To Paint or Not to Paint: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Painting (or Stripping) Wood

To Paint or Not to Paint: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Painting (or Stripping) Wood

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Nancy Mitchell
Nov 12, 2014

To say that painting wood is a controversial topic here at Apartment Therapy might be a wee bit of an understatement. The mere mention of it is enough to send our normally placid commenters into a warlike state. But ultimately your renovation isn't about what folks on the internet think is right: it's about what you want and what's best for your home. If you're having trouble deciding between painted or stained woodwork, here are five important things to consider.

1. What is your home's style?
It's important to think about what your house wants and what will best suit its style. Stained woodwork was fairly common in Victorian and Craftsman interiors, for example, while in other periods painting prevailed. (Generally speaking, the older and grander your house is, the more likely it is that the woodwork was originally stained.) Do a little research and take a look at similar homes from the same time period to get an idea of what the woodwork in your house might have originally looked like.

2. What is your style?
With that said: your home is not a museum. If you're feeling a strong pull towards one pole or another, or you think painted or stained woodwork would be a better fit for your style, go for it.

3. What kind of light does the room get?
Lots of dark-stained woodwork can make a room with low lighting seem heavy and oppressive. If you're dealing with a space that is especially dark, painting the woodwork a glossy white can really give the space a boost. If the space is brighter, stained woodwork can make interesting architectural features really stand out.

4. What condition is the woodwork in?
If the woodwork in your home was originally painted, that probably means it's made of lower quality wood, and stripping it and staining may not give you the look you desire. Likewise, if your woodwork has suffered from 100 years of dings and pits, painting it might be the best choice, because you can fill in all the holes and paint over them. If you're thinking about stripping and staining woodwork that is currently painted, try first stripping a small, inconspicuous area to get an idea of what you're dealing with.

5. How much work is this all going to be?
You may love the look of stained wood — but are you prepared to spend the time (or the money) it will take to strip and re-stain all of the woodwork in your house? Conversely, you may love the look of painted wood, but re-painting all the woodwork in your house can constitute a serious project. Before you rush into a big change, take a moment and consider how big a commitment it might be.

For further reading: Old House Renovation: Paint or Stain? from Old House Web

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