How to Refinish 100+ Year Old Wood Trim

Last week I showed my finds from a recent flea market trip, which included this piece of trim:


As you can tell, it’s covered in multiple layers of paint, the top one being a sea foam green.  I had planned to strip it to see what was under all those layers, and after a little research, decided to try Citristrip.  I put on a thick layer with an old sponge brush, and waited about thirty minutes, when I could see the paint wrinkling.


I scraped a little bit, very gently, with the wooden handle of the brush, until it looked like this:


Then I rinsed and scrubbed very gently with an old toothbrush.


I was really excited to see the grain of the wood.  I slathered on another layer…


and left it on all night.  The next morning I carefully started scraping away using the sponge, q tips and toothpics.  This is what is looked like


Sadly, the back of the trim looks like this


so I knew there were going to be some imperfections, but living in an old house has made me very familiar and comfortable with imperfections.  I rinsed the trim with mineral spirits, and here is the final product


It turned out even better than I had hoped.  You can see the nail holes where someone used giant nails to hang it somewhere.  But I absolutely love how the grain of the wood looks, and I’m actually shocked how well it turned out.  Here’s another before and after



This gives me hope for my kitchen doors as well.  My kitchen has six doors in it, and they are all coated in layers of brown, cream, pink, green and blue paint.  When we updated our 100 year old house, the man who refinished the woodwork said he could not get through the layers and layers of paint.

All the rest of the woodwork in the house was bare wood with stain on it, but the kitchen trim had been painted over and over again.  The contractor suggested we paint the doors and windows brown, which we had matched to the rest of the trim, and we went along with the idea, not knowing what else to do, but I’ve never been happy with the result.

This project gives me hope that there will be much door refinishing in my future.  I highly recommend Citristrip–I have no connection or affiliation with them, but it far surpassed my expectations for this project.  I’m sure this trim is close to 100 years old or older, and it had multiple layers of paint on it, so I consider that a good test.

Have you ever refinished any kind of old woodwork?  Any tips for me?

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