Trim debacle in a new house..

6 Replies

Hello! My husband and I recently purchased a house at auction. Not 100% sure if we're flipping or renting/BRRRing at this point. First order of business is painting. Painter went in today and says that the chipping is due to lead based paint build up (house was built in 1925). My husband and I are considering the cost & workload between replacing and painting new and stripping the old paint from the trim (house is 1650 sq ft). Anyone have experience stripping paint from trim? 

Any feedback is appreciated. 

It's really messy and it's hard work. The benefit of keeping your 1920s trim is that it is the correct dimensions for the design of the house. However, having done this with three houses, using various approaches, I can recommend the following: 

1) Paint the trim that is not too badly chipped. You might need to use oil based paint if you're going over oil based paint. Don't sand without lead protection (read this as DIY should not sand paint). 

2) For the trim that is chipped, see if you can live without it..for example, do you need picture rail molding? Or do you need baseboards and quarter round, can the quarter round be removed? Our 1920s trim boards were attached with 3 inch long finish nails...serious work removing them!

3) Then finally replace the chipped pieces, using the same size wood as the rest of the house. It's expensive, but it looks so much better on those old houses, especially if you're doing this for yourself. Typically you can replace 5 inch wide simple moulding around a window with a plain 1x5 (really 3/4 x 4 1/2) dimensional poplar board (no knots). If you pull that board a little bit out to the side of the window, it will appear to actually be 5 inches wide. 

Good luck, I know your pain...

@Danika Lowry

 Can you show us pictures?

Everything @Karen S. said is essentially correct. The stripping route is long and punishingly difficult. I would recommends CitriStrip for critical pieces instead of strippers labeled "premium" strippers, which indicates that they contain methyl chloride. Methyl chloride strippers work faster but you need a full-on gas mask or SCBA gear to safely work around them -- a half-face respirator fitted with organic vapor cartridges, the painter's standard, won't fully do the job for long exposures, and you'd need long exposures to get all that trim stripped. Never mind what the label promises -- that's the sure and certain road to a diagnosis down the line.

Two coats of Kilz Complete is the way we go when painting over chipped interior and exterior trim. I thin the first coat 10% with Penetrol, a paint additive that improve this primer's already-exceptional penetration and adhesion characteristics. Kilz Complete is a high VOC oil-based primer, Penetrol comes in at a much higher the VOC content, and paint thinner is almost pure VOCs, so if you plan on doing a significantly amount of oil-based painting indoors, you need the aforementioned half-face respirator fitted with organic vapor cartridges.

If you want to replace pieces of trim, as Karen S. suggested, you may need to invest in a 1/2 in. router and a router table to make new boards match old boards. That requires carpentry knowledge and experience and investment, and of course you'll want to avoid it., but depending on the state of the trim, it may be the wisest way to go for quite a bit of your trim over the long haul, and of course if you plan on doing this multiple times.

Granted, you already have a painter over there, so you'll want to be hands-off, but still -- I think anyone who's done this a bit has seen quite a bit of nasty trim that needs to be replaced.

I've stripped them in my own home but would never do it in a rental. With a little artistry you can fill and sand the chipped areas with Durabond or Bondo till it looks acceptable. I've found that lumpy but grand old moldings are better than ripping them out and putting in cheap new ones. Besides, ripping out moldings opens a whole can of worms in old plaster houses, just pulling a baseboard can cause the whole plaster wall to come down. Been there.

These doorways were done like I described. It doesn't bear close examination, but the whole is good. I've had to recreate these in rooms that were gutted, its real work. A window case, crown, stool and apron is like 24 separate pieces of wood. Its like building furniture on the wall.

My first thought is to verify if it is actually lead based paint, the painter may be upselling. If it’s not I agree to sand and use Durham’s to get it paint ready and finish it with oil enamel.

Thanks so much for the feedback everyone. We are scraping, patching and priming. Johann, one of my biggest concerns was plaster repair after getting newer, shorter trim. Should be done this weekend 

Good luck! FWIW, there's cheap ways to do wide casing replacement if you're not picky. In one of my buildings the original 100 year old window cases are simply 1x6 with a corner cap around it. Not even mitered! Just a square joint. Place was more or less a tenement.

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