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The Best Paint Stripping Tools

Being in the business of restoring old houses, I do a lot of paint stripping. And much of that paint is lead paint so I have to be extra careful to make sure we keep our dust under control. Here are the best paint stripping tools I have used over the years.

Some work better than others, and their performance often depends on the type and condition of the paint you are removing. All of these are the biggest contenders if you are looking to do some serious paint stripping. Caution: Remember to use lead safe work practices with any of these tools!

Speedheater
speedheater

Infrared Paint removal may sound like something that is over the head of the average homeowner, but I can assure you, it is not. The Speedheater isn’t slowed down by multiple layers of paint. I’ve used it to strip around 13 layers of paint from old windows in one pass! The infrared heat causes the paint to lose its bond with the wood fairly quickly. And since it keeps temperatures in the 400ºF range, it helps prevent fires and the vaporization of lead paint (which occurs at around 1100ºF). Both of which can occur when using heat guns. You’ll need a good scraper to take the paint off after the Speedheater heats it up. It’s simple to use and doesn’t have a steep learning curve. You can get to work right out of the box and not have to worry about seriously gouging the wood. If you’re using it indoors, make sure you provide excellent ventilation. I’ve also found that its effectiveness is greatly reduced when you encounter severely dried out or alligatoring paint. Craftsman Blog Rating: A- (Retails $599) Buy It Here 

Festool RAS 115Festool RAS 115

I bought this tool from the uber-expensive maker, Festool, to try and speed up the stripping of historic window sashes in my shop. And without a doubt, it works great! This tool is fast and powers through multiple layers of paint with no problem. It can be connected to Festool’s HEPA vac to make the tool a lead-safe tool, but I wasn’t impressed with the dust collection. Festool is famous for its incredibly powerful HEPA vacs, and while mine could suck a 2×4 down the hose if it would fit, the dust collection setup for this tool is plain awful. There isn’t an effective way to keep the dust from escaping. I may have had more luck if I was working on a wide flat surface, but for window sashes and doors, the dust got everywhere. I brought the tool back to Festool to try and see if mine was defective, but indeed it was simply bad design. There is a work around that I found, which brought this tool back into use in my shop. If you have a downdraft table in your shop, this tool has the potential to be a powerhouse once again. Overall, its an amazing tool and it does what it says. I’m just waiting for Festool to improve the dust collection system. Craftsman Blog Rating: B+ (Retails $315) Buy It Here

ProScraperProscraper

The ProScraper is the most low tech of all these tools and yet it performs like a champ. The ProScraper is essentially a hardened plastic hand scraper. It comes with a replaceable 2″ carbide scraper blade and it has a hollow body that hooks up to your shop vac. The best thing about this scraper on steroids is the dust collection. If you hook it up to a HEPA vac you will have almost flawless dust collection. It is rare that a paint chip gets away from the vortex that this little beauty creates. Another good thing is the price. At $34.97 it is around 1/10 the price of most of these tools. On the downside, dry scraping lots of square footage will cost you in replacement blades and be a slow and tedious process. For small areas and small budgets, this is the best option. Craftsman Blog Rating: A+ (Retails $36.97)  Buy It Here

Festool ROTEX 150

Festool ROTEX 150After my experience with the Festool RAS 115 I decided to give Festool another shot. This time I was very impressed. The ROTEX 150 is the Mac-Daddy of rotary sanders. This baby has a 6″ head and operates in either full rotary mode (like the RAS 115) or random-orbit mode for less aggressive sanding. The dust collection on the ROTEX 150 is very effective as well. It’s not quite as clean as the ProScraper, but I didn’t have any airborne dust in the shop once I started using this big boy. This thing is so powerful that we’ve even used this to refinish small areas of hardwood floors! The downside of the ROTEX 150 is that like most sanders, it bogs down when it encounters heavy paint build up. Anything more than a few layers of paint and you’ll be changing sandpaper all day long, especially if the paint is still gummy and not decades old. This tool falls somewhere in between the Silent Paint Remover and RAS 115 in terms of speed. But the fact that it is not only a paint removal tool, but also one amazing sander makes it worth to additional cost. You’re essentially getting two tools in one with the ROTEX 150. Craftsman Blog Rating: A+ (Retails $545) Buy It Here

Paint Shaver ProPaint Shaver Pro

This tool is by far the fastest way to remove paint. It doesn’t blink at multiple layers of paint and will power through anything I put in its path. I can strip a sash or piece of siding free of all its paint in seconds with very little effort. But with great power comes great responsibility. There is a pretty steep learning curve with this tool. It will require plenty of scrap pieces to practice on and get the tool adjusted properly to the right depth of cut before starting work on pieces that you care about. You can very easily gouge wood surfaces with this powerful tool, so make sure you are ready before you use it. Dust collection is excellent when hooked up to a powerful shop vac. If you have lots of square footage to strip, this is the way to go without a doubt. I do have a partnership with the manufacturer since I’m such a heavy user of this where if you call them and mention The Craftsman Blog you’ll get free shipping for my readers! It’s not huge but you need every dollar when restoring an old house, right? Craftsman Blog Rating: A+ (Retails $699) Buy It Here

How about you? What is YOUR favorite tool/method for stripping old paint?

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43 thoughts on “The Best Paint Stripping Tools

  1. Hi Scott, i purchased one of the COBRA Speedheaters. It arrived not fully functional. The on off switch appears to go open (off) position when you move the unit (from vibration). Makes it difficult to use. Seems like a great tool, just not consistent.

  2. I have a 100+ year old door that I’m stripping layers of paint from to restore. The problem is it has intricate carvings and I need some fine detailing tools probably to remove paint in these areas. Is there any tools made especially for helping to remove paint from such tiny carved details? Or will I just have to experiment and get creative? I’m new at this and doing it to be installed in my house as a statement piece. Any help appreciated. Thank you

    1. Try peel away,there’s I belive 7 different ones so you go to Sherwin Williams and get there test kit comes with 4 different pastes put them all on with the paper over each one wait 24 hrs. and you will see which one works best.Excellant for intricate moldings and curved moldings,they make different shaped scrapers usually you’ll find one close to your molding,I just put on the sample peel away on a home I’m going to be stripping in a couple of weeks,it will work have fun!

    2. We have a 125 year old house, and have been slowly removing lots of paint from detailed wood. My husband has collected a variety of dental scraping tools for the project, and they have really helped!

  3. I have a 100+ year old door that I’m stripping layers of paint from to restore. The problem is it has intricate carvings and I need some fine detailing tools probably to remove paint in these areas. Is there any tools made especially for helping to remove paint from such tiny carved details? Or will I just have to experiment and get creative? I’m new at this and doing it to be installed in my house as a statement piece. Any help appreciated. Thank you

  4. My house was built in the 50s and I’m attempting to strip the multiple layers of paint off of my kitchen walls back down to the beautiful wood beneath it. I’ve tried gell stripper which didn’t work so well and am now using a heat gun which is some better. Is there any other advice that you can give me to help with this project.

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