From Old to Bold: Our Stripping Techniques & Essentials

Every creaky stair, every painted-over wood surface, every sealed-off fireplace – they all have stories of eras gone by, waiting to be uncovered and loved again!

For us, unearthing the original beauty of wood or stone is way more than just a makeover. It’s not about just scratching off old paint and slapping on a new finish–it’s a meticulous process of revealing the past and repurposing it for the present. 

Today, we’re peeling back the layers on three of our favorite restoration adventures: marble fireplaces, staircases, and floors.

A note: before you get started, be sure you are working in a properly ventilated area and taking all necessary safety precautions, including PPE like a respirator and gloves, and testing for lead paint. Always consult with a professional if you have any questions or concerns! 

Stripping the Stairway

Staircases can often be a focal point of a historic home, like an old brownstone, with intricately carved handrails and classic designs. However, in most of the homes we work on, these have been painted over or stained during past renovations–in some cases, several times. 

Our task is to uncover the craftsmanship beneath the layers to restore these antique beauties, step by step.

In cases where a staircase is coated with a liquid varnish, we turn to Benco’s B7 stripper, the secret sauce of our stripping repertoire. Wearing protective gear to prevent contact with the potent chemical, we coat the staircase in the stripper and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.

The really satisfying part follows–using a paint scraper and cheesecloth, we scrape away the varnish, revealing the stunning wood underneath. A thorough clean-up with denatured alcohol and steel wool ensures we don’t leave any crevice unattended. 

Once the rails and carvings are bare, we give the woodwork a light sanding to remove any raw or rugged texture. Then, it’s ready to be sealed. 

Whether our clients prefer a fresh coat of paint or a clear coat to accent the natural wood, we love watching a staircase be reborn, revealing skilled artistry and that timeless elegance.

Marble Fireplace Restoration – A Stone Cold Stripping Show

Marble fireplaces can lend an air of historic grandeur and elegance to a room–when they aren’t buried under layers of paint! Luckily, our paint-stripping method works as well on stone as it does on wood.

For painted surfaces, we first bring out our trusty heat gun. We gently sweep the tool across the surface and avoid lingering too long in one spot. Once the paint begins to bubble, we keep moving, stripping away the layers of paint and grime. This is a slow process, requiring patience and a steady hand. Then it’s time to apply Peel Away (for a surface other than wood!)

Next comes the (satisfying) labor of love–peeling off the melted paint with a metal putty knife and applying denatured alcohol to dissolve any residual grime. It’s incredible to watch the layers just fall off.  

A vigorous scrub with a stripping pad helps get into tight crevices and corners, removing the last traces of old paint. The reward? A stripped-down, paint-free marble fireplace, waiting to be reintroduced to the world.

Getting Down on the Floor 

Stripping a floor can seem daunting due to the large surface area, but it’s well worth the effort. When flooring is original to an older home and the floors are too thin to be sanded, we find the best method is to strip!  To make the task manageable, we heat-gun the floor in sections, creating distinct working areas.

 

Then, we apply the chemical stripper and let it work its magic for 10-15 minutes and the real labor begins. We get down on our hands and knees to scrape away the melted layers of history. 

The final cleanup involves wiping the floor down with denatured alcohol and scrubbing it with steel wool. We definitely recommend knee pads for this task! 

After the complete renovation is done, we seal the wood using a clear water-based polyurethane or matte-finish tung oil, which offers protection while letting the original tone shine through. If you are working on outdoor areas, we recommend a marine-grade finish for added protection.

The Final Product 

The process may seem daunting, but when you see the final outcome–the historic beauty of your home revived–it’s all worth it. In every restored detail, there’s a blend of past and present that makes your home uniquely yours. Stripping and refinishing a staircase or floor honors a home’s history and makes it ready to enjoy for years to come. 

And remember, whether you’re a homeowner or a restoration enthusiast, handling stripping chemicals requires utmost care and safety measures. Seek professional assistance if needed.

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