DIY How To

How to Prepare wood

DIY Projects - Hand Sanding

Safety AdviceSome older paints can contain Lead, read our Removing Lead Paint before you start.

Good preparation is essential when preparing wood ready for painting or varnishing. No amount of paint will hide bad defects in the surface below.

If the paintwork is sound, even if it it is several layers thick then a quick preparation is all that is needed. If the original paint is oil based, rub down with a medium coarse abrasive paper wrapped around a wood block, wash down with a solution of sugar soap, allow to dry and you are ready to apply the first coat.

If the original paint is emulsion then a wash down with soapy water is all that is needed, allow to dry and you are ready to apply the first coat.

If the paintwork is peeling, pitted, badly chipped or crazed then the paint will have to be stripped to the bare wood, any damage needs to be repaired and smoothed before you are ready to repaint.

Sand block

Hand sanding is only suitable for small areas, use a piece of medium coarse abrasive paper wrapped around a wood block and plenty of elbow grease.

Wire wool

For detailed mouldings or curved surfaces use wire wool.


Use a shavehook to remove paint from right into the corners, there are different shape shavehook's for removing paint from mouldings.

DIY Projects - Mechanical Sanding

Mechanical sanding is ideal for larger areas and there are lots of different sanders available.

Safety AdviceWear goggles and a dust mask when sanding down. Some older paints can contain Lead, read our Removing Lead Paint before you start.


Orbital sander Orbital sanders are good for large flat areas such as door panels, window sills and skirting boards. Most come with a facility for a dust bag. This will help save a lot of time washing surfaces down to remove the dust. Keep firm pressure on the sander making sure the whole pad keeps in contact with the wood, Move slowly up and down the wood in the direction of the grain, allowing the sander to do the work.
Disc Sander

Disc sanders are designed to be fitted to power drills, but unless great care is taken the woodwork can easily be scoured. If the wood is scoured you will have to do repair work before you are ready to paint.

Even with the aid of a mechanical sander, most surfaces require some hand sanding especially for detailed mouldings, where a mechanical sander can't fit.

DIY Projects - Heat Stripping

Safety AdviceWear goggles and a dust mask when burning off paint, keep children away from the hot air gun. Some older paints can contain Lead, read our Removing Lead Paint before you start.


Heat stripping

Using a blow torch or hot air gun, is a quicker and less difficult method for removing old paint. The paint is melted with the heat and as it bubbles a scraper is used to remove it. Be careful when using a blow torch not to scorch the wood, hot air guns are less likely to scorch the wood. If you do scorch the wood it will need sanding down to bare wood before repainting.

Heat stripping deflector

When working near to windows or glass panels, use a heat deflector shield to direct the hot air away from the glass. This will help to stop the glass from cracking. If you don't have a deflector shield, use a plasterers float or similar, but be extremely careful not to allow the heat to come in contact with the glass.

DIY Projects - Chemical Stripping

These come in various types, liquid, gel or paste. Ideally use a gel or paste as the liquid type can be messy.

Top TipMake your own chemical paste.
Add caustic soda to water until no more will dissolve. Thicken to a paste with oatmeal.

Apply chemical paste

Apply the chemical stripper with an old paint brush, leave it to work for a few minutes, don't try to cover too big an area at once, do up to about a metre.

Chemical strip

When the stripper starts to work the paint should start to bubble up. Remove the blistered paint using a stripping knife for the large flat areas and a shavehook for the awkward corners or mouldings. Place the removed paint onto newspaper and dispose of safely to prevent damage to other surfaces.

Neutralize chemical

Chemical strippers are either solvent based or water based. After using a chemical stripper, it has to be neutralized by washing off with either white spirit (for solvent based) or water (for water based). Check the manufacturers instructions.

Safety AdviceChemical strippers are dangerous.
Wear rubber gloves and goggles and rinse any splashes off immediately. Don't transfer to a plastic container it will burn through.

DIY Projects - Dipping

For larger removable items such as doors you can use a commercial dipping service. These are relatively cheap and you can be assured all the old paint will be removed. All the door furniture such as handles, hinges etc will have to be removed beforehand.

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