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Paint Removal
Written by Elizabeth Wood
Editor In Chief, United Home Improvement

In order to achieve the brand new finish that so many homeowners strive for, it is often required that you remove a coat of paint or varnish. There are several ways to do this. The most common approach involves using a chemical paint or varnish removal. Paint can also be sanded away, removed by heat, power washed, or metal brushed.

In most cases, chemical paint removers are the easiest and quickest means for removing old paint or varnish. Chemical paint removes, also referred to as paint strippers, will soften painted surfaces, allowing one to scrap off or wash away old paint. Once applied, it is a good idea to test the paint by rubbing the blade of a chemical-resistant scraper on the treated surface to see if it has been loosened. Scraper options include putty knives, a wooden blade, old rags or an abrasive scouring pad, depending on the texture of the surface.

Chemical removers are available in semi-paste and liquid forms. Basic types include liquids, brush-on, spray-on, and aerosols. Newer removers consist of chemicals that are more "environmentally friendly." However, these removers are more expensive and they typically work much slower. Other specialty removers are made for specific coatings including stained fiberglass.

The use of chemical removers requires a certain amount of protection. Make sure to remove all furniture and other personal belongings, and cover floors and steps. Always wear chemical-resistant gloves, eye protection, cover all areas of skin and work in a well-ventilated area.

Generally, areas that have been chemically treated and scraped should then be sanded. Paint or varnish can be sanded away with any type of power or hand sander. Keep in mind, fine sand paper clogs up quickly and should be avoided as a means for paint removal. Also, for extreme rough textures such as brick, stucco and masonry, a wire hand brush can be used to remove paint and varnish.

On certain exterior surfaces that require total paint removal, electric heat plates and heat guns have been proven to work successfully. The heat gun is heavier and more tiring to use than the heat plate. It is, for the most part, extremely effective for removing paint from detailed work because the nozzle can be directed at rounded and obscure surfaces. It saves time and energy if both tools are used in conjunction with each other. It is extremely important to take safety measures against eye damage and possible fires when attempting to use an electric plate or heat gun.

In addition, power washing is an option for paint removal, but it can be a tricky thing. It has been proven to effectively lift old pealing paint, but if not properly used you can cause more damage than good. High pressure power washing can cause the water to penetrate exterior sheathing and damage interior finishes. This is why it is important to keep it at least 8 away from the surface and point the nozzle in a horizontal or downward angle.

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