Saturday, January 7, 2012

Stripping.... A New House First

 January 2011
After the holidays.  We were all a little whipped.  Josh and Gus took a well deserved rest.  I on the other hand, seemed to be itching for even more work. sick? I decided to take on our dining room built-in.  Ever since we bought the house I was thinking about stripping it back to bare wood and staining it.  Most of the houses in our neighborhood are older then our house.  These houses are all filled with beautiful unpainted woodwork that I have been very jealous of.

I decided I would start with the top of the built-in and go from there.  The most interesting and frustrating part was that someone had covered the top of the built-in with contact paper.  Contact paper with a fake wood grain.... yay it was a trip.  What was not a trip was the fact that it was REALLY stuck to the cabinet.  It took me a whole day just to peel it off in small centimeter long strips.  Once I got to the painted surface I started putting on the stripper.  I painted it on and covered it with plastic wrap and left it for 24 hours.  When I came back the next day.  I was able to remove two-three layers of the paint.  Unfortunately, there was another two layers of paint under that!   This was going to be slow going!

Once you start a project you can't stop.  I learned from my first pass and thickly covered the wood this time. Around this time, I also realized my built-in had always been painted.  There was no stain or varnish as I got down.  I worried about the inaccurancy of me stripping this bare.  Did houses in the 1920's even have wood showing?  At the same time, I was looking a one solid 8 foot long 1" thick slab of beautiful old growth douglas fir with absolutely no knots or grains. In the end, my love for wood won out.  I decided to compromise. I would strip and seal the top of the buit-in but leave the bottom painted.

Two weeks, and three passes with the stripper and I had removed all the paint from the top of the cabinet.  I would not recommend this project to most people.  I have what is often considered an obsessive attention to small detailed projects.  In fact, I often get overwhelmed with the big picture, so this worked great for me.  Everyday afterwork I stripped a small segment and applied more stripper to sit overnight.  Josh understandably had no interest in taking on this mountain and left me to it.


  1. I've had great success getting paint off with an inexpensive heat gun then use a bit of chemical to do the final clean up of the details and the woodgrain. It's a lot faster overall. The finished counter turned out so nice, though.

    1. Is the heat gun okay to use on lead paint? I know I talked about using it on the outside of the house with a contractor and they it wasn't legal if there was lead? I still want to strip our stairwell banister and anything that is quicker is exciting in my book!