Historic Preservation - Technical Procedures
- Refinishing Interior Wood
- Procedure code:
- Maintenance, Repair & Alteration Of Hstrc Bldgs - GSA/PBS, 1981
- Wood And Plastics
- Architectural Woodwork
- Last Modified:
- Refinishing Interior Wood
- Last Modified:
REFINISHING INTERIOR WOOD
BEFORE UNDERTAKING ANY PROJECT INVOLVING PAINT REMOVAL, APPLICABLE
STATE AND FEDERAL LAWS ON LEAD PAINT ABATEMENT AND DISPOSAL MUST
BE CONSIDERED AND CAREFULLY FOLLOWED. STATE AND FEDERAL
REQUIREMENTS MAY AFFECT OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO OWNERS ON BOTH PAINT
REMOVAL AND REPAINTING. THESE LAWS, and ANY REQUIREMENTS
PROHIBITING VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS (VOCs), SHOULD BE REQUESTED
FROM THE STATE HISTORIC PRESERVATION OFFICER IN EACH STATE. (From
Preservation Brief 28, "Painting Historic Interiors"). REGULATORY INFORMATION
MAY ALSO BE REQUESTED FROM THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
(EPA) REGIONAL OFFICE AND/OR THE STATE OFFICE OF ENVIRONMENTAL
A. This procedure includes guidance on removing an existing
wood finish and refinishing with a stain, varnish or wax.
B. Safety Precautions:
1. Dispose of all used solutions, paint stripper
residue and soiled rags in sealed non-combustible
containers daily to prevent fire hazard.
2. The Contractor shall maintain a healthy level of
air circulation within the space being treated.
Exhaust fans or other air moving devices shall be
regularly employed and maintained to the
satisfaction of the Contracting Officer or
3. Areas being treated shall be curtained off from
other trades or occupants to prevent fumes from
reaching other parts of the building.
4. All workers in the area being treated shall wear
appropriate safety devices, including but not
limited to, respirators fitted with the correct
cartridge, gloves, other clothing.
C. See 01100-07-S for general project guidelines to be
reviewed along with this procedure. These guidelines
cover the following sections:
1. Safety Precautions
2. Historic Structures Precautions
4. Quality Assurance
5. Delivery, Storage and Handling
6. Project/Site Conditions
7. Sequencing and Scheduling
8. General Protection (Surface and Surrounding)
These guidelines should be reviewed prior to performing
this procedure and should be followed, when applicable,
along with recommendations from the Regional Historic
Preservation Officer (RHPO).
1. The Contractor shall refinish two (2) sample areas
for approval by the Contracting Officer or
designated representative. Locations of sample
areas shall be as selected by the Contracting
Officer or designated representative.
2. The Contractor shall obtain written approval from
the Contracting Officer or designated
representative of wood refinishing methods,
materials, and sample panels before proceeding with
the work of this section. Approved sample panels
shall be marked and protected for the duration of
the project. They shall be used as the standard for
similar work throughout the project.
3. In the case of rejection of the sample areas, these
locations shall be re-stripped and refinished until
approved by the Contracting Officer or designated
1.03 QUALITY ASSURANCE
A. General Objective: The objectives of wood refinishing and
cleaning are to give wood surfaces a smooth, uniform
appearance consistent with the original design intent,
and to preserve the inherent patina. Splotches, streaks,
runs, or any other kind of spotty appearance shall not be
accepted. Too aggressive cleaning or sanding shall not be
B. Work Standards: Basic reference and standard for wood
refinishing shall be "Wood Finishing and Refinishing
Revised Edition," by S.W. Gibbia, New York: Van Nostrand
Reinhold Co., 1971.
C. Contractor: A firm with not less than five (5) years in
wood refinishing and restoration. The Contractor shall be
required to submit reference for six (6) other projects
of similar nature. The Contracting Officer or designated
representative reserves the right to approve or
disapprove the use of the Contractor contingent upon
D. Refinish Standard: Sample areas shall be prepared which
shall form a standard for wood refinishing.
E. Refinishing is defined as all the process(es) necessary
to restore woodwork. Stripping is defined as the process
of removing existing coatings from woodwork without
damage to the wood. Finishing is defined as the process
of applying stain and protective coating and all related
preparatory and follow-up tasks. Cleaning is defined as
the removal of dirt embedded in the upper finish layers
and does not include the removal of any finish layer.
F. Single Source Responsibility: Provide compatible finish
coating, thinner, sanding sealer, and wood filler that
are produced by the same manufacturer.
G. Regulatory Requirements: Comply with municipal and
Federal regulations governing the refinishing operations,
chemical waste disposal, and scaffolding.
A. Bonakemi USA, Inc.
B. Butcher Polish Company
C. 3M Consumer Products Group
D. The Sherwin Williams Co.
E. W.M. Barr & Company
NOTE: Chemical products are sometimes sold under a common
name. This usually means that the substance is not as pure as
the same chemical sold under its chemical name. The grade of
purity of common name substances, however, is usually adequate
for stain removal work, and these products should be purchased
when available, as they may be less expensive. Common names
are shown below by an asterisk (*).
A. Commercial Paint and Varnish Remover such as "Citristrip"
(W.M. Barr & Company), "Safest
Stripper" (3M), or approved equal
B. Mineral Spirits:
1. A petroleum distillate that is used especially as
paint or varnish thinner.
2. Other chemical or common names include Benzine* (not
Benzene); Naphtha*; Petroleum spirits*; Solvent
3. Potential Hazards: TOXIC AND FLAMMABLE.
4. Safety Precautions:
a. AVOID REPEATED OR PROLONGED SKIN CONTACT.
b. ALWAYS wear rubber gloves when handling
c. If any chemical is splashed onto the skin,
wash immediately with soap and water.
5. Available from construction specialties'
distributor, hardware store, paint store, or
printer's supply distributor.
1. Typically used as a solvent and thinner.
2. Potential Hazards: TOXIC AND FLAMMABLE.
3. Safety Precautions:
a. Work in a well ventilated area.
b. Observe safety rules as turpentine is
flammable, and the fumes can trip an
ionization smoke detection system.
c. Store soiled cloths in a metal safety
container to guard against spontaneous
4. Available from hardware store or paint store.
Solvent Wax Remover such as "Woodline Renovator"
(Bonakemi USA, Inc.), or approved equal.
C. Wood filler in color to match original stain.
CAUTION: WOOD FILLERS CONTAINING A LINSEED OIL VEHICLE
MAY CAUSE WHITE SPOTS TO DEVELOP IN THE LACQUER FINISH
D. Oil stain or universal stain (Sherwin Williams), or
E. Alkyd or urethane-base satin varnish (Sherwin Williams),
or approved equal.
F. Paste wax (non-yellowing) such as "Butcher's Paste Wax"
(Butcher Polish Company), or approved equal.
A. 000 steel wool
B. Steel or brass wire brushes
C. Stiff fiber bristle brushes
D. Putty knife or broad knife
E. Clean, dry cloths (cheese cloth or gauze)
F. Orbital Sander
G. Electric floor polisher
H. Nylon web scrubbing pads
I. Lamb's wool buffing pads
3.01 ERECTION, INSTALLATION, APPLICATION
A. Remove Existing Coating:
1. Work in areas approximately 4' by 4' at one time.
2. Apply chemical stripper using a brush or roller.
Follow manufacturer's instructions.
3. Allow stripper to stand for length of time as
recommended by manufacturer, depending upon the
number of surface layers to be stripped; if
necessary, cover with plastic sheeting to keep the
4. Using a broad knife or scrapper, remove paint and
stripper from the surface.
5. Safely dispose of paint and stripper residue.
Follow EPA regulations for disposal of lead-base
6. Specifically for varnish buildup:
a. Wet steel wool with solvent and rub over the
wood surface to remove varnish buildup and to
smooth out any checks in the surface.
b. Replace steel wool frequently with clean, and
continue the wiping process until a smooth
surface is achieved.
NOTE: DO NOT USE WATER ON THE WOOD SURFACE.
7. Wipe wood with a clean cloth soaked in mineral
spirits to remove chemical residue.
8. Allow to dry and dry-brush loose material from the
surface using a short fiber bristle brush.
9. Repeat as necessary to sufficiently remove the
NOTE: For more detailed information on paint removal
from wood, see 06400-07-R, 06400-02-S and 06400-09-R.
10. Special Procedures for Varnished Wood Floors:
a. Sand the floor with an orbital sander to
remove stains, old finish and indentations in
the wood. Sand in direction of wood grain.
NOTE: DO NOT REMOVE MORE THAN 1/16" OF THE
b. Remove dust from floor with vacuum and tack
11. Special Procedures for Waxed Wood Floors:
NOTE: Some sophisticated modern waxes, formulated
for long wear and for high production commercial
use, require special strippers that most often are
not appropriate for historic materials because the
ingredients cannot be readily detected. Some
silicon waxes can only be removed by abrasion.
NOTE: WORK IN A WELL-VENTILATED ROOM. OBSERVE
SAFETY RULES AS BOTH THE TURPENTINE AND THE WAX ARE
FLAMMABLE, AND THE FUMES CAN TRIP AN IONIZATION
SMOKE DETECTION SYSTEM. STORE SOILED CLOTHS IN A
METAL SAFETY CONTAINER TO GUARD AGAINST SPONTANEOUS
a. Dampen small area of floor with turpentine or
mineral spirits, or apply wax remover evenly
over the floor following manufacturer's
b. Using a 16" electric floor machine, scrub
lightly with a piece of 000 steel wool or
nylon web scrubbing pad. Change steel wool or
pads as they become clogged with old wax.
c. Wipe up solvent and wax with clean cloths.
d. Continue cleaning in this manner until all of
the old wax has been removed. Allow floor to
dry, approximately 15-20 minutes after the
last area has been cleaned.
e. Apply wax and buff as described 06200-01-P.
Apply two or more thin coats rather than one
thick coat. Buff after each coat.
B. Fill scratches, gouges and dents with wood filler. See
06440-04-R for guidance.
C. Apply a high quality paste wood filler with a brush to
all open grain wood species (i.e., Oak) before staining.
1. Dampen a clean cloth with mineral spirits and wipe
the paste off across the grain of the wood to
enable the filler to remain in the grain
2. Allow the filler to fully dry before applying the
stain or varnish.
D. Stain and Varnish the Wood:
1. On a SAMPLE area 12 inches square, brush apply oil
stain or universal stain.
2. Allow the stain to penetrate the wood for at least
3. Remove excess stain with a clean, lint-free cloth.
Rub the wood parallel to the grain.
4. Allow the stain to dry at least 12 hours before
5. Brush apply one coat of alkyd or urethane-base
satin varnish. Varnish should be thin, but not
6. Allow to dry for at least 24 hours.
7. When dry, buff the surface with 000 steel wool and
dry-brush with a fiber bristle brush to remove any
metal particles left behind from the steel wool. A
tack rag may also be used to remove dust from the
8. Apply second coat of satin varnish (full-strength).
9. Allow to fully dry.
10. Buff the surface with 000 steel wool and dry-brush
with a fiber bristle brush to remove any metal
particles left behind from the steel wool.
11. If sample is approved by RHPO, follow the same
procedures for all remaining wood.
12. For areas subject to wear (i.e., handrails,
a. After buffing the final coat of varnish, apply
one coat of non-yellowing paste wax. See
06400-01-P for guidance.
END OF SECTION