To Strip or Not to Strip: Plans for the Woodwork

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Before we even stepped foot in the Dream House for the first time, Mr. Blandings and I were already discussing the merits of the woodwork. Initially he was pushing for stripping the woodwork and I, having some experience with such a monumental task, was quite happy to leave it painted white. As we delved into the house and its history a little more, and as we saw photos of a lovingly restored American System Built home in Milwaukee, I started to see M’s point.

“You’re right,” I remember saying at some point during the first weekend in the house. “It’s going to suck and we may risk permanent respiratory damage but we’re going to have to strip all this woodwork!”

Not all of the woodwork in the house has been painted. The doors were all left in their original beautiful state over the years. Along with the doors, there are some trim pieces where the white paint has chipped away, revealing gorgeous wood underneath. Seeing these, we’re absolutely convinced that we’ll want to strip all of the woodwork in the house at some point this spring and/or summer.

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And then, in a fit of curiosity, I pulled out the heat gun last week and started stripping away the paint on the trim in the writing room. As the smallest of the bedrooms, and the only one that I haven’t painted yet, I was hoping that I would discover that stripping the woodwork would be quick and painless. But, as anyone who has ever stripped woodwork has said, it’s not going to be that easy.

As you can see above, under the white paint the woodwork seems to be more than one color. I suppose we should have expected this. In a box of information about the house left from previous owners, the woodwork has been stained at some point in the past. The fact that it was stained probably explains why some of the trim is darker than others.

The good news is that there seem to be only a couple of layers of paint on the woodwork. So while it won’t be a ton of work to strip the woodwork of paint, making all of the trim match is going to be another matter completely.

So what are we thinking now that we have all of this new information? We’re still planning to strip all the woodwork in the house. But now we know that, in addition to stripping the paint, we’ll also have to sand everything. And, having breathed in the fumes from my little test strip, we also know that we’ll definitely wait until warmer weather, when we can open the doors and windows.

If anyone out there in blog land has any advice for stripping the woodwork (or, better yet, wants to volunteer to come help!), speak up!

— J. Blandings

Images: Mr. and Mr. Blandings

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