The Best Paint Stripping Tools

By Scott Sidler • September 9, 2013

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

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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. This tool will cost you a pretty penny, but since the power from this tool comes from a standard angle grinder you can buy an angle grinder separately and then purchase the paint shaver head attachments on eBay to get the same tool setup at about 60% of the retail price. 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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42 thoughts on “The Best Paint Stripping Tools”

  1. 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!

  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

  3. 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.

  4. Hi Scott,
    Starting into my second year on my all cedar home that was painted with the SunShield product. Essentially a stained made from tree sap. Even after 30 years in some areas in is still sticky to the touch and has picked up black blotches from my last attempt using pressuring washing (never again). I used chemical stripper, the festools mentioned in your article and yes plain old scrappers. I need to speed up my work or the job is going to kill me. My question is on the speed heater. Is it good for large areas then scrap immediately after passing it by the wood? I am thinking of using it along with scraping first, followed by a chemical wash, then the orbital for sanding to get good adhesion. I am pleased with Sansin product I reapplied on the one exterior wall. Your thoughts are appreciated and I have photos if you wish to see my challenges that lay ahead.

  5. We are remodeling an older building (1901) and the ceiling is tongue and groove bead board. It has two layers of old paint, which I’m sure is lead based. A great deal of it was peeling and I was able to brush a great deal of it with a stiff push broom. I still have loose paint that needs to come off, especially in the small grooves in the bead board. I can’t scrape it very well because the surface is not completely flat like it would be on a drywall ceiling. The ceiling is 12′ high and approx 1500 sq ft. I will need a neck, shoulder and arm transplant if I try to scrape it all. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Smart Strip by Durmond it works really well. Did a major commercial job with it late last year. Also by the paper to make the job an easier clean up. Worth the investment!!

  6. I have to remove peeling paint on cement plaster walls inside the house, looks like 3 or 4 layers of paint need to come off to get to the plaster. I was hoping to just scrape the loose paint off, unfortunately this is not the easiest way out as it starts peeling where i stopped scraping after a day or two.What do you recommend please.

  7. Sorry for the much later post but I’m in search of a paint stripper head to attach to a regular angle grinder, for the usual reasons of cost savings. Have already had a lot of success on my house with a cheap imported shaver but it was extremely poorly made and didn’t finish the job. Any hints on where to buy the head assembly appreciated.

  8. Hi Scott,
    I have an old painted wood floor to strip. Would the heat stripper be best for this application?

    Or do have another recommendation?
    Thanks

    1. I would usually turn to a flooring drum sander if you have a lot of square footage. The heat gun would take way too long. You could also use a chemical stripper like Soy-gel effectively.

  9. hi Scott would you help me ,i need to remove vinyl adhesive from many glass windows in a three story building here in Mexico,thanks a lot

  10. Great article! These choices for paint stripping tools would really help in our future projects. Thank you for including their descriptions and price, makes it easier to choose what we will be needing. Will soon be seeking your advice.

  11. I need a tool which removes cement layer( so thin) on the plastic form work,with out damaging the surface of plastic…. Please suggest me….. is paint shavers pro useful to me….. where would I get it.in India….

  12. Hi Scott,
    I have used the paint shaver pro before and found it the best tool for remove paint and containing lead dust. Any advice on using it on chamfer boards? I found it hard to keep the beveled edge.
    Cheers Corey.

  13. Hi Scott, I am about to start a project of removing Lead paint under and around all my eaves, which would be your suggestion on the best method of removal: Wet Hand Scrapping/Sanding or using a lead paint stripper like Smart Strip Pro from Dumond Chemicals, or anything else you would recommend? Thank You

  14. Hi Scott,
    Was just wondering, is it possible to use the “Silent Paint Remover” in combination with the ProScraper?

  15. Scott, By accident we found that under our vinyl vertical siding our home is covered with 11″x 7/8″ Redwood Vertical siding. The Redwood was painted with what appears to be one coat of latex primer & and one coat of a latex topcoat which is blistered & flaking off. We would like to remove the paint and bring the Redwood back to the natural finish and seal with a clear coat. What is the best approach to removing the paint without damaging the Redwood? The Redwood was installed on the home when built 51 years ago. Steel nails were used in the original installation, that has caused some staining, all of the battens were removed prior to the vinyl siding being installed. Your thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

  16. I used a Craftsman electric paint stripper in the ’70s that was essentially a stove coil in a 3″ x 6″ reflective case with an extended handle. It came with a bevel-edged scraper of the correct width. Is this tool, which worked quite efficiently, unavailable for some good reason? I am looking for an old one, if it still exists. Any advice will b e gratefully received.

    1. Jill, they have pretty much stopped using these electric heat plates due to lead paint concerns. They usually get too hot and can cause the lead in the paint to vaporize which causes major health concerns. Paint temps need to stay below 900 degrees or so to avoid this issue.

        1. JP,
          The Silent Paint Remover is no longer sold on Amazon. The Speedheater™ is the original from which the Silent Paint Remover was copied. The Amazon reviews usually distinguish the two.

  17. I’ve been using the Paint Shaver Pro full kit to remove the paint from clapboards on a 220 year old farm house. I fully agree with the rather steep learning curve assessment. For me the primary issue is the mix of pre existing siding nails. Some were rusted forged nails, others newer thin steel siding nails, nada few larger headed and thicker shanked nails. You need to set or remove any nails because hitting one invariably cracks the clapboard. Unfortunately setting the old rusted forged nails also splits the clapboards. So after reaching the peak of the gable end I have arrived at the following. First use the smallest Japanese Shark Jaw nail remove to extract all forged nails. Then set all remaining nails and replace what is necessary with S.S. Ring shanked siding nails. I also used a small rare earth magnet on a string to discover any nails that weren’t otherwise obvious and set them. To set the nails I used a Bosch palm nailer with the finishing nail head. Using a hammer and nail set is an exercise in masochism. The you run the Paint Shaver over thr lower half of the clapboard, followed by butting it up tightly to the clapboard above and remove the lower edge paint. It is still not easy work but it beats scraping by miles.. It does gave a tendency to run a bit when butted against the clapboard edge above. You can comfortably do about 4 tiers before pumping the jacks up higher. I definitely would discourage using the tool on a ladder or on ladder supported planking. It is a potentially dangerous high speed cutting tool so respect and sure footing are very important. I would liken it to using a router with a three inch diameter bit and doing a shallow cut free hand. In all it is a great tool and it does exactly what the demo shows. One of the nice deals offered is you can return the tool for a partial refund after the job is done., but I think any painting contractor would jump at the chance to buy it used.

    Duncan

  18. Question: Regarding the PaintShaver Pro, where specifically can the angle grinder & paint shaver head attachment be found and purchased? I must not be looking in the right place because I have not yet found it. This tool seems to be exactly what I need but is way too pricey. Thanks.

  19. I have found that painting glossy and light colored surfaces with flat black paint can make a significant difference in how quickly and how completely the paint will respond to IR.

  20. Do you recommend any liquid or gel paint strippers? Particularly for use in removing paint from old windows. My IR stripper (DIY version) will get it most of the way but some of this old lead paint is impossible to remove without excessive sanding.

    1. LB, the only chemical stripper I would recommend is CirtiStrip. It is non-toxic and pretty easy to work with. Though I prefer not to use any chemicals because it can cause problems when repainting. For the detailed profiles on most windows I use sharp pull scrapers. They are available in carbide and steel and can be purchased in different shapes to fit some of the profiles you need cleaned up. Hyde makes an excellent scraper with multiple shaped blades.

  21. One of the best method that you can use in “stripping” paint is to determine what paint was used and what surface the paint was used on. If you were working with a facade such as concrete, than sandblasting would be your top method of removing the paint. Metal surfaces can also use sand blasting as well.

    1. For historic homes sandblasting almost never a viable option due to lead paint concerns and the damage to the substrate. Even masonry doesn’t stand up well to sandblasting.

  22. Wow! You’re like the Consumer Reports for the restoration industry! Great reviews and advice on all these options. Will make my next purchase of a paint removal tool so much easier! Judy

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