The Paint Scraping Problem
Paint fails because the adhesive bond between paint and surface fails. Sometimes it fails in large peels, sometimes it fails by “alligatoring” (many small cracks in the paint).
Most painters scrape old paint with a putty knife, 5-in-1 tool or a steel scraper. Each simply knocks off loose flakes of paint – with varying degrees of effectiveness. They dull quickly and, unless re-sharpened, their effectiveness drops greatly. Carbide scrapers cost more but they stay sharper much longer and consistently do a better job of removing more paint.
Scraping is defined as removing loose paint; restoration is defined as removing all paint. It should be understood that when scraping, more paint is removed with each successive pass of the scraper, until eventually, all paint is removed. The amount of scraping required is a judgment call best left to the painters’ understanding of the tradeoffs between time and job quality. Scraping is a practical way to handle old paint, whereas restoration is much more expensive simply because it takes more time. Sanding paint edges generates dust that is now a less attractive middle ground because of environmental concerns about lead.
Rather than rely strictly on labor, there are products now available that allow painters to effectively paint over (“encapsulate”) lead paint. Encapsulation is often viewed as the most environmentally appealing way to handle old paint. These products stick like crazy and “bridge”, to a certain extent, the hard edges and cracks in old paint. The proper combination of these products will result in a more durable and longer lasting painted surface. It won’t be a restoration-smooth surface but will certainly be more visually appealing than the old scrape-and-prime process.
The Bottom Line
Using more effective scrapers and taking advantage of new paint technologies, painters can deliver an environmentally friendly, aesthetically pleasing and longer lasting paint job than was available in the past.