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Old 11-30-2008, 05:47 PM   #1
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painting 1950's woodwork


Hi, I'm new to the site. We live in a 1949/1950 tiny bungalow and I think I've finally decided I want to paint the woodwork. Not sure what kind of wood we have (oak, pine?) but it's stained honey color and then finely polyurethaned most of it, too, mostly the kitchen cabinets and doors. My question is would it be a mistake to paint the woodwork? If I do decide to actually go ahead, how would I, and what kind of paint would I use? Do I strip and paint or just lightly sand and paint. The woodwork is nothing to write home about, as a matter of fact, a lot of it is damaged with holes (to hold air conditioner unit) and who knows what else the previous owner tried to do. I believe there may be varnish on some (or all) of the windowsills, too. Help! Not sure if this would be a major mistake, or not. Main reason I want to paint is to open up the space and modernize the look of the home. Again, the woodwork is not horrible, but it's not the best, either. Any advice?

I have no pictures to post.


Last edited by lizluther; 11-30-2008 at 08:16 PM. Reason: answer question
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Old 11-30-2008, 06:32 PM   #2
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painting 1950's woodwork


any photos?

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Old 11-30-2008, 09:28 PM   #3
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painting 1950's woodwork


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We live in a 1949/1950 tiny bungalow and I think I've finally decided I want to paint the woodwork. Not sure what kind of wood we have (oak, pine?) but it's stained honey color and then finely polyurethaned most of it, too, mostly the kitchen cabinets and doors.
Can't be polyurethane. The Bayer Company (the Aspirin people) were the first to patent an alkyd based polyurethane in 1956. That's either real varnish on your woodwork, or shellac or lacquer or something else, but it's too early to be polyurethane.

Quote:
My question is would it be a mistake to paint the woodwork?
In my opinion, yes. You have a maintenance free coating on your woodwork now that's not unattractive. You're wanting to paint it simply because you're bored with it. You will think completely differently next time darling dearest gets bored with the wall colour and decides it's time to repaint and discovers that the colour she likes doesn't go perfectly with the "old" colour of the wood trim, and now you gotta start repainting all of that wood trim all over again. If you leave it as is, you'da never opened that can of worms. But, that's just my opinion. You asked for it.

Quote:
If I do decide to actually go ahead, how would I, and what kind of paint would I use? Do I strip and paint or just lightly sand and paint.
Real varnish is nothing more than a drying oil (prolly linseed oil) with dried plant resins (called "copals") dissolved in it (to give the coating greater strength and hardness), all thinned with with turpentine to a paintable consistancy. The operative word here is that it's a coating based on a true drying oil, it should respond exactly like a linseed oil based paint to TSP.

The reason painter's used to clean with TSP prior to painting is that TSP would etch the gloss of drying oil based paints (like linseed oil based paints). TSP isn't a good cleaner, nor, contrary to the current misinformation, a great "degreaser" (whatever the hell that is), TSP had the single advantage of deglossing oil based paints so as the leave them with a "matte" gloss, just like flat paint so that the subsequent coat of paint would stick much better. Thus, cleaning with TSP had the important advantage of leaving the paint with a dull finish that the new paint would stick well to. No other cleaner offered that advantage, so TSP became the product to use prior to repainting.

The first latex paints were introduced in 1959 by ICI of England (Imperial Chemical Industries) who currently market the Dulux and CIL brands. TSP doesn't do anything to latex paints, but no one told the painting public, and so people are still using TSP to clean latex painted walls before repainting them with latex paint. In that case, a person would be better off to just use a better cleaner, like Mr. Clean or Fantastic.

Your varnish is really nothing more than a drying oil based paint with more copals dissolved in it than a paint would have, but without pigments to give it colour and opacity. It should respond just like a linseed oil based paint to TSP. You can etch the gloss by cleaning it with TSP, rinse the TSP off with clean rinse water, allow to dry, confirm that the gloss is gone, and apply an interior alkyd paint over the dulled varnish. You don't need to prime with a primer first. The TSP should leave the varnish rough enough that an alkyd paint would have no trouble sticking well to it.

Quote:
The woodwork is nothing to write home about, as a matter of fact, a lot of it is damaged with holes (to hold air conditioner unit) and who knows what else the previous owner tried to do. I believe there may be varnish on some (or all) of the windowsills, too.
Can you not replace the damaged wood trim with appropriately stained and polyurethaned new wood? That's a lot less work than painting all the wood work.

Quote:
Help! Not sure if this would be a major mistake, or not. Main reason I want to paint is to open up the space and modernize the look of the home. Again, the woodwork is not horrible, but it's not the best, either. Any advice?
I would replace the damaged wood trim. You can always paint later. But, once you put paint over the varnish, you can't go back to that maintenance free varnish. The reason why it looks dated is because it hasn't had anything done to it for 60 years. That what I call a maintenance free coating! I'd keep it.

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I have no pictures to post.
Bummer.

Last edited by Nestor_Kelebay; 11-30-2008 at 09:44 PM.
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