Dining Room Woodwork, Before + After
We have been asked a lot of questions about the process used to refinish our Douglas fir woodwork and have finally wised up enough to write it down!
We tried many different methods to strip paint off the woodwork, everything from off the shelf Home Depot chemical strippers to the Silent Paint Remover.
Although we really liked The Silent Paint Remover, it was too bulky to fit into small corners and I had difficulty using it on surfaces that weren’t flat. In the end, a chemical paint stripper called Master Strip, Formula A Remover sold in 5 gallon drums from the McBride company (Los Angeles, CA 818.507.8900) was the weapon of choice. Be sure to wear a respirator and to have good ventilation because this stuff is toxic.
The stripper was brushed on with a paint brush, allowed to sit until it started to work and scrapped off with a wide putty knife. This process is repeated until all the paint was removed.
Here is a trick to remove any paint residue left on the wood. Brush on the paint stripper and use steel wool to wipe it off. This will also help to sand down any of the wood grain that was raised by the chemical paint stripper.
It is difficult to remove paint from cracks or crevices. People with the patience of Saints use dental tools to go in and chip out all the particles of paint. That didn’t happen at our house. A good effort was made to remove all visible paint but the paint in cracks and crevices was dealt with after the wood was stained and I’ll explain the way that was handled once we get through the staining process.
Any cracks, holes or gouges in the wood were filled in with *gasp* Bondo Body Filler, which is normally used in car repair. Bondo has several things going for it. It’s cheaper and more pliable than wood fillers and putties. It is also a brown-red color that blends in well and is barely notable once the wood is stained.
Finally, lightly sand the wood with a handheld sander.
Wood That Was Originally Painted (instead of stained)
If the woodwork you are stripping was originally painted, the wood will need heavy sanding prior to staining.
To bleach or not to bleach…ah, that is the question.
This step is not necessary in many cases. It really depends on your situation and the type of look you are after.
The original finish on our woodwork was very dark, almost black. If our woodwork had never been touched and was in original pristine condition, I would have learned to live with the dark wood, although it’s not my taste. But our woodwork had been touched, many times. We decided to refinish the wood in a lighter tone more to our liking.
Perhaps because our woodwork was originally so dark the grain of the wood stood out and was considerably darker after stain was applied. We wanted a more uniform finish so a bleaching product was applied. This allowed the wood to accept the stain evenly.
A word of caution, be sure to tape off the edges of the floor with several layers of painter’s tape because the bleach will run off the baseboards and onto the floor. We found this out the hard way.
A furniture wood bleach product was used. It comes in a bag and you follow the directions on the bag regarding mixing the product and the amount of time to leave it on. You will need to wear a respirator, goggles to protect your eyes and gloves to protect your skin.
The bleach is brushed on and left per the manufacturer’s instructions. Bleach was left on our wood for a few hours. The bleach is washed off with water soaked rags and a bucket of water. You will need to change the water bucket often and to rinse the wood several times to be sure all the bleach is removed.
Let the wood dry overnight.
Wood That Was Originally Painted
The bleaching step was skipped for our upstairs woodwork which was originally painted. Bleach was not necessary to get an even stain coverage.
Select several stain colors that you think you will like and apply the colors to your woodwork. Apply a large enough portion so that you can get a clear idea of what the different stains will look like. It is also good to view the stains at different times of the day because the color will shift depending on the light. Another thing to keep in mind is that the stain will get slightly darker after varnish is applied.
Don’t be afraid to mix different stains together to achieve just the right color. Be sure to write your formula down, especially if you are planning on doing another room in the future. Another lesson learned the hard way.
We have used Watco brand Danish oils and also a mixture of several Minwax stains with great success. I don’t see any benefit of using one over the other.
Apply a light coat of stain with a soft, clean rag. Let it sit on the wood for a little bit, then very lightly wipe it off with a clean rag. A cotton tee shirt type of material works well. After that coat dries, keep adding coats and letting them dry until you achieve the desired color.
The dining room which was done earlier is actually a slightly different color than the rest of the wood in the house. Another thing to keep in mind is that the color will get a little darker after the varnish is applied.
Here are the 2 “recipes” that were used in our house:
Watco Danish Oils – 3 parts Dark Walnut to 1 part Cherry
Living Room, Den and Back Porch woodwork:
Minwax Stains – 2 parts Special Walnut, 1.5 parts Cherry, .5 Red Oak
Just mix all the colors up in a big bucket.
Now is the time to touch up any tiny places and specs where the paint wasn’t removed. The stain will make these areas stand out so they will be easy to see. Mix some paint until it is the color of the stain. With a small brush carefully paint over all the little spots where the paint wasn’t removed. Allow to dry.
The varnish was a mixture of 2 parts clear coat, one part semi gloss. This can be applied several ways. It can be lightly brushed on but you can end up with visible brush strokes. A better and faster way to get a smooth finish is to spray on the varnish using a paint sprayer.
Either approach will require 3 to 4 light coats of varnish. Allow the varnish to dry between coats.
After the final coat of varnish has dried overnight, lightly sand all the woodwork with a very fine grade of steel wool.
A lot of people have had good luck sealing their woodwork with shellac or Linseed oil instead of varnish.
It is best to strip off all the paint first. If you have layers of painted wallpaper covering your walls like we did, now is a good time to remove it and patch the walls. If you wait to work on the walls until after refinishing the wood, you risk damaging the finish on the woodwork.
After the wallpaper has been removed you can see if repair work is needed on your plaster walls. Once you have addressed your walls you can begin bleaching and/or staining your woodwork.
After the varnish has been applied and is dried, you can tape off the woodwork with painters tape, and prime and paint your ceiling and walls.