Addressing bad paint job on trim + doors... through the whole house
January 17, 2024 8:54 AM   Subscribe

We bought a house a couple years ago, and the previous owners repainted everything before they put it on the market. They actually did a pretty great job with all the walls! The big problem is the thick, glossy paint job on the trim, baseboards, door and window frames, and doors themselves. I'd like to remove and redo all of this, which is very clearly a monumental undertaking. Lots of info inside and a few specific questions at the end!

Firstly, it is on SO MUCH stuff in the house. There is SO much trim and so many doors. The most glaring issue is the sloppy job - all the hardware on the doors is paint-splattered or just plain painted over. The house is old (1930s) and the doors all have a fun little way of fitting together in their frames (or not lol) and some of them have stuck together and then the paint has dried and pulled off, leaving tiny patches of exposed wood. The paint seems slathered on pretty dang thick, and there are cracks in it along any seams in the door detailing where presumably it pooled and then cracked apart as it dried. There's a vent in our bedroom that has cartoonish globs of dried paint from dripping.

Stickiness of some doors aside, our issue with the paint job is pretty much all aesthetic. The thing is I have absolutely no idea how to even begin to formulate a plan to work on it. I don't mind if it takes years, which it feels like it's going to, if I felt like I could at least mentally grasp going through each affected room and doing some XYZ process to remove the paint, sand, prime, and repaint.

For example, we're finally getting to a stage where we can focus on decorating, and we're starting with the bedroom. We're planning to paint the walls, getting new bedspread, get nice lamps, etc. So it would be super nice to update the horrible glooby trim while we're at it! There are two double-door closets in the bedroom, a bathroom door, and the main door (grand total of six doors) that also are all slathered up with megapaint.

A) How do we even start? Lead paint is definitely a concern too, considering the age of the house. Can a lead remediation service do all of this stuff, and should we just resign ourselves to doing that?
B) How to find paint stripping services or businesses who do paint removal? I was reading yesterday about people removing doors and taking them to a 'dip and strip' paint removal service, which sounds great, but I have SCOURED my area and can find zero evidence of any local businesses who do this. (Although I did find them in other locations.) Who else might do something like that?
C) Assuming we figure out a good gameplan to actually do this, how best could we strategize it? I thought if we could find a dip and strip service for the doors, we could at least start there - that would be a ton of work in and of itself, but having properly painted doors with clean hardware would be really nice!
posted by caitcadieux to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It's a pain because you have to remove them, but buy a cheap slow cooker, take off the hardware, and drop it in the slow cooker and set it on high. The paint will all come off. Some recommend a bit of detergent, but water alone (steam) works great.

If there is less paint, buy a $10 heat gun from Harbor Freight, and heat it up and scrape. You can do this a a bit at a time.

Also before scraping, buy lead testing strips. They are pretty cheap.
posted by The_Vegetables at 9:00 AM on January 17

I'm gonna hazard a guess they painted every damn thing because they wanted to sell the house and it had exposed lead paint and rather than have it removed they just covered it up. And they did it themselves so they wouldn't have to deal with professional painters who would say they needed to strip the old paint first. So just go into it with the expectation that you're dealing with toxic, hazardous waste.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:12 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: That’s definitely a strong possibility and we’re already kind of assuming that, so if you have any practical steps, those would be very welcome!
posted by caitcadieux at 9:17 AM on January 17

Well, you don't want to use a heat gun to lift lead paint yourself because that will release lead fumes. Very bad. Probably the smartest thing is to just remove all the painted-over hardware and take it to some third party company and have them strip it as a batch. They can also sand-blast and/or varnish it for you. That's is not a DIY job. Then you can decide what of the paint on the wood is actually bad enough to want to disturb and what's okay to live with. Fresh shiny hardware with no paint drips will help make the crappy paint on the wood less noticeable.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:28 AM on January 17

Response by poster: I don’t mean to threadsit but I specifically asked about how to find outside companies to do this (including lead remediation). I have very little interest in DIYing frankly any of this that I can outsource, due to the sheer volume, if nothing else. I can refer you back to the three specific questions at the end of the post, if you’ve got any advice relating to those.
posted by caitcadieux at 9:33 AM on January 17

Maybe easier to replace the trim and baseboards than to strip and repaint.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:51 AM on January 17 [13 favorites]

'Replace' was my thought too. I'm watching with interest - my home has also had DIY paint adventures. My current plan is to replace the baseboards out as part of redoing the floors, if I ever get there. I'm getting good at ignoring the doors.
posted by mersen at 11:16 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]

Best answer: B) ... Who else might do something like that? Furniture restorers.

Reads like the previous owners encapsulated the woodwork. Ideally, you'd have professionals remove the trim and doors, then take them away to dip & strip. Maybe you'd do one room, or a particular section of the house, at a time. A furniture restorer could stain and seal, or properly re-paint, the pieces before they're returned to your house and re-installed. (Caveat about doors.) Have you spoken with a contractor in your area?

Re the 'other locations' providing dip & strip: this project might involve hiring separate companies (removal of pieces, then delivery to __ treatment facility; pick up, then reinstallation). But you can call the companies you did find, ask for their service range, or ask for nearby referrals.

If you're in an area with a lot of houses like yours, local businesses that service '30s-era homes (screen & window repair; fireplace/chimney cleaning and maintenance; historically-accurate ___ repair or replace; whatever), or architectural salvage outfits, or historic preservation societies, might have resources, too. Hit up your neighborhood's message boards, or try a site dedicated to your home's style and era.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:01 PM on January 17

Or even your realtor, if they've sold a lot of houses like yours, might be of help.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:02 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Does your neighborhood have a NextDoor or other social media page? That can be a great place to get recs because you're not the only one who is dealing with this.
posted by *s at 12:03 PM on January 17

A paint store might have references for stripping experts as well as painters. We got a guy to paint our exterior trim (very old) through the local Benjamin Moore dealer. But local hardware and lumber stores probably have references, too.
posted by Enid Lareg at 12:21 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Yes, as Enid Lareg says above, contact your local paint store - Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, etc. They will have a list of painters - who may or may not do this.
posted by sarajane at 12:59 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are rules about who can do lead paint remediation and how it's done. Typically, folks who do this are certified. Your state department of environmental protection might have a list or directory on their website. I live in Maine, and the Maine DEP does this. Although if the obvious searches have turned up nothing for you, it may be that there is no such resource for your area. My search terms were just certified lead paint removal maine.

Pulling off all the trim and replacing it with new might actually be simpler, though not necessarily cheaper (or better, especially if what you have is original to the house and you want to match it to maintain the character). This is a job for a finish carpenter or skilled handyman, but might also require lead certification depending on the rules in your area.

You could do this a bit at a time, potentially. Maybe going room by room, removing the trim, taking the doors out and using a lead-safe stripper to remove the paint, then repainting. You could also use a lead-safe stripper to strip the trim in-place, but it's messy work and would require lots of tape and plastic to protect your walls, floors, and stuff from splatter, etc. This is more of a DIY approach. No idea if a company or handyman type would be wiling to do this, and if they were willing, they would likely need to be lead certified again.

I'm so sorry your in this situation. I've lived in old homes with lead paint and wrestled with similar questions in the past. I really hope you find a solution that works for you!
posted by that's candlepin at 1:15 PM on January 17

Super thick paint does suggest lead encapsulation in a house that old. Proceed with caution and get certified professionals to do that work.
posted by mai at 2:15 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you or your contractor remove door hinges, be aware that although all the hinges may look identical in a house of that age they may actually all differ slightly. This means that you must put each hinge back in the place it came from. If you mistakenly put a hinge from door A on door B, then both doors may end up misaligned and may jam. I learned this the hard way; figuring out which hinges worked with which doors was a major pain.
posted by anadem at 6:23 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much, folks!

I did reach out to a dip and strip company outside our range to see if they knew anyone closer to us and got an email that just said “sorry, no”. LOL.

But it sounds like there are a couple lead remediation companies here who may be able to do the same services. We wanted to get professional testing done anyway so we’ll reach out to get the ball rolling there and make a plan based on what info they have for us. Hopefully it can be a room-by-room thing.

Also great idea to ask at the paint store and even around the neighborhood. One of our neighbors has done a ton of beautiful work on their house over a decade+ and may very well have helpful info on this.

Funnily enough because of how much paint has come off the trim and doors, in a lot of places it looks like there’s literally nothing under there. The thick paint is VERY uneven and in many places it appears actually quite thin. I would have thought the walls in the house also would have multiple layers of paint but by all accounts they also look VERY fresh - you can pretty clearly see the lines of… something structural underneath almost all the walls in the house, which my very uneducated googling indicates means there’s not a lot of paint layering. Just really makes me laugh that all the walls are so methodically and cleanly painted and it feels like by the time they got halfway through the trim they were panicking about getting it done on time. The downstairs is also overall much more cleanly and evenly done than the upstairs!

I’ll try to remember to update this later when we actually move forward and get more info, since it may be helpful for people googling this in the future!
posted by caitcadieux at 5:22 AM on January 18

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