How to prepare a surface for refinishing and remove paint?

To remove peeling or chipped paint from small areas, use a pull scraper or a putty knife to get under and free the loose layers. For larger areas, use an orbital power sander, first with coarse paper, then with medium and fine.

Avoid using a disk sander on a drill; it can leave visible circular cuts. To remove flaking paint from a metal surface, use a wire brush or a wire-brush attachment on a drill.

To take thickly layered paint off a broad surface, use a propane torch with a flame spreader. Hold the torch an inch or so away from the surface just long enough to soften the paint. Then scrape off the paint with a putty knife. Scorching the wood slightly is inevitable, but take care not to char it.

If torch flames seem risky. rent an electric paint remover; the higher its wattage, the faster it works. To use it, hold the heating element over the paint until it starts to sizzle. Then scrape off the paint with the built-in blade or with a putty knife.

After removing paint, sand the surface smooth. Then coat it with the recommended primer before repainting. When you plan to use a natural wood finish, strip the paint with a chemical paint remover. Also strip encrusted paint on uneven surfaces, such as moldings with curves and grooves.

Caution: Wear goggles and a mask when removing paint with power tools. Handle a propane torch or an electric paint remover with care to avoid burning yourself. To prevent fire, do not use a torch indoors or on walls that are splintered or cracked.