We started the long process of refinishing our reclaimed doors a month or so ago, and I thought I’d talk a little bit about what’s worked for us and what hasn’t.
We started out giving the doors just a light sanding thinking that we’d rough the surface up a bit in preparation for priming and painting. The problem with that plan was the layer of latex paint that was improperly applied over the oil paint (no primer), leaving it to peel off and gum up the sander. We really weren’t too keen on sanding the lead paint – we got a respirator and were very careful – but the sight of lead dust flying through the air (near our garden!) freaked us out, so we abandoned that plan pretty quickly.
Our second option was to use a product called “Rinse or Peel” by Biowash, which is an environmentally friendly paint stripper made with orange oil. It’s a thick paste that you spread over the painted surface, and I hate to say it, but I really wasn’t expecting too much. Imagine my surprise when we went to scrape the door about 15 minutes after applying it, and the paint pulled off in great gummy sheets! We ended up leaving it on slightly longer the next few times (about 30 – 40 minutes) in order to remove more of the paint layers, and that worked amazingly well, taking us down to almost bare wood.
The best part about this stuff is that you can scrape off the top layer of paste and reuse it on the next door (up to 5 times, depending on how many layers you’re stripping at one time). It also kept the lead paint well contained and out of the air.
After we’d removed as much paint as we wanted (the above door was one of our first tries, so it’s got a few more of the original layers on it), we used wood filler to fill in any chips, scratches, and unevenness. After a light sanding to remove any excess, the doors were cleaned up with a couple of coats of primer.
My favorite tool for getting a perfect finish when painting are these little foam rollers. They leave the paint so smooth and even that I often end up going over whole walls with them after we’ve applied the paint just to tidy things up.
As for the door knobs and hardware, which were also covered in multiple layers of paint, we tried a couple of different things. At Monica’s recommendation we soaked them overnight in vinegar to soften the paint so we could scrape it off.
This method worked really well. We let them cook for a few hours while we were out, and by the time we came home home the paint practically fell off on its own, and it left more of the original finish intact (the knob on the left, above).
The face plate sitting on the edge of the crockpot in the previous photo had so much paint on it that it wasn’t really budging after it’s long vinegar bath, but after a nice soak in the slow cooker, it peeled off all in one shot. I would definitely recommend this method for removing paint from your old hinges and hardware, but the vinegar definitely works if you don’t have a crock pot to dedicate to the job.
Here’s how they look now. I thought I liked the idea of painting them black again, but after seeing them in their natural state, I don’t think I’ll be doing that! After all this work, I think I’m beginning to understand why the original owner decided to replace these doors with brand new ones instead of refinishing them (okay, only sorta)!