Monday, September 19, 2011

Paint Removal

While R was being a weekend electrician, I was removing paint. With my mom's voice in my head saying "the house needs to look different!!", I decided now was also the time to FINALLY finish the Living Room! Last fall, my sisters-in-law came to visit and the three of us painted the Living Room. We painted the trim white and picked a paint color on impulse for the walls (which I now love!). However, while they were painting the crown molding and summer beam, I was examining the door and window trim, and fireplace. They were not in good shape. They were beat up, scratched, dented and had many layers of paint glopped on them. After asking everyone's opinion and R trying to see if we could sand it, we decided to work around them for now and I'd remove the paint another day. Because the paint is crackling on the window sills in a way that makes me think it is lead paint, I decided to be cautious. I bought something called Peel Away 1 from Home Depot, which says it's a safe way to remove lead paint (or any paint). It removes up to 33 layers of paint in one application. You spread the paste onto the surface, then cover it with the supplied paper and leave it for up to 24 hours. Then come back and peel away the paper and all of the paint goes with it. It's a safe way to remove  lead paint because it contains it and you don't get any dust in the air. However..... reading the label scared me. It basically said you needed to be wearing a Haz-Mat suit while using it. The directions made it seem like your skin would burst into flames if you even looked directly at it. So I kept putting it off. I asked R if he would do the test spot, so I could see what it was like. But, another thing the directions said was that you should wear long pants, long sleeves and gloves, and tape your sleeves and pant legs around your wrists/ankles. It was way too hot here in the summer to do that. And in the winter it was too cold so we couldn't have the windows open to get rid of the smell. So I decided to wait until it was cooler. Enter this weekend.

The label was full of crap. Not that you should ignore safety precautions, but I accidentally got some of the paste on my finger and I was fine. Everything I read online said that it would instantly burn you, but I didn't feel anything. I washed it off and was fine. I started with the fireplace mantle. It took me about 45 minutes to get the paste on there and then apply the paper. It's definitely not a quick job! I had hoped to get the whole fireplace done in that time.
Sunday morning I applied the paste to the surround right below the mantle. R kept calling me needing my help with pulling wire through walls, turning off breakers, etc. I'd be gone for 5 minutes and come back and all of the paste had slid down to the bottom. So I'd curse him and try it again. A couple hours later, I was done with that section. I was too tired to move on to the sides, so I took a break and went outside to put together some nesting boxes for the hens. When I came back, all of the paste and paper had slid down to the bottom. I said forget it (the top 2 or 3 inches were left uncovered now).
I got to work removing the paper on the mantle. It was amazing! It left a mess.... but underneath the nasty black goop was pretty wood (I was this close to changing my mind and staining it. Then I remember that 1) I don't like that look and 2) it doesn't fit with our house).
This is what's left after you peel away the paper. According to the company, it's the chemicals liquefying the paint.
After scraping off some of the goop, you're suppose to use a scrubber (I used a Scotch-Brite pad) to scrape away the gray... I don't know what and what ever paint is left on the surface. Then using a squirt bottle and a paper towel, I washed away the gray stuff. It is extremely messy!! But the finished result is awesome!
I had to go back and re-do that section in front (I tried removing the paper earlier than 24 hours... I think that was around 18 hours or so... it was obviously too soon. It removed not even half of the paint, whereas the full 24 hours on the other side removed basically all of the paint).

My sisters-in-law are coming to visit in a week and a half and I'm trying to have all the paint removed by then so we can finish up this room. At the rate I'm going, I'm not sure if I'm going to make it. I'm hoping the door and window trim will be easier and quicker.


  1. I've been scraping lead paint for months now, and let me tell you--a $60 heat gun is your friend!! Fast, easy, and gets most of the paint off. Then you can use just a little of the expensive chemicals to finish the job.

  2. I've considered a heat gun. The thing I liked best about the Peel Away is that it is very easy to clean up when you're done. All of the lead paint is stuck to the paper, and according to the company, the chemicals in the remover change the chemical composition of the paint so it's safe to thrown in the regular garbage.