Do It Yourself: How To Scrape Paint From An Exterior Wall

Nothing makes an old house look new again like a fresh coat of paint, but there are a few things you have to do to prep your exterior walls before you break out the brushes and rollers.

Nothing makes an old house look new again like a fresh coat of paint, but there are a few things you have to do to prep your exterior walls before you break out the brushes and rollers. A properly prepared surface makes the task of painting easier and lengthens the necessary time between reapplications, which saves you time and money.

Before any painting or scraping project, it's best to scrub the surface clean. Though you can do this by hand, with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge, consider renting a power washer, which is appropriate for almost any surface except soft woods like redwood and cedar. You can usually find these available for lease at hardware stores, and in recent years, some grocery stores have started to stock them, as well.

These high-pressure sprays remove dirt, mildew, grit, and loose paint quickly and easily, and sometimes, you may discover that your home doesn't need a new coat of paint after all- on vinyl and aluminum siding especially. Set aside at least two full days for washing. Chances are, it will only take one, but it's better to have too much time than not enough.

Once the exterior surface has been thoroughly cleaned, there are many methods to actually remove the paint. Elbow grease, chemicals, heat guns- each has its use, and you should consider which is best for your surface and for the surrounding flora and fauna.

The simplest way to remove paint is to use a scraper- a flat-bladed, handled tool you can get at most hardware stores. Using a freshly sharpened scraper (your hardware store can do the sharpening for you, or show you how to do it at home,) apply even, steady pressure in the same direction to remove paint. Take care not to gouge the surface, and use shaped scrapers to get into the corners. Scraping works best on smooth surfaces, such as wood, ferrous metal, and smooth masonry.

For rougher surfaces like stucco and brick, use a wire brush to remove paint. Because the bristles are relatively rough, and the surfaces relatively soft, take care not to gouge when using the wire brush. (These brushes can also be used to scrape paint from shake shingle roofs and walls.) Electric wire brushes are available on the market to speed the task, however, they must be used especially carefully to avoid damaging the surface.

Chemical paint-peelers can help with this process, however, it's important to know that chemical solvents work best on oil-based and latex paints, and there's still a hefty time-investment involved. Solvents can only be applied to vertical structures, and they must be applied by hand-brush. Once the solvent has been applied, you will have to scrape and wipe the surface to remove the paint. Be sure to read all the information on the solvent before using it- some solvents are only appropriate for wood surfaces, and will damage brickwork; likewise, some solvents are only appropriate for masonry, and will etch wood.

A more environmentally friendly option is a heat gun. Also rentable from your local hardware store, a heat gun will soften the old paint, making it easier to scrape away. Using a heat gun to remove paint isn't a one person job, however- not only will you need to manipulate the heat gun itself, you will need someone to keep the surface slightly damp for best results.

Regardless which method you choose, a newly scraped exterior wall will need to be sanded. You can accomplish this manually, with sandpaper, or mechanically, with a power sander. A power sander requires extreme caution to avoid damaging the surface, and for especially delicate surfaces like stucco, brick, or aluminum siding, hand-sanding is best.

With any of these methods, basic safety concerns apply. Wear goggles and gloves for protection, lay down a drop cloth to catch the scraped paint, and make sure that all ladders are sturdy and properly placed on even ground. Chemical peeling requires extra precautions- plants and shrubs close to the area will need to be covered, all children and pets should be removed from the area, and it's recommended to add an air respirator to your safety wear to protect yourself from the fumes.

Careful planning and close attention to the details are the keys to success when it comes to prepping an exterior wall, but reaping the benefits makes it well worth the trouble.

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