How to Remove Exterior Paint From Wood: Learn the Basics

how to remove exterior paint from wood

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Is your wooden fence looking dull and worn out? Or perhaps the paint on your bench is peeling away in the sun? Maybe it’s time for a fresh coat. If you attempt to apply a new coat of paint without removing the previous one, you risk getting a blotchy finish that appears worse than it did before. Flaking paint makes it much more difficult to achieve the desired look, but it gets stuck in the brush bristles, causing it to get lumpy.

If you try to paint directly on old paint, you will surely regret it. For the best results, here’s how to remove exterior paint from wood so you can have it look as good as new.

Why Do I Need to Remove Old Paint?

Old Paint on wood

Examining the current state of the wood you’ll be working with is crucial before painting it with new exterior wood paint.

Is the old paint layer on your wood peeling? Peeling paint can remove any new paint type that you apply to your woodwork. It is because as paint peels, it will remove itself from your wooden project and, as a result, remove your new layers of paint along with it. What’s more, you don’t want flakes of paint to come off to your brush when you’re painting a new layer; this will result in an uneven, blotchy finish.

Does this old layer of paint contain paint bubbles? The bubbles in the paint look terrible. It means that no matter how many layers of paint you add on top of this old paint on your woodwork, it will not hide this ugly texture.

As well, these bubbles of paint can, and most likely, will pop. When these bubbles of paint pop, they will leave that section bare wood. Those bubbles of paint will shed the old paint and any new paint that was layered on top of that bubble of paint.

As you have read, before you go adding layers of paint, you need to do some paint removal first. Removing old paint may sound like a difficult process at first. However, if the wooden-related project is not too big, you can easily and effectively remove old paint yourself.

Paint Removal Methods

There are several methods of paint removal. All of these methods of exterior paint removal use different tools and techniques. Likewise, all of these paint removal methods are better suited for different wood-related projects, while some methods are easier than others. Since there are many different ways of removing paint, it can be hard to decide what method you should use on your woodwork project.

Therefore, here is a brief description of all the paint-stripping techniques so that you can choose which one is the right paint-stripping technique for you and your woodwork.

Method 1: Applying Heat

One way that you can get rid of stubborn paint is by applying heat. It is because heat creates softened paint. This softened paint can then be peeled away.


You can use a few tools to remove paint with heat from a blow torch, heat gun, or even an infrared torch. You will also need a paint scraper and perhaps a dust sheet to protect the surrounding areas.

It must be noted that a heat gun is a preferred method to remove paint with heat. This is because any heat-expelling tool that is larger than heat guns could put out too much heat. Too much heat could burn your woodwork.


To remove paint with heat guns, you must follow these steps. First off, grab your heat gun as well as a paint scraper. Next, turn on your heat gun; since many heat guns exist and all are unique, your heat gun should come with instructions on how to handle your particular machine.

After that, hold your heat gun at a suitable distance to your wooden object. As you do this action, you should see the thick layers of paint begin to soften. If you don’t see anything happening, then move it a little closer, but it’s better to start too far away than too close that you burn it.

When you see the layers of paint begin to soften, you can then take your paint scraper and start the process of paint stripping. First, move your scraper up or down the wood at a 45-degree angle to scrape away the paint.

Method 2: Chemical Paint Strippers

Removing paint with chemical paint strippers is another popular and effective way of stripping paint. Liquid paint removers consist of an acid. The acid in these chemical paint strippers reacts with old paint, which makes the old paint peel off of the surface that it was applied. However, as there are many different types of paint out there today that you can use, there are different types of chemical strippers that you can use.

Removing paint with a paint stripper can be a tricky job if you are inexperienced. Therefore, here are the steps that you need to follow if you plan on peeling paint away with a chemical paint stripper.


The first step is to determine what type of paint you are working with. For example, are you working with lead-based paint, oil-based paint, or water-based paint? Lead paint is very different from oil paint. Since this is the case, you need to use a paint stripper that is designed for your paint type. Once you have determined what type of paint you are working with, choose the corresponding paint stripper.

After that, you can move on to stripping paint off of your exterior wooden surface. To do this, apply a generous amount of paint stripper to your wooden surface’s old paint. You need to apply enough paint remover to cover all of the paint. If you are working on a wooden fence, then be careful not to expose your plants to the paint stripper, as the chemicals can kill them. Instead, cover them with a sheet or put a sheet down on the ground to catch any runoff.

However, don’t add too much paint remover, as this might damage your exterior wooden surface. Remember, paint strippers are an acid that can eat through a wooden surface if it’s too strong or put on in an excess amount.

Once you start to see paint peeling away, take a paint scraping tool and start stripping paint away using the same technique as we mentioned before. The paint should come away easily and with very little resistance.

Cleaning Up

You need to know about using peeling paint, inducing chemicals because you need to wash your woodwork after all the loose paint has been scraped off to ensure you don’t damage the wood. As we mentioned before, leaving the stripper for too long can damage the wood due to its chemical makeup.

You can wash off the remainder of your chemical paint stripper in many ways. For example, you can use a power washer to get rid of the remainder of your paint stripper. On the other hand, if you don’t want to undergo pressure washing to get rid of the rest of your chemical paint strippers, then you can use a damp cloth that is soaked with household detergent. Take this prepared cloth and rub it along your woodwork until all remaining chemical paint strippers have been washed off.

Method 3: Paint Scrapers

Scraping paint away with paint scrapers is another popular way of getting exterior paint off of the woodwork you want to work on. This technique is more labour-intensive but will have the same effect as the other methods.


There are many paint scrapers that you can choose to use to scrape paint off your woodwork. For instance, you can use a putty knife for paint scraping. A putty knife consists of a rubber or wooden handle with a metal piece at its end. This piece of metal on the end of a putty knife is flat and sharp.

Another paint-scraping tool you can use to scrape paint off your woodwork is a wire brush. A wire brush is a wooden handle that has multiple thin wire bristles attached to one end.


To use a paint scraper to carry out scraping paint off of a wooden object, follow these steps. Although many paint scraper tools that you can use, all paint scraper tools can be used in the same way. First off, take your woodwork and run your paint scraper tool over the existing paint. Continue this process of scraping paint until all of the loose paint has flaked off of your woodwork.

Method 4: Pressure Washing

Another form of removing paint from existing wooden projects is with water. There are a few ways that you can get rid of paint, including lead paint, with water.


One tool that you can use to get rid of old paint with water is a power washer. This pressured water machine spews water out of a nozzle at a firm, strong and steady pace. This water-exerting machine consists of a metal machine with a hose with interchangeable nozzles that be put on the end. The machine transfers water from its main metal body through the hose and then out through the nozzle. This nozzle projects the water out in a neat and appointed direction at high pressure.

Another tool you can use to rid your existing woodwork from any prior applied paints is using your garden hose. A gardening hose transfers water from a water source through the rubber tube and then out through the nozzle in the same way a pressure does; however, they do not often feature the same amount of power. You can buy specialised nozzles that can create more pressure. However, they may not have the same effect.


Follow these steps to use pressured washing methods and tools to get rid of existing paint on your wooden project. First, direct the nozzle of your water-spewing tool towards your woodwork at a 45-degree angle at a safe distance. Then, let the force of the water dislodge the old paint. Repeat this action until you have a piece of woodwork that is bare. Finally, let your woodwork dry fully before repainting or treating it.

Benefits of Painting Wood

So why take off the old paint and add a new layer?

Extending Life

Wood is known for being durable. However, like anything in life, wood will break down eventually when exposed to rain, sun, and wind. Although this is an inevitable event, there are certain ways you can extend the life of your wooden garden features. Although there is no way to make wood last a lifetime, most wood paints and treatments protect the wood from the weather and make it last longer.

These treatments can also protect against bugs that will naturally burrow into the wood and impact its structural integrity.

Treating against rot, bugs, and the weather will ensure that your garden furniture, fence, or wooden ornaments stay fresh for longer.

Add Some Style

Wood is beautiful in its own organic and natural way. In fact, a recent trend in interior and exterior design that has risen in popularity quite drastically over the past few years has been farmhouse charm or rustic charm. However, despite what you call this trend in exterior design and interior design, the Farmhouse house charm or rustic charm uses the natural beauty of wood to add a nostalgic, country, warm feeling to any home.

So, what do all of these ways of enhancing the visual appeal of wood have in common? If you want to extend the life of your wood, protect your wood against the weather or add some style to your wood, you can do so with a fresh coat of paint.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

Nothing revamps anything more than a good paint job. New paint gives a fresh spin to any existing piece of woodwork.

Choosing the right colour paint on a wooden fence can make a small area seem larger or add to the aesthetic of your garden area. Choose a varnish that will bring out the natural colours and grain of the wood, or go for something opaque and matt for a unique finish. The options available for wood paint are so vast, you will indeed find something that suits your style.

Are You Ready?

There you go—a step-by-step guide on how to remove exterior paint from wood. As you can see, painting on woodwork is an excellent way to add protection and create a stylish look to any piece of wood you have. However, you always need to take off any pre-existing paint on your wood first. It can be done in a few different ways, such as by heat, a scraper, a cleaning liquid and more. Good luck, and enjoy your woodwork to its full potential!

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