Steam Paint Removal (with video)
Post new topic   Reply to topic
Historic HomeWorks Forum Forum Index -> Paints & Finishes Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  Next 
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
johnleeke
Site Admin


Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 2792
Location: Portland, Maine, USA

PostPosted: Wed Jul 20, 2005 7:15 am    Post subject: Steam Paint Removal (with video) Reply with quote

(Updated: 5/29/14 all videos)

OK, we've been doing Steam Paint Removal for 15 years now, and have worked out a lot of the kinks.

I have published a Report from the Field on Steam Paint Removal, which covers methods, techniques, equipment, sources, making custom steam heads and profiles of three steam paint removal projects.
21 pages, 23 illustrations, 2 step-by-step methods on making custom steam heads. See it here:
http://historichomeworks.com/hhw/reports/reports.htm#Steam

All the videos of Steam Paint Removal in one place:


A brief article on Steam Paint Removal has been published in the May/June issue of Old-House Journal:
http://www.oldhousejournal.com/magazine/2006/june/Get-speed.shtml

(Following is some of the discussion that has developed so far. I'll be adding more information, photos and tips as reports come in from the field. Please join in the discussion by clicking on "Post Reply" above to leave your questions and comments. The material presented here is intended to keep you up to date on our work and is not intended to convince you to use this method. This is a new method and we may not YET have worked out all the best tooling, procedures and techniques. Whether you use this method is entirely up to you. With that said, it is my opinion that the method has some merit, and that it is important to get the word about it out now because it has the potential to improve the safety and health of workers and building occupants, save buildings from catching fire, and save the environment from chemical contamination as seems to be the case with some other paint removal methods.)

Keep in mind that adapting products and using them for unusual purposes, such as steam paint removal, usually voids any warranty from the manufacturer, and may create a situation that is hazardous. Do not use the methods shown here if you cannot control the risk of unexpected results, harm to yourself and others, and the loss or damage of property.

Steam paint removal softens the paint film so it can be more easily scraped away. It works well with the heavy paint buildup commonly found on the wooden exteriors of older buildings during house restoration and historic preservation projects. It is also effective on interior paint and with window work.

This method has significant advantages over mechanical scraping and shaving, chemical stripping and the dry-heat methods:

* Helps control the lead-health risk issue because it is an inherently damp process and eliminates the lead-fume risk.

* Dramatically reduces the risk of starting a building fire compared to dry heat methods, by keeping the paint surface temperature below 212degrees.

* No fumes from chemicals and heat decomposition of binders in the old paint as with chemical and dry heat methods.

* Portable steamer can be used on interior and exterior work, even up on the scaffolding.

* Equipment costs are moderate, $100-300.

* Lower operating and supply costs than chemical paint removal.

* Lower residue disposal costs than chemical paint removal.

I first heard of steam paint removal back in the 1970s when a preservation contractor was experimenting with it to remove heavy paint buildup from the side of a house in New Hampshire. According to the story it removed paint all right, but the steam generation equipment was, perhaps, too dangerous, and they dropped it. Then in the 90s I heard reports of steam blasting graffiti off of stone in England, and someone from Australia said they heard of using a wallpaper steamer on paint. I just kept scraping away with my noisy hot-air gun and gooey chemicals. Then in the late 1990s my colleague here in Portland, Marc Bagala, developed the steam-chamber method of removing all the paint and putty from a window sash. He slides the sash into a large stainless steel chamber which is filled with steam by an industrial-rated steam generation unit. I took the students in one of my window workshops to see this marvel, and it really works. The next week one of the students, Ginger Gellman, saw a couple of carpenters over in Vermont who had rigged up a sash steam box made of foam-board insulation and powered by a coffee pot. She told one of the other students, Dave Bowers, a window restoration specialist in New Hampshire who built a steam box and powered it with a commercially made portable steamer. Dave told me the steamer worked great just holding the steam head on the sash. So, after decades of hearing about steam and paint, it finally dawned on me that this steamer would work on any surface with heavy paint buildup and now I use it routinely and have trained 26 crews around the country to use it.



Here's the setup on a recent project: I'm removing paint from a barn loft door, which has been taken off the barn and is set on an easel in the workshop. The gray steam generator is powered by an ordinary 120v electrical outlet. The black hose runs from the steam generator up to the steam head, which I am holding flat against the paint film. We always follow Lead-Safe work practices, so you see I am outfitted with a hat, respirator, and a floor containment made of 6-mil plastic to catch and control lead-containing paint debris. The gloves are a type particularly suited to working with steam: thick fabric for thermal protection and water-proof coating in the palm and fingers. Other standard safety practices are long sleeves and pants, goggles, and the steam generator is plugged into the yellow Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter to protect from electrical shock.

View Video:





After 30 seconds to 2 minutes of steaming the paint film is soft enough to remove with a stiff slightly dull putty knife. This paint film is staying soft for 10 to 15 seconds, which is plenty of time to remove the paint. The paint film is about as thick as a dime (.035").During removal the steam head has been shifted over to the next section.



You can see there is some slight paint film residue left on the surface, which is easily scraped off with a sharp pull-type paint scraper while it is still soft. The result is a smooth clean surface ready to paint.


Steaming makes the paint easier to remove in two ways:

- It softens the paint film by heating it through the thickness of the film to a temperature of 190-200 degrees, so it can be easily scraped off. As the water vapor condenses on the cooler surface of the paint film, latent heat in the water vapor moves into the paint film by conduction. At first the thin film of liquid water forming on the surface of the paint helps conduct the heat. As the film of liquid water on the surface grows thicker it tends to imped the transfer of heat. The paint warms up quicker on vertical surfaces because the liquid water dribbles away allowing more vapor to condense closer to the surface of the paint. I have put the door in the photo on an easel to hold the surface vertical so the process works more effectively, although it will work on horizontal surfaces when that is more convenient.

- It loosens the paint film from the wood surface by introducing water at the interface between the paint film and wood surface. This occurs when there are breaks in the paint film, such as alligatoring cracks and areas of missing paint. This moisture migration occurs by simple capilary action, and not by pressure supplied by the steam generator. Sometimes I notice that the steam is traveling between layers of paint and liquid water is percolating up out of cracks in the paint film outside the steam head.


Advantages:


- Eliminates the risk of starting a building fire.
At about 300 degrees wood begins to breakdown chemically and scorch. At about 450 degrees it chars and at 500 degrees it burns. Steam cannot raise the temperature of the wood over 212 degrees, no matter how long the steam head is held on the paint or wood. Most of the dry-heat paint removal equipment and methods can generate surface temperatures from 300 to 500 degrees and more, and fire safety depends on the operator's knowledge and attentiveness. All electrical paint removal equipment presents some limited risk of fire at the worksite, which is easily managed with proper wiring and good worksite practices.

- Helps control the lead-dust health risk issue because it is an inherently damp process. Working damp is a recognized method of effective Lead-Safe work practice. Also, the residue generated is in the form of very large paint chips and does not contain as much finely divided lead-containing dust as dry scraping, sanding, grinding and shaving methods.

- No fumes from heat decomposition of binders in the old paint. Every worker who has stripped paint with dry heat knows this acrid smell. It is from volatile organic compounds in the binder of the old paint that begin to break down above about 275 degrees. In my dry-heat paint removal work I suspect these fumes are not good for me to breath so I always wear a rubber half-face respirator with organic vapor filter cartridges. This does not seem to be necessary with steam paint removal.

- Relatively low setup cost. You can get a professional grade steam generation unit and outfit a worker with the steam-related personal safety equipment for about $250-350. You may need to spend another $50-200 more for other paint removal and Lead-Safe practices equipment and supplies (that you may already have.)

- Lower operating and supply costs. Steamers use electricity, water, and occasionally an inexpensive steam tank cleaner.

- Lower disposal costs. Lead-containing paint residue sometimes must be disposed of by service companies that charge by the weight and character of the residue. Residue from steam removal may weigh less than some chemical removal methods that include large amounts of heavy wet paste and hazardous chemicals that bump the waste up into a more costly catagory.


Dis-advantages:

- Will generate lead containing debris if your paint contains lead, but no more than many other paint removal methods. Effective Lead-Safe work methods of have been developed to control this health risk.

- Risk of skin burns. Steam can burn human skin, though this risk seems to be less than with dry-heat paint removal methods since lower temperatures and less heat is involved. The risk of burns is manageable with personal safety equipment such as gloves, goggles, and the use of effective Steam Paint Removal methods, procedures and techniques.

- It is a damp process. Damp wood is softer than dry wood and may be damaged at the surface during removal of the softened paint film. The wood must be allowed to dry before applying some treatments, stains and paints. Methods are available to manage most of the moisture issue, and the rest can be dealt with by developing effective work techniques.

- ....well, I cannot think of any other disadvantages. If you can, let me know by clicking on "Post Reply" above.

Sources of Steam Generating Equipment:

The cost of gearing up is about $100-350.

See this message later in this discussion for sources and costs:
http://historichomeworks.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=2663#2663

Safety First: the steam can quickly burn skin. We wear safety goggles or glasses, fabric gloves that have rubber in the palms and working sides of the fingers, and long sleeves and long pants. We follow all the manufacturer's directions for the operation of the steamer. Lead-Safe work practices are needed to manage the lead health risk of any paint removal method. Read, understand and follow the Lead-Safe work practices described in the publication: "Lead Paint Safety, a field guide for painting, home maintenance and renovation work." Download it at:

http://www.historichomeworks.com/hhw/education/WindowsHandouts/leadsafetybk.pdf

Gloves: for steam paint removal:

I like "Atlas Therma Fit"



Manufacture's info:
http://www.atlasfitgloves.com/atlasthermalgloves.html
The glove is like terry cloth inside so it acts like insulation to help protect from heat. The rubber coating helps keep the insulation dry. Get several pairs and change them as they get wet (from sweat or steam condensation) because if wet they don't insulate from the heat as well.
Cost: about $40 for a dozen pairs

Steam Heads: We began using the steam head that comes with the fabric steamer. We held the steam head flat on the surface of the paint for 1 to 3 minutes, which softens the paint enough to easily remove it. The original steam head also worked for softening up window glazing putty. We have been getting somewhat better results by adapting the existing steam head and using alternate steam heads.





Please note that we are using the hose and handle that comes with the steamer, and NOT using vacuum system hoses.

For more on making and using steam heads see the Report from the Field on Steam Paint Removal, which covers methods, techniques, equipment, sources, making custom steam heads and profiles three steam paint removal projects.
21 pages, 23 illustrations, 2 step-by-step methods on making custom steam heads. Buy it here:
http://historichomeworks.com/hhw/reports/reports.htm#Steam

Let us know how you are doing with your steam paint removal by clicking on "Post Reply" below. Send some close up pictures of your steam paint removal as you get started and after you have had some practice at it. Come back to us with questions on it and comments on your problems and successes, because you are now part of our team of pioneers who are developing the soon to be famous Steam Paint Removal Method.

Take care, work safe and keep in touch.

John Leeke, American Preservationeer

by steam and heat we strip it neat

Copyright 2006-2013 John C Leeke


Last edited by johnleeke on Wed May 28, 2014 12:52 pm; edited 97 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Guest






PostPosted: Thu Jul 21, 2005 2:15 pm    Post subject: Report from New Hampshire Reply with quote

Wes in New Hampshire reports:

The steamer doesn't always do that good a job in removing old paint. What I am doing is loosening the top layer and then trying to smooth the paint underneath with the scraper. Then after priming and filling it looks really good. It still has some lead paint under, but I feel that it is bonded very well and is not likely to fail. Of course, it is completely covered with primer and top coat.

When the old paint is in really good condition I have been hand sanding with wet sandpaper at 220 grit. I prefer to work by hand with the lead. I keep everything soaked and then take a shower after. The resulting surface is great and with a few spackle fills and final coat it looks like new.

I find some of the soft wood gets pretty stringy with the steamer so in those cases I simply use paint stripper and do about the same. I plan to try some ART epoxy wood filler for bad gashes in the stool, but have not had the chance. For stops and trim I am using softer filler, but for the stool I think you really should use something hard.
Back to top
Guest






PostPosted: Thu Jul 21, 2005 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My new research question for steam head development is: How large an area can the head cover and still keep the steam time below 2-3 minutes. I'm getting about 6 to 10 seconds of softness with a 3"x6" head and 2-3 minutes of steam, as in the photos, but figure I could double the production rate on broad surfaces by doubling the head size. I can imagine a 3'x3' steam box with soft foam edges to set against a clapboarded wall--but I suspect this is too large because the limit to the area is what you can scrape off before the paint cools and hardens. Convenient handling of the head is another limit.
Back to top
johnleeke
Site Admin


Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 2792
Location: Portland, Maine, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jul 26, 2005 5:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve Jordan asks:
Quote:

> Just how quickly does the Jiffy steamer work?? For example, does it
> work similar to a heat gun?



The procedure is very similar to dry-heat methods like guns, heat plates and infrared lamps--it softens the paint and you scrape it off.

I'm currently doing a small scale comparitive speed test, but my impression so far is that Steam Paint Removal is slightly faster than hot air gun, and only somewhat slower than heat plate and infrared lamp. (like maybe 1.2 or 1.5 times what infrared lamp takes, but not 5 or 10 times)

Quote:
> Does it break the glass while removing old
> putty? etc.


For deglazing wood sash it has dropped my own personal glass breakage rate down from 5-8% to 2-3%. One of my workshop trainees is having problems with a lot of glass breakage at her own shop, but she is using the standard steam head and has not made the special steam heads for deglazing sash, and the problem seems to related to a specific job where the glass is very tightly fit into the glazing dado. All other window shops are reporting less glass breakage with steam deglazing methods.

_________________
John

by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought


Last edited by johnleeke on Tue Oct 25, 2005 1:42 pm; edited 2 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Holly
Guest





PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 2:31 pm    Post subject: Brick? Reply with quote

Will this process work on brick? I really want to strip the paint off of my brick fireplace.
Back to top
johnleeke
Site Admin


Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 2792
Location: Portland, Maine, USA

PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 2:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have not tried it on painted brick.

I suspect that it will not work as well on brick because denser brick would draw heat out of the paint film. By comparison the less dense wood acts something like an insulator, helping to keep the heat in the paint film.

_________________
John

by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
johnleeke
Site Admin


Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 2792
Location: Portland, Maine, USA

PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2005 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stephanie, the Steam Paint Pioneer out in Illinois, reports:

"I don't have any pictures using the steamer, but I will take some when we are working on the windows in the workshop. We didn't have any problems with [the steamer], and we liked how it kept things moist and together. What a difference [with less] dust and paint chips weren't flying everywhere. Thanks again for the info on the steamer, because I'm glad that we bought it!



Loitz-finishedhousesectioncopy.JPG
 Description:
 Filesize:  44.66 KB
 Viewed:  1646 Time(s)

Loitz-finishedhousesectioncopy.JPG



Loitz-housereno1copy.JPG
 Description:
 Filesize:  52.37 KB
 Viewed:  1480 Time(s)

Loitz-housereno1copy.JPG



_________________
John

by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Cliff
Guest





PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 1:11 pm    Post subject: Paint on paint Reply with quote

I recently discovered that the previous owners painted over top of paint with no primer. IE paint on paint. And the paint is peeling off.

Several people have suggested that I use a steamer to remove the paint. Do you think this may work? This is for interior latex paint. Semi-gloss . ..

Thanks!
Back to top
johnleeke
Site Admin


Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 2792
Location: Portland, Maine, USA

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cliff:

It's possible that steam will work. Try it out in a small, less obvious, area first. Interior steam paint removal usually requires a way to exhaust the steam to the outdoors so it does not cause problems indoors.

Can you tell us more about who was recommending steam?

Let us know how you make out. You can even upload photos by clicking on "Add an Attachment."

_________________
John

by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Pae
Guest





PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2006 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Last year, I bought a wonderful little 1942 house in central Memphis, and I want to restore it. I have to be careful, though, because I have a houseful of birds and small animals who are extremely sensitive to fumes, gases, and such-like, and it's not practical to move them all out while I work, so I've been slowly chipping paint away by hand.

1. Can I use the steam method to get the layers of old paint off my interior trim while it is in place in the house? I have plaster walls.
2. Is is safe to use around my critters?
3. How warm does it have to be outside to use safely on window trim?
4. Will it help me get the paint off the interior door hardware?

Thanks.
Back to top
johnleeke
Site Admin


Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 2792
Location: Portland, Maine, USA

PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2006 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
1. Can I use the steam method to get the layers of old paint off my interior trim while it is in place in the house? I have plaster walls.


It is very likely to work. As always, you must test in a small area first to determine how well it works and if it gives you the results you want. See the cautions for interior Steam Paint Removal above. A moderate amount of steam should not adversly affect plaster walls, although it may raise the moisture content of the plaster, but it should dry back out OK. If you have finishes like wallpaper or paint on the plaster, the moisture may damage it, so you may have to protect the finishes and plaster from the moisture with plastic sheeting.

Quote:
2. Is is safe to use around my critters?


Only you and your vet can determine if it is actually safe enough for your critters. Any work in an old house, especially paint removal, is likely to generate lead-containing dust, which has adverse health effects on any living organism. There are proven methods for controlling the lead-dust health risk. Steam Paint Removal will generate higher levels of moisture in the air, which may have an effect on critter health. Moisture can be controlled with fans and negative air-pressure ventilation to move it directly outdoors. Steam Paint Removal will not generate the chemical fumes associated with chemical and high-heat stripping.

Quote:
3. How warm does it have to be outside to use safely on window trim?


The issue with Steam Paint Removal and lower outdoor tempuratures is that moisture may acculumate on building surfaces or within hidden spaces. Too much mositure buildup is likely to result in building deterioration. At temperatures somewhat above freezing (32F. to 40F. or 45F.) moisture may condense on buildings surfaces causing problems by soaking into porous surfaces or dribbling into open joints. At temperatures below freezing the effect is pronouned and frost or ice may form. For example, with interior work the steam may disapate into the air and not appear to be a problem in the rooms where you are working, but the moisture is still in the building. If it rises up through the building it may become trapped in the attic or in the side walls where it condenses and can cause problems. Our current standard is to use this method when outdoor temps are above 45F., and to always monitor what is happening with the moisture generated, moving the moisture out of the building as directly and quickly as possible.

Quote:
4. Will it help me get the paint off the interior door hardware?


Our work has focused on painted wood. I have not tried it on hardware. I suspect it would not work well because the heat is more readily dissapated by the metal than it is by the wood. Other methods such as soaking in a solution of TSP and water will probably be more effective.

_________________
John

by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
TBB
Guest





PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 5:22 pm    Post subject: Steam heads Reply with quote

John, You said, "More on steam heads later..." did you ever get back to that topic? If so please point me in the right direction.

tia
Back to top
johnleeke
Site Admin


Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 2792
Location: Portland, Maine, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 7:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tia:

See above for photos of steam heads and check out the new report on Steam Paint Removal:


http://www.historichomeworks.com/hhw/reports/reports.htm#Steam.

Are you working with Steam Paint Removal?

_________________
John

by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought


Last edited by johnleeke on Sun Jun 10, 2007 6:21 pm; edited 2 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
TBB
Guest





PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 10:47 pm    Post subject: steam heads Reply with quote

Actually my name is Trace, tia stands for "thanks in advance".

While looking around the net I came across some Jiffy metal heads that look like they may work well. If I use them I'll let you know.

TBB
Back to top
johnleeke
Site Admin


Joined: 20 Aug 2004
Posts: 2792
Location: Portland, Maine, USA

PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2006 10:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Trace:

We found less condensation (which is good) with the Jiffy plastic heads than with the metal. Also, plastic is easier to adapt by cutting, etc.

_________________
John

by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought


Last edited by johnleeke on Wed May 03, 2006 8:58 am; edited 1 time in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Display posts from previous:   
Historic HomeWorks Forum Forum Index -> Paints & Finishes Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  Next 
Post new topic   Reply to topic All times are GMT - 5 Hours
Page 1 of 6

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum