Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dueling DIY: Get Your (Paint) Strippin' On

Every time I see the progress on the blogs of the other staircase challengers I start to cry.
Then I want to strangle the heat gun
And kick my staircase.

Whose idea was it to strip this mess?!

And then I remember that I love my little old house. That in a hundred years it deserves to be loved at least once, and that I need to do right by it. And there was just no way I could slap yet another coat of paint on those spindles.

So .. I'm still scraping. Still burning my hands because I'm not always paying attention (it -is- a rather, ahem, mind-numbing activity), still filling bag after bag with sheets of old paint.

That stuff is THICK!

Here's a picture to give you an idea of how thick those layers of paint are.
Chunky Monkey!
By the time the paint has cooled off it hardens again and is crunchy like a cookie, and pretty much the same thickness.

More chunks.
Paint should not come off in chunks. Nuh-uh.
Yet, it does, and it's amazing how much detail is lost beneath all of those layers, especially on those spindles.
They are taking forever, and I know that all the other challengers will leave me light-years behind in finishing this challenge. Yay you!

I may be done scraping all the baseboards and risers but those spindles ..
They are kicking my butt.

If it weren't for this challenge, I'm pretty sure I'd have abandoned it a week ago (make that two weeks, heh) so here's a big "Thank you" to DIYDiva Kit and all the other challengers for keeping me going!

If you haven't had enough of hearing about my staircase, go on and head over to the other duelists here!


  1. Oh, you really have your work cut out! If it makes you feel any better, our staircase was in pretty much the same condition. It took for ever to strip the paint! (not being very helpful am I). I'm sure it'll be worth it in the end!
    Have you considered removing the spindles and having them dipped?

    1. It's a pain in the rear but I knew what I was getting myself into. I'm glad I have fellow DIYers who are/did suffer the same and can relate!

      We haven't been able to find out a way to dismantle the staircase railing without breaking parts of it so we chose the harder road of hands-on stripping. Dip-stripping sounds like a dream :o)

  2. Come on Micha, you are not light-years behind at all.

    We've hardly done any work in the past week because we've all had the cold. Poor Sarah has been ill and had exams, Kit hurt her thumb and then may or may not have been bitten by a bat....

    We've all had a slow week.

    Just keep going. You know your stairs are going to look AMAZING once they are done. You will be so glad you persevered.

    Ann x

    1. Yes, M'am! Back to stripping it is!

      If it weren't for my fellow staircase and the joint suffering, I'd have thrown the towel, so thank you for keeping me on it and at it :o)

  3. I think you're doing amazing... and I'm officially loving the battle of the stairs.. the competition where everyone is eventually a WINNER!!!

    But, alas I have a question... My daughter just bought a townhome and it has painted brick in the upstairs bedroom... Any thoughts on if the heat gun would work in removing that paint? She'd really LOVE the brick exposed, but I haven't found any good ways of getting rid of the paint. She'd be up for the work, if it's a possibility?!

    Thanks - M

    1. Thank you, Marsha! I'm loving the duel too - it's wonderful to know and share with DIYers in the same boat :o)

      Ugh, painted brick ... it depends on how -badly- she wants it. Stripping brick is way worse than stripping spindles because of the all the paint in the pitted surface texture of bricks. Peel-away and dental tools plus a power washer treatment might work. Don't sandblast; it'll only destroy the brick :o( Good luck!

  4. Keep up the good work. You are right, your house deserves it!

  5. P.S. I suggest you buy new spindles... nobody will be the wiser and they will think you are superwoman "stripping" those old spindles in a wink... Did I just write that outloud? LOL

  6. Wow! I love the idea that your house deserves to be loved at least once. I was having dinner with a friend and she couldn't believe how much non-value increasing work I was putting into a house that I will sell someday. I couldn;t articulate an answer - but you hit the nail on the head. It's worth it because our little houses deserve it.

    The stripping looks tedious. But think about how awesome you feel when its pretty and done right!

    1. You should hear us talk about the houses in our historic district; you'd think we were hippie members of a non-profit rescue group rescuing stray animals off the streets :o)
      Our little house fit us like an old comfortably slipper - despite its fugly kitchen and meh bathrooms (you know, the things that usually sell a house) - and we enjoy 'loving on it' :o) Speaking of loving, I love the penny tile on your staircase's landing!!

  7. I feel for you. Stripping paint is not fun. I was actually glad that paint came off in chunks, because it was easy to clean up off the floor. Good luck, you can do it!

    1. Sharon, you are a Saint. I can't believe you stripped -all- of the woodwork in your beautiful house(and you are so right about using audio books to help with the monotony of this particular job)!

      It's amazing how thick those paint layers can get ...ugh ...but you are right, they do make the clean-up easier.

  8. Loving your DIY blog. It's given me lots of motivation and inspiration. I have NO home improvement knowledge so hopefully you will let me pick your brain as it seems full of DIY knowledge.
    I've been slooowly considering striping the staircase in the house we just bought (our first house) and was getting prepared to do it with a chemical stripper after realizing sanding would take FOREVER. I came across your group effort of the dueling staircases and noticed that no one in the group used a chem stripper, everyone sanded and/or used a heat gun.
    The videos I've seen of the chemical strippers seem to work like magic with far less effort than sanding so I was wondering about why you guys didn't use it. Fumes? Price?
    Also, I'm assuming that at least one of those 100 layers of paint you took off was lead based. What did you do to protect yourself from it, if anything? The precautions I read online make me feel like I need to wear a hazmat suit or something if I even come near it.
    Great blog!

    1. Hello Greta!
      Pick away at my brain - I'll be happy to share what we have learned since we embarked on this adventure. We had no clue what we were getting into when we started (including highly unrealistic expectations thanks to HGTV *L*).

      I did try a chemical stripper on my staircase and it failed to break through one of the older layers of paint. Since I didn't feel like experimenting with more chemicals, I decided that the heat gun was the way to go. When stripping paint I tape off doorways, change clothes when done, don't eat/drink where I work, make sure Little Man isn't home/nearby, and I wear a mask. I try to scrape it off as cleanly as I can because I don't want to have to sand (yes, shame on me - it's still not done) a lot (just gently even it out while using a moist sanding sponge - it does work if you didn't leave too many crunchy bits still sticking to the wood).
      Hope this helps!