|WHY WE DO NOT LIKE TO DO SCRAPE'N'REPAINT
Every one knows the key to a good re-paint
job is good prep. But, it is challenging to define exactly
good prep. Whether it is the Secretaries of Interiors Historic
Preservation guidelines or an Architects specs it is mighty
hard to create a clear cut quibble proof spec. I have seen
respected painters who use pull scrapers that they never
sharpen. I have seen painters who make desultory pokes with
knife and whatever does not fall off is considered "well
adhered". I have seen well respected painters paint
over dirt so thick it is rises in clouds as they paint.
Specifications for paint prep for historic old buildings
usually talk of “scraping
to refusal”. Refusal of what? I ask myself. Scrape until no more old
paint can be removed? A worker can remove any and all paint, no matter how
sound, if they are willing to take forever and keep sharpening. Scrape until
the workers are disgusted and refuse to scrape any more? Let’s face it.
No matter how diligent and professional workers may be, human nature is such
that “scraping to refusal” means one thing at 9 AM on the first
day of scraping, and something else at 4 PM on the fifth day. I have never
seen a job nor specifications in which the issue of sufficient preparation
is quibble proof. I consider myself to be the most aggressive of scrapers,
but can I declare with certainty that I have removed every piece of old paint
that may be at risk of detaching from its substrate? Of course not. Nor can
anyone else who does a standard scrape job. Usually, no one even has any idea
what the accumulated layers of paint are. This is why when “scrape & paint” jobs
begin to fail, the failure is usually the old paint falling away from the wood,
taking the newer coatings with it. So then another “scrape & paint” is
done, and some of the loosening material which the scraper should now remove
is missed due to the fact that it is hidden behind the last coat of paint.
These missed areas will then be the first to fail as before, thus perpetuating
this frustrating cycle. Furthermore, as evermore layers of paint are applied
over the decades, the thickness of the coating increases, meaning that an ugly
and crooked ghost line will show through the finish paint where an area scraped
bare meets old paint. We are all familiar with this horrid look on old buildings.
The standard answer is of course to “feather” these transitions
with sand paper. This is often as time consuming a process as the scraping
itself, and is a bad practice from a lead safety standpoint. When all is
said and done, no matter how good a job of preparation may have been performed,
the final results still depend on the mysterious old layers of buried paint.
Furthermore, a scrape"n..paint job creates a big lead hazard and or creates
the need to spend lots of money simply following the new EPA laws aimed at
preventing the hazard. It also leaves large amounts of hazardous lead paint
in place to be a costly hazard again the NEXT time you do a scrape'n'paint.
Furthermore, scraping paint is excruciatingly boring and I have wonderful employees
and keeping work fun helps me retain them. And finally, it is my goal that
if you hire me to fix your steeple the steeple will not require my attention
for 100 years. This business of returning every 5-10 years to "do it again" is
for the birds.
So, we like to find solutions that do NOT invole scrape'n'repaint work. This
might mean making the exterior wood all new, or to bring the old wood to the
shop for a total rehabilitation. We do not like to strip paint onsite with
chemicals or heat because it does not the solve the problem of failing fasteners
and mold/fungus spores that are living in the old wood.
So, given all that, what to do.
We will always want to remove the old lead slathered wood
from the steeple thereby eliminating the hazard for ever. It
is far easier to contain the lead while removing the exterior
wood than it is to contain it scraping, and the hazardous waste
disposal laws are less burdensome for old wood than for lead
. We can then build the exterior of new wood, or we can rehabilitate the old
wood in the shop. Often, we do a combination of the two. Please read our Shop
Rebuilding and New
Woodwork/Paint protocols to understand our techniques.
We are not totally unwilling to do a scrape'n'paint and we
do it better than most, but please allow me to make the case