Q: The weekend warriors who owned my house before me did some really stupid things, such as installing a fake-wood floor over linoleum, which prevented one door from closing in the winter.
But what I’m concerned with now is paint. Apparently, from the look of spatters on pipes under sinks, they taped everything to a fare-thee-well and then went around with a spray gun, using the same awful, dead white paint on every surface — wood, walls, even cabinets. If I set something down on a wood surface, pieces of paint come back up when I lift it.
Is there a way to tell whether they just used awful paint or if it’s an incompatibility, such as having used acrylic over old oil base? If I’m not sure what’s under this top layer, what is the best thing to use to get the old paint layers off?
If this is the kind of thing stagers encourage, they ought to be put out of business.
A: We share your angst, but we’re less inclined to blame it on stagers trying to put on a cheap new face on a house for a quick buck. It’s likely that the mess you’re struggling with today is the result of the ignorant, yet well-meaning work of neophyte remodelers. We doubt their intent was to create trouble for you — the next owner.
Problem is, the best intentions, when executed poorly, create a worse situation than if nothing were done at all.
When it comes to selling a house, one of our tried-and-true axioms is “clean and nice, sells at any price — almost.”
New paint and flooring go a long way toward creating the fresh impression we believe is essential to getting top dollar. But, like our dad always said, “If you’re gonna do a job, do it right or don’t do it at all.” This job just wasn’t done right.
It seems you’ve already solved the kitchen-door-that-wouldn’t-close problem. But if you haven’t, it’s a simple fix. Remove the door and saw off 1/4 inch at the bottom.
Installing laminate flooring over the old vinyl is OK provided that the vinyl and the subfloor are sound and the installer follows the manufacturer’s instructions for installation. It’s not OK to neglect to refit the doors so they work.
Going wild with a paint sprayer is not the way to spruce up a tired interior paint job. The spray gun has its uses, but cabinets and woodwork are not among them, especially if the gun is in the hands of a novice. We’re sorry to tell you it’s going to take a lot of time and elbow grease to fix it. We don’t think the problem is inferior paint. We do think your instincts are correct.
Whoever painted the place sprayed a vinyl overcoat over a gloss or semi-gloss base without bothering to properly prepare the surface. To do that job right means cleaning the surface with trisodium phosphate, lightly sanding it, priming it and then applying the finish coat. That the paint peels off when an object is placed on it tells us none of this happened.
You don’t say the age of the home or its architectural style. If it’s one of those classic bungalows built in the first half of the 20th century, it’s likely the woodwork was originally varnished wood. If that’s the case, stripping the wood will go a whole lot easier.
There are two ways to remove paint from woodwork: a chemical stripper or a heat gun. In this instance we’d opt for the heat gun.
Heat guns direct hot air at the surface, causing the paint to bubble. Once the paint bubbles it can be removed with a putty knife. It’s been our experience that if the wood was originally varnished, not primed and painted, the paint will easily separate from the varnish. Any residual paint left at joints can removed by brushing on a little chemical stripper to soften it and removing it with a small paint scraper. A dental pick also works great for this part of the job.
Be careful with the gun — the air is hot and will burn anything in front of it, including you.
Chemical strippers, on the other hand, are painted on with a brush. After several minutes the caustic chemical causes the paint to dissolve. The paint can then be removed with a putty knife. They are messy and the fumes are formidable.
If you decide to go with the heat gun don’t skimp on the wattage. More is better.
Chemical strippers and heat guns are available at home centers and hardware stores. Whichever method you use, wear a respirator and make sure to open windows to ventilate the work area.