The stripping and removal of paint is a pretty radical—and arduous—task. Start by using 600-grit wet/dry silicon-carbide sandpaper wrapped around a sanding block to sand smooth any big blobs of dried paint. Dip the sandpaper into a bucket of water and use a plant mister filled with water to wet the painted wood. Sand lightly, keeping the surface wet at all times, and frequently rinse the sandpaper in the bucket. When done, take a garden hose and rinse any pigment or sanding residue off nearby siding. You don't want pigment-tinted runoff to dry in place and stain the siding.
If you don’t want to hand-sand—and who could blame you—use a random-orbit sander fitted with a 36-grit aluminum-oxide stearated sanding disc. The aggressive-cutting abrasive will quickly grind through the paint top coat. Just be sure to empty the sander's dust-collection bag frequently. Better yet, hook the sander up to a wet/dry shop vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter.
For areas that are in really bad shape, stripping off the paint might save you some time over sanding. Remember to protect adjacent siding with painter's tape, not regular masking tape, which is only good for common household (non-painting) applications. Spread drop cloths on the pavement, lawn or nearby shrubbery to protect them from falling gobs of goo. But be aware that the stripper only softens paint. You'll have to scrape it off using a wide assortment of flat, angled, and contoured metal paint scrapers.
When stripping paint, many do-it-yourselfers overlook the following important step: A newly stripped surface typically needs to be neutralized and rinsed clean before a fresh coat of primer and paint can be applied. Otherwise, the residual chemicals in the stripper can discolor the new paint and prevent it from securely bonding to the wood’s surface.
Each paint-stripper manufacturer recommends a specific neutralizer, which could range from a mild acidic solution to a quick wipe with a clean cloth moistened with paint thinner. Carefully read the directions and precautions on the paint-stripper label. (For more detailed information, visit the manufacturer’s website or call its customer service hotline.)
Finally, check with your town about how to properly dispose of the paint-stripper gunk that you scrape off the house trim. It may contain lead. And even if it doesn't, you may need to dispose of the stripped paint as if it were hazardous waste.
Paint stripping is already hard and dirty work. Don't make it worse by not protecting yourself.
Old paint is brittle, and chips can fly off a scraper, so wear safety glasses. Make that wrap-around safety goggles if you're working overhead or using paint stripper, which can splash.
Wear work gloves for handling scrapers and sandpaper. When working with paint stripper, you'll need chemical-resistant gloves, not the kind used for washing dishes.
A dust mask or respirator should have an R95 rating. A better mask will have a P100 rating, which is especially necessary if there's lead in the paint. When stripping paint, you should wear a dual-cartridge respirator that’s rated to protect against organic vapors.
The Tools You Need to Strip Paint
600 Wet-Or-Dry Sandpaper
Sungold Abrasives Aluminum Oxide Stearated Sanding Discs
Tarvol 4-inch Putty Knife
NoCry Wrap-Around Lenses
ThxToms Heavy Duty Latex Gloves
SAS Safety 8621 R95 Particulate Respirator