Instructions on how to paint strip (paint stripping 101) – our other built in saga

Paint stripping isn’t the most fun task but here are some step by step instructions to make it a little easier! You need to be 100% committed but the results will be worth it in the end.



Paint scraper

Sander or Manual with both 80 grit and 220 grit sand paper & steel wool (optional)

Lead paint test

Dust mask

Wood stain

Cheap paint brush


Cloth (for rubbing in the stain & finish)

Trash bin with liner

Paper or something to cover the floor you will be stripping over

Mineral spirits to clean paint brushes if you will use a brush (optional)

Wood conditioner (optional)

Tung oil or finish (optional)

Wood filler (optional)



Know what you’re getting into! This will consume a lot of time, especially if the project is large. We did 2 projects at once because we wanted to finish the stripping before our new hardwoods got installed.


Step 1

Get your supplies ready and prepare for the mess.

I personally liked the citristrip after I started originally with heavy duty paint stripper. The citristrip works just as well (if not better) but it is more expensive. However, after getting paint stripper accidentally on my skin and because I was doing this indoors, I went with citristrip. It smells like citrus and has a spongy texture and does not burn! It works in 30 min or less.


Step 2

Check for lead paint. I wore a dust mask any way because I did some dry chipping. If you can dry chip- it saves time so try to do that first.


Step 3

Put the paint stripper on until the paint bubbles and pulls away. Scrape away! Hint: the better quality scraper, the better experience you will have. We bought a $30 one halfway through. Continue stripping the layers away until the wood comes through. I found it better to let the layers dry in between stripping because it worked better. Once the wood comes through, it may be easier to finish with steel wool/sand paper.




Step 4

Sand! We used both a circular sander (auto) and an attachment dremel sander. The dremel sander tools can be hard to find, but was so helpful to get the tiny edges. We started out with 80 grit and then finished with 220 grit. Don’t forget to wear your mask. I would also suggest using a wood filler to patch up any holes. The wood filler will not look the same as the natural wood, but will take the stain. We only did this for a small area that had termite damage.



Step 5

Test your stain. We hated the first stain we started with so we did 4 additional stain test pieces before we found the one we liked.


You can paint the stain on with a paint brush. Let the stain sit up to 15 min and wipe it off with a cloth.


Step 6

Apply wood conditioner/pre stain, especially if you have exposed rough edges where the stain can soak in more or heavy grain. This will ensure a more even staining experience.


Step 7

Stain! Do this the same as your test piece. Leave on for 5-15 min and wipe off. Be careful that the stain doesn’t dry on one side if you have a big project. It can become sticky and glossy. If this happens, try using new stain over it and wiping it off. You can also sand it down as well. We did 2 coats of provincial hickory.


Step 8

Finish! I suggest Tung oil for a matte/natural finish, but you can use other finishes as well. You can rub this on with a cloth, let sit overnight, and rub off any excess.

Step 9 


(We still need to do the cabinet doors, but we need a break for now!)




The Fireplace and Built in Saga Nears the End

So we are almost there! We have made huge progress on the fireplace & built ins.

The worst part of the built in was getting the last amount of paint out of the grain. We still didn’t get it all, but decided to leave it for our sanity! We decided to attack our other built in too, but I will do a separate post on that one with all the supplies we used as well.

We used provincial hickory stain since that was the color of the hardwood floor we picked out. It isn’t too red, which we liked. We rubbed it with Tung oil because we didn’t want a shiny glossy finish.

Here is the before & after!



The Fireplace Saga Continues… aka Built ins

I dont know what I was thinking. Actually, I do know what I was thinking but I didnt expect the labor of love to be this intense! I started out just chipping away a layer of latex over oil paint as it was peeling, and then I just couldnt stop! The top layer came off easily but the bottom paint, definitely lead, needed to be (wet) and safely disposed of. Anyway- I am glad we have not moved in yet so we can totally dispose of any paint pieces and ensure we are not breathing this stuff in. Under this white paint and tile capsule, we have beautiful bones to work with 🙂


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The Fireplace Saga

Our fireplace looked like a 1950’s bathroom. It had been sealed off with ceramic tile that was crooked in the middle. A beautiful focal in our living room for all to enjoy. Until yesterday.


We were about to leave after a late night at the house and decided that it had to go. So we grabbed hammers and crowbars and went at it. I cannot describe the joy I felt as we chipped away at the horrible tiles. Underneath it was a brick fireplace. Who would cover that up with tile?! We were a little upset that a previous owner took the art tiles from the center. I am so curious as to what it would have looked looked like.


Our next step is to get a quote on what it would cost to repair or completely demolish. Our living room is so small that the fireplace & built in’s take up an extra 12 inches of the living room. We are also considering a gas fireplace. I also have looked into some less expensive remodeling/resurfacing or painting options:

Regardless I am happier with the brick over the tile. It at least feels natural!

Before and After

Before and After