Removing Paint from Drywall

Posted in: DIY | Painting

Paint Removal

Painting a room is probably dollar for dollar the single most impactful (and cost effective) method of redesign at a homeowner’s disposal. Color often adds depth, dimension and sometimes texture to a room and coats next to nothing, by comparison. Yet if it’s done poorly it can drag down the room to the depths of wretched squalor. But how can anyone get painting wrong, you ask? Many think the only trick to painting is selecting the right color, a good primer and painter’s tape.

But the fact is if you’re pairing drywall that has really poor quality paint already on it, has way too many layers or has coats applied unevenly, you’ll just be adding to the chaos if you simply prime and paint your own color choice on top of the mess.

When that is, in fact, the case, the best approach is to strip the old coats of paint from the drywall and begin afresh.

And as difficult a DIY project as it may sound, even a novice can pull it off (no pun intended). We’ve got a few key tips to help you get the job done and done right.

Get The Lead Out: The first thing to do when looking to strip drywall of layers of paint is test for lead. If the  home was built before 1979, there’s a very good possibility that lead-based paint was used. You can find paint testing kits at your local big box home improvement stores. If the paint does test positive for lead do not attempt to strip it at all. Contact a professional lead abatement service to get the job done. Redesigning your home is not worth endangering your health.

Preparation: You will need to move all of the furniture out of the room, if possible. If not, don’t move everything to the center of the room as you would when painting. Instead pull everything at Lear two feet away from each wall and into small groupings. One large collection of furniture in the middle of the room will just prove too late an obstacle to deal with in this effort. Open the windows and turn on a couple of fans to get the ventilation going.

If you have more than three layers of paint to remove, you will need paint stripper. And if you’re using stripper, grab yourself a pair of painter’s goggles, a respirator and a pair of durable rubber gloves (never use paint stripper without these essentials) and you’re all set to begin.

Do The Deed: For walls with more than three layers of paint, you will need a paint stripper that is suitable for the kind of paint on your walls, whether oil-based or water-based. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for preparing the stripped for use. Using a paint roller, apply the stripper to the walls so that it penetrates each layer of paint on your drywall. Then, using a putty knife, carefully peel of the layers of paint. Be sure to use the chemicals only on a small area each time before peeling. You don’t want the stripper to dry before you can get to it.

If your walls have fewer than four coats of paint you should not use paint stripper. The chemicals in most paint strippers on the market are so harsh they may remove the paper from the drywall’s surface. And then you’ll have a real mess on your hands.

Sand it: So now you’re close enough to the surface of the drywall to sand the remaining coats away. Using an orbital sander (you can rent these economically from any home center), attach a 60 or 80 grit sanding disk and with goggles and face mask on lightly sand in circular motions as you strip away the remaining layers.

Sanding is an effective way of getting to the surface is your drywall, but it creates a tremendous amount of dust. So keep the ventilation going and keep your mask and goggles on.

After you’ve completed the job, you’ll find that you’ve inevitably broken the surface of the drywall in places. Simply use joint compound to repair and allow to dry.

Clean up is easy. Vigorously sweep the dust off of the walls and floors, remembering not to use any water or soap solution. The surface is, again, paper ad will be damages by water.


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