Steam Paint Removal (with video)
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Michael
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 26, 2006 11:44 pm    Post subject: floor paint steaming Reply with quote

Hello John

Your website came up as the first thing when I entered "steaming paint" in google.

I happened upon this method when the old house that I am restoring needed some help in the floor department. The kitchen had had 60 year old (I found local newspapers with political cartoons featuring Hitler under the linoleum) linoleum, backed by some strange felt and heavy glue. That was on top of what I have to think is a couple of lead based layers of paint. The house is a 125-year old rowhouse in Fishtown - a neighborhood of Philadelphia.

I had previously used a wallpaper steamer ($50 Wagner steamer at Home Depot) on wallpaper and thought it might be good to help get the felt up off the floor. That was when I discovered the other layers of paint. I had to do two passes, but on the second pass, the paint practically turned to liquid and was able to be removed like I was mopping up a spill.(it works great, I think largely because the steamer surface area is like 12 by 8 inches and the steam is contained for 5-10 seconds flat on the ground)

I stopped what I was doing after a few hours, since even with a respirator (the kind that has filters on either side, not just a mask) my throat felt slightly raw. It was then that I thought I might better do a little more research. No one had really tried this method that I talked to so they could not speak to long term effects (to me as well as to the wood) etc.

It makes sense, as you indicate, that this method would keep airborne lead particles to a minimum, but do you know of any other associated risks ? I am outfitted like the pictures, but I wonder if there is not more I should do. Would it be faster if I were to just get a floor sander in and bulldoze through all this stuff ? (that is my next step - I am looking forward to sanding these beautiful old floorboards that have largely gone untreated for over 100 years though they have been covered and therefore remain in good condition)

thanks for your info and help

Michael O'Reilly
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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 27, 2006 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I am outfitted like the pictures...


Like they say in the song, there is more to being a cowboy than wearing the outfit.

It is good that you stopped if you thought something was going wrong.

It's hard to say why you throat felt raw, it may or may not have something to do with your removal or your respirator. There is more to effectively protecting your self with a respirator than simply putting it on. You have to make sure it fits your face and creates an air-tight seal. You have to use fresh filters and replace them freqently enough. You have to keep your respirator clean by washing it after every use. You have to replace the valve parts once in a while. Well, you get the picture.

You are removing some unusual materials, so it's hard to tell what fumes or dust you might be creating. Also you have to effectively clean up and dispose of your removal debris, which can recontaminate the place if you'r not careful.

Sanding methods are bound to generate a lot of dust, not only from the wood, but also possibly residue of what was on the wood, and very likely what ever is in the joints at the edges of the boards. They also grind away the somewhat irregular surface of the wood, which may be a substantial part of its historic character. We hardly ever do any sanding.

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Hugh Craft House



Joined: 27 Nov 2005
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Location: Holly Springs, Mississippi

PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2006 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

John:

In this steam business, is it POSSIBLE to control paint layer removal (my 1851 woodwork only has two layers on top of the original) in order to salvage the original paint scheme for restoration and the original graining, for restoration? I really don't wish to destroy it and redo all anew..and do not intend for the finished product to look like a brand new 1851 house interior. Reality being that it is over 150 years old, after all.

Am I better trying one of thso infrared devices?

Chelius H. Carter
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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 18, 2006 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have only used it for complete paint removal. But, I would not expect it to be successful going down to a specific layer.

If you want to save an original decorative layer the methods that usually work are using a binocular microscope and surgeon's scalpel and "picking" off the upper layers. The scapel has a certian springyness that works pretty well, especially when a layer of soil was left on top of the original paint that acts as a release agent. But this is square inch by square inch work, tedious and costly if you are paying by the hour.

Also tedious and costly is selective chemical removal of the upper layers, using solvents that work on the upper layers, but do not damage the original paint. You have to have historical paint chemistry and modern chemistry knowledge to test the paint layers and figure out which solvents will work on which layers of paint.

Infra-red lamp strippers are not likely to work well on selective layer stripping--they are far to powerful and uncontroable.

One method that does work very, very well is light-color-controlled laser burning. The 1/4" diameter laser beam burns down to a layer of a certain color and when that color is picked up by a special color sensor, it shuts off the laser. This is a little faster than picking or chemical, but still slow-slow-slow. The folks who have this equipment charge $100-400/hour. The equipment costs $40-80,000. It is usually used for art conservation.

On projects I've been on we pick off several square inches or a couple square feet to determine the original paint appearance and then reproduce that with decorative paint methods right over the existing top coat.

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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2006 5:19 pm    Post subject: Steamer Testing Reply with quote

We tested the Euro-Pro model EP93 Vapor Steam Cleaner, and found that it did not work for Steam Paint Removal.

This is a well-built unit that hold 2 liters of water, and brings it up to 240 degrees F. under 4 bars (58.8psi) of pressure, with electrical at 1500 watts at 120 volts. It provides a blast of steam from the nozzle at the end of its hose. This unit is in the class of devices that claims to provide water vapor at a significantly higher temperature than the 212degree point at which water boils at atmospheric pressure.

We tried holding the nozzle 1-2" from the surface of the paint. The blast of steam was quite strong and made a plume of steam 4-5' high. We measured the temperature of the paint film with an infra-red surface reading electronic thermometer. The maximum temperature achieved with 2 minutes of exposure was 135 degrees F.--not hot enough to soften the paint.

We tried containing the steam against the surface within a 4" diameter by 4" height plastic cylinderical container. With a 2 minute exposure this achieved a paint temperation of 186 degrees F.--not hot enough to soften the paint.

The blast of steam seems to also move a lot of cooler air past the surface keeping it below the 190-205 degrees F. needed to soften the paint.

Watch for photos of this test in the soon-to-be-released Practical Restoration Report on Steam Paint Removal.

Test Data:


Plain Blast

Seconds Temp.F.

before 83 degrees
30 83
60 135
90 143
120 135


Contained Blast

Seconds Temp.F.

before 86 degrees
30 189
60 186
90 186
120 186

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woodturner



Joined: 23 May 2006
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Location: Western Pennsylvania

PostPosted: Sun May 28, 2006 6:38 pm    Post subject: Steam removal trial Reply with quote

I am a homeowner restoring my 1930's colonial in Western Pennsylvania. The prior owner apparently believed in painting every 4 years, so I have heavy paint buildup on everything.

I tried using a steam iron in a test of steam paint removal, but it did not have any effect on the paint.

I have recently been experimenting with a Harbor Freight Wallpaper steamer. This unit has a "pot" with a heating element that heats the water, and then the steam travels up a vinyl hose to the head.

Using a nozzle, I had good success stripping paint from the dentil molding of the front door trim. This nozzle is just a tube with a 1/8" opening.

Yesterday I tried stripping the side jambs of the door - flat areas about 6" wide, the height of the door.

The nozzle worked, but was extremely slow - only about 1" or so was softened at a time, and it took a minute or so to soften that. I tried the "wallpaper" nozzle - an 8" x 12" plate - but it was too large to seal well and lost too much steam, so it didn't really work.

I gave up and used a heat gun. I may experiment later with building a 4" x 4" or so head from foil faced poly foam sheathing.

After reading this forum, though, I'm wondering what volume of steam is required, and whether this unit can produce enough steam. Do the commercial steamers produce more steam? What is the process, and how much steam do they produce?

Thanks.
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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Sun May 28, 2006 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steam Iron for clothing: No Go. (see earlier in discussion)

What is the wattage rating for the Harbor Freight steamer?

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woodturner



Joined: 23 May 2006
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Location: Western Pennsylvania

PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2006 6:22 am    Post subject: HF steamer specification Reply with quote

johnleeke wrote:
Steam Iron for clothing: No Go. (see earlier in discussion)

What is the wattage rating for the Harbor Freight steamer?


From their website:
120V, 1200 watts
4.5 liters/1.2 gallon tank capacity
Working temp: 212? Fahrenheit
http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=91098

Mostly I wanted to try something inexpensive to try out the method and see how well it worked for my application.

Having tried it, I had a lot of trouble with the wood "fraying" due to the moisture, particularly on the intricate trim details. I gather that's inherent with this method, but please advise if there is a way around this.

Thanks.
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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2006 7:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
had a lot of trouble with the wood "fraying" due to the moisture, particularly on the intricate trim details. I gather that's inherent with this method, but please advise if there is a way around this.


We are developing several ways around fraying, or scruffing. See the section, "Controlling wood surface damage" earlier in this discussion for techniques to reduce scruffing.

Shortening the length of steaming time will help, yet you still need to transfer enough heat to the paint film. Your steamer's rating of 1200watts is somewhat less than the 1500+watt units we are having best success with. A unit with more watts is able to transfer more heat to the paint in a shorter time resulting in softer paint and dryer wood which will not scruff up so easily.

Scruffing can happen easily when areas of bare wood are exposed before steaming begins. If you cannot keep from steaming and scraping bare wood, then Steam Paint Removal may not be the best method to use.

Steam Paint Removal is not the magic be-all end-all of paint removal--no single removal method can ever be that. This is true because paint conditions are so variable, from job to job, wall to wall, and even in difference areas on the same wall. We often use a mix of methods, selecting the method to match the paint conditions and job situation.

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Last edited by johnleeke on Mon May 29, 2006 10:53 am; edited 1 time in total
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jade



Joined: 11 Feb 2005
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Location: Hawley MA

PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2006 9:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Allow me to add my comments....

Until someone comes up with a solution to the wood 'threading' as a result of the steam, I will confine my steam use to glazing removal--it works wonders there. I do have a steam cabinet into which I place the whole sash. Once removed from the cabinet, I will do a test scrape on the wood and if it begins to 'thread', I stop and just remove the putty.

As far as removing paint from the wood, I use a heat gun. I have used Wagner, Bosch and Milwaukee heatguns and prefer the Wagner for weight and ease of use which is a VERY significant concern considering how many hours you will be using it. I use either 'C' clamps or screw 1"x1" cleats onto my bench to hold the sash down for this agressive work. Some on this forum have made workbench tops with a grate where debris can fall directly below into a garbage can. I wait a few minutes until the paint scraps have cooled off before deposting them in the trash.....(safe lead disposal is a whole other story...)

I have a Silent Paint Remover...it fell off my workbench and both bulbs broke, that is one of the reasons I haven't used it since the incident. The other reason is that the SPR heats paint sufficient for removal in 30 seconds or so. While you are scraping the just heated area, the SPR is moved on to the next spot. The area being scraped sometimes requires more than 30 seconds of work and before you know it, the next area is ready to be scraped--argh, this gets me all anxious. Sure you can set the SPR aside, but then the power is being wasted and that does not sit well with me. Steve (who is offline at the moment during a move) uses his SPR and a mechanical arm--not unlike the set up on the light above your head at the dentist's office) that allows him to continually move the machine on to the next spot without having to make sure the SPR is sitting just right on the work surface. This mechanical arm is available from the makers of the SPR. From what I understand the SPR is now being made in the US and the price has dropped by $100!

Speaking of my workbench......I hear it beckoning me!

...Jade
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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2006 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Silent Paint Remover mentioned above is an infra-red lamp type device.

There are now two makes of infra-red lamp strippers that look extremely similar, which leads to some confusion. The original "Speedheater System AB˘" was developed in Sweeden and is still imported from there for the US market by Eco-Strip in Virginia. Viking Sales of New York State makes another product, the "Silent Paint Remover˘", describing it as the "new Model Next Generation." Adding to the confusion is that one of the features, very quiet operation, is promoted by both makes, and the word "speedheater" is still used by both in their marketing. They both are currently retailing for just under $400.

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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2006 12:40 pm    Post subject: Steam box developments Reply with quote

To reduce "threading" or scruffing of the wood surface, you must reduce the cause of the scruffing, which is, in part, the liquid water that is soaking into the surface of bare wood that is exposed to the steam. For example, try operating your steam box vertically, so the sashes are vertical during steaming. In this way, the liquid water will run off the surface of the wood, allow the latent heat in the steam to transfer to the paint more readily, and reduce the amount of liquid water that is soaking into the surface of the wood. When you are placing a sash in the steam box that has a lot of bare wood exposed on the lower rail, place the sash in the box so the lower rail is up. This way there will be less liquid water dribbling down onto the bare wood surfaces.

Also, more steam and less air during steaming are good strategies for reducing the length of the steam time and scruffing. You have to effeciently displace the air in the steam box with steam. Try putting the steam hose in at the top of the box and setting up a "port" (small opening) at the bottom of the steam box, and keep it open at the beginning of the steam cycle to let the air out of the box as it fills with steam from the top down. When the steam gets down to the port, close it up. In this way the steam fills the box from the top down, effeciently displacing the air with steam. Otherwise the steam and air tend to get mixed together, which means a good part of the heat energy in the steam is "wasted" as it concenses within the cooler air.

Also, also, I happen to have two steamers here, and when I run them both into one steam box the steaming time is shorter, the paint is softer, the wood surface is less saturated and there is less scruffing. This is confirmed by other shops running two of the 1500watt steamers into one box.

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Tad Cooler



Joined: 25 Oct 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 1:41 am    Post subject: Varnish removal Reply with quote

Have you tried this method on varnish / shellac removal. I need to strip a bunch of wainscot paneling and usually use stripper, sanding and scraping. Would the steam effect the color of the wood. It will be clear coated again.
Thanks
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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 6:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

All of my own work with this method has been with heavy buildup of old oil-based paint on wood. I did see a recent case of it's working well on a heavy buildup of oil-based paint on a sheet metal roof.

I have not tried it on varnish or shellac. Let us know your results if you do.

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JLee



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 06, 2006 9:26 am    Post subject: steam on shellac Reply with quote

I too am curious about using steam on a shellaced surface. I have dozens of 12 over 1's that were originally finished that way. I've been using peel away on the interior and the SPR on the exterior. The glazing comes out fairly well with a chisel tool with a roller that I purchased from SPR, although the steam would probably speed that process. I have to use a razor to get the corners and whats left on the glass. It took me a couple of hours to do a 12 light sash. Then many more hours of Peel Away, scrubbing, and picking with a dental tool. Final product looks great but more tedious than I ever imagined.

Any thoughts on what all that moisture being released into your house could do when using the steam?
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