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    How to remove paint or varnish

    Summary: Learn how to remove paint from wood, remove varnish, remove paint using a heat gun and remove paint using a paint stripper.

    When renovating your house it is usually the case that you will want to repaint certain aspects of a room, such as the skirting boards or doors. Or perhaps you are looking for the natural wood look. To do this you need to remove the paint or varnish already on the surface. This is not a complicated project and should be well within the capabilities of the average DIYer.

    Remove paint or varnish using chemicals

    Also known as paint strippers, chemical paint and varnish removers are available in paste and liquid forms. Liquid form paint stripper is more useful for removing one or two layers of paint, whereas the paste form is used for removing many layers. This is because it stays wet for longer in order to complete a tougher job.

    Another option is aerosol paint stripper. It is fast in its application, plus it is best for reaching tighter places where brushes are too thick. In addition there are paint strippers that are environmentally friendly and those that specialise in removal of paint on certain surfaces. Select the best option for you and the job at hand.

    • You should always wear gloves that are resistant to chemicals, goggles, and make sure the area you are working in is well ventilated. Some paint strippers will burn if they get in contact with the skin.
    • Apply the paint stripper according to the method recommended by the manufacturer.
    • Leave to settle for the time stated. This can sometimes be 15-30 minutes depending on the type of paint/varnish remover you are using.
    • Before you start scraping, test the paint to see if it has been loosened sufficiently. If it is ready to be removed, clear away the finish using a paint scraper or shave hook.
    • Once the majority of the paint has been removed, you may want to dab the paint stripper onto the wood again and this time rub with steel wool to remove the remaining spots of paint or varnish.

    Sanding off paint or varnish

    Sanding is another method for removing paint from a surface. It is possible to use a power sander or just to do it by hand with sandpaper. Power sanders are better for larger surface areas. The three types of power sander are belt, drum and disk sanders.

    • Although sanding removes the finish fairly quickly, it will also remove some of the wood surface below, therefore sanding is not recommended for fine furniture that you do not want damaged in any way.
    • You should use coarse sandpaper when removing paint, as finer sandpaper clogs easily, making it ineffective.

    Using a heat gun

    A heat gun produces very hot air in a similar way to a hair dryer. When applied to painted surfaces, it destroys the film in the old paint making it easily removable.

    • Before using, read the manufacturer’s instruction manual on how to operate correctly and safely. Always wear gloves and safety goggles.
    • Apply the heat over the painted surface, moving the gun carefully around a designated patch. Do not try and take on too much at once, just work on one section at a time. Also do not leave the gun pointing at the same spot for too long, as this will burn the wood below leaving a blackened surface.
    • Scrape the paint off gently using a paint scraper or shave hook when you see it has reacted to the heat. If you need to remove tougher bits, use the heat gun and scrape at the same time.

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