Homeowners and decorators paint wood in various colors to create a contrast or to blend in with the surrounding décor. Over time its colors become dated or many homeowners simply no longer like the original color they chose. Many times painters add layers of paint to the timber surface to change the color or to update the current color. Layers upon layers of paint can fill in carvings or decoration on the timber or may start to look like quite of few coats of paint have been slapped on. After several coats of paint, paint may begin to bubble or flake in certain areas which severely detracts from the beauty of the timber molding, walls, deck, railings or furniture. Removing all of the paint layers from the timber will reveal a fresh surface on which to paint on.

Removing it from a wood surfaces, more commonly known as paint-stripping, is the process of breaking the bond between the base-paint and the timber that exposes the timber underneath. Stripping paint is necessary when there are several layers on the surface. Some dry-paint has drip marks and looks highly unattractive. Some homeowners or home decorators simply choose to expose the bare wood and refinish it with more natural paints and sealants. It is stripped from timber moldings, furniture, floors or wood-based walls including exposed beams or paneling. Do it yourselfers have a few methods from which to choose when removing paint from wood. All methods and techniques are effective. It is just a matter of choosing the method you feel comfortable with.

Stripping with Heat

Put on a pair of safety goggles and heat resistant gloves to protect your hands from the heat. Make sure you move all flammable items away from the timber to be stripped. Have a fire extinguisher handy in case of an emergency. Keep a phone nearby in case of accidental combustion. Avoid using a heat gun to strip old paint near natural gas lines and electrical wires. The excessive heat can case the coating on electrical wires to melt with can lead to a fire.

Aim the tip of the heat gun at the painted wood surface while holding the heat gun at a 45 degree angle to the timber. Do not allow the heat gun to touch the wood.

Work in small 2 by 2 foot, manageable areas at a time. Wave the heat gun over the painted surface until the paint starts to bubble up off the wood. Do not concentrate the heat in one area because you can start a fire.

Turn off the heat and grab a metal paint scraper. Scrape the bubbled paint to remove it from the wood. Do not press the scraper into the wood because you can gouge the surface or crush and break wood fibers.

Move the heat gun to the next small area and repeat the process, first with the heat gun and then the metal scraper  until all of the paint has been removed from the wood.

Removing with a Chemical Paint Stripper

Chemical strippers are messy to use, but are very effective.

Put on chemical resistant gloves, chemical resistant safety goggles. Open windows and doors and set up large fans to blow the chemical fumes out of the area. If you cannot properly ventilate, put on a chemical approved respirator.

Place tarps, drop cloths or thick layers of newspaper under the wood from which you are stripping the paint to catch drips, splatters and accidental spills.

Dip a paintbrush into the chemical paint stripper and apply a thick layer to the wood surface.

Let the paint-stripper to remain on the wood surface for anywhere between 10 and 40 minutes depending on the manufacturer's instructions. The paint will bubble and become very pliable when the paint-stripper has broken the paint bond with the wood surface.

Hold a metal paint scraper at a 45 degree angle to the wood surface and scrape away the layers of paint.

Fill a bucket with warm water and add a generous squirt of dish washing detergent – not dishwasher detergent. Or, use a neutralizing agent that came with the paint stripper. Some chemical paint strippers use their own neutralizer, some recommend a mild detergent.

Dip a rag into the soapy water or apply the neutralizer to stop the chemical activity and remove any residue from the surface.

Let the timberdry completely before refinishing.

Remove Old-Paint with a Paste or Gel Stripper

Paste and gel paint strippers depend on the same chemical reaction to break old paint bonds from wood surfaces. Paste strippers work slower than chemical paint strippers, but are more appropriate for areas that are difficult to reach such as carvings or corners. They are especially good for interior work because they create less of a mess.

Put on safety goggles, chemical resistant gloves and adequately ventilate the room. Lay tarps, drop cloths or newspaper on the floor to protect the floor.

Scoop up the paste or gel paint stripper with a metal putty knife. Spread the gel or paste stripper over the wood surface. Push the stripper into carvings and corners with the tip of the putty knife.

Let the paste or gel remain on the surface and react with the paint, which can take up to 24 hours depending on the brand.

Hold a metal scraper at a 45 degree angle and scrape away loosen paint.

Fill a bucket with warm water and a squirt of dish washing detergent. Stir the water to blend.

Dip a sponge into the bucket and wash the wood to remove any chemical residue from the apint stripper.

Sanding Away Old Layers

Sanding paint works best for small or large flat areas without any details, carvings or depressions.

Equip a belt sander with 100-grit sandpaper and sand the surface of the wood to remove the top layers of paint. You can also wrap 100-grit sandpaper around a sanding block and sand the surface by hand if the area is small or you prefer hand sanding.

Change to 180-grit sandpaper and sand the surface a second time while following the grain of the wood.

Finally sand the wood a third time with 240-grit sandpaper, while following the wood grain.

Chemical paint stripping is the easiest method, but also the messiest. Sanding will also remove a layer of the surface itself. If you do not have experience sanding wood, you can cause surface depressions and indentations in the surface.