Are you ready for Year 3? I hope so because the results are in! For three years now I have been testing some of the most popular wood fillers and epoxies by leaving them exposed to the harsh Florida weather to help you find the best wood fillers on the shelf today.
They have been cooked in the sun, drenched in the rain and run into by the occasional tricycle all in the name of science.
In Year 3 there have been some interesting developments to each product that you’ll get to see below. The five products I tested here are Abatron WoodEpox, MH Ready Patch, JB Weld KwikWood, Minwax Wood Filler, Minwax High Performance Wood Filler.
The Test Conditions
To make this test as scientific as possible I’ve outlined the rules and conditions below.
I drilled out a 1/2″ deep hole with rough edges to try to simulate a chipped or gouged board and filled the hole above the surface with filler, after which the patches were sanded level. Here are the conditions:
All the fillers and epoxies were applied and left to cure/dry until they were ready to sand smooth. I ranked the fillers in my previous post regarding ease of application, ease of sanding, and drying time.
The sample board was left outside uncovered laying horizontally. I will qualify this by saying that all of these manufacturer’s recommend that their products be primed and painted even though I have left all of them without any primer or paint.
This test will clearly show different results than if I had painted the repairs, but I decided that seeing how a product would stand up to unprotected exposure and on a horizontal surface would show results more quickly and accurately as to which product has the greatest staying power.
Test Results: Year 3 has brought minimal changes to this patch again. The perimeter still has hairline cracks around 90% of the patch but has not grown any since last year. The patch still feels very solid in the wood and does not move at all even when I gave it a significant push.
The algae growth appears to have decreased on the patch in Year 3 but that may have been more an issue of changing weather patterns as we had an extremely dry April & May even though that was followed by one of the wettest Junes on record.
The wood surrounding the patch is completely water logged currently and getting very soft with serious signs of rot occurring about an inch or so from the patch so we’ll see how that turns out in the future as the rot approaches the patch.
Test Results: This year was a complete surprise to me since Ready Patch had deteriorated so quickly in Years 1 & 2. I expected complete failure at this point but really there was little change from Year 2 to Year 3.
Granted Ready Patch is still exhibiting the most movement in the patch (still minimal though) of any of the materials. The edges are still raised and the center has shrunk creating a crater in the patch though it still feels like a solid patch of spackle with no spots of softness.
This patch has the largest cracks around 100% of the perimeter and is allowing water to penetrate behind it. We’ll see what that brings in Year 4.
Test Results: KwikWood is still going strong though there were slight changes from Year 2 to 3. The patch remains completely clean of dirt and seems to be impervious to algae or mold growth. The biggest change in Year 3 is that the left side of the patch has lifted up ever so slightly.
The cracking on the perimeter is still extremely fine so if there is water getting behind the patch then it is very minimal, but I am worried about the lifting of the patch on the left side. This may be due to swelling wood underneath pushing it up or deterioration of the surface of the wood from exposure. At this point its difficult to tell.
I still cannot detect any movement in the patch and it feels very well adhered to the wood.
Test Results: I have complained about this filler in the past and been snooty preferring high grade epoxies, but each year this test continues I have to eat my words and Year 3 is no exception.
This inexpensive water-based wood filler has continued to test better than any of the other products in my test. The patch is completely solid with minimal cracking if any. Way to go Minwax!
I will preface Minwax Wood Filler’s stellar performance in this application to not be construed to mean that it can replace a structural epoxy like WoodEpox. Being better at filling holes in the field does not necessarily translate to patching corners or rebuilding wood elements. But for filling small to medium sized holes in wood this filler is proving to be a serious performer that deserves credit.
Test Results: In Year 3 the High Performance Wood Filler is continuing much the same as Year 2. There is a slight increase in perimeter cracking with nearly 95% of the perimeter cracked now. The patch is still very stable in the wood and does not move when pushed or pulled.
This is still one of the top performers when it comes to algae growth as it keeps itself relatively algae free. There appears to be a slight depression in the center that I have not noticed in past years, but it does not feel soft or weak in any area.
I don’t want anyone to feel like these products are not useful as you read this post about how they are deteriorating. I am purposely putting them under extremely harsh conditions to see how and when they fail. These will all fail at some point as will any wood filler or epoxy. For me it’s just a matter of seeing how they age and what to expect in the future.
July 2018 will be my next inspection of the patch stick so we’ll see what happens in Year 4. So far, this has been an eye opening test for me to find the best products for patching wood and I hope it has helped you make some decisions for your own projects. Till next year!
If you have found this test helpful consider purchasing any of these wood fillers by clicking any of the links on their names through my Amazon affiliate links to help support the blog. It costs you nothing, Amazon just gives us a little commission for sending you their way.
If you are finishing wood with a natural or stained appearance today you’re likely using some kind of varnish or polyurethane. Varnishes create a hard finish that protect and beautifies everything from wood floors to delicate woodwork, but do you know the difference between a spar varnish and regular varnish and when to use them?
Wood finished for outdoor use is subject to a completely different set of factors that indoor finishes never have to deal with. Huge temperature swings, big changes in humidity, and punishing UV rays are the primary effects your finish will have to endure. These elements will easily break down a regular varnish or polyurethane over time.
Humidity changes, for one, cause the wood to swell and shrink much more than wood left indoors and that excess movement alone is enough to crack a regular varnish in short order. So, for an exterior wood finishing solution we turned to boat makers and their years of experience caring for wooden elements with the harshest exposures in the world.
What is Spar Varnish?
The term “spar varnish” comes from the boating world, where the long wooden poles that support the sails are known as spars. A spar varnish is a finish specifically designed withstand the rigorous conditions of seafaring life which means it can also handle anything your backyard throws at it.
So what’s in it? Well every varnish or polyurethane is made up of relatively similar ingredients. Just like with the grocery store, if you can cut through all the marketing hype and look at the actual ingredients you’ll be able to make a better decision.
They all contain, in varying amounts, an oil, resin, and solvent. Manufacturers like to play around with the amounts and kinds of each to make their varnish, but this basic recipe is always followed. Within those three ingredients you also have a couple options.
Linseed oil and Tung oil are the most commonly used oils in varnish and they create a deep penetrating finish. If your finish were only oil then you’d have a very slow drying and soft finish that penetrates deep within the wood. Using oils alone is an option, but it takes many coats to build up a thick enough coat to protect the wood. These oils are an important part of a food spar varnish because by adding more oil to the mix you get a softer and more flexible finish that can handle the excess movement associated with outdoor wood. Higher oil content is one of the markers of a good spar varnish.
Resins are the hardeners. Typically the resin is either alkyd, phenolic, or polyurethane. Alkyd and phenolic are associated with varnish finishes while the use of a polyurethane resin is what makes a finish a polyurethane. These ingredients give us the hard, shell-like finish you are accustomed to in most varnish finishes. Interior finishes are relatively high in resin content and low in oil content which creates a nice hard finish, but leaves little flexibility and penetration. Without the resin you’re left with an extremely soft finish that may not hold up to traffic and wear.
These resins and oils need a carrier to be dissolved in and that is what the solvent provides. There are a multitude of solvents but mineral spirits and paint thinner are the most common. There are others like naphtha and xylene that are faster drying as well. The solvent thins the oils and resins and helps blend them together and make them easy to apply with a brush or wiping cloth.
Last but not least every spar varnish needs to protect itself and the underlying wood from the sun. Regular polyurethane and varnish contain little if any UV blocking additives and that alone makes them a poor choice for exterior application. Without UV protection varnishes and wood quickly break down and fail.
Selecting a Varnish
Like most things in life you get what you pay for. Better ingredients result in a better product and those better ingredients cost more. Will it kill your project to use a cheaper finish? Absolutely not, but considering the amount of work you put into your project wouldn’t a few extra dollars be worth it for a longer lasting finish?
For me there are two options I usually go to for exterior wood finishing. Both are excellent choices, though one does stand above the other.
This spar urethane is probably the most readily available spar urethane on the market today. You’ll find it in just about every big box and local hardware store. According to the ingredients we discussed earlier Helmsman uses a polyurethane resin hence the name and the primary solvent is mineral spirits. It is easy to apply and creates a nice warm finish that stay flexible for years. You can find it in a variety of gloss levels as well.
You won’t find this on your local hardware store shelves, but that doesn’t mean it’s not incredible stuff. Personally, this is my favorite finish for exterior wood. It was designed by boat finishers for boats and us land lovers can benefit from their hard work by using a product that can handle the toughest elements. It uses a phenolic resin, which I think is better suited to outdoor use, and the solvent is naphtha with a little bit of xylene. You can usually only order it online. If I’m finishing an exterior wood project 9 out of 10 times Epifanes is the stuff I reach for.
What it all comes down to is protecting wood, and for exterior applications spar varnish does a better job of it plain and simple. Just like you need the right tool for the right job you also need the right varnish for the right application. Finding the right varnish is only have the battle though. You need to know how to apply it properly and we’ll be talking about that next week.
The main reason most finishes fail prematurely is not because of an inferior product, but because of user error. Poor preparation and application can’t be overcome by a premium product. So tune in to learn how to get a great finish next week.
For those of you who haven’t heard of the site before, Kate Wagner (the creator) does an absolutely brilliant skewering of modern McMansion architecture, or lack thereof. She takes street view photos of McMansions from all over the country and marks up the photos with scathing commentary in true “what the hell were they thinking?” style.
Of course, it wasn’t long before news outlets picked up on the David and Goliath story and the news went viral. Ms. Wagner got legal representation and a few short days later Zillow ceased and desisted on their cease and desist. Crisis averted, right?
The good news is that our side may have won this battle, but the march of the McMansion continues unabated across our country. At least we’ll have sites like McMansion Hell to help us see how ludicrous the design of these faux houses are, but they are still popping up like one big Whack-a-Mole game.
McMansion an Architectural Style?
I’ve written about a lot of historic architectural styles on this blog over the years, but what do you do with a trend in architecture that is actually anti-style? I don’t think the McMansion is purposely designed poorly, I just think we’re seeing the result of uneducated or lazy people designing houses today.
The non-design of these houses is the architectural equivalent of pasting together magazine clippings of facial features to create the perfect man or woman. All these pieces have no connection to the whole and there is no through line to the design.
Yes, architects I am speaking to you! This is your job. Real architecture is not built for our time, but for all time. Who remembers the old adage “form follows function”? Well, in every architectural style of the last millennia that has been the case up until this last generation it seems. We have been tearing down real houses, historic houses, beautiful houses to build faux mansions that Barbie would be appalled to live in.
With faux balconies and blinds, windows that don’t open and dormers that lead nowhere and always a massive and prominent garage to proclaim how many cars we have. Our architecture speaks to who we are as a society. The early buildings in America were simple and utilitarian, fitting for the frontier land that it was at the time. As wealth increased in the colonies the homes got larger and more ornate. They were built better, designed better because society had the means to do better work.
What Will Future Generations Think?
What does the McMansion say about who we are as a society today? Are we as fake as the homes we live in? Would we rather have the appearance of wealth than actual wealth? Do we care to leave something behind for our children and our children’s children or are we obsessed with living as extravagantly as we can for as long as we can until things come crashing down like the last recession.
We have the knowledge and technology today to build exponentially better homes than our forefathers did. We may have the tools, but it seems we don’t have the will and it worries me what future generations will think of what we have left behind.
Every generation leaves their buildings behind on this earth for the next and hopefully more future generations to critique. What will the consensus be of what we have left behind when there is no one here to explain why the balcony isn’t really a balcony and why the shutters don’t actually operate or fit the windows they were paired with.
I hope the McMansion will be seen for the folly it is and not who we truly are, but for that to happen we have to stop indulging these architectural tantrums and start building like we mean it.
From a historic perspective there is nothing that offend me more than when a stunning historic building is razed to the ground to clear the way for one of these monstrosities. Historic buildings that have stood the test of time and weathered the elements with grace deserve to continue their watch over our neighborhoods and not be replaced by the poser of the building community, the McMansion.
Be careful when you build a house of cards, because you’re just one gust away from showing your hand.
Should I use rope or chain for my windows? This is a big question for a lot of homeowners and the answer is usually very simple. If your windows originally had rope then stay with rope and if they originally had chain stay with the chain. The reason is not because I’m a purist, but rather a few reasons that may make more sense once I explain it a bit more.
Window pulleys are designed specifically for either chain or rope and while they can function with either they work best with their intended material. Pulleys designed for chain have a flat wheel whereas pulleys designed for rope have a curved wheel.
The curved wheel cradles the rope better causing smoother operation and less stress and wear on the rope. The flat wheeled pulleys for chain give the chain nice flat surface to ride on. When you put chain on a curved pulley it rides mostly on the edges causing uneven wear and rougher operation.
In many ways chain is an upgrade. It’s more attractive, longer lasting and can hold more weight than average rope, but these aren’t always a major concern and the higher cost of chain is also a factor.
Sure chain lasts longer but good quality sash rope can last more than 60 years. That’s plenty long enough for me to not worry about replacing ropes but once in my life. Don’t get me wrong I love the appearance of sash chain but rarely is it necessary.
Choosing the Right Rope or Chain
The first thing you need to determine is if you will be going with chain or rope and then we can get into which size and style to choose. Like I mentioned earlier there are pulleys that are designed to work better with chain and pulleys that are best used with rope. You can interchange them but I would allow the type of pulley to dictate whether you should use rope or chain.
Which Rope is Right?
A lot of people worry that rope won’t be strong enough to support their heavy sash and sometimes this is a problem. How much weight can sash rope hold? The working strength of #8 Samson Spot Cord which is what I mostly use and recommend is 150 lbs. that means that anything less than a 300 lbs. sash (remember there are 2 ropes supporting the sash) should be just fine with this rope. Other ropes don’t have nearly the strength of Spot Cord.
Samson also makes larger sash cord in sizes #10 through #16 which can hold 480 lbs. to 1080 lbs. respectively. So, really no matter how big the sash is you can use rope. The larger sash ropes may have trouble fitting in smaller pulleys so it’s best to check sizes and clearances first.
If you don’t like the trademark red spot that comes on Samson Spot Cord there are a lot of other options on the market that can work instead. The main thing in selecting sash rope is to choose a cotton rope with the proper weight rating for your sash. Synthetic ropes are not a good choice because they can stretch causing the weights to bottom out and the sash to not stay put. Synthetic rope also does not hold up to the intense UV exposure windows are exposed to and will deteriorate faster than cotton.
Which Chain is Right?
Sizing chain for residential windows is typically #25, #8, or #829 which have a weight load of between 70 lbs. and 80 lbs. If you’re wondering what the numbers mean I honestly don’t know as it has never been necessary for me to find out other than to know which number is the right size chain for my windows.
Rarely is there a need for a heavier duty chain unless you are dealing with very large commercial windows which can use #3, #35, #45. These chains have a higher weight limit between 100 lbs. and 175 lbs. and a larger diameter so they often do not fit in standard residential pulleys as they were intended for larger commercial applications.
The material whether it be bronze, copper plated, stainless steel, or any other option is less an issue of strength and more cosmetic preference. I prefer either stainless steel or solid bronze because plated chains can wear and rust with age. There are companies selling a myriad of different chain options to help you find something that suites your needs. Here are a couple places you can find quality sash chain:
Chain can be attached either simply or elegantly to sashes. It can be as simple as running the chain into the rope mortise on the side of the sash and nailing it in place. A more attractive method for attaching chain to the sash is to use chain spirals which slot into the rope hole mortise and the chain is then thread onto the ring just like putting keys on a key chain.
The same applies to attaching chain to the weights. You can tie a knot just like with rope or use a more attractive method of a chain hook which attaches one side of the chain into another. You loop the chain through the eyelet on the weight and crimp it back onto itself.
I hope this has been a good primer to get you pointed in the right direction for deciding if you should be using rope or chain for your windows and where to find the good stuff. For tutorials on measuring and installing sash rope take a look at these previous posts as well.
So, you're renovating - pinning 100 images a day, searching endless hashtags on instagram #ihavethisthingwithfloors and googling the most unlikely of questions you thought you would ever be asking, "22mm copper pipe, or 15mm copper pipe?". It's fun, exciting, daunting and oh-so bloody stressful.
Whether you're taking on a DIY renovation, a whole new-build project, a conversion or just remodelling the kitchen, the most invaluable aspect to renovating is being able to get advice and help along the way. And let's face it - sometimes looking through 50 odd google pages can just leave you more confused than you were before.
The Homebuilding & Renovating Show, which travels throughout the country (next stop, Surrey!), is full of folk who understand exactly what renovating means. It's a show, specifically for renovators like you and me. Unlike other home shows, which is mainly a shopping experience, the Homebuilding & Renovating show offers tons and tons of free advice to be gained from a visit. In fact, there's over 500 free one-to-one sessions where you can talk to self-build experts, architects, designers, as well as getting legal advice as well. It's great for DIYers (like us!) who don't have professional builders tackling the job for us, or perhaps if you're just looking to get advice on layouts and lighting arrangements without employing an expensive designer to do the designing aspect for you. Basically, if you're struggling to find answers to any renovation-related question or looking for some free help, this is the place to find them. There's also masterclasses to get involved with and seminars to leave you full of new and fresh ideas. Stuff that can't be gained from a pin-board or google search.
Of course, as well as advice, there are exhibitors as well where you can see first-hand lots of products that may be of interest to your renovation (flooring, roof tiles, even storage solutions!), materials you've maybe never considered or even heard of, and obviously some discounts and bargains to be had as well ;)
So if you're renovating and this sounds up your street, well the great news is, if you're reading this blog, you can pop along for absolutely FREE. Yep, the lovely folk from the Homebuilding & Renovating Show are offering up 500 free pairs of tickets to my readers, saving you £24 and giving you more to spend on that expensive growing renovation ;)
So, if you want to bag yourself some free tickets and pop along to the next show which is in Surrey (Sandown Park) on the 1st and 2nd of July 2017, just click this link to get your free pair!
If you're unable to make it to the Surrey show, don't worry - there's other locations in the coming months, which you can also gain free tickets to from this link as well :)
If you do pop down to the show, I'd love to hear your experiences - did you find some bargain flooring, decide on a whole new ground floor layout, discover some new insulation materials? Be sure to leave me a comment below, send me an email, or tag me on any of your Instagram pics! I'd love to hear :)
Rust sucks. Let’s not sugar coat it. Nobody wants to have rust on their metal tools or steel windows. It’s wood rot but on a different surface and it will slowly eat away the metal things you treasure most. But what if there was a way to make rust disappear? Sure it will come back if you don’t take steps to prevent it, but if you already have something that is seriously suffering from rust what can you do?
I’ve been fighting rust for years in the historic preservation business. Sometimes with great success and sometimes with huge fails. And since I like to pretend I’m some kind of crash test dummy for preservation I have been doing some testing in my shop to see how I can stomp on the head of rust and claim victory once and for all.
I’ll show you a couple of different options today. Some of them cost only a few bucks and others will cost about the same as your new Tesla. But all of them are rust destroyers in the truest sense. They each have their place for different projects and materials so it will depend which works bet for you. We’ll start with the simplest first.
Ospho is a readily available liquid you can find at most any paint or hardware store. It is mainly phosphoric acid (yes the same thing in Coca-Cola) which when it comes into contact with rust (iron oxide) it chemically converts it into iron phosphate which is completely inert. Once the rust has been converted it can be primed and painted or otherwise sealed.
Ospho is caustic so you’ll want to make sure have eye protection and plastic gloves on when handling it. Also wash any spills off your skin promptly. Application is simple usually just using a disposable chip brush does the job and then wiping off any excess puddles after an hour or so of working time.
This works well for steel windows and other larger metal projects, but a lot of the time you’re looking to have the rust removed not simply transformed, right? Well, there is a way to use Ospho to completely remove any trace of rust.
The Ospho Bath
Pour enough Ospho into a plastic bucket (not metal) that is deep enough to completely submerge your rusted piece under the surface. Go watch a movie and come back. After a couple hours (depending on the severity of the rust the Ospho will have moved past converting the rust to iron phosphate and will have eaten it away and caused it to slough off. Any remaining rust can usually be cleaned off with some steel wool and mineral spirits.
Take a look at the old glazing point driver I restored with this technique. This required no scraping, sanding, or any physical labor other than wiping the surface clean at the end of a 4 hr soak in Ospho.
Sand blasting gets a bad rap in historic preservation circles, but that’s mainly because people use it the wrong way on the wrong surfaces. Used properly sand blasting is one of the best ways to clean and protect old metal. If you have rusted steel or iron then taking those pieces to a sand blaster can be just what the doctor ordered.
Softer metals like bronze or copper are usually not good candidates for sand blasting, but for steel and iron the process thoroughly cleans the metal of any rust, dirt and other contaminants. The other advantage of sandblasting is that it creates a uniformly rough surface on the metal which is a much better surface for primer and paint to adhere to rather than a super slick metal. This can greatly improve the adhesion and therefore lifespan of your paint.
You can get your own blasting equipment and try sandblasting things yourself, but in my experience it’s not worth the expense or hassle. Find a local sandblaster and drop it off with them because the cost is usually pretty cheap.
Much better than Dr. Evil’s sharks with lasers on their heads, this laser can obliterate rust or paint on top of any metal. Using 1000W of laser power it creates so much heat that whatever you aim it at turns directly from solid to plasma or vapor. It is literally like those old sci-fi guns that vaporize things!
How’s it work? The system uses short pulses of laser light. When aimed at a metal surface, “the dirt layer and any oxides underneath will absorb the energy and evaporate.” The metal underneath will not absorb the laser energy, leaving nothing but a clean surface ready for welding or painting.
How much does it cost? Glad you asked Warren Buffet. You can pick one of these handy 1000W lasers up for only $480,000 or you can also get one of the little 20W lasers for only $80,000! Maybe it’s not for the rest of us, but maybe my kids will be able to afford one.
So, now that you know how to make rust disappear you may want to follow up by checking my previous post How To: Stop Rust For Good. Between these two articles you’ll be armed for the battle of your life until you get to heaven where you can safely store up your treasures because there rust and moth do not destroy.
I see way too many old houses with a front porch that has been bound and gagged. The front porch was closed in with jalousie windows or cheap aluminum windows and plywood siding almost as an afterthought. It looks so out of place to me like a straw hat on a woman in a formal gown or sneakers with a tux.
The front porch was key to the design of an old house and closing it in to gain a few extra square feet may improve your standings in the tax rolls but, but does nothing but give your house a black eye. Even a nicely done front porch enclosure creates a jarring and disjointed entrance into the home.
In his epic treatise on architecture and planning called A Pattern Language Christopher Alexander discusses the natural flow of the different types of spaces we encounter when approaching a home and how transitioning through each is imperative.
Enclosing the front porch cuts off this normal transition from one level of access to another and causes the visitor to jump directly from semi-public right to private. This may seem like feng-shui non-sense but I can assure you that though it may not be noticeable in a conscious way it does matter.
The inside of our homes are built with much the same principles. You enter the front door into the foyer then proceed into the living room and as you continue further into the home you encounter more and more private spaces like the kitchen and bedrooms.
Could you imagine walking right into a friend’s house where the front door opened into the master bedroom? It would be plain weird. Just like our bodies acclimate to different temperatures our psyches need to acclimate to increasing levels of intimacy whether it’s in our homes or our relationships. Think about how your relationship with your significant other has progressed. Were you as intimate on date one as in year 10 of your marriage? Doubtful.
The Purpose of the Porch
The design of old houses is full of examples of form following function and the front porch had plenty of function. It was more than just a place to store a bicycle or drop packages off. Much like the television is the center of our homes today the front porch was the place to be before radio, television, and air conditioning trapped us inside.
The front porch was the place to talk with your neighbors and develop relationships. It provided shade on those hot summer days, and kept us dry on rainy nights. The front porch protects visitors at your door from mother nature and gives them shelter from the storm. It allows you to sit on a porch swing with your sweetheart and enjoy the final cool breeze of spring before summer barrels into town.
If this sounds like nostalgia it’s only because you’ve chosen to not exploit all that your front porch generously offers. When neighborhoods start opening up their front porches again residents realize that what they loose in square footage they gain in freedom of spirit. Neighbors talk again, flower boxes and flags dot the street, homes are restored, and quality of life rises right along with property values.
If you have a home with a front porch that has been kept captive for decades I hope you’ll considering setting your porch free. Unburden your old porch and let it breathe again. You’ll be glad you did and so will the neighborhood.
We are working on an exterior restoration project right now where the client wants to remove all the original paint from the siding and trim. So that means chemical paint strippers because infrared is too slow and hand scraping is too exhausting for a whole building.
Dumond was nice enough to send us one of their test kits that comes with 4 different types of paint stripper so we can find the right product for the job. Every coating responds differently to chemical paint stripper and we wanted to find the product that would remove the paint the most effectively before we start work on thousands of square feet of drop siding.
So, I thought what better time to do yet another test of different products my readers might find useful. I documented the process and results below so you can find the right chemical paint stripper for your job. Let’s get started!
Paint strippers are no joke to mess with so you always want to be safe when handling them. Put down a drop cloth to keep any drips from damaging the floors or spilling into the dirt. Also be sure you are wearing safety glasses and chemical resistant gloves. Ordinary nitrile or latex gloves can be dissolved by certain strippers so you’ll want to use chemical resistant gloves if you aren’t sure. All the products we tested are biodegradable and ordinary latex gloves were sufficient.
The siding we were working with was long leaf pine novelty drop siding that was installed in the mid 1880s. It had approximately 6-8 layers of paint on the surface, some of which had chipped off in places and you could see bare wood that had only received one layer from the most recent paint job. The paint surface was moderately dirty and I setup my test patches under the front porch wall. The weather during the test was in the low 90s during the day and mid 70s at night with very high humidity and a rain storm during the night. The test patches were in a covered area so the rain wasn’t directly a factor.
I tested four products for this post all made by Dumond. Here’s the description of each product from the manufacturer’s website.
This is an eco-friendly 100% biodegradable, water-based, and odor-free paint stripper that is extremely effective in removing multiple layers of architectural and industrial coatings from virtually all interior and exterior surfaces. Removing paint from wood, brick, metal, concrete, stone, plaster, and most fiberglass and plastics does not require caustic, toxic chemicals.
A water-based paint removal product that delivers the superior performance professionals require when removing even the most difficult coatings. Multiple coats of varnish, oil-based, water-based, lead-based, acrylic, urethane, epoxy, and elastomeric paints are no match for Smart Strip PRO. It removes paint from an interior or exterior surface, such as wood, brick, stone, concrete, plaster, metal, fiberglass, plastic, glass, etc.,
The PeelAway 1 system is excellent for removing paint from inside intricately carved areas and is highly recommended for historic restorations and other projects involving lead-based paint abatement. It can remove more than 30 coats of paint from a wide range of surfaces, including, wood, brick, concrete, stone, stucco, plaster, cast iron, steel, marble, and fiberglass and is also biodegradable.
PeelAway 7 can be safely used on virtually all interior and exterior surfaces. It can remove most varieties of architectural paints, varnishes, and high-performance coatings such as epoxies, urethanes, acrylics, elastomerics, chlorinated rubber, aluminum, mastics, and automotive or marine bottom finishes.
None of these paint strippers were difficult to apply but they each had their quirks. For the application I used a new disposable 2″ chip brush for each stripper to make sure there was no mixing of the products. Each section was also covered with Dumond’s Laminated Paper after application which covers the stripper and keeps it from drying out so that it can be more effective.
Application was fine. It stuck to the vertical surface without issue and applied like whipped cream or thin sour cream. It was a little difficult to get a layer much thicker than the recommended 1/8″ because it wanted to move around on the surface with my brush though.
Smart Strip PRO
Very much the same feel and consistency of the Smart Strip though it had an appearance of curdled milk. Getting an 1/8″ layer with the chip brush was challenging as well since it moved around like the Smart Strip.
Peel Away 1
This product was more of a light grey paste which made it very easy to get a nice thick coat as recommended. It smoothed out and applied very similarly to premixed joint compound and was wonderful to apply.
Peel Away 7
Almost identical application experience to the Peel Away 1 except that this stripper has a beige color to it. The different color against the white siding made it really easy to see if I had a consistent layer or there were some holidays which was really helpful. But that would only really matter if I was stripping white paint. Overall application was almost identical to Peel Away 1.
I let the paint stripper do its magic for about 20 hrs which was on the long side of the 6-24 hrs recommended by Dumond to make sure we had good penetration through all the layers of paint. I first peeled the paper off which came off without removing any paint on any of the test patches then grabbed my steel triangle pull scraper and set about gently scraping the surface.
The Smart Strip removed about 95% of the surface paint pretty easily but there was still some paint remaining deep in the wood grain. For a repaint this isn’t an issue at all since the surface was now free of all the coatings. It did cause the wood to darken and “fur up” which would require sanding before priming and painting later.
Smart Strip Pro
I was surprised at how spotty this was compared to the regular Smart Strip but in this scenario the Smart Strip PRO would definitely be a poor choice. It removed maybe 70% of the paint and resulted in a very mottled surface. It also required more effort to scrape the paint off. I was not impressed.
Peel Away 1
This came off like a dream! And just like the name it literally peeled off which was a nice change from the gooey way the Smart Strip patches came off. Almost 100% of the paint was gone and it required the least effort to scrape. Just like the previous 2 strippers it did darken the wood and cause it to “fur up” which is just an added step in the restoration process later, but as far as stripping paint this one was a rock star!
Peel Away 7
Another winner here though not quite as dramatic as the Peel Away 1. It still removed about 95% of the paint but unlike the Smart Strip it came off a little easier and in bigger chunks. I did notice that the upper section came off better than the middle which may have had something to do with some inconsistencies in my application thickness so I think with some tweaking I’d probably get closer to the Peel Away 1 results.
All of these products are biodegradable and relatively gentle compared to the old school paint strippers that will burn your head off which is a great modern feature. And the only one which requires neutralizing is the Peel Away 1 which can be neutralized with either Dumond’s Citrilize neutralizer or white vinegar. The others simply need to be washed clean with water.
If I’m going to use a chemical stripper then it better get rid of all the paint otherwise, in my opinion, it’s not worth to mess and hassle. For this project we’ll definitely be using the Peel Away 1 and what’s even better is that Dumond was nice enough to donate all the paint stripper we’ll need for the project since the work is being done for a non-profit historic museum. My restoration company is donating some of the labor to the project as well so soon this amazing piece of history will be back to her former splendor.
I hope this test has helped you make some decisions on using paint strippers on your next project. There is definitely a place for them and while using them appropriately is important it is even more important to use the right product for the job. If you’ve got some paint stripping to do grab one of these test kits and get to work. You won’t be disappointed!
From time to time I like to do product testing here on the blog because it helps me find the best products out there and share them with you. You can check out my most popular test to date the Wood Filler Test (Year 1 and Year 2) for some useful testing. Today I thought it was about time I did some head to head testing on glazing putties.
In my shop we glaze about 600 LF of putty every week so making sure we are using the best putty that is not only easy to use but performs better than the other products on the market is of vital importance. I’ve written about Which Glazing Putty is Right For You previously, but have never done head to head testing of multiple products. Plus I’ve included some additional putties that I don’t have experience with but are readily available so I’ll be learning right along side you.
For this test I have glazed a 3-lite sash with the various putties and left the sash in my shop for approximately 4 weeks before taking it outside and leaving it exposed to the elements unpainted. Here’s what I’ll be looking for in the testing and will rank them on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the worst and 10 being the best)
Below are the products that will be a part of my glazing putty test. I also snuck in my own glazing putty recipe to see how it performs with the rest. Soon we may have some of our own glazing putty available for you readers too! Test points 5 and 6 won’t be evaluated this year but in the upcoming years we’ll be able to see how the putties perform on these items.
This a new putty to me that I have seen on the shelves at paint stores but never tried until now. This is a linseed and calcium carbonate putty with titanium added. It’s a natural product with no harsh chemicals and very similar to the traditional putties of the old days.
The putty comes in a sealed metal can and has a layer of water on top that needs to be poured off and blotted dry with a rag before digging out some putty. The water keeps the oxygen off the putty and prevents it from developing a skin on top which saves you from loosing a layer of cured putty which is nice.
Right out of the can the putty was simple to work in my hands and tools pretty nicely. I didn’t have any problems with the putty sticking or clumping and it was easy to work with my glazing knife. It is oil-based so clean up really consists wiping it off your hands with a rag and then washing a couple times with soap and water, but in the end it does come off.
As far as the cure time, I was impressed that after only about 1 week the putty had developed a good enough skin that it was ready for paint.
This is an old standard for a lot of window glazing. I’m not a big fan of it from past experience, but I decided to give it another try for this test since it had been a few years since I last used it. In my opinion the greatest strength of DAP 33 is that it is available at almost every hardware and paint store in the country.
The putty was very thick and oily and difficult to work with a putty knife compared to the other putties I tested, but I was still able to get a smooth putty line. The clean up is much like the other oil-based putties requiring wiping off then washing thoroughly. It took just about 16 days before the putty had a sufficient skin enough for painting which is on the long side for glazing putties.
One small benefit of DAP is its white color. Since a vast majority of the sashes I paint are white it is much easier to ensure good coverage of the paint on the putty rather than with the natural tinted putties.
I’ve seen this putty on the shelf at my local Sherwin Williams store and have wondered how it performed so I forked over a few bucks and brought a quart back to the shop for testing. The putty is white in appearance just like DAP 33 and when I dug it out of the container I found it to be a sticky, gooey mess to work with. It stuck to everything including my gloves so much so that I had to take them off and use my bare hands.
The stickiness of the putty made it feel more like a paste than a knife grade putty. The stickiness did make it easy to adhere to the glazing rabbet but other than that I did not enjoy working with this putty one bit. Trying to tool a smooth finish was not an easy task and I’m a pretty darn good glazier.
Cure time was about 13 days before it was ready for painting. Even if this putty performs amazingly I would not recommend it because it was such a pain to work with.
At the time of this writing this is the putty I use everyday in our shop. I included it in this testing even though I am immensely familiar with MultiGlaze because I wanted to have a baseline by which to judge the other putties with. MultiGlaze is a linseed oil putty and has a beige/grey appearance. It is extremely easy to work with and has just the right consistency to stick to the sash and not stick to your hands and tools.
It tools easily and leaves a super smooth bed of putty. Not only that but it cures in about 3-4 days and is ready for paint at that point. The only down side to it is that it is not meant for on-site application. Sarco recommends that it be glazed in the shop and then painted before it is placed into service.
For this test I decided to add my own mixture of putty into the testing. I used a traditional glazing putty recipe of raw linseed oil and whiting. It was a little difficult to find a good mixture because when I made it thick enough that it wouldn’t sag it was then very hard to work with my glazing knife. When it was thin enough to glaze easily it was too thin and would sag.
Clean up was much the same as the other putties which wasn’t surprising. I knew that by using raw linseed oil instead of boiled linseed oil the drying time would be extended but I was surprised by how much slower the skinning over time would be. It took about 26 days before the putty was ready for painting which is crazy long!
While it was helpful to see how a traditional linseed oil putty performed compared to modern glazing compounds it was particularly helpful for my testing while I try to develop my own putty. Right now I would consider this putty a fail, but testing and learning is never a failure in the end.
This is only the first year of my glazing putty test so be watching for future posts to show how these putties perform out in the elements.
Even as a contractor myself I can’t deny that one of the most difficult things a homeowner will have to do is hire a good contractor. Learning how to find the right contractor is more of an art than a science. When you tack on the added speciality of needing a contractor who understands historic homes it may feel as if you are looking for a unicorn.
Trust me when I say that there are quality contractors out there who would love to work with you. You just have to find them and that’s what I’ll help you with today. Some of it is knowing where to look and some of it involves doing your due diligence to find the right contractor for you.
1. Looking in All the Wrong Places
If you are looking for more than a “Chuck in a Truck” contractor then there are a few places you should avoid like the plague. It’s not to say that you won’t find a good contractor here, but the chances are better you’ll find mostly bottom feeders and cheats. Hire contractors from these places at your own risk
2. Ask Neighbors & Friends
The best referrals you’ll ever get are from your friends. Ask neighbors and Facebook friends who they like and have had good experiences with. You’ll probably get a few good names to start the search with. At the very least you’ll get some names of contractors to avoid and that can be just as useful. Your friends have nothing to gain by setting you up with a bad contractor so you can trust what they say as unbiased.
3. Where Else to Look
Did you know there is a resource here on the blog to help you find the right contractor called The Craftsman Directory. It is filled with hundreds of contractors from all over the country with all kinds of different specialties like window restoration, plaster, masonry, woodworking, etc. Almost every state is represented in my directory so chances are there is someone near you.
We are constantly adding the list so if you have a local craftsman you think should be included email us and we’ll check them out and add them to the list. I’ve given each of these contractors an initial looking over to make sure the work they do is consistent with historic preservation, but I don’t know ALL of them personally so you’ll still need to do your due diligence.
4. Meet Them in Person
Once you have a few names of potential contractors you’ll want to narrow the field by meeting with them in person. A preliminary phone call is always good to start the ball rolling, but without meeting face to face your are at a serious disadvantage. Working with a contractor is very much like starting a relationship. You want to feel comfortable with both their personality and their knowledge of their trade.
Trust your gut on this one. I could give you a list of things that might be red flags or might be advantages but ultimately this is a personal decision and you need to trust your gut because it will almost always be right in this scenario.
5. Check Licensing & Insurance
Are they properly licensed by your state or city? Do they need to be? Find out what your area requires and make sure your contractor has the proper licensing. Most licensing is honestly pointless, but I use this as a gauge of whether the contractor cares about following the rules. If they flaunt the local licensing authorities then what corners will they cut on your project? If their licensing is on the up and up then that’s a good sign the rest of their work will follow suit.
Insurance is immensely important to protect you during a renovation and making sure they are insured is as easy asking them to provide a Certificate of Insurance (COI). It usually takes a couple days but when you ask them to provide it they should comply. If they start sweating it may be a bad sign they aren’t insured.
6. Get Multiple Bids
You should always get multiple bids for your project so you have something to compare. One contractor may mention a different material than another that you didn’t know was a better choice. Information is power so more bids is more power in your hands. Also be sure to tell them you are getting multiple bids so they will really sharpen the pencil on your project. You’ll get a better price that way.
Once you have all the bids in throw the lowest one in the trash. If you get 3 bids that are $8,000 $12,000 and $13,000 you can assume that the lowest bidder is the kind of contractor that either cuts corners or is desperate for work. If the price sounds too good to be true then it probably is.
Bonus Read: Avoid the Tyranny of the Low Bidder
However if all the prices are within a couple hundred dollars of each other then you’re probably ok. You just don’t want the lowball contractor on your project. Benjamin Franklin said it best, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
7. Get it in Writing
If it wasn’t written down it never happened. Working with a contractor without a written contract is asking for trouble. You want a specific contract that outlines exactly what is included and what is not included and how much it will cost. You may understand what you want but the contract is there to protect both you and the contractor in case of disagreement. Make sure the wording will make sense to an outsider like a lawyer. Change orders should also be in writing as well to avoid miscommunications.
Look in the right places and do your due diligence and you will come out on top in the search to find the right contractor. Once you find a company you like and trust stick with them and share their name around with your friends so you can help not only your friends but that great contractor to keep busy with great clients.