Article: Speak Easy

Thinking About Strippers with Michael BoturThinking About Strippers with Michael Botur

I’m a fan of DIY who loves improving stuff around the home, and I’m also an overgrown child. This means I love seeing stuff get destroyed by chemicals so it can be improved. Melting gummy residue from old stickers, killing weeds, dissolving ink stains on woodwork, putting coatings on furniture – you name the solvent, I’m there. It was particularly satisfying, therefore, at the recent Home Show here in Whangarei to see one exhibitor showing off a very powerful paint stripper.

(Sorry, exhibitor, I cannot name you here unless you pay the full cost of a Property Plus advert.)

Now, it seems to me sometimes that being a grown up is about pointlessly wasting money by applying a coating to woodwork only to strip it off a little bit later. You paint a nice little rimu cabinet, then a trend like silver-painting furniture (silvering) comes along, so you use a heat gun or chemicals to strip the paint off and scrub in a cocktail of metal and polymer to make the wood look silvery. Then you point out to your wife that she may as well have just bought a filing cabinet if she loves metallic surfaces so much, and she tells you your tastes went redundant in the 80s. A fight ensues.

Other ways to waste time coating wood only to strip it off later:

• You paint a wooden beam so that it matches the Breville breadmaker you only
use once; later you spend a whole three day weekend stripping the paint off to
make the bare, oiled beam a ‘feature.’
• You tack down good carpet on a wooden floor; later, you strip the carpet off and
praise the virtues of floorboards.
• There’s a story on about a couple who got sick of the (in my
opinion, stunningly beautiful) real wood lining of their home’s interior by
drenching it in white paint because they complained that it “looked like a sauna”.
They painted directly on the wood. Now their home is as bright and sparse as a
hipster art gallery. It will be almost impossible to undo that when white goes out
of fashion.

Some options, if you don’t want to permanently ruin beautiful wood, include Wall Liner (this is like a thick, textured wallpaper which you can paint on); put plaster board over the wooden walls; or just alter your windows, doors and furniture to let more natural light come in and illuminate that beautiful wood

• Want to cover up some floorboards which you’re sick of getting cold toes on, or which looks tired and worn and uninspiring? Perhaps invest in expensive rugs instead of putting carpet down. A high quality, thick rug will insulate, it’ll cost about the same as new carpet, it’s portable, easily replaceable and if it’s stiflingly hot in summer, you can drag that rug outside onto the grass and enjoy picnics then return inside later to a cool patch of floor

Lastly, here’s a tip if you are tempted to use chemicals or a heat gun to strip paint off a mantelpiece, piece of furniture or door, but you’re not sure if the wood is high enough quality to make it worth it. Simply find a painted patch and scrape the patch down to see if there have been coatings in the past. If the wood was painted when it was manufactured, that’s a reliable sign that it was considered cheap wood which won’t look good without paint. You’re not likely to get a good result by stripping the paint off and rubbing linseed oil into it, sorry. Stripping paint is fun, but some things are best left painted. 

Michael Botur has published journalism in NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and Mana and he writes a lot of fiction. He moved to Whangarei in 2015 and was ecstatic to be able to afford a house here.

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