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I have a number of spindles on my stairs which need to be repainted.

The current paint is thick and badly done.

How far should I be going when sanding?

So far I have all the thick paint sanded off, but I'm not sure if I should be going down to wood.

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I would make sure it is not lead based paint before I start sanding. A product you may want to use is called peal and stick. You apply a layer of the product then add a special paper that comes with it and another layer of product let it sit ans peal it away using plastic scrapers. It will take it to the bare wood and you can seal with a primer and paint.

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If the thick paint is attached well sand all the irregular bumps and brush marks out or they will show when you repaint. I use Floetrol when I want a brush stroke free finish. The Floetrol makes a very nice finish when you have to use a brush,and want a satin finish.

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I'd say your best is to go down to wood & start over & therefore even stain them instead afterward. But, not by sanding if the place was built prior to 1980, there would be possible lead paint issues & the thick gloppy stuff that you think is a bad paint job may be Lead Encapsulating Paint.

Spend a lot of money on a bucket or 2 of multi-layer paint stripper, like Peel Away or Smart Strip. Those actually work as advertised & are non-toxic, stay away from anything in a metal can. I haven't found any metal can stuff that does more than 1 very thin layer at a time, not that I've tried them all.

  • Beautiful! However, thickly layered anything? Wow, they either changed their minds often or painted over polyurethane or used paint as their Windex & duster. Yeah, I'd have to 2nd my own motion. – Iggy Mar 1 '16 at 15:08
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Since you are repainting the spindles, you do not need to go completely down to bare wood. It is fine to get down to the point where you begin to see bare wood, but you aren't actually sanding into the surface of it. The objective is to get to a clean surface that can be painted over.

If there are spots where there are thicker areas of paint, you would want to feather the hard edges in so they won't show in the final product. After the sanding process is done, you will want to carefully vacuum all of the dust, preferably with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter in it. You also will want to use a rag and wipe off all of the residual dust.

To prepare the surface for painting, you can wipe down all the surfaces to be painted with a rag soaked in naphtha. It is a solvent that will loosen up and dissolve the residual paint. Naphtha will give off fumes, so you will need to do this in a well ventilated area. You will also need to use gloves which are not petroleum based such as nitrile gloves. Normal latex gloves will dissolve in naphtha. A mask with a respirator is optional, but you want to avoid breathing in the fumes.

One extra step you could take prior to painting is to use a sealer on the wood. This will help the paint adhere to the surface of the wood. One good sealer is dewaxed clear shellac. This product is available in a spray can, which makes it easy to apply. When spraying it on, avoid putting it on too thick because it can run. It dries very quickly, and multiple coats can be applied in a single day.

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