Take a look at the following close-up of one of my window frames. I'd like to strip all the white paint off of it, possibly stain the wood, and finish it with a varnish. I have the following questions:

  1. Is there anything special I need to consider in regards to the heat gun I purchase (i.e. capable of multiple temperatures)?
  2. Will a heat gun be sufficient for getting off all the paint on the curved parts of the molding, as well as the damaged, dented parts? Or should paint thinner be used at all?

enter image description here

  • Note that dents and damage are likely to extend down beyond the paint into the wood. As a result it may take a lot of prep work to get the wood into a "nice" condition before refinishing.
    – Michael Karas
    Commented Oct 7, 2012 at 17:47

2 Answers 2


While a heat gun can remove a large amount of paint, there will always be some residue that needs to be removed with scrapers and sanding. Scraping can mar and gouge wood (less an issue when you can fill and paint) and sanding in tight crevasses in molding is hard.

There are commercial scrapers available, but they don't always fit your needs. On important projects, I have made scrapers out of large nails with their heads ground down to a sharp edge for tight curves and grooves, and pieces of curved cut glass for shallow curves (I'm a glass worker, so handling this risky stuff is comfortable to me, but not necessarily easy).

Sanding is tedious and, with old lead paint (yours looks old enough to be that), risky. You need masks and goggles.

You also may want to consider chemical strippers. There are newer citrus based versions that are a lot less caustic and foul smelling than the traditional solvent based ones. Even so, these will also need some scraping and sanding before finishing.

The wood had better be pretty good to warrant this care. If not either removal and replacement, or build up of new facing molding seems the better course.

  • 2
    You still should wear a mask when using a heat gun, if there is lead in one on of the layers, the heat will release lead vapors.
    – Gunner
    Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 2:35

Harbor Freight makes a surprisingly-decent inexpensive heat gun that will do what you want.

You should test in a non-visible area before doing any major work. there's no way to know for sure until you test due to the wide variety of paints and treatments that could be on the window. Also , do you know what kind of wood is underneath and are sure it is a suitable candidate for refinishing?

Another alternative is to remove the framing and re-install new framing. It would save a lot more time unless there is something special about that material.

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