Do I Really Need To Scrape That Old Paint?

A good coat of paint can make extend the life of wooden buildings. But before you start painting, you need to remove old paint that's peeling or flaking.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Picture the scene. It’s spring, fruit trees are in bloom, and you’ve finished reviewing the post-winter condition of your farm buildings. And, hmm … the paint jobs are looking a little worse for wear.

A good coat of paint can make all the difference for extending the life of wooden buildings. If paint is peeling and flaking off your barn, garden shed, farmhouse, etc., it’s time to freshen up the paint. You’ll seal out moisture and block harmful ultraviolet rays.

But before you start painting, you need to remove the peeling and flaking paint. That means a lot of paint scraping or pressure washing, depending on the size of the job and the time and tools you have available.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Do I really need to scrape all that paint?” When faced with a big project, it’s tempting to simply paint over old paint and assume the fresh coat will stop any further peeling and flaking.

Read more: Follow along on this new farm garden shed build!

Yes, You Need to Scrape That Paint

Unfortunately, skimping on scraping is a bad idea. Painting over loose paint increases the likelihood of the new paint peeling off with the old.

Subscribe now

You might think you’re saving time and effort. But if your paint job needs to be redone the following year, your work has been largely wasted.

But Wait … There’s an Exception

Before you dive in and start scraping paint, there’s an important exception to keep in mind. If you’re dealing with an older building (especially those built before 1978), there may be lead paint. Even if the outermost layer of paint isn’t lead-based, it’s possible older layers contain lead.

Lead paint is a health hazard and scraping it can generate dangerous lead dust. So identification and removal of lead paint is best left to an expert.

Do I have to Scrape It All?

If you’ve determined your peeling paint isn’t lead-based, then you’re free to start scraping away the old paint so the new paint has a solid surface to which it can adhere.

But here’s the thing: You don’t necessarily have to scrape away it all.

The point is to eliminate peeling and flaking paint. If some of the paint is in good shape and doesn’t want to scrape away, that’s fine. You don’t need to damage the wood trying to scrape away every last bit of paint.

You can go over the old paint with new paint.

Read more: Check out these tips on how to paint a barn.

Give That Pressure Washer a Try

Circling back to the beginning, scraping isn’t the only way to remove old paint. If you have the means, pressure washing can actually be a better approach.

Certainly scraping all the paint off a large barn would be an onerous (and unrealistic) job. A pressure washer makes quick work of large tasks and has the added benefit of washing away dirt, mold, mildew and more. You’ll wind up with freshly cleaned surfaces stripped of paint and ready for fresh coats.

Removing old paint might not be as fun as applying new paint. But it’s a necessary job that reaps dividends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *