Paint removal and redecoration

Traditional coatings used on ornamental plasterwork, whiting, limewashes and soft distempers were washed down, to clean and remove build up before repainting. This allowed for the maintenance of detail in the moulding or embellishment. The use of modern paints which are by nature thicker and more difficult to remove has led to the loss of detail with each subsequent re-painting. Given that it is likely that a room is redecorated on average about every 10 years, this practise, on a ceiling of great age can result in obliteration of detail.

Paint removal demands knowledge of both paint type and substrate materials. Great damage has been inflicted on lime plasterwork by the use of unsuitable paint stripper which has the effect of corroding the surface of the decoration. Where the substrate composition is unclear the approach to removing paint must be one of extreme caution. “Composition’, a natural resin based moulding material has often been mistaken for wood or plaster and been destroyed by the use of wrongly chosen chemical stripper.

As with all of our work paint removal procedures begin with consultation with client and contract administrators to define the extent of removal desirable and the most desirable results. Consultation leads on to trials and analysis. Historic paint schemes can lie obscured beneath layers of modern paint and can be replicated if this is desirable by the use of stratigraphic analysis of the paint by a specialist conservator. The age of different layers can be ascertained by analysis of binder and pigment type in a particular layer and this knowledge is useful in helping the client making choices regarding re-decoration. Analysis also helps prevent the removal of historic polychromy.

Correct paint removal is predicated on knowledge of both the paint type to be removed and the particular substrate from which the paint is to be removed to avoid severe damage to the decoration. Hence the necessity for informed trials. Plaster, wood and composition materials all demand different approaches to avoid costly mistakes.

Trials are also useful in establishing times for paint removal and extrapolating costs. Trials, followed by discussion to establish satisfactory results, followed by measurement of the scope to be stripped leads to a firm platform for contracting out the work. Without trials it is extremely difficult to budget for this work or for a contractor to accurately price.

We are also have extensive knowledge of redecoration methods using traditional materials or modern paints suitable for use on Historic buildings. This includes both water and oil application of gold leaf.

We try where possible to undertake all work in the most environmentally friendly manner. We would always choose the lowest impact chemicals capable of completing the work satisfactorily and choose products where environmental issues have been addressed by the manufacturer. This concern is also applicable to the safety and health of our conservators.

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