I’ve been doing a lot of paint stripping lately since I’ve been working on my library cabinet, and it can be quite a tedious process. I thought I’d take this opportunity to walk you through exactly how to strip furniture to prepare it for refinishing. First, let’s get the fact out of the way that the word “strip/stripping” is going to show up a lot in this post. Let’s be clear that we are talking about paint here! (And stain/varnish.) Got it? Good.
Ok, first let’s talk about when to strip the finish off of a piece of furniture, because I personally avoid it at all costs unless it’s absolutely necessary. But sometimes it is necessary, and it’s best to do it the right way if you have to do it. I would say if you are simply going to paint a piece of furniture, then don’t bother stripping it. Simply sand and prime instead. If, however, you plan on staining, or if the current finish is bubbling or chipping or just plain looks yucky, you’ll need to strip it.
What you’ll need:
Paint Stripper (I use Citristrip, but I’ve also heard great things about SmartStrip); cheap paint brush or foam brush; putty knife or scraper; steel wool; and mineral spirits.
First, let me say that stripping any piece of furniture can always be a little “trial and error” in nature, particularly if you don’t know how many layers of paint and gunk are on it. With my latest project (the library cabinet), I am simply removing the stain and varnish since it was bubbly and I wanted to stain it darker.
The first step is to apply a liberal layer of stripper to your piece using a cheap paint brush or foam brush that can be thrown away afterwards. Follow the instructions on the bottle to determine how long to leave it on. Citristrip is usually ready to be removed after 30 minutes, but you can leave it on up to 24 hours. Take a close look at whether the stripper is taking on the color of your finish to determine whether it is ready to be removed.
When it is ready, remove the goopy layer of paint stripper using a putty knife or plastic scraper. It will not look perfect and will most likely not strip every bit of finish off the first time around. That’s ok! Just get the goop off. Then go back and use your scraper to remove the patchy splotches of paint or stain. This can get messy – I usually have an ample supply of paper towels handy and discard everything into a metal container for disposal. (Check your state’s regulations about disposal of these types of materials.)
|Halfway through scraping.|
After you’ve scraped off all you can, (and it may take a second application of stripper if your furniture was covered in several layers of paint or stain), go over the piece with steel wool (or a coarse stripping pad) soaked in odorless mineral spirits to remove the residue.
|Stripped and sanded.|
If there are still some splotches left, I usually give it a quick sanding to finish it off afterwards. Why not just sand the whole thing instead of stripping and sanding? Well, because you’ll be sanding for an eternity and your arms will fall off! Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but you get the point. Paint stripping cuts down on time and effort and is the best way to get down to the bare wood.
Now you’re ready to stain or seal! I recommend a good pre-stain conditioner (Minwax makes a good one) and then you can apply whatever finish you choose.
I hope this basic “how to” was helpful. If you’re new to the world of furniture refinishing, you might enjoy these posts:
If you’re planning on stripping some furniture, good luck!
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