Picture rail molding was once a popular, decorative trim installed in homes as a way of hanging artwork without the need for nailing holes into the plaster walls. Unfortunately, as older homes were remodeled and updated, it was the picture railing that was often removed or hidden behind layers of paint.
Restoring old picture railing that has been covered in multiple layers of paint is a time consuming DIY job. Conventional stripping methods that rely on sandpaper or steel wool to remove old paint can also damage the fine detail work found in old picture railing. There’s also the potential of running up against old lead paint, which means that any type of dry sanding is out of the question.
Before attempting to remove paint from old picture railing, the molding should first be removed from the wall and placed on tables in a well-ventilated work area. Depending on whether the trim will be stained or repainted, one of these three methods for removing that old paint should work for you:
Using Peel Away stripper
Supplies needed include Peel Away stripper, Peel Away paper, rubber gloves, goggles and a trash bag.
If you plan on repainting your picture railing, a product named “Peel Away” paint stripper is the best method of removing layers of old paint. This product is troweled onto the railing in a 1/8-inch layer, then covered with a special paper which seals in the product while it goes to work on the old paint. After the 24 hours, the paper is peeled away along with the paint. Peel Away reaches into the tiny grooves and crevices that are so characteristic of picture rails, and removes paint without the need for sanding. It also keeps those sections of lead paint in moistened form so that particles of lead dust can’t float into the air.
Peel Away does discolor the wood, which is why it’s only recommended for wood that will be repainted or stained a dark color. Peel Away can be ordered from the Dumond Chemical company at www.peelaway.com.
Removing paint with a heat plate or heat gun
Supplies needed include a heat plate or gun, small putty knife, dental picks, small steel brush, goggles, and a trash bag.
A heat plate or heat gun is another common way of stripping old paint from intricately carved wood. With a heat gun, the paint is softened and can be scraped off with a dental pick or small steel toothbrush. Using a heat plate to remove old paint is a very eco-friendly alternative to chemical strippers. Heat plates and heat guns can be purchased at your local hardware store or ordered through Amazon.
Supplies needed include commercial paint stripper, stiff bristled brush, toothbrush, rags, goggles, rubber gloves and a trash bag.
Chemical stripping using a commercial paint stripping product continues to be the most common method of stripping old picture railing and molding. To remove paint from old picture railing, the chemical stripper should be applied directly to the surface of the railing, and allow to sit until the paint begins to blister. The paint can then be removed with a stiff bristled scrub brush. To reach into the tiny detail work found in the picture railing, a toothbrush can be used. These method is best for using on picture railing that will be stained since it does not discolor the wood.