Removing paint from wood floors

26 Replies

@Daniel Porter

I agree with Account Closed

Rubbing alcohol works good and is cheap. Try green alcohol for oil base products like stain. I don't know why but it works better than clear. My MIL got Rust-Oleum out of a sweater with that stuff once. She says the clear wouldn't do it. I later tried both on white carpet and the clear didn't cut it but the green did for an oil based stain. Didnt leave a stain either. 

 Start with 100 or 120 grit before you decide if you need maybe 80 grit. I wouldn't go more than 80 grit because whatever damage you do you will still need to finish it off with finer grit. 

Sounds like some YouTube can help you out. You're getting answers all over the place and some of them not good at all. There are lots of ways to refinish a wood floor and it sounds like your going to need to do the whole thing and not just where the paint is.  Watch a few videos.

Originally posted by @Daniel Hennek :

Sounds like some YouTube can help you out. You're getting answers all over the place and some of them not good at all. There are lots of ways to refinish a wood floor and it sounds like your going to need to do the whole thing and not just where the paint is.  Watch a few videos.

Well, it's not exactly a cacophony. And it turns out that this is a great opportunity to illustrate something interesting about DIY. Why are there multiple answers to the same question, and why do they sometimes conflict?

Here are some of the people talking about this here: I'm a handyman working in my own old, beaten-up C'class properties in western Pennsylvania. @Matt Clark is (please correct me if I'm wrong, Matt) a high-volume property manager who has been in this for over a decade and also worked as a handyman before he stopped. @Mike Reynolds is (please correct me if I'm wrong, Mike), a GC who had filled multiple roles on teams working in new construction and renovation for decades. I don't know @Kris H. , but judging from the posts I've read, he's also a hands-on landlord with clear experience working on his own properties himself in the past. I don't know @Frank Scaffidi at all, but he's giving a good answer here. All of us have different takes on the problem.

Denatured alcohol softens latex paint, turns it into a putty. So does TSP, but not as effectively. What TSP also does is work on heavily soiled areas, including residues of old oil-based paint. The newest property I own is over 45 years old. Even getting my start in Athens, Greece, I worked in poured-concrete masonry apartment buildings. I use oil-based primers and paints on a lot of problem surfaces much more frequently than people working in newer construction. So when I see a paint stain on a floor, I tend to reach for what I know as a general paint cleaner, TSP. When Frank see it, he reaches for acetone (nail polish remover), which is also a strong general solvent, or rubbing alcohol, isopropanol, a less powerful but still highly effective solvent and cleaner.

I talked about green scouring pads, Kris talked about Scotch-Brite. They're the same thing.

I said "a small scraper" because I actually meant a 3/4 in. putty knife, a little guy you can get a lot of pressure behind. Since I'm using TSP, the paint will tend to come off in flakes, not turn into soup. Kris, using alcohol, warns against that. Kris talks about keeping the rubbery putty softened by denatured alchohol out of gaps in the flooring if you use a putty knife.

Mike goes deeper into denatured alcohol, the green and the clear. The green works better as a cleaner. He doesn't know why. Because I was on my high school's trivia team and still enthusiastically collect useless facts, I DO know why. An increased amount of methyl (wood) alcohol, a more powerful solvent than ethanol, is mixed into green alcohol to denature it. If you drink green denatured alcohol, you'll go blind. What's mixed into clear denatured alcohol to denature it is mostly concentrated ipecac extract, stuff to make it stink and taste very bad. This is typically why it takes a much higher dosage of clear denatured alcohol to suffer permanent negative health effects, and you'll be vomiting faster ingesting a similar amount of clear versus green alcohol (kids, don't try this at home!). BTW, in the USA, it's green. In other countries, it's a different color. Greece's is blue, Italy's is pink. Clear is 97% ethanol, colored is 92% ethanol.

The OP got different answers about sanding, too. All my hardwood floors are either 90-year-old+ heartwood pine or white oak. I refinish for utility, not for appearance. I would be going with coarser grades. Mike gives a more measured answer, with finer grades.So does Frank, who also refers to refinishing the whole floor.

Matt posted a link to a coarser paint stripping wheel that only goes on a drill, they make others that go on a grinder, and they're easily confused looking at product pages on a website. These are essentially very beefed up scouring pads. It's faster grinding out paint by machine than doing it by hand, and you can do larger areas without solvent. A grinder is faster and easier to use to do this work than a drill. That is probably the better solution to reach for in areas and situation where you have to avoid spreading stink and get the work done soonest, such as apartment buildings. It might not be as good in tight corners and tight along floor edges, where you often get the kind of drips the OP is talking about.

We're all different. with different ways of coming at the same problem that have worked for us in the past, and in my case, I will almost always give you an answer based on not-so-nice working conditions in old single-family properties that will get you to a good-enough solution. If you have an A-class or a B-class property that you're trying to DIY, much of my advice is a bit rough. Mike has worked much more than I have in different conditions, places where you might be dealing with softer wood flooring materials that can't take the same amount of abuse as a white oak floor that's survived 80, 90 years of being walked on.

What about you, Daniel? What's your experience doing this work?

Originally posted by @Jim K. :
Originally posted by @Daniel Hennek:

Sounds like some YouTube can help you out. You're getting answers all over the place and some of them not good at all. There are lots of ways to refinish a wood floor and it sounds like your going to need to do the whole thing and not just where the paint is.  Watch a few videos.

Well, it's not exactly a cacophony. And it turns out that this is a great opportunity to illustrate something interesting about DIY. Why are there multiple answers to the same question, and why do they sometimes conflict?

Here are some of the people talking about this here: I'm a handyman working in my own old, beaten-up C'class properties in western Pennsylvania. @Matt Clark is (please correct me if I'm wrong, Matt) a high-volume property manager who has been in this for over a decade and also worked as a handyman before he stopped. @Mike Reynolds is (please correct me if I'm wrong, Mike), a GC who had filled multiple roles on teams working in new construction and renovation for decades. I don't know Account Closed at all, but he's giving a good answer here. All of us have different takes on the problem.

Denatured alcohol softens latex paint, turns it into a putty. So does TSP, but not as effectively. What TSP also does is work on heavily soiled areas, including residues of old oil-based paint. The newest property I own is over 45 years old. Even getting my start in Athens, Greece, I worked in poured-concrete masonry apartment buildings. I use oil-based primers and paints on a lot of problem surfaces much more frequently than people working in newer construction. So when I see a paint stain on a floor, I tend to reach for what I know as a general paint cleaner, TSP. When Frank see it, he reaches for acetone (nail polish remover), which is also a strong general solvent, or rubbing alcohol, isopropanol, a less powerful but still highly effective solvent and cleaner.

I talked about green scouring pads, Kris talked about Scotch-Brite. They're the same thing.

I said "a small scraper" because I actually meant a 3/4 in. putty knife, a little guy you can get a lot of pressure behind. Since I'm using TSP, the paint will tend to come off in flakes, not turn into soup. Kris, using alcohol, warns against that. Kris talks about keeping the rubbery putty softened by denatured alchohol out of gaps in the flooring if you use a putty knife.

Mike goes deeper into denatured alcohol, the green and the clear. The green works better as a cleaner. He doesn't know why. Because I was on my high school's trivia team and still enthusiastically collect useless facts, I DO know why. An increased amount of methyl (wood) alcohol, a more powerful solvent than ethanol, is mixed into green alcohol to denature it. If you drink green denatured alcohol, you'll go blind. What's mixed into clear denatured alcohol to denature it is mostly concentrated ipecac extract, stuff to make it stink and taste very bad. This is typically why it takes a much higher dosage of clear denatured alcohol to suffer permanent negative health effects, and you'll be vomiting faster ingesting a similar amount of clear versus green alcohol (kids, don't try this at home!). BTW, in the USA, it's green. In other countries, it's a different color. Greece's is blue, Italy's is pink. Clear is 97% ethanol, colored is 92% ethanol.

The OP got different answers about sanding, too. All my hardwood floors are either 90-year-old+ heartwood pine or white oak. I refinish for utility, not for appearance. I would be going with coarser grades. Mike gives a more measured answer, with finer grades.So does Frank, who also refers to refinishing the whole floor.

Matt posted a link to a coarser paint stripping wheel that only goes on a drill, they make others that go on a grinder, and they're easily confused looking at product pages on a website. These are essentially very beefed up scouring pads. It's faster grinding out paint by machine than doing it by hand, and you can do larger areas without solvent. A grinder is faster and easier to use to do this work than a drill. That is probably the better solution to reach for in areas and situation where you have to avoid spreading stink and get the work done soonest, such as apartment buildings. It might not be as good in tight corners and tight along floor edges, where you often get the kind of drips the OP is talking about.

We're all different. with different ways of coming at the same problem that have worked for us in the past, and in my case, I will almost always give you an answer based on not-so-nice working conditions in old single-family properties that will get you to a good-enough solution. If you have an A-class or a B-class property that you're trying to DIY, much of my advice is a bit rough. Mike has worked much more than I have in different conditions, places where you might be dealing with softer wood flooring materials that can't take the same amount of abuse as a white oak floor that's survived 80, 90 years of being walked on.

What about you, Daniel? What's your experience doing this work?

Good info there. Didn't know that about the green alcohol. 

 

Originally posted by @Jim K. :
Originally posted by @Daniel Hennek:

Sounds like some YouTube can help you out. You're getting answers all over the place and some of them not good at all. There are lots of ways to refinish a wood floor and it sounds like your going to need to do the whole thing and not just where the paint is.  Watch a few videos.

Well, it's not exactly a cacophony. And it turns out that this is a great opportunity to illustrate something interesting about DIY. Why are there multiple answers to the same question, and why do they sometimes conflict?

Here are some of the people talking about this here: I'm a handyman working in my own old, beaten-up C'class properties in western Pennsylvania. @Matt Clark is (please correct me if I'm wrong, Matt) a high-volume property manager who has been in this for over a decade and also worked as a handyman before he stopped. @Mike Reynolds is (please correct me if I'm wrong, Mike), a GC who had filled multiple roles on teams working in new construction and renovation for decades. I don't know Account Closed at all, but he's giving a good answer here. All of us have different takes on the problem.

Denatured alcohol softens latex paint, turns it into a putty. So does TSP, but not as effectively. What TSP also does is work on heavily soiled areas, including residues of old oil-based paint. The newest property I own is over 45 years old. Even getting my start in Athens, Greece, I worked in poured-concrete masonry apartment buildings. I use oil-based primers and paints on a lot of problem surfaces much more frequently than people working in newer construction. So when I see a paint stain on a floor, I tend to reach for what I know as a general paint cleaner, TSP. When Frank see it, he reaches for acetone (nail polish remover), which is also a strong general solvent, or rubbing alcohol, isopropanol, a less powerful but still highly effective solvent and cleaner.

I talked about green scouring pads, Kris talked about Scotch-Brite. They're the same thing.

I said "a small scraper" because I actually meant a 3/4 in. putty knife, a little guy you can get a lot of pressure behind. Since I'm using TSP, the paint will tend to come off in flakes, not turn into soup. Kris, using alcohol, warns against that. Kris talks about keeping the rubbery putty softened by denatured alchohol out of gaps in the flooring if you use a putty knife.

Mike goes deeper into denatured alcohol, the green and the clear. The green works better as a cleaner. He doesn't know why. Because I was on my high school's trivia team and still enthusiastically collect useless facts, I DO know why. An increased amount of methyl (wood) alcohol, a more powerful solvent than ethanol, is mixed into green alcohol to denature it. If you drink green denatured alcohol, you'll go blind. What's mixed into clear denatured alcohol to denature it is mostly concentrated ipecac extract, stuff to make it stink and taste very bad. This is typically why it takes a much higher dosage of clear denatured alcohol to suffer permanent negative health effects, and you'll be vomiting faster ingesting a similar amount of clear versus green alcohol (kids, don't try this at home!). BTW, in the USA, it's green. In other countries, it's a different color. Greece's is blue, Italy's is pink. Clear is 97% ethanol, colored is 92% ethanol.

The OP got different answers about sanding, too. All my hardwood floors are either 90-year-old+ heartwood pine or white oak. I refinish for utility, not for appearance. I would be going with coarser grades. Mike gives a more measured answer, with finer grades.So does Frank, who also refers to refinishing the whole floor.

Matt posted a link to a coarser paint stripping wheel that only goes on a drill, they make others that go on a grinder, and they're easily confused looking at product pages on a website. These are essentially very beefed up scouring pads. It's faster grinding out paint by machine than doing it by hand, and you can do larger areas without solvent. A grinder is faster and easier to use to do this work than a drill. That is probably the better solution to reach for in areas and situation where you have to avoid spreading stink and get the work done soonest, such as apartment buildings. It might not be as good in tight corners and tight along floor edges, where you often get the kind of drips the OP is talking about.

We're all different. with different ways of coming at the same problem that have worked for us in the past, and in my case, I will almost always give you an answer based on not-so-nice working conditions in old single-family properties that will get you to a good-enough solution. If you have an A-class or a B-class property that you're trying to DIY, much of my advice is a bit rough. Mike has worked much more than I have in different conditions, places where you might be dealing with softer wood flooring materials that can't take the same amount of abuse as a white oak floor that's survived 80, 90 years of being walked on.

What about you, Daniel? What's your experience doing this work? 

Seems as if you didn't like my comment and now you're challenging me?  Maybe not, but I'll bite because it's early and my coffee is hot...

I did my first complete remodel by my self when I was 25, flooring, cabinets, painting inside and out, counter tops (Corian I cut myself), new light fixtures, installing a new bathtub, tiling a new shower and lots more.  Bought the house with a mortgage I qualified for myself.  Bought the tools I needed for each job and did them myself with help from a friend only on certain things like mounting cabinets and setting the tub.

My grandfather was a die maker by trade and fine woodworker on the side, my other grandfather was a builder.  My father was a die maker by trade and still a fine woodworker.  I recently built a 4,400 sq ft shop on my property where I did the GC and paid framers, roofers, plumbers and electricians then I did the rest with cabinets, flooring, painting, compressed air system, air exchanger, trim, doors, baseboard, etc.  In that shop is a 1200 sq ft wood shop with automatic dust collection with gates, and more wood working tools than some professionals including a CNC table.  I can make or build just about anything one man can not only because I have the skills but the tools as well.

Doing all of those things was easier because I watched a lot of that type of work get done throughout my entire life.  Watching someone do it is a hundred times more valuable than coming on here and reading long winded posts.  Nothing against long winded posts.  I myself am definitely long winded, but it's not the best type of help for refinishing a floor when we have YouTube and 1,000 videos where you can watch someone do it.  People learn better watching because they like to talk or type much more than they like to read.

I'm confused. If you are re-staining the floor, the paint should come up when you sand the floors in prep for that. Am I missing something?

Originally posted by @Jim K. :

@Daniel Hennek

Once we start with the family history...oh boy.

The biggest problem with YouTube is that anybody can post on it. See anything wrong with this video?

How to Sand An Old Wood Floor

 So I was right, you just wanted to build yourself up by breaking someone down my "family history was 2 sentences and it was to make the point that watching is valuable I doubt you disagree.  In any case, I hope you feel better. Good on you big guy

Originally posted by @Daniel Hennek :
Originally posted by @Jim K.:

@Daniel Hennek

Once we start with the family history...oh boy.

The biggest problem with YouTube is that anybody can post on it. See anything wrong with this video?

How to Sand An Old Wood Floor

 So I was right, you just wanted to build yourself up by breaking someone down my "family history was 2 sentences and it was to make the point that watching is valuable I doubt you disagree.  In any case, I hope you feel better. Good on you big guy

Easy fellas.  I bet Daniel and Jim would get along great in real life.  Who else goes this deep about sanding floors?  Bet you'll both have a chuckle over this some day.

Just wanted to add my go-to, the pull scraper.  No blob or drip survives my pull scraper.  No solvents or damage when pulled levelly and it's the thick stuff that turns into blobs when the sander hits.   Carry on.

 

My suggestion is to refinish the entire floor if it is in good shape other than the paint. Don't have to go crazy and rent a drum sander, especially if it is a rental. 

Rent a 20" floor buffer from home depot, buy a pad for it and a few 120 grit sanding screens. It looks like a mesh.

Run the buffer with just the white pad for a while to get the hang of it. Keep the buffer on your hips. When you lean up, it will naturally go right. When you slightly push down it will go left on you. Once you get the hang of it buff the entire floor using a couple sanding screens. Vaccuum it all up, and tack cloth the entire floor. Do 1 coat of waterbase poly using a high quality roller, wait 12 hours and buff again. Do one last coat of poly and you practically have brand new hardwood floors.

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