Removing Paint from the Deck

The new deck beam was delivered Tuesday. It’s made of fir, and is a much lighter color than the existing beams, which are covered with a coat of brown paint. The new wood is going to be stained, not painted, and I had been considering removing the existing paint on the beams. I had not remove the paint on the front deck beams, and it turned out OK, but having one beam in back an obviously different color was not going to work.

The new beam to replace the rotted one is made of fir. It is 10 feet long so will have to be cut to length.

Two heat guns and a set of paint scrapers were purchased from Harbor Freight for under $30. This allows Richard and me to remove paint simultaneously.

Finding a beam was interesting.  I googled “lumberyards” near my zip code and started down the list from the closest one.  This was a hardware store in Bernalillo. I guess they listed themselves under “lumberyards” because they sell some 2×4′s!  Of course they had nothing in 6×10 but I got a suggestion of a place that might have beams like this.

The next lumberyard did have 6×10 beams.  They come in 8′ and 16′ lengths; I need 9′.  The 16′ is $80.  Delivery?  They are located in the South Valley; Corrales is north of Albuquerque, and they don’t deliver there!  They would cut the beam to size, but I would have to find my own means of delivery.  OK, they go on the “possible” list.

Richard is applying heat to the surface, then when the paint bubbles he removes it with the scraper.

The third lumberyard was most helpful.  Yes, they had 6×10 beams, though not at this location; they’d have to bring it in.  I could get a 10′ length for $90.  Delivery to Corrales? No charge.  Could I get treated wood?  Yes, but not right away; the beam would have to be custom made.  What does that involve?  They have to find a tree the right size, cut it down, mill it, and pressure treat it.  It would take three weeks.  Must be expensive?  No, same price.  (!)  I went with the non-treated beam.  Unfortunately they could not cut to length, so I will have to do that myself.

The two horizontal beams have dry rot that needs repair. Note that the post has moved as nails no longer fasten it to the beams.

Internet research revealed that there are three ways to remove paint from wood.  Regardless of which method is used, it is a lot of work.

  1. Dissolve with chemicals.  Apply a paint stripper, wait, then scrape off the residue.  Some chemicals work better than others; some are safer than others.  I thought this method would be better suited for furniture rather than deck beams.
  2. Abrade the paint.  Works better on peeling paint than on paint with good adhesion.  My deck has a mixture – paint is peeling where is gets direct sunlight, but it is sticking pretty well in the shady areas.
  3. Break the bond between the paint and the wood with heat.  This is done with a heat gun.  Then the paint is scraped off.  This Old House liked this method, except they worried about a hidden ember that would burn the house down overnight, so they recommended a product that uses infrared light bulbs at a lower temperature.  It costs about $400.  I compared that to the heat gun available from Harbor Freight for $13.  I bought two of those, so Richard and I could work at the same time.

The corner post is removed to provide access to the beams that need to be repaired.

As with any house repair project, problems keep surfacing.  We were in the living room at sunrise earlier in the week, when Richard pointed out that sunshine was coming in through the wall where the one beam had been removed.  That will have to be caulked before we replace the beam.

The post sits on a piece of rebar that keeps the bottom from moving.

As I removed the paint from the post at the southeast corner, I noticed more dry rot in the beams the post was supporting.  I was able to remove most of the nails with my fingers and lift the beam, leaving the post free to wobble.  With only a little effort, the post was removed to provide access to the area in question.  Obviously the adventure will continue as this latest wrinkle is resolved.

With the post removed, the dry rot in the beams is clearly visible.

Paint removal is about half done, providing another indicator that the deck rebuilding adventure is going to continue.

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