Paint removal – Part 5: Battling baseboards

The original baseboards in the building are quite something. Something with quite a little bit of paint on it.


There is a tall bottom piece with an ornate cap. The cap and bottom together stand about 10 inches tall and are both milled out of 100+ year old oak, most of it quarter sawn. And we have quite a bit of it, which is a blessing and a curse.


These were items we wanted to keep out of the waste stream. The quality of the millwork begged for salvaging and reuse.

But we also have that tedious chemical archaeology ahead of us – the paint removal. How far should we take the salvaging and reuse, and when would it be time to draw a line in the sand and decide it is not worth it?

The decision tipped in favor of salvaging and reuse once we realized that even if we could afford to purchase all new baseboards, we wouldn’t be able to find baseboards in this kind of quality nowadays.

Let the paint stripping begin!


The Silent Paint Remover usually removes the bulk of the paint, and does so at reasonable speed. But a couple hundred linear feet of baseboard take some time to work through. And we still had to apply a layer of Soy Gel to remove the remaining paint residue.


Sanding the baseboards took some time too. The flat surfaces were easy and fast. The more intricate profiles required a scraper, steel wool and time. But with each pass the wood grain became a notch more beautiful, until it was ready to get lacquered.


Staining the oak was out of the question! The natural color was part of the charm. Instead we stuck to our zero-VOC rule and opted for the clear, satin finish Acrylacq by SafeCoat. It made the warm honey color of the oak pop.

This was very frustrating but ultimately rewarding work. It was frustratingly slow and time consuming, but with payback in the beauty of the salvaged and refinished product – particularly when we consider what we started with.

trim-010  trim-014

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About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

One thought on “Paint removal – Part 5: Battling baseboards

  1. Just wondering – removing all that old paint means to have a lot of old, removed paint to dispose – how do you get rid of the mixture? Is it more like a powder?

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