What Is the Best Way To Remove Exterior Paint?

Are you dealing with old, ugly, or failing paint on your home exterior? Here’s the bad news: you can’t simply slap more paint on top of it. Sure, a fresh coat of paint might make the problem go away for a little while. But within a matter of weeks, that paint will fail.

The paint will fail because it needs a solid base to stick to. If your paint is flaking, bubbling, peeling, or cracking, then a new coat only delays the problem. That peeling paint underneath your fresh coat will continue to peel, taking all your hard work with it.

That failing paint has to go.

Removing paint is hard work. Professional painters, however, prioritize this preparatory step, because we know that proper preparation is the key to a long-lasting paint job.

What is the best way to remove the old exterior paint?

The answer: it depends. In all likelihood, you will need to use a couple of different methods to tackle the task. Keep reading to learn about the different approaches you can take to remove your old exterior paint.


Be sure your home does not have lead paint before beginning this project! Lead paint is often found in older homes. Removing it from your home can cause serious health issues. In many cases, anything less than professional removal is illegal. If your home was built before 1978, purchase a home-testing kit or contact a professional to determine whether your home has lead paint. 


If you have failing paint, then you’re going to need to do some scraping. This is a work-intensive method, but in many cases, it is the fastest and most effective method. Use this method when you face peeling or flaking paint. Here are the steps:

  • Buy the right kind of scraper. You want something rigid with a sharp edge. You can find blades specifically designed for scraping at your local hardware store. Some scrapers are designed to be quickly pulled across the surface which lets you cover large areas more quickly. Others are designed to be pushed, which can be more effective in working up stubborn areas.
  • Scrape the paint. Work your scraper quickly against the edge of the peeling paint. Be careful not to gouge the wood. Keep scraping until the paint stops coming up.
  • Sand the lines smooth. Scraping can leave harsh edges that leave unsightly ridges when painted over. Use an electric sander to sand those edges completely smooth.


Electric sanders--like orbital or belt sanders--quickly remove paint from surfaces. Just be careful that the sander doesn’t work too quickly, or you could damage the surface underneath the paint. 

If you have large, flat areas that need paint removed, use an electric sander. Here’s the process:
  • Begin with coarse-grit sandpaper. Start with 80-grit sandpaper. Remove the bulk of the paint, being careful not to sand too deeply and damage the wood underneath.
  • Wipe away the dust before switching sandpaper. Maintain a clean surface for more effective sanding.
  • Move to finer-grit sandpaper. Using 150-grit sandpaper, sand the area again. If more sanding is needed, wipe away the dust and sand one final time with 220-grit sandpaper.

Heat guns

Many homeowners favor a heat gun because it quickly loosens paint for easier removal. Heat guns warm latex paint, softening it for easy scraping. However, use care--the heat can start a fire or scorch the surface underneath. 

If you’re tackling an area with fine detail or ornamentation where you can’t scrape or sand, bring out the heat gun. Here’s how to use it:
  • Heat the paint. Hold the heat gun a couple of inches above the paint. Work it back and forth across the surface until the paint begins to bubble. Don’t keep it one spot for too long, and stop if you see smoke!
  • Scrape. Work a putty knife at a 30° angle to remove the softened paint, being careful not to gauge the wood. Dispose of the sludge.
  • Use contoured tools for ornamental areas. A regular scraper easily gouges detailed, rounded surfaces. Invest in a contoured tool designed for scraping paint from these areas.

Chemical strippers

If you need to tackle a detailed area, but don’t want to invest in a heat gun, then a chemical stripper could be a good alternative. Be careful, however--paint strippers are dangerous chemicals. Be sure to take all proper safety precautions, including goggles and gloves.

Although these chemicals are dangerous, they can be helpful on the exterior of the home. For large areas of your home, scraping or sanding is a better approach. But for detailed areas, a chemical stripper can be a huge help.
  • Read and follow all safety precautions. 
  • Apply the stripper according to the directions. Generally, you want to begin at the top of your project and work your way down. Wait the appropriate amount of time.
  • Apply a light amount of sawdust to the stripper. Although this is an optional step, it will thicken the chemical and make it easier to remove.
  • Scrape and safely dispose of the discarded material. Again, there are many types of strippers available for purchase. Be sure to follow the directions to properly dispose of the dangerous chemical.

In doubt? Call a professional!

Removing the paint from a home exterior is difficult, time-consuming work. We have spent years building the knowledge to safely, quickly, and cleanly remove paint. This ensures that the paint job we provide will stand the test of time. 

Before you tackle your painting project, feel free to give us a call. We can provide a free estimate to give you a picture of how beautiful your home could become.

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