Picture of How to strip paint from an old door.

A couple of years ago I bought a house.  One of the things I really wanted was lots of wood.  I have always been impressed with houses that has well finished wood throughout.  The house was almost 60 years old and had hardwood flooring.  The original wooden doors were painted.  Well, those were the first thing to tackle.  Little did I realize what a workout my arms would be getting :) I also would like to thanks the gang at for creating their hackerspace where I was able to make a dusty mess on a regular basis ;)

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Step 1: The beginning

Picture of The beginning

So obviously the first thing I did was take the door out of the house.  I removed the door handle but left the door hinges as they too were painted and needed a good cleaning.

Step 2: Apply heat

Picture of Apply heat

There are many ways to strip a door.  I am not terribly fond of the chemical way to do so so I opted for the heat-gun method.  For those that don't know, this is a special heat gun designed for high-heat applications.  A hairdryer will not work.

I learned pretty quickly how to apply this heat.  I found that if I heated the paint too much, it would simply harden and make it just as difficult too remove as pure sanding it would.  I also found that after you apply the heat, you have to wait till the paint cools otherwise it's a big gooey scraped mess :/

The best way I found for this door (YMMV) was to hold the gun about 6" away from it, let the paint bubble just a little bit.  The paint would seemed to generate some fumes (safety note, do make sure you are in a well ventilated area) and the paint, being evening applied and sufficiently think enough,  would start to create one big bubble underneath.  This is the paint literally separating from the surface and is ideal for removing.

I also learned to do it in small sections as the 'bubble' would eventually find a part where the fumes would escape and collapse, thus partially ruining a clean removal.

SaraH610 months ago

Thank you so much for your post! The pictures make it easier to understand the process. I will be trying this with my kitchen cabinets! I also don't understand why people paint the wood. Thanks again.

gidideret3 years ago
Don! You've inspired me to do my front door that has been haunting me for two years..

I've had frustrating experiences with chemicals and sanding on other projects over the years, hence the procrastination..

Glad I did, now i can proceed to phase 1.. [Get the tools,etc.]
Can't say when phase 2 will happen.. Maybe next winter.. :>)

Will keep you posted..
DragonDon (author)  gidideret3 years ago
Glad to be of service! Anything for a buy with such a cool name :D

You will enjoy it immensely once done. I was hoping to eventually tackle the wood trim in the house, but that would have been a whole other lesson in patience. Non-flat surfaces would certainly be a challenge.

Good luck and post up pics!
tinker2343 years ago
wow thank you i hope to use salvage doors for a prtojct so these will be perfect
DragonDon (author)  tinker2343 years ago
You're quite welcome. I will say that this was a lot of elbow grease project. Even with a mouse sander(which takes a toll on your hand/arm).

I did try a regular sander but found that it just didn't work as nicely.

I should also note that the first door I did, I used a water-based varathane and that left some bubbles, which dried and irked me. I could have sanded it again, and reapplied but couldn't be bothered to spend more time on that door.

This door I used a foam brush (as opposed to a bristle brush), which makes a big difference in the application of the varathane. I still used a water-based type as well. No bubbles to sand out :)

Good luck with your project!