I’m going to start this by saying stripping wood is not for the faint hearted. Be warned, it may break you! It almost ended me.
When we viewed our flat we knew that all the woodwork needed stripped and it was one major negative with the place. There were layers and layers of thick drippy gloss covering everything. I had previously stripped all the woodwork in a flat but I think I had forgotten how bad it was in the 4 years that had passed.
In the past I have always used a heat gun, it works well for large flat surfaces but isn’t great for details. It works by melting the paint and then you scrape away the bubbling stuff. It’s pretty messy and leaves a lot of hard residue still on the wood (at least in my experience it does). It’s also really smelly and potentially toxic if you are working with lead paint. I couldn’t face doing a full flat with the heat gun again so I started looking into other alternatives.
- Nitromors – I’ve used some nitromors products in the past and they work well for furniture with a few layers of paint but they aren’t great for anything thicker. As our flat is over 140 years old and the wood had been painted numerous times over the years we needed something stronger.
- Sanding – In some cases you might be able to sand off the drips and bad brush stokes then repaint. This doesn’t work for detailed parts and is again better suited to large flat areas.
I then discovered Peel Away, a chemical paint stripper that works on upto 36 layers! I was hooked on watching videos of it magically melting paint off of wood, stone, metal and plaster. It looked amazing, but then I went to order some and realised it came at a steep cost. £98.95 per 15kg to be exact!
After lots and lots of research, I discovered a cheaper alternative from Strippers Paint Removers called Kling Strip. All the reviews seemed comparable to Peel Away so I placed my order and waited patiently on it’s arrival. Two days later I was ready to start, I slathered on a thick layer of the paste and covered with clingfilm. After about half an hour I could see the top layer starting to slide off and brown slime was dripping down the wall. It looks disgusting but I knew it was working.
The instructions said to let it work for 2 days and as difficult as it was not to peek under the slime or poke at it with scarper I did manage to wait a full 48 hours. While the results weren’t as impressive as the videos I watched it did definitely work. The parts that I had put a thicker layer on had worked the best so I ordered some more tubs and covered the full window. The spreading and covering is a task in itself, you have to put it on thick enough that it will work and cover it quickly, making sure there are no air bubbles that will cause it to dry out. I recommend working in small sections, I found it much easier to manage.
The first layer took off the bulk of the paint but it didn’t get it back to the bare wood. This took a second coat and LOTS of scraping. When the paint was off I washed it with a scrubbing brush and water. This took off the remaining KlingStrip residue but the wood was still patchy. When it was dry I used an orbital sander and 140 grit paper to smooth everything out. I did have to hand sand the detailed parts and as someone who hates sanding I can admit it wasn’t actually too bad.
The next step is where things took a turn and lots of tears were shed. When you have finished stripping the wood a chemical neutraisler must be used. I read online that vinegar works the same so partially due to impatience, but mainly because I’m cheap, I decided to forge on with this method. Also, at this point I had been spreading, scrapping and sanding the windows for 7 weeks and I wanted them finished. I stupidly, and against my mums advice, decided that spraying vinegar on the wood with no real effort would be fine. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking! I blame renovation fatigue and impatience on that decision.
The plan was always to paint the wood back to white, we just wanted a clean surface to start so that we could have a good finish. So the day after spraying the vinegar on the wood I started with my first layer of primer. I didn’t think to use any specialist primers so I just used a cheap one I had lying about. After two coats of primer and one coat of wood paint I knew I was in trouble. Well, I was actually trying to ignore the situation and I hoped that another layer of paint would help. But no, there was no saving it. There was obviously still KlingStrip residue in the wood and it was melting my nice new paint. I completely underestimated the strength of the stripper. If it can melt away 140+ years of thick paint of course it would melt my new paint!
We ended up having to sand all the paint off the wood and neutralise it properly. I ordered the correct stuff and followed the instructions religiously. I also asked Strippers Paint Removers for a recommendation for primer and bought the one they suggested – Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer Sealer. After two coats of primer and one coat of wood paint the windows are looking great!
I haven’t fully been converted to chemical peelers, I still think a heat gun is easier for big flat areas. But nothing else I have used competes with KilngStrip on the details, it literally melts the paint right off. Would I use it again? To be honest, it’s a task I hope I never have to do again BUT if I do find myself in a situation where I have to, then yes, I would 100% be using KlingStrip.