Achieving Smooth Finish On Old Woodwork With Multiple Layers Of Paint - Painting - DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum

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Old 08-21-2012, 10:08 PM   #1
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Achieving smooth finish on old woodwork with multiple layers of paint

I searched the forum but couldn't find an answer to my exact question, so sorry if this is a repeat. I bought my 120 year old house about a year ago and have been dealing with this issue ever since. All of the original woodwork including windows and doors have been painted numerous times. Because I tend to be a bit OCD when it comes to these kind of things I have taken the long, hard, painful road thus far and stripped every 5 panel door in my house (22 doors total) all the way down to bare wood, sanded and then repainted to get a nice smooth finish, I did the same with all original wood trim on first floor. Needless to say, I'm burnt out. I am now working on the second floor trim and am wondering if there is an easier way to achieve a smooth finish given the fact the trim on this floor is all square profile with no intricate detailing like on the first floor. If I attempt to sand it the paint gums up and peels on the sandpaper, leaving even larger indentations than when I started. The imperfections I am trying to eliminate are generally dents or nicks on the wood that have been painted over since, old paint drips or areas where layers of paint had chipped away and were then painted over. Can I skim over the top with some type of filler to even things out without having to scuff the surface? Any suggestions would be appreciated
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Old 08-21-2012, 10:21 PM   #2
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Picture was taken so close it's imposible to tell what it is. We can see the dents just not what the trim is on.
Any reason you can not just remove and replace it with new?

If the paint is that old have you had it tested for lead?


Last edited by joecaption; 08-21-2012 at 10:35 PM. Reason: Use a wrong word, ha it's getting late
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Old 08-21-2012, 10:25 PM   #3
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I know this is late in the game for you, but I hope you realize that for sure the bottom layers of paint contain lead. Lead dust in particular is dangerous to young children, and so all contractors working on old houses are required by law to take a certifying course and take precautions to contain and clean up any debris.
Homeowners themselves are not made to do anything- but knowlege is a good thing- so here are a couple of info packets- I recommend you look them over.

Here's the main link to the "Renovate,Repair and Paint" ( RRP) booklet that is required to be given to the client of any housing that was built pre 1978:

Compliance guide for contractors..

That said, with proper set up/ clean up-

(Also depending on degree of "smooth" you are looking for,)
Old ww can be sanded to "de-nub" or knock off anything protruding, and after a wash and a light wet sand , can be skimmed with something like Bordons Wood filler, sanded, primed- rechecked and touched up, spot prime those and a couple of good coats of finish.

What are you finishing them with?
"It's better to come here with questions before you screw up than to come here after and ask how to fix them."- JS
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Old 08-23-2012, 08:32 AM   #4
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First, you deserve a congratulations for doing all that you have so far. We just moved into a 120 year old home ourselves that an owner reconditioned like you have in the 80s. I can't even imagine the work it took. I've started removing the paint on the back porch that was never attended to. I find stripper to take forever and be really messy and expensive. I turned to my old trusty heat gun and a really good scraper tool (it's amazing what a good quality scraper can achive). The heat gun works fantastic and is quick. Followed with a light sanding (I have lead paint too and am wearing a respirator and gloves and never sweeping or brushing, but using the shop-vac) - and the profile is good as new (takes about two hours to do 5 feet). Judging by the pictures you sent and your OCD (which I have about this kind of thing too), I don't think you'll be happy doing anything else but removing the paint and sanding it down. I've found running an exacto knife along the edges helps give me a crisp line and speed things up. Hope that helps and I'd just finish what you've started - your over half way and it sounds like it'll get easier.
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Old 08-23-2012, 05:02 PM   #5
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Old 08-23-2012, 05:49 PM   #6
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Thanks, looks like its time to whip out the old heat gun again

Thanks for all the replies. Yes, I am aware that a majority of the paint I am dealing with is lead based. I haven't been snacking on the paint chips that are falling off and no kids in the house. That's why I was hoping for some sort of skim coat option so as to not have to take all the precautions like I did downstairs (I hate wearing a mask!) Looks like it's my best option to go ahead and go at it with my heat gun. To answer the other questions- I am priming with Sherwin Williams Premium Wall & Wood Primer and then finishing with SW ProClassic Interior Acrylic Latex Enamel in extra white semi gloss. The pictures I posted were just meant to show the imperfections that I was concerned with, but the super close-up shot is baseboard (with a little floor stain on the bottom!) and the other pic is the vertical part of door trim. Replacement would be more of a mess/waste than stripping because the walls are plaster and it's nearly impossible to remove trim without causing damage to plaster because it's literally fused to the plaster after all those paint applications over the years. The baseboard is original to the house, I dont know about the door trim, but repair over replacement is definitely what I am going for here.


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