - it's less frustrating.
RON HAZELTON:
Well the day is just about over so we peel off our protective gear and talk about where to go from here.
RON HAZELTON:
Am I glad to be out of that, that's for sure. Okay guys, I've got to head down the road.  So I'm going to leave you with this.  You've got a couple of options.  I think one more application of stripper and this paint would come off.  You could then stain and varnish it.  Or you could let it dry, sand it and then just prime and paint it.

The choice would really be up to you.
KIKI:
Great.
RON HAZELTON:
But what a great first home improvement project on this beautiful 103 year old house: your front door. And I am especially honored that you would spend your honeymoon working with me on a home improvement project.
KIKI:
Thanks for helping us.

Remove a Century of Lead Paint Build-up from Your Front Door in a Project That Is Not Quite a Honeymoon!

Spend your honeymoon or your weekend revealing your front door's century-old style and workmanship under decades of lead paint build-up.  Remove the layers with modern paste strippers that cling while they work.  Throughout the project, protect yourself from exposure to the lead and chemicals with required protective gear!  It's a memorable and productive way to start a marriage!

Lay the Door Flat While You Remove Paint
Step 1

Lay the Door Flat While You Remove Paint

Lift the door off its hinges with a pry bar and a block of wood that also saves your back. Choose a work area that is well ventilated but protected from weather while you remove lead paint.

Detach Hardware before Starting to Remove Lead Paint
Step 2

Detach Hardware before Starting to Remove Lead Paint

Remove all the hardware. It may also require you efforts to remove lead paint so it can be preserved for reinstallation. Beneath, you may see just how many different colors and coats of lead paint have been applied.

Remove Paint and Glazing from the Glass
Step 3

Remove Paint and Glazing from the Glass

Chip out fractured glazing compound around the glass window to lift it out. Remove lead paint from the glass and preserve the window for reinstallation--especially if waves and imperfections indicate the glass is as old as the door!

Protect Yourself while You Remove Paint
Step 4

Protect Yourself while You Remove Paint

Wear respirators and disposable paper coveralls along with gloves and eye protection to ensure that you protect yourself while you remove lead paint. Such harmful elements are controlled now, but in bygone eras they were in common use.

Apply Paste Stripper to Remove Paint
Step 5

Apply Paste Stripper to Remove Paint

Use a clinging paste-type stripper to remove lead paint. Brush a generous amount on the surface, but don't over brush or the active ingredients will evaporate before they have time to work.

Remove Paint Layers with a Putty Knife
Step 6

Remove Paint Layers with a Putty Knife

Remove lead paint layers, lifting the softened and bubbled layers off with a wide putty knife. Use a brass-bristled brush to remove loose paint from the moldings. Some paint may resist the stripper.

Use a Different Stripper to Remove Paint
Step 7

Use a Different Stripper to Remove Paint

Change to an alkaline-based stripper to remove lead paint when the last few coats were not touched by the original paint stripper. Apply the new formula with a putty knife to flat areas and use brush on molding and details.

Keep Alkaline Paste Wet to Remove Paint
Step 8

Keep Alkaline Paste Wet to Remove Paint

Keep the alkaline paste wet for 24 hours to remove lead paint. Cover it with freezer paper (shiny side up) pressed in contact to eliminate as much air as possible. Drape the entire project with heavy plastic sheeting.

Working a Section at a Time to Remove Paint
Step 9

Working a Section at a Time to Remove Paint

Work one section at a time, lifting with a putty knife to remove lead paint. Keep the alkaline stripper damp until the lead paint is removed.

Continue Applying Stripper to Remove Paint Layers
Step 10

Continue Applying Stripper to Remove Paint Layers

Continue applying stripper to remove lead paint layers until the bare wood is ready for stain and varnish. The alternative is to resort to sanding the remaining patches and then priming and repainting the door. (Don't give up!)