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Reclaiming Painted Wood, Returning to a Natural Finish


Best Ways to Remove Paint and Reclaim Wood.

Recently S Peek Painting accepted a project to remove the paint from columns and beams on a front porch of a quaint farm house located in North County.  Normally, we recommend against large paint removal projects, because they tend to be costly and the end result is often not at the standard we prefer as professional painters.  


Homeowners beware,

if the painted wood you want to reclaim is attached to your home, mind the condition of the wood.  The rougher the wood, the longer it will take, the higher likelihood there will be paint trapped in the grain of the wood.  Paint seeps into knots and porous wood and is extremely stubborn to take out, if not impossible.  Piles of old painted wood can be subject strippers and process that make reclaiming the wood much easier.  


Let’s talk about reclaiming and staining wood columns

Firstly, as the homeowner, if the wood is rough with lots of eyes, lower your expectations.  Removing all of the paint is a near impossibility, but you can get somewhere in the realm of 95 to 98 percent of the paint removed, but it is going to take time, and if you are paying someone, that means money.  Doing it yourself?  Start with with a stripper.  We have had success with citrus strip.  It is hard on the paint of nice to the wood.  


Stripping Paint

You will also need a good carbide scraper.  I wouldn’t waste your time with a normal paint scraper, get a carbide scraper and a couple extra blades, just in case.  

Warner 2.37-in Steel Paint Scraper in the Paint Scrapers department at


When you are applying the stripper,

it is best to do it on a cool day and if manageable, not in direct sunlight.  You will need a throw-away brush, like a chip brush you can get at any hardware store for a buck.  Remember to wear rubber gloves.   Protect anything you do not want to lose paint  or be damaged with tape and plastic.   Use the brush to apply a generous coat of the stripper all of the wood you are removing paint from.    Every kind of stripper has its own activation time.  Additionally Every stripper uses its own formula of chemicals, so it is important to read all off the label and follow instructions precisely.  Some stripper, if left on to long, can damage the wood you are trying to reclaim.  

Citrus strip is gentle on wood.  It activates in 30 minutes, and you will notice that the paint will begin to discolor when the stripper is really working.  I would wait at least 45 minutes.  The paint discoloration is a pretty telling indicator that the stripper has worked.  Cover the ground beneath the area you are stripping with a tarp or painters plastic.  Using your carbide scraper, scrape away the paint.  It is a very satisfying experience.  What would take hours of sanding is now being handled in a few minutes.  



You will notice that some paint that remains on the wood may be unaffected by the stripper.  Much of this paint is trapped in the grain, gathered around the knots,  or caught in blemishes of the wood.  Unfortunately, this paint will most likely not be completely removed from the wood.  While removing the paint is probably impossible, it is definitely worth a try.  Use the paint stripper once again and coat the knots and grains where the paint is trapped.    Use a wire brush to try and work the paint out of knocks and deep grain.  Be careful, brushing too aggressively could damage the wood.  Take your time and be patient.  

Give the wood a day to dry out once you have done your worst with the stripper.  We recommend using an orbital sander with 60 grit pads to smooth out the wood and take off any residual paint.  The best advice we can give is to be practical and realistic with your expectations.  short of shaving the surface of the wood, you will not be able to get off all the paint, but you will be able to remove 90% of that old paint for whatever project you have planned.

If you have any questions or are thinking about starting a project like this, send us an email or give us a call, we’d love to offer you our expert advice on how to best tackle your project.  Thanks for reading!


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