Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

July, 2005

Removing Paint from an Old House

Q. I recently bought a 95 year old home. The garage is need of painting. The old paint is peeling, chipping and in general, a mess. I've tried the tool on my drill, the metal brush thing, but it has taken me 6 hours to do 2 boards on one side. Someone told me there is a solvent that you paint on and leave it for 3 days, then it takes the paint off in huge chunks. They did not know the name of it. Do you know what this is, or have other suggestions. Since this house is so old, I'm assuming that is might have lead paint.

A. It sounds as if you are looking for a chemical paint stripper that can be purchased at a hardware store. Several types are available and I suggest that you read the instructions on the can labels.

If you decide to use a chemical paint stripper please CAREFULLY read the instructions on the can, since you don't want the solvents to concentrate near your furnace. A concentration of solvents at your furnace or pilot light can cause an explosion or fire. On the other hand if you turn off the furnace, or if you properly ventilate the area you will minimize the danger. In any case thorough ventilation is always recommended.

Paint strippers do not need 3 days to loosen the paint. You should be able to loosen the paint in less time. If the paint does contain lead, then you will need to dispose of the loosened paint mess (that's what it will be, a mess), as a hazardous waste and you should speak to your city or municipal folks about how to dispose it.

Best wishes,

Ron Joseph

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