How to Strip Paint from Wood Furniture

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So you've acquired a bookcase. "This has lots of promise, and would look great in the dining room," you tell yourself. There's only one problem: It's covered with ugly, chipping paint. The first thing you need to do is get rid of the paint; then you can figure out how to make it beautiful. Here are some simple steps you can follow to get rid of that ugly paint so you can make the piece of furniture a work of art.

Things You'll Need

  • Coarse sandpaper
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Liquid paint remover for wood
  • Plastic or metal scraper
  • Gloves
  • Determine how much paint is on the piece of furniture. If you can see bare wood in the chipped areas, it probably has only one or two coats to worry about. In that case, rub it down with a piece of coarse sandpaper, concentrating on the edges and corners, where paint has a tendency of building up. You do not need to remove 100 percent of the paint; if you can clearly make out the wood grain underneath, it's good enough to repaint. If you intend to stain it, you may need to work on it a little more. Take the scraper to areas where the paint is a bit more difficult to remove, or where it's built up.

  • Once you get the paint off, sand the furniture again with the fine sandpaper . This will remove any rough edges that may have been caused by the coarser paper, and will open up the wood pores of the furniture to ready if for the next step, whether you've chosen to repaint or stain.

  • Purchase a professional chemical paint stripper from a home-improvement store if you discover that you have a number of layers of paint to remove. If you rub the furniture with the sandpaper and there's more paint underneath; if the paint rises up in areas that you can grab with your fingers and peel off; or if it's another color underneath, the furniture is covered in multiple coats, and it's going to be much more difficult to remove.

  • Follow the directions on the bottle of paint stripper. This usually involves applying the paint stripper, waiting for 15 to 30 minutes and then taking a scraper to the paint to see what will come up. If the furniture has many layers of paint, this will only remove one or two layers at a time, so this can be a time-consuming process. Once you are down to a single layer of paint or the paint is up in most areas, repeat steps 1 and 2 until the wood is stripped to your satisfaction and ready to beautify.

Tips & Warnings

  • Work outside or in a well-ventilated area. Sanding can get very messy, and paint stripper contains a lot of fumes.
  • If you are working with an older piece of furniture, check for lead paint. You can purchase a test kit in any home-improvement store.
  • Sanding creates a lot of paint and wood dust. Wear a mask if you are allergic or have asthma or sinus issues.
  • If you find out the furniture has lead paint, keep the kids away from it and avoid breathing in the paint dust. Lead paint can lead to serious health problems, especially for children. If the piece of furniture has lots of paint that is difficult to remove, consider getting the furniture professionally stripped. It's better to pay a little money than risk the health of you and your family.

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