Q: I just bought a house. The former owner painted over the stairway and railing. The wood work in the house is so beautiful. Can we remove the paint and restore the wood to its original beauty?
A: Woodwork restoration is a tough task to undertake. There are a number of paint removal products on the market.The problem is not the surface paint it is the paint that likely worked its way into the grain of the wood.The majority of the paint will go but the white lines in the grain of the wood will not move.I seriously doubt that it could successfully be covered. I think you are going to have to consider another alternative. Unfortunately, do it yourself home repairs are not always cut and dry.
In many older homes with painted stairs and railings, you'll find quality hardwoods under the paint.
Experiment with a section; apply stripper and remove paint. If the paint was applied over undamaged varnish, stripping it will be messy, not difficult. If the varnish has deteriorated, the paint may lie in the grain of the wood. removing it may require extensive and careful work
To find out what kind of wood is hidden by the paint, scrape the paint from an inconspicuous spot. If you don't recognize the wood, call in a carpenter.

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2 of 12 comments
  • Sandra Whittier
    on Sep 4, 2015

    Formby's makes a wash to take the paint out of the cracks of wood. Yes, it is a hard and dirty job that is so worth all of the work. Mother found some old chairs with vinyl over plywood, with black paint slathered over it and after the plywood and vinyl came off was where the holes needed to be caned and the black paint covered the most beautiful knotted oak burl wood you have ever seen. The 5 chairs came from a mission in San Antonio, TX. 150 years before and I learned how to cane chairs. They are truly a gift of God! Don't let them talk you out of it! Most every one would rather paint than work. All supplies can be bought at Home Depot or Lowe's.

  • Deb
    on Mar 4, 2016

    My mother suggested that after stripping, you re-shellac the item and strip again. And again. And again . . . We were working with oak, which holds onto paint in its pores. And I didn't have a full-time job -- this coat rack became it!! A better idea is to go to the art store and buy a Sharpie or other permanent marker that matches your wood and just color in the paint spots on the item. Then refinish!!

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