Is Stripping Paint Really Necessary?


It’s always amazed me to see workmen sanding all the paint off a home’s exterior just because some of the paint is peeling. All that work and expense, and rarely is it necessary. Generally, new paint isn’t going to adhere any better to bare wood than it would to a layer of old paint.

Before climbing the ladder, sander in hand, take the time to answer a pair of essential questions:

Stripping Paint Isn’t Always Necessary

Paint usually peels due to high levels of humidity and inadequate ventilation, not because of substrate problems.

If you lift a peeling section and see wood, it’s because unvented moisture from inside your house has built up in the siding and “pushed” the paint layer away from the wood.

Is Stripping Paint Really Necessary?

In the above describes your situation, improve the ventilation in your home before doing anything else.

Afterward, instead of stripping paint, follow these steps instead:

When Stripping Paint Is Essential

If, however, the paint on your house is so thick that the definition of shingles, molding profiles, and decorative carvings has been lost—or if you want to reveal the wood grain that the paint is hiding—then at least some degree of paint stripping will be in order.


In this case, my recommended plan of attack involves a heat gun and a quality set of paint scrapers.

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Tools of the Trade

For big jobs (e.g., large areas of wood siding that’s severely alligatored) consider using an infrared heater. This tool heats a larger area than a heat gun and can be mounted on a track for hands-free operation.

Infrared Silent Paint Remover. Photo:

Scrapers are available with interchangeable steel heads, some flat and others with points or various contours for tackling curved surfaces. To quicken your work, keep scrapers sharp with a file or sharpening stone.

The heat gun-and-scraper combination can also be used when stripping paint from furniture and interior trim. Indoors, household implements (like old steak knives) can also be useful, particularly when digging softened paint out of narrow crevices.


Notes of Caution