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What is the best way to remove the remaining paint from this beam?

My goal is to remove all the paint and stain it so it matches the color of the door below it. So far I've chipped and sanded away almost everything.

  • The left and right side of the beam is hard to sand as it is warped from water damage, and my sheet sander won't quite get in between the edges. Should I sand by hand with a 60 or 80 grit? Hoping not to have to use paint stripper, but will if that is best solution.
  • The white specs of paint throughout the beam look like paint that settled in between large cracks, chips, splinters, etc. Sander won't take it out easily. Pick it out with like a scraper? I don't want to leave gashes/divots either.
  • There are some old cracks that have been filled prior, I assume I should re-fill them with wood filler before staining?

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  • Use a heat gun to try and soften the paint up? Start with the heat gun on the lowest setting. So long as the paint isn't lead based.
    – SteveSh
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 1:00
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    You are likely to get a much better result if you veneer it with a straight, new thin, high quality piece of wood, that you can stain before hanging. If not you could try a thin guage wire wheel in a drill, then sand any lines. If the board has deep cracks the paint may be deep and unremoveable
    – Chris
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 5:07

3 Answers 3

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Paint stripper is probably your best bet for this rough looking outdoor piece of wood. Anything else will be massively time consuming trying to get enough paint out of it to make staining successful.

Place some plastic drop cloths underneath to catch runoff and let the chemicals go to work. Enjoy a cold beverage while they're working, then peel/scrape the gloop away.

If you really don't want to use the easy way, then Chris' suggestion is probably your next best bet: Get a thinish veneer of lumber (IMHO, it doesn't need to be too thin - it doesn't appear that there's anything it would have to match up to), stain it, then mount it in place.

Barring that, just go to town with a belt sander for the main body, then a detail sander around the edges until you've gotten rid of all signs of paint. You'll want to start with something aggressive like 80 or 60 grit, or maybe even coarser like 36 grit. Nobody's going to be feeling this or setting their drinks on it, so once the paint's gone, you might not even have to do any finish sanding.

Remember, any paint left visible will show through stain, because the stain won't be absorbed where the paint is sealing it. Also, that looks to be rough sawn cedar. You may want to pick up a small sample at your local home center to test your staining technique on - I don't think cedar will stain all that well. You may not be happy with the results in the long run, leading you back to the veneer approach.

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I'd say you could get the rest of the paint off with a good pressure washer.

I have no specific experience with using a paint stripper but my assumption is that it will leave behind residue which will produce a non-uniform finish.

Don't stress about the paint in the deep grooves because the stain will just cover them up and it will look normal for deep grooves to be darker.

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  • Paint strippers are often used in restoring antique furniture. No concerns about residue.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 12:30
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To sand the corners, a pressure washer or an oscillating sander will do quite well.

The "oscillating multi tool" is quite handy in general and so well worth the purchase. They usually come with sanding attachments.

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The pressure washer works well on outdoor paint where the paint and underlying wood is weathered from the sun. Approach the paint from different angles and try different heads. Start with the flat spray nozzle.

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This technique also deepens the wood grain by blowing away softer strands. It combines well with staining. You definitely would then use a brush to apply the stain and get into the cracks and grain texture, and then apply the usual cloth to wipe off the excess.

Make sure the wood first dries thoroughly, preferably a few days of warm dry weather. A single hot day will do too.

I have stripped painted door frames and painted cedar with a 3000psi pressure washer.

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