How To Strip Old Paint Off Your Walls

The ideal paint project is one where the walls have been cleaned and primed and are ready to be painted. Unfortunately, few projects that don’t involve new construction are at this point. If you are working on restoring an older home, you’re going to have to do a lot of prep work to get it in shape for painting. The same holds true for furniture painting projects. Often, the first step you’ll need to take is stripping off the old paint, which may be several layers thick.

You’re probably wondering why you have to strip off the old paint. After all, other people have applied a few layers on top of each other, right? Actually, there are cases where you don’t need to remove the old layers. However, if you are going to be working on a surface that is bubbling, chipping, or peeling, you will have to remove the old layers of paint. Also, some of those layers are probably not lead free, which can be a big concern for people with small children.

Still not convinced? I put many labor intensive hours into painting on top of another coat of paint that was not in the best shape. The end result was not very nice. There were uneven spots and some areas where the paint from the previous coat wasn’t adhering well peeled up.

So, now that you know you need to remove the old paint, you’ll need to decide how. There are several options: chemical strippers, paint scrapers and heat tools.

Chemical Strippers

Chemical strippers are the least labor intensive paint removal method. Paint the stripper on with a brush you never want to use again, let it sit for the recommended amount of time and follow the removal instructions on the package. Just be sure you always wear safety gear and throw open the windows to be sure you have a lot of fresh air.

If you are afraid to use a chemical stripper because you are trying to stay green, you’ll be happy to know that not all chemical strippers are bad for the environment. Ready-Strip is one environmentally friendly chemical stripper. However, the environmentally strippers are not always as effective as the more toxic ones.

Paint Scrapers

Yes, low tech paint scrapers can get the job done. However, they’re not for everyone. They’re messy. They’re labor intensive. They kick up a lot of paint dust, which is bad if you are scraping off lead based paint. Be sure to put down drop cloths to contain the mess and wear a good face mask and respirator.

Heat Tools

Some people use heat guns to remove paint in areas where there are many layers. Don’t use any old heat gun to strip off old paint. You could set your home on fire. I recommend testing the paint to be sure it is safe to strip off with this method before you start and only doing something like this in a well ventilated area. You don’t want to be breathing in the fumes from lead based paint in a small hallway with no windows. Some of the other methods are really a much better, and safer option. Before you get started, check out our painting do's and dont's.