The Importance of Paint Removal
If you’re undertaking a major painting project, it’s important to realize that proper preparation is the most important step in the painting process. A new coat of paint is only as stable as the surface underneath, so if the old paint is peeling, flaking, or chalking—e.g. fine chalk-like powder comes off when you rub your hand across the surface—then you’re going to have to consider stripping paint before any new coat can be applied.
The best methods for stripping paint depend on the surface material and the type of paint used. Sandblasting is a well-known, although somewhat expensive, way to remove paint from metal, concrete, and other hard surfaces. If you know what you’re doing, less abrasive particle blasting can be used to remove paint and other coatings from sheet steel, aluminum, magnesium, plastics, and fiberglass without etching, pitting, or warping the underlying surface. As a basic rule, if in doubt, search out alternate methods of stripping paint, and always test out a discrete area before you begin work to make sure you’re not going to cause serious damage.
Removing Paint With a Power Washer
For other surfaces, such as home exteriors, power washing is an excellent method of removing paint. A power washer sprays water at high pressure and is an excellent method of removing paint from wood, masonry—e.g. stone, brick, etc.—and concrete exteriors. Anyone can invest in a pressure washer and use it with a little practice. It will feel a bit awkward at first, but after an hour or two you’ll be wielding it like a pro.
A few words of caution: a high pressure power washer packs more punch than most people realize. Start out with a wide nozzle spray, and work in toward the surface you’re attempting to clean. More than a few novice homeowners have caused significant damage to their wood or other siding materials because they didn’t appreciate how powerful a pressure washer can be.
There are times when even a pressure washer isn’t going to do the trick. Maybe you’ve got a deck that you’d like to restore to natural wood, or wood siding that you’d rather stain than have painted. In that case, you’re going to need to invest in some powerful chemicals to get the job done. Industrial paint strippers are nothing to mess around with. Always wear full protection from head to toe when you are stripping paint, and wash yourself off thoroughly when you’ve finished applying the chemical. Failure to do so can lead to burns and other skin irritations. Once the stripper has had a chance to do its work, you can use a combination of scraping and power washing to finish the paint stripping job.
Paint Stripping Furniture and Cabinetry
In the case of furniture and cabinets, improper stripping can raise the grain of the wood, requiring extensive sanding. Paint stripping by applying a chemical substance to dissolve the old paint is usually the preferred method on fine wood. Once it’s had a chance to work, you can simply scrape or wipe away the old coat and prepare the wood for your next finishing choice.
Anytime you’re removing paint, make sure you think safety first. As mentioned, many chemicals are made of nasty stuff that can cause burns, skin irritation, and worse. Be sure to cover your body with full length clothes (pants and long sleeves), protective eye wear, and put on heavy rubber gloves to protect your hands and forearms where most splashing and spills occur. Finally, if you’re doing any sanding of older paint, make sure to wear a respirator. Older paint contains lead, and inhaling it is bad news for you and your family. If you’re concerned with the dangers of paint removal, talk to a painting contractor about getting the job done for you. They have the knowledge and the equipment to make stripping and removing paint a safe and easy job.