Protecting finished wood floors while stripping paint from baseboards and trim moldings.

I am planning on stripping off 100+ years of paint accumulation from of our door frames and baseboards, however I have recently refinished our wood floors and need to protect them.

Concerns: Using plastic is a no brainer, but how to you keep stripper chemicals (peel-away) from soaking through the masking tape is a major concern. Is there a different type of take to use? 

Suggestions and/or experience for protecting the floors while doing work would be very helpful.

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Carefully remove the trim and strip it on the bench, reinstall.

Or, tape around the trim with blue tape, tape down a layer or 3 of rosin paper, then protect it with a piece of Ramboard.

Don't use original Peel Away 1, it will stain your oak floor badly, and makes yellow pine green.


Gotta agree with Casey's first choice, I've never found a fool proof way to protect the floors.  If it were me, I'd take it down and strip on a bench.

Thank you...

Good to know about Peel Away 1. 

Unfortunately removing and stripping elsewhere isn't an easy option as I live in an apartment and have no space outside of my home to do any work. The floors were refinished a year ago with a high traffic poly finish and really don't want to risk damaging them. 

The goal is not to strip down to the wood to refinish the wood. According to the original brochure for the building in 1910: "All rooms, excepting the dining room are finished with genuine mahogany doors and trim of white enamel on hardwood, rubbed to a smooth finish." I just want to get them down to a point where I can bring out the details and have smooth painted finish again. 

I would suit up (full lead paint precautions) and have at it with a heat gun. I have used Makitas for decades. The best heat gun IMO.

You need a sharp paint scraper of this type to work with the heat gun, and you must keep it very sharp with a file.

Another useful tool is a long 3/16 screwdriver (long to keep your fingers away from the heat. The screwdriver is useful for corners and moldings.

After the heat gun, there will still be crumbs of paint.Address those with the scraper or a 1 1'2" putty knife (with the edge filed at 90 degrees so it has two sharp but harmless edges; 90 degree "blunt" sharpening cannot dig in like a chisel edge can).

A fine sanding with 180 grit to feather in rough places and you will be ready to prime and then fill. Gouges can be filled in with spackle.(heavy old-style spackle is better, even a bit of lightweight bondo will do). Make sure you have a high-build, sandable primer.

You will see the defects clearer after primer.


If you use a heat gun while stripping in place, the standard answer is to go through all the rigmarole for lead paint removal, but its not necessary if you use common sense and work carefully.  Lead exposure is not a big deal for adults unless its prolonged and intense. I didn't bother with a suit, but I (usually) wore a mask.   The only things I'd be really concerned about is kids and pets.  If I had kids in an apartment, I wouldn't do any lead paint removal while they're living there.  If you have pets, I'd put them in another room and work in small sections that you can COMPLETELY finish and clean up in one go; two door or window frames at a time for instance.  I used a heat gun as Casey described on a lot of my heavily painted wood work (after having realized that stripping in place is impossible!), but you may consider renting an infrared paint remover.  They work at lower heat than heat guns so you minimize creating lead fumes.  Also, they lessen the fire risk and, because the paint debris doesn't dry out as much, it comes of in stickier globs that don't create as much dust.  Also, they take off a lot of paint.  Seriously, for really thick paint, I've found them to be much faster and easier.  

Either way, have your shop vac (with a good filter) next to you as you work.  Any time you leave the immediate work area, vacuum up the debris otherwise you'll track it all over the place.  When you're finished for the day, do a really good cleanup including wiping everything down with a damp sponge.  I personally would end the day by putting a coat of primer on the molding you've stripped and sanded to further minimize dust.  

Oops, almost forgot, if you have forced air heat, close and cover any vents or returns into the room you're working in prior to starting.  

That is true; I have heard a lot of great things about the infrared _silent paint stripper_ tool.

Since here in the northern hemisphere it is bleak midwinter, it's no time for doing any chemical stripping. The chemicals slow their work dramatically in the cold.


Thanks johninelgin and caseypratt

I am in a Manhattan apartment, the place was always a rental until we bought it. Truly a fixer upper (with really good bones). No kids, but I completely agree about not doing it with them around. Not worth the risk. We do have a dog, but he is easily confined to another room.

Sounds like I need to pick up a heat gun and some tools.. I am not a fan of wearing the respirator, but am willing to accept it as part of the deal if the heat gun is effective. 

Looking at infrared removers... Boy are they a niche product at a premium price. There must still be a patent on them as they sell for at least five times what is reasonable. (I noticed that Speedheater, Silent Remover, and Paint Shaver all appear to be exactly the same with different branding.)

I will definitely need to give the heat gun a try. 

Thanks again 

I've used sheets of light gauge aluminum, like maybe you can cut from 6" wide rolls of aluminum flashing.  And slide it under the trim. If it was too tight to slide the flashing under I might try taking my trusty Bosch Flush Cutter and cut a thin kerf where the trim meets the floor. Protecting the floor from the flush cutter meanwhile with the very same aluminum flashing.  Or a razor knife and linoleum knife. Be really careful with heat guns; even they can heat to the point of flame and one flame slipping behind the trim would not be nice.   If you're lucky you may find that the moulding was coated with varnish long ago prior to painting. The layer of varnish melts away and takes the paint off making the job quite a bit easier. I've used a combination of heat, chemical strippers, scrapers, and sandpaper, all to varying degrees of success.  Be patient and Best of luck.

If you tape and use the paper, that will work well IF you use an infared paint remover. It will make short work of that thick paint. You wouldn't have to risk removing it, and the wood would be super clean after, with no chemicals

My house is 227 years old.  Some paint just flaked off.  I really wanted to take it down and start from scratch, but I decided not to.  The layers tell a tale, the varying colors even the flaky spots, like you have near the bottom on the right.  I just painted over it again, like it has been done in the past.  It actually is a look.  And it looks great.  If I wanted to take it all the way down to make it look pristine and new, then I may as well have just taken it off and replaced with new.

Save yourself time, money and frustration.  Paint over it.  Spend your time and money on more important things you will need in the future. 
Good luck.
Your floors look great.

I've been restoring historic homes for over 45 years and their is no way.  It is easy and quick to do floor touch-ups.  Also if you are using a water based remover, the water in the chemical will damage your patina and turn it grey.  If you have the patience you can remove all the paint without much final sanding.  the pictures I am going to add show a pocket door system that was painted and after I removed the paint the color of the doors are original and was untouched thru the removal


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