Stripping off in the hall

My plan had been to strip all seven doors, jambs, skirting boards and meter cupboard back to the original wood and then use a light woodstain. What to use? An electric sander was out of the question as I thought it might be too noisy for a frail elderly neighbour to cope with, and a heat gun – well, let’s just say I didn’t want to risk an emergency visit from some nice men wearing breathing apparatus and hard hats and carrying a hose.

That left either taking all the doors down and having them stripped professionally, which was out because of the budget or using a chemical stripper and some elbow grease.

Chemical stripper it was, so I slapped some on to the bathroom door. That was when I discovered, after having fought with the layers of gloss paint and lost, that underneath the paint were bits of hardboard nailed to a slab of wood with a hole in it and you would not believe how hard it’s been to strip paint off that thing. Two of the other doors are also hardboard-covered wood. Stripping1

It’s just not worth it because the hardboard will look like utter crap once it’s stripped. See what I mean? Even using the stripping compound twice and the shave hook, I just couldn’t get a good strip going. What’s a girl to do?


Plan B, which by happy chance involves far less stripping, is to strip only the door jambs and the skirting boards. Two of the remaining doors are covered in hardboard too and I don’t fancy spending hours and hours and HOURS stripping them when I can think of better things to do with my time.

So, on with the cunning plan. Here’s the technique. Opened all the windows in the flat and left the doors open for a good draft. Put on my safety goggles, gloves and a face mask, slopped some of the stripper into a plastic pot to work from, and used an old 1″ paintbrush to paint on a thickish layer of the stripper over the hall-facing side of a door jamb.

Stripping2Left it for 20 minutes for the top layer of paint to do its crinkle thing – shown thusly in the pic – and scraped all that off with the straight edge of the shave hook.

Some of the underneath layer comes off too, but it’s been there for years and is a tough beast to handle. On went a second layer of the gunk for 30 mins and another scrape.

Using different edges of the shave hook gets all those pesky bits of paint out. It’s worth doing a final slop-down on remaining bits of paint and letting that sit for 30 mins before scraping that off. Then a wash down in soapy water and let it dry, then give it a good sand with sandpaper to smoothe out any nicks and dings I’d left in the wood.


I’d spread out a large decorating sheet on the floor before slapping on the gunk and scraping to catch all the bits, and then let them dry out before disposing of them. Otherwise they get stuck to the floor. Pain.

Once I’ve finished all the stripping I’ll protect the wood with some stain.

Having checked with my council’s Environmental Health Officer, paint scrapings and stripper can be put in a bag in the grey bin for landfill, but I’ll continue to find out more to see if other solutions might be available in the future. If anyone has better ideas, just jot them in a post underneath!

Update: you know that feeling you get when you succumb to a need greater than yourself and you do that thing? Well I did that thing. I bought a small sander. It’s shaved off about 90% of the time I was going to spend sanding all those door frames and saved me from 26″ biceps.  It’s a VonHaus, fits into my grubby little paws perfectly and doesn’t scream like most high speed electrical things. It’s more like a very loud wasp trapped in an echo chamber.

I now have a drill AND a sander. How hard can it be to reach the moon …


  • Hiring an electric sander currently costs anywhere between £13 to £25 per day exc VAT. Heat guns cost upwards of £13 plus VAT.
  • You can pick up an electric hand sander for round about £25-30, unless you want to go for one of the bigger beasts.
  • Door stripping services charge an average of £20 per door and possibly less depending on the number of doors. Many offer a pick up and re-fit service so factor in those costs too.
  • Eco paint stripper is around £20 per litre and contains no volatile organic compounds (VOCs), unlike many traditional paint strippers, but you still need to wear a mask, protective goggles and gloves and you should open the windows.
  • Chemical paint strippers can be highly noxious air pollutants so check the brand and the tin before you buy. Look for the ones that are non-caustic and do not contain methylene chloride, although you’ll still need to wear your protective gear and open the windows. Average cost across the brands is £27 for 2.5 litres.
  • If you’re using chemical or eco paint strippers, invest in a shave hook scraper rather than relying only on a flat scraper. It’ll help you with those twiddly bits and give you more control over the paint removal. Cost is between £5 and £15 depending on the brand.

About Sooz

Writer and cheapskate View all posts by Sooz

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