Some of our main goals in restoring our home have always been reinstating the original character of our Victorian building, while doing so in as sustainably a way as possible - all while working with incredibly tight funds.
Salavaging as many materials from the original house as possible became an important part of achieving these goals. Aside from adding the original character back into the building, they were also free - and mitigated the need to by new materials - thereby lowering the carbon footprint of our build.
After Jameswood sustained about 30 years of water damage, this was easier said than done. Most of the structural timbers in the building were rotten at their ends (or all the way through, as so often was the case.) They were no longer suitable to be brought back into our home, and were instead used to build our shed, outdoor kitchen, or, if completely rotten, used as firewood.
Fortunately, our doors had been smothered with numerous layers of paint, over their 120 year life. Their thick coatings were able to protect them from the water damage the rest of the building had sustained. We were determined to salvage these original pieces, and incorporate them into our restored building.
To bring these doors back to life, we wanted to remove their many layers of paint, to bring them back to bare wood, before giving them a sand, fill and fresh coat.
We've tried many methods of paint stripping while restoring the 16 doors that would go back in the building.
First we tried scraping the paint off, using a shavehook like this one
This method works... but it takes a LONG time - and it can also be dangerous. When working with Victorian doors, you have to assume there will be lead paint on them. Scraping off dry paint lifts a lot of paint-dust in the air. Breathing in lead dust is not good for you. If you try this method, be sure to wear a good quality face mask, clean your work area well after, and throw your clothes straight in the wash. You also get a lot of blisters from hours of scraping, so I really wouldn't recommend.
I would, however, recommend grabbing one of those shavehooks. It is helpful for scraping small knooks and crannies. A good tool to have around for this job.
Next I tried a store bought chemical paint stripper. I started with tryign No Nonsense stripper, from Screwfix, as it was the cheapest I could find. It was rubbish. Don't waste your time with it!
I then tried KlingStrip. This product worked well - but it was expensive. You have to lay it on very thick, cover it in plastic, leave it for a few hours (for best results, I left it overnight) and then clean off the paint and stripper. You have to be very careful to use gloves, and clean any stripper that gets onto your skin immediately. I left a speck on my arm for about 5 minutes, and it had already created an open sore.
At about £30 for a 5L tub, and with 16 doors to get through, I would be paying hundreds to get all the paint off. Our project finances are so tight - this just wasn't an option.
I decided to look into the ingredient list for this product, and found the main active ingredient was Sodium Hydroxide - a.k.a. Lye. This is the chemical commonly used in soap making. It is readily available, and very cheap.
So, here is my homemade paintstripper recipe! It is a fraction of the cost of the pre-made versions, and jsut as effective.
Homemade Paint Stripper Recipe
Sodium Hyrdroxide, or Lye, is incredibly corrosive. It WILL cause open sores if not cleaned off skin thoroughly with water, within a few minutes of exposure.
Please wear long rubber gloves, sleeves and goggles when mixing and using this product.
Lye also creates heat when initially mixed with water. Always add Lye to water, rather than pouring water over lye.
Water: Sodium Hydroxide approx 10:1 ratio
Cornflour - as thickening agent
While wearing all saftey equipment, measure 1L of water into a suitable plastic bucket. Add 100ml of cornflour to the water, mix thoroughly.
While stirring, add 100ml Sodium Hydroxide to the mixture. Continue mixing for a minute. As Sodium Hydroxide heats the water, the cornflour will begin to thicken.
Let cool for 10 minutes before use.
Store away from children, in well labelled container.
Do a test patch on the material you would like to paint strip. Once tested:
Apply a thick layer onto item. Cover in plastic wrap. Leave overnight for best results. Scrape off as much excess paint and stripper before rinsing thoroughly.
If, after rinsing, the item still feels slippery, spray down with cleaning vinegar (25% vinegar) to neutralise any excess paint stripper.
We have successfully used this recipe to fully paint strip our original Victorian doors, as well as cast iron radiators.