Exterior paint removal question: MILD EMERGENCY
August 7, 2013 4:52 PM   Subscribe

Exterior paint removal question: MILD EMERGENCY

Hi all-

So, I've been scraping the old paint off the house for about two weeks. I expected this to not take so long. I have three walls where basically the whole thing needs to be stripped - they are covered in peeling paint. I need a machine's help before I scrape the whole thing with a 5 in 1 painters tool.

Here's what has kinda worked:

-orbital sander with 120 grit paper (80 grit and the type that feels like a scrubby pad did nothing) - but there must be something stronger
-a hitachi disc angle grinder (it takes the paint off but leaves valleys in the wood)

Is there some tool in between these two which I can use? There is so much paint to take off and I'm running out of time to get the old paint off and finish up (about a week and a half left).

Thanks in advance!
posted by ashtabula to opelika to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
Is this what pressure washing is for?
posted by amtho at 5:00 PM on August 7, 2013

A heat gun may help soften it before scraping, but opinions seem to be mixed on using them for exterior paint. They look like heavy-duty hair dryers. Use them with caution.
posted by jquinby at 5:01 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could use a heat gun.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 5:01 PM on August 7, 2013

Heat guns can be a serious fire hazard. Careful use of a pressure washer can work well ; careful so you don't score or saturate the wood. Am in midst of same project -it's slow going!
posted by leslies at 5:07 PM on August 7, 2013

Response by poster: I already went over it with the pressure washer before scraping. The paint wants to come off in sheets - it's kinda bubbling on the surface if that makes sense. I think there are SO MANY layers of crappy paint and it's very elastic.
posted by ashtabula to opelika at 5:15 PM on August 7, 2013

Best answer: We took a century's worth of paint off our house using electric paint removers (basically like an electric grill that you hold up, but not actually against, the paint). But we still had a couple of small blazes (old clapboard being, uh, flammable) -- and it was a multi-year project. Pressure washers aren't recommended because of the moisture being forced behind the clapboard (then "painted in" if you do that step soon enough afterward). Chemical strippers tend to be toxic, both to workers and the ground beneath, though there seem to be safer alternatives these days. There aren't many really really good options here.

Wagner has a tool called the Paint Eater that isn't quite a professional power scraper, and uses regular generic abrasion discs. You might try that.
posted by dhartung at 5:20 PM on August 7, 2013

The one that feels like a scrubby pad is called a stripping wheel and is intended for this purpose. But I've never used one, so maybe they're just crap or you have weird paint or something.

Try a wire wheel on the angle grinder. Be sure to wear serious eye/face protection in a case a loose wire comes flying out.
posted by aubilenon at 5:23 PM on August 7, 2013

I think there are SO MANY layers of crappy paint and it's very elastic.

I hate to bring this up, but if you haven't tested for lead, you should do so immediately, and if it comes back positive you should have a professional consultation about protective gear and dust minimizing stripping equipment, and perhaps turn the job over to a professional.
posted by jamjam at 5:36 PM on August 7, 2013 [8 favorites]

Were a particle filter what ever you decide. Could be lead paint under all the layers of latex.
posted by Max Power at 5:58 PM on August 7, 2013

I've never used one, but I've heard excellent things about the Silent Paint Remover from a couple of people who have.
posted by she's not there at 6:20 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

On house exteriors, unless it is a top 1% premium, best in show kind of house (in which case you contract out the work), my opinion has always been that you don't have to remove old paint that won't willingly go. If it is stuck to the wood well enough to weather a scraper, then it will probably stay there forever.

I wouldn't sand for the lead reasons stated above. If you do make this choice, and you shouldn't, wear a HEPA type mask and a HEPA type of vacuum cleaner that sucks away the dust immediately. The problem is the airborne lead paint dust, and also the dust getting into the soil, which leaches into gardens and groundwater.
posted by gjc at 7:56 PM on August 7, 2013

When I paint the outside portions of my house, I use 56/60 grit to get a smooth to the touch feel and I just make sure to order the sand paper in bulk from eBay, amazon, or some other discount bulk supplier since it is just getting trashed and bunked up relatively quickly with paint. I prefer to use a 1/4 or 1/2 sheet sander since the sandpaper is much cheaper than discs. I have used my Bosch quarter sheet sander many times and it is still going strong. A belt sander might work too for exterior surfaces, but I have not tried that since I have only needed to do small areas around the garage door and other exterior doors and never the entire house. Either way, 120 is probably too fine a grit to use, you want rougher to go quicker with means a lower(bigger pieces) grit count.

posted by Nackt at 8:25 PM on August 7, 2013

120 grit is way too fine for this kind of work and even 80 grit is probably a bit fine, particularly if the paint is clogging up the paper. If you really do have thick layers of paint, you could go down to 40 grit to get the bulk off, but don't sand the bare wood with that, because it will take the material away very fast.

A disc grinder will, as you have discovered, do a great job of removing the paint, but will leave a very nasty finish unless you're a real expert at using one.

Unless you are very experienced at using one, a belt sander can leave you with a similar finish to the grinder - because they remove material so fast it's easy to create gouges and valleys in the surface.

A random orbit sander would be the best tool but, for a big job, they can be very expensive if they use special pads, because you're going to use a lot of them. A 1/2 or 1/3 sheet orbital sander with 40 or 60-ish grit heavy-duty paper (the stuff that comes on rolls, not sheets) would do a pretty decent job.

There's no easy way to do this - no matter what, it's a difficult, time-consuming process.

Definitely test for lead - have a look here.
posted by dg at 10:25 PM on August 7, 2013

Assuming you are going to sand, another thing to try might be something like this. It works great on drywall, never clogs. Not sure if I ever tried it on paint, but I'd expect that it would work fine on old exterior paint.
posted by gjc at 3:51 PM on August 8, 2013

Um... this is off track a tiny bit, but please tell me you're using a good mask setup and never working without it.
posted by aryma at 10:30 PM on August 8, 2013

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