Surface Preparation

Tools and methods we use, don't use, and why.

We do practically all paint removal by hand scraping or hand sanding, when we do need to use other methods we want you to understand what we will and will not use on your home. Please ask and find out how careful the other contractors plan on being when removing the paint from your historical home!

  • Orbital sander: We do use these!
    Designed as a finishing or smoothing tool--not for the removal of multiple layers of paint--the orbital sander is thus recommended when limited paint removal is required prior to repainting.
  • Belt sander: We Do Not Use!
    A second type of power tool, the belt sander, can also be used for removing limited layers of paint, but in this case, the abrasive surface is a continuous belt of sandpaper that travels at high speeds and consequently offers much less control than the orbital sander. Because of the potential for more damage to the paint or the wood, use of the belt sander (also with a medium grit sandpaper) should be limited to flat surfaces and only skilled operators should be permitted to operate.
  • Rotary Drill Attachments: We Do Not Use!
    Rotary drill attachments such as the rotary sanding disc and the rotary wire stripper should be avoided . The disc sander, usually a disc of sandpaper about 5 inches in diameter secured to a rubber based attachment, which is in turn connected to an electric drill or other motorized housing, can easily leave visible circular depressions in the wood which are difficult to hide, even with repainting. The rotary wire stripper made with clusters of metals wires similarly attached to an electric drill-type unit, can actually shred a wooden surface.
  • Water blasting: We Do Not Use!
    Water blasting above 600 p.s.i. to remove paint is not recommended because it can force water into the woodwork rather than cleaning loose paint and grime from the surface; at worst, high pressure water blasting causes the water to penetrate through siding and into the exterior sheathing and damages interior finishes.
  • Sandblasting: We Do Not Use!
Sandblasting painted exterior woodwork will indeed remove paint, but at the same time can scar wooden elements beyond recognition. As with rotary wire strippers, sandblasting erodes the soft porous fibers (spring wood) faster than the hard, dense fibers (summer wood), leaving a pitted surface with ridges and valleys. Sandblasting will also erode projecting areas of carvings and moldings before it removes paint from concave areas. Hence, this abrasive method is potentially the most damaging of all possibilities, even if a contractor promises that blast pressure can be controlled so that the paint is removed without harming the historic exterior woodwork. Undoubtedly the most vehemently "not recommended.”

    Thermal Methods

Where exterior surface conditions have been identified that warrant total paint removal such as peeling, cracking, or alligatoring, thermal devices have proven to be quite successful for use on the many different wooden elements of historic buildings.

  • Electric heat gun: We do use these!
    It has an electrical resistance coil that typically heats between 500 and 750 degrees Fahrenheit. There are some heat guns that operate at higher temperatures but they should not be purchased for removing old paint because of the danger of lead paint vapors. A fan forces a stream of hot air against the painted woodwork, causing a blister to form. Although a heat gun seldom scorches wood, it can cause fires (like the blow torch). A fire may smolder for hours before flames break through to the surface. Therefore, this thermal device is best suited for use on solid decorative elements, such as molding, balusters, fretwork, or "gingerbread." We only use these units on a very small percentage of our homes!
  • Ask the other contractors how much they will depend on their heat guns for paint removal.
  • Infrared Paint Removal: We do use these!
    The latest technology in paint removal has become well-known and accepted within the industry in various countries around the world. The unit is silent, and gentle on the environment. It is less damaging to the wood surface and it make cleanup much easier.
  • The Silent Paint Remover
  • This is the unit that we use on 90% of the home, no worries about fire hazards!
  • Electric heat plate: We Do Not Use!
    The electric heat plate operates between 500 and 800 degrees Fahrenheit. With practice, the operator can successfully move the heat plate evenly across a flat surface such as wooden siding or a window sill or door in a continuous motion, thus lessening the risk of scorching the wood in an attempt to reheat the edge of the paint sufficiently for effective removal. Since the electric heat plate's coil is "red hot," extreme caution should be taken to avoid igniting clothing or burning the skin. A heat plate could overload a circuit, or even worse, cause an electrical fire; therefore, it is recommended that this implement be used with a single circuit and that a fire extinguisher always be kept close at hand.

Chemical Strippers

  • We only use one kind of stripper on your home, and its environmentally friendly, cleans up with water, won’t hurt your plants, won’t hurt your skin, won’t hurt anything. Its slow, steady, goopy...kind of a pain to use which is why nobody else in the area uses it, but we do because its so safe it won’t hurt anybody's priceless wood. It just takes a few extra days to eat thru a hundred years of paint. It is expensive, costs $75.00 a gallon, but we would not use anything else on our 1850’s farm house, and we won’t on your home either!
  • We recommend the following Paint Stripper: Multi-Strip Professional Paint Remover It is biodegradable, non-flammable, and contains no methylene chloride or caustic.

    Washing The Exterior

  • Power Washing: We never allow one on the property!
  • Power washers are dangerous and difficult to use. You can write you name in the side of a house using a power washer at half power. The average person hired at most paint companies have no more than the most basic instruction on how to use a power washer. When you wash a house, it needs to be scrubbed 100%. Using a power washer, it is impossible to guarantee 100% coverage. The washing is spotty, at best.
  • Your home is covered with a chalky film which is caused by deteriorating paint, grease, grime and decaying particles falling from the atmosphere.
  • When we hand wash a house, we guarantee it is clean! A clean house will give us the best adhesion we can get. The best adhesion will give us the best longest lasting paint job. The best longest lasting paint job will save you money! Saving you money will make you love us! You Love us, Elgin will love us! Elgin loves us….We stay in business...YAH!!!!
  • Check the work of the OTHER painter:

    When he is done washing your home, after it is totally dry, walk around to four different areas and wipe your dry hand over your siding….your clean hand should come away completely clean...not even a touch of powdery chalk should be seen. The best is to reach out of a second story window and do this. Anywhere there is chalk, is where the new paint is going to peel in a year or two…..long after the “cheaper” painter is out of the picture.