Search the forums

Loading

Stripping Paint with Steam

(post #101466, reply #1 of 47)

Thanks for the link.  Looks like a good idea.  Way better than chems., heat gun, disks, pads, knives, blades, brushes, etc.  I'll give it a go next time.

(post #101466, reply #2 of 47)

Last weekend, I spent a couple hours and quite a few trips up and down the ladder applying 5f5 waiting taking off a few layers, repeat, etc. while stripping a sill for a double window. There were still a couple layers that just weren't coming up before dark. (How much lead was in there in the old days, seemed near 100%) Because of the old paint probably back to 1920's when the house was built, I wanted to be careful to not get flakes/dust everywhere (so the 5f5 to turn it to mush), but because of the chemicals, I had to work from the outside.


I read this thread and this morning went to Target to buy a $35 Conair compact fabric steamer. It's a small unit you put on the floor and has a hose with a head that looks like a small vacuum.


After a few minutes to get the steam rolling, and about a minute keeping the steam head in one place heating up the paint, I pushed my putty knife taking up all 14 layers of paint moving across the sill (the width of the 2" 5-in-1) in about a minute or two. It still needs a little clean-up for residue, but no layers remain.


Because there are no chemicals and it's not hot enough to vaporize the lead, I could do it from inside through an open window. If you consider the cost of strippers, this thing will pay for itself soon enough.


Just thought I'd pass it along.


edit: jump to short video of process http://forums.taunton.com/tp-breaktime/messages?msg=75047.32


---mike...
Madison Renovations
Cambridge, Mass.


Edited 10/24/2009 6:20 pm ET by MadisonRenovations

(post #101466, reply #3 of 47)

very interesting. It sounds like you use it like a heat gun, but without the negatives...burning the wood etc. Can you post some photos?

(post #101466, reply #31 of 47)

Attached are a photo and a couple of videos of the process.  The video without the steam head is to show that the paint wasn't flaking off on its own.  All layers were stripped, although some residue remains that I plan to hit with a short, light coat of 5f5 then wash with mineral spirits.


---mike...

PreviewAttachmentSize
steamstrip1.wmv590.99 KB
steamstrip2.wmv325.34 KB
steamstrip.jpg
steamstrip.jpg60.79 KB

(post #101466, reply #32 of 47)

Wow, pretty impressive and no gloves even! I like the sound effects. I may have to retire my heat gun.

(post #101466, reply #34 of 47)

Thanks for bringing this up!

I ordered a Jiffy 4000I like john leeke uses.
The makers website had me at about $372 for the unit I wanted, but I found same one on Ebay for about 250 plus shipping. I have a room full of wall paper to strip and some painting to prep. Anticipating using it more.

 

 


Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
 where ...
Excellence is its own reward!

 

 

Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

(post #101466, reply #35 of 47)

Interesting indeed. I wonder if this removal method would be classified as mechanical removal by the EPA...the DOB is very strict about scraping/sanding paint here for fear of lead paint.

(post #101466, reply #36 of 47)

The interesting thing about this method is that it softens the paint there is *no* dust. As long as you are careful about the waste, it is easy to contain. Because it is relatively low temperature, there are no fumes, only water vapor. There are no toxic (or any) chemicals, just water, to release to the environment. It does use electricity, however.

I would not call this the only stripping method I'd use. It is very useful for stripping in place, so you don't have to worry about chemicals dripping off the surface, losing effectiveness and possibly stripping surrounding areas. If you can strip in one pass with a gel stripper, that is probably less effort and used time (if you can do something else while it's softening the paint). If it'll take multiple passes with gel, as with my dozen-plus layers, then steam might take less time.

It seems to work best on many layers of oil-based paint, which makes it different from most methods. It seems to be least effective on a single layer of latex, maybe because that's the softened wood where the oil paint flaked off, so the latex really got into the wood, and the surface wasn't smooth for scraping. Removing thick layers was easiest with a putty knife; latex seemed to go better with a pull scraper.

One thing that helped was making sure the steamer was heating the putty knife or pull scraper. It could then soften the paint from the bottom. It's easier to slip a putty knife under the steam head than a pull scraper. With my cheapo steamer, I had to keep the steam head within about a 1/4 inch of the surface or it wouldn't heat enough. Remember, it takes 212 degrees to create the steam, but steam can be cooler than 212 degrees away from the heat source (example: fog).

It took some maneuvering to keep both the pull scraper and surface hot enough.

Also note, my 35 buck steamer is probably not the best version of the tool. However, when I want to try a new stripper, I usually get a quart to test it out before I buy a gallon, but it's hard to get a quarter of an industrial steamer to work. This steamer is like a one quart test before you plunge in for a 200 buck model.

Oh, and in the couple of sashes I've tried so far, it was unbelievable in softening the old glazing compound. I wish I had found this before.

---mike...

(post #101466, reply #38 of 47)

Thanks for the added comments on technique.
I got my Jiffy 4000 delivered yesterday, but was so busy I didn't even open the box yet.

I restore a lot of old windows and the steam method really appeals to me there. When you have an antique window with old wavy glass you don't want to break it, which can happen with overheating with a heat gun.

I may start mine up on some wall paper today or tomorrow

 

 


Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
 where ...
Excellence is its own reward!

 

 

Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

(post #101466, reply #39 of 47)

A totally useless factoid follows:


Steam is invisible to the eye.  Steam (water vapor) has a temperature of 212 F or higher.  When you see that whitish cloud of "steam" it is not actuallt steam, it is water droplets that have formed out of the cooled water vapor.  The most useful function of steam is the latent heat of vaporization.  In going from a gas to a liquid, steam releases a tremendous amount of heat.  It does not change temperature during this release but it gives off a tremendous amount of heat.

(post #101466, reply #40 of 47)

Mike: Totally USEFUL!!! Tells people why they can get so badly burned by steam they cannot see. Especially if it comes out of a pressure vessel, where it is superheated.

Don

Don Reinhard
The Glass Masterworks
"If it scratches, I etch it!"
Don Reinhard The Glass Masterworks "If it scratches, I etch it!"

(post #101466, reply #41 of 47)

I have a commercial steamer (Earlex, bought on ebay for $100, same as the rentals) which I use from time to time.


The stupid, I can't believe it took me so long to think of it, trick I found was to always fill the tank with HOT water.  Fill that big tank with cold and it's at least 30 minutes before anything happens.


I am surprised just how dumb I can be sometimes -

(post #101466, reply #42 of 47)

Would appreciate you keeping us posted on the unit and technique... Thanks

(post #101466, reply #43 of 47)

Yes, it may be a wwhile. I fly to Florida for a week come sunday and things hectic gettin gready

 

 


Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
 where ...
Excellence is its own reward!

 

 

Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

(post #101466, reply #44 of 47)

Well, we've marked the thread as "high interest" so when you get back, report! :)
Mike

(post #101466, reply #45 of 47)

Well, ya never know, I might be in the mood for steam come morning, but I have a feeling that getting a bill out will be more important. That way I'll have a check to deposit when I get home.

 

 


Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
 where ...
Excellence is its own reward!

 

 

Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

(post #101466, reply #4 of 47)

Went to the Conair website...many models. Which one did you use?

(post #101466, reply #5 of 47)

>Went to the Conair website...many models. Which one did you use?

<grumble, grumble> The one that's 2 bucks cheaper on the Conair website than I paid at Target, and 5 bucks cheaper at Amazon: the gs33r - $34.79 at Target.

Well, I decided to get one yesterday, and had my first sill stripped with it today.

Showed it to the lead painter (pronounced "leed" not "led"), and he said he had to get one. And it can get the wrinkles out of you clothes, too. I was worried that it wouldn't get hot enough, but it does where it's needed, and I didn't need gloves. It's not super fast, but fast enough.

By the way, it was the paint between the storms and the double hungs on the north side, no weathering at all. It was solid paint that ignored a cold putty knife as if the lead was an armor shield.

---mike...

(post #101466, reply #18 of 47)

Hold the grumbles. Once they add the shipping charges, it would cost you more.

(post #101466, reply #20 of 47)

>Hold the grumbles. Once they add the shipping charges, it would cost you more.

Oh, I know. In addition to shipping charges, time is also money, so it was worth the cost difference, but I wouldn't expect Target to be selling above the MSRP shown on the Conair site.

(post #101466, reply #6 of 47)

Sounds like a heat gun on low.  I wonder if a cheap hair dryer wouldn't work just as well

(post #101466, reply #7 of 47)

The advantage of steam is that it carries a lot of heat at relatively low temperature -- able to heat the surface better without burning it.


As I stood before the gates I realized that I never want to be as certain about anything as were the people who built this place. --Rabbi Sheila Peltz, on her visit to Auschwitz


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

(post #101466, reply #8 of 47)

>The advantage of steam is that it carries a lot of heat at relatively low temperature -- able to heat the surface better without burning it.

The temperature is pretty much capped at 212 degrees F, because at that temperature, the water floats away and can't be heated any more. This is important not just to prevent burning wood, but also to prevent vaporizing lead. Since the temp. is limited, you can keep the steam head in place for longer than necessary without reaching the lead vaporization point.

Also, water is often responsible for paint failure when it gets behind the paint. The steam method supposedly gets water vapor behind the paint.

All I know is that it works better than I expected, and I feel safe doing it - no caustic chemicals, no fumes, no lead/paint vapors, no dust, no accidentally burning down the house. It is possible to get burns from the steam if not careful.

By the way, my technique differs from what I have read, which keeps the steam head in one place until it loosens all the paint under it, then scrape all that section in a quick pass. Instead, I keep the head in one place for some time at the start, then when it's soft enough to scrape, I keep the head moving forward as I scrape with the putty knife at the tail end. The scraping action is a little slower, but it's a continuous, smooth motion, and it only heats for as long as minimally needed. As soon as there's enough heat to lift the paint, the putty knife moves on to the next spot.

---mike...

(post #101466, reply #9 of 47)

My point is that the heat content of steam is much greater than hot air of the same temperature. So you can heat more paint with less steam. With hot air you can't really get enough heat on the paint without turning up the temp high enough that you're in danger of burning stuff.


As I stood before the gates I realized that I never want to be as certain about anything as were the people who built this place. --Rabbi Sheila Peltz, on her visit to Auschwitz


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

(post #101466, reply #10 of 47)

Your technique sounds a bit like steaming wallpaper (when steaming works).


As I stood before the gates I realized that I never want to be as certain about anything as were the people who built this place. --Rabbi Sheila Peltz, on her visit to Auschwitz


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

(post #101466, reply #11 of 47)

The technique isn't earthshattering; it just seemed to be different that what I read. I haven't steamed wall paper, but I think it doesn't work well for vinyl coated paper because the vapor barrier doesn't allow re-wetting of the adhesive. I don't think paint is quite the same beast.

I agree with you about the heat content of water vapor; I was just pointing out some details and other observations.

(post #101466, reply #15 of 47)

Yeah, wallpaper steams very easily or not at all, depending on whether it's coated or not (and most these days is, even if not visibly). (And, no, those "paper dragon" things don't do much good.)


As I stood before the gates I realized that I never want to be as certain about anything as were the people who built this place. --Rabbi Sheila Peltz, on her visit to Auschwitz


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

(post #101466, reply #16 of 47)

I have been using steam for the removal of glazing from 100 year old sashes.  I built a box out of foil faced rigid foam insulation.  It holds two typical sashes vertically.  It is held together with a 1x3 exoskeleton with a hinged door.  At the rear I feed the outlet pipe of a commercial steamer I bought on craigslist.  I pop two sashes in at a time then work on other things for 30 minutes or so.  When time is up I pull one out and run a pull scraper around the glazing to harvest the wavy glass out in one piece for reuse.  I then run the scraper around the sashe itself to get what paint is lose enough at that point to remove.  Cooking longer get more of the paint loose but I typically just use the infrared stripper to get the rest.  The advantage for me has been the ability to preserve the historic glass in one piece.  A heat gun causes too many temperature differentials for the already fragile glass to handle.

(post #101466, reply #17 of 47)

regarding a steam box for sashes: Do you know what temperature the box gets up to?

My little fabric steamer works pretty fast when the steam head is a 1/4" away from the paint, but I don't know if it would work to feed a sash-sized steam box. I need to do a few more sashes in addition to the sills, and soaking it would reduce my time with them. Can't do the same for the sills, though...

Any wood damage by soaking it for a long time? Do it need to dry out?

And if you know: any issues with speed drying the oil-based primer on the empty sashes with a heat gun before applying the glazing compound?

As you may be able to tell, I'm in a rush to take care of windows while the weather is giving us an Indian Summer.

---mike...

(post #101466, reply #19 of 47)

I do not konw the temperature.  The unit I have is a commercial unit I picked up from a retiring seamstress.  The wood comes out with that distinctive 100 year old, wet house smell.  I partly use the infrared stripper to take care of any moisture issues in the sash.  They typically sit for a week before I prime and glaze after stripping.  There is much epoxy work on some so expediting hasn't been neeed.


 


Hope that helps....