Gloppy Paint on Gorgeous Classical Trim – Let’s Discuss

Hi Guys,

Well… Here we go again.

Remember, last June? It was only three months ago that I put an offer on a home in Northampton, Massachusetts. I’m spelling it out for those who don’t know what MA means.

Well, I walked away from that one because I wasn’t happy with the home inspection. I guess I can say it now. The house is under contract, and I’m sure the new owner(s) have a different pain threshold than do I.


And, yes, we are going to get into gloppy paint on trim sitch, very shortly.


However, what happened is that after I left Northampton, I began looking for another house. And, well. There was absolutely nothing.

It was like trying to squeeze toothpaste out of a tube that you should’ve thrown away a week ago. Right?

But then I began thinking that maybe Northampton, as lovely as it was last May and June, just wasn’t where I am meant to be. Besides, there is a very good chance that my son might not stay there.


So, why not stay in New York?


I could, of course.

However, remember when we were discussing my dream house?

And, then there was my Parisian dream apartment.

Well, I realized that my dream house can’t be too large. And, it’s not going to be in Westchester County. It could be in New York City. But, I don’t want to move back there. I love New York City. I lived there for 13 years. It’s intense, and it’s even further from my son.


That’s when I began thinking about Boston.


I’ve visited Boston dozens of times as my son lived there for ten years. And, I had gone there a few times before he went to college. Every time, I loved being there.

The architecture is not to be believed in some areas.

Still, can I afford a place in such a big, expensive city? I really need two bedrooms. I looked at some listings and then spoke with my fantastic financial advisor, Gene Lonergan. He gave me a very enthusiastic, YES!!! And, his advice was to buy, not rent, at this time.

So, I kept looking and looking. In fact, I’ve been looking so much; I’ve learned a tremendous amount. And, a lot of that is from you fabulous Bostonians out there. And, I mean that. I’ve never had so many people reach out to me either in comments or in emails to share their knowledge, sources, and support.


A few of you recommend realtors, and I contacted one of them (more about her, in a sec) the day after I decided to come here, which was only Thursday night of last week!


On Sunday, the realtor showed me four beautiful, old condo apartments. I’m not going to say what part of the city they are located in.

And, that’s all I’m going to say at this point. But, I did put in an offer on one of them today (September 28th, 2020)! And, no. I’m not going to tell you which one. However, you guys know what’s on my wish list.

Sorry to be a bit of a hardarse; however, PLEASE DO NOT TRY TO GUESS HERE IN THE COMMENTS.

One common issue with old homes is gloppy trim with caked-on layer upon layer of paint.


And, not just paint. Nosirreeeee. That wouldn’t be so bad. It’s just that there’s no doubt that underneath all of the gloppy painted trim lies numerous layers of paint made with the dreaded LEAD.

The problem is that the stuff, if inhaled, is bloody lethal. And removing the layers of paint is not an easy task. But, the one thing you don’t want to do is sand it off, making copious amounts of lead-infused dust.

If you aren’t sure what I mean by “gloppy paint,” I went in search of some on the internet. And, then, I looked all around me in my Back Bay airbnb. I grabbed my phone and easily found some excellent examples of a bad paint job.


gloppy trim - backbay airbnb


gloppy trim - crown moulding

Drips are horrible.

gloppy trim baseboard

Gloppy trim includes areas where the design loses its crispness. But, sometimes, there are pieces of crud in the paint, as well as drips. It’s just a sloppy, gloppy paint mess.


gloppy trim circa 1880

Incredible detail on this exquisite original door casing from this 19th century Boston home.  Please notice that the detail is beginning to fade and there is a lot of gloppy paint, bumps, and drips.


And, then, ten years later, someone comes in and paints over that; it’s a crying shame, is what it is.


I do understand that sanding lead paint can be dangerous. It needs to be taken care of by a professional. If sanding lead paint, it must be wet-sanded.



Above is a photo I took seven years ago, the last time I stayed in Back Bay! Here, you can see trim that is not over-painted.


So what are you supposed to do with this gloppy painted trim?


Well, yes, you can remove the trim and either have no trim, or replace it with new trim.

There’s just one big problem with that idea.

They don’t make trim as they made it 150 years ago. It should be illegal to remove the exquisite original trim.

Unfortunately, it’s not unless there’s some sort of historic designation. But, most homes don’t have that.


But yes, if the trim isn’t anything special, it is definitely easier, safer, and less expensive to simply replace the trim.


However, if the trim is intricate or difficult to replicate, it is probably best to remove most of the paint. Therefore, think of it as historical preservation.


Now, I’m going to show you two homes with gorgeous paint jobs.


One is a place that I visited. There were so many things I loved about it. Just not where it was. Plus, I am positive that I saw at least one human skeleton in the basement and a few hundred rat corpses, too. That’s just how disgusting this basement is. However, the apartment above is lovely.

I mean, the washer and dryer are down in the scary, dungeon basement. So you would think they’d fix it up a little? It looked like it hadn’t been cleaned once since it was built in the 1800s.

I just want to show you this exquisite not-at-all gloppy paint on the trim.


not gloppy trim Boston house

Extraordinary and super-crisp plasterwork.


not gloppy trim - detailSomeone really took a lot of care here.


The other home is one that was recently sold in 2019


215 Commonwealth Ave - Boston - not gloppy trim

Look at this incredible architectural gem at 215 Commonwealth Ave. in Back Bay, Boston.


215 Commonwealth Ave Boston - living room

No gloppy paint whatsoever!


215 Commonwealth Ave - Boston - not gloppy trim - gorgeous living room




Holy Crap!!! 30 hours later, we have a signed agreement from the seller accepting my offer!!!

Okay, as you can imagine, it’s been an intense three days.

Many thanks to Elle (as she calls herself, here), a frequent and fantastic commenter and fellow blogger. She’s the author of the beautiful A Proper Bostonian. Elle recommended THE best MOST knowledgable realtor in all of Boston– Maureen O’Hara.

Maureen has been an absolute pleasure to work with every step of the way. Of course, it’s not over, but I know that I’m in good hands.


Oh, Laurel, PLEEEEEEASE let us see your new home!!!


Believe me; I am dying to show it to you. But, I’ve been given strict instructions to tease and taunt you all I want. hehehe, but I CANNOT tell you which one it is, until much further into the process. However, I can tell you that unlike the last time, this is going to be a very quick turn-around.

So, please hang tight and know that there is going to be PLENTY to write about in the coming weeks, months, and years. While the house is move-in ready and everything I could ever hope for and more, there is a fair amount of what I consider to be, over-painted trim. It’s not the worst gloppy paint I’ve ever seen.


But, still. I’d like to get it taken care of before I move in. I made that mistake, when I bought my current home.


The consensus amongst experts is to use a paint remover. Now, the old paint removers were the most noxious substances known to man. However, the newer paint removers are far less lethal.

I even found one that’s meant to be used on lead paint.

This is a terrific blog post, by Scott Sidler that talks about his recommendations for removing lead paint.


Leadout_Product - paint stripper
Lead Out is Scott’s favorite product for removing lead paint from trim.


This is a link to an entire page of paint strippers on Amazon.


Another terrific post about painting stripping was found on This Old House.


Okay, this is the time when I’m throwing this out for those who’ve had experience with paint stripping. And, particularly for gloppy trim. In some cases, you may have wanted to stain the trim. That’s an extra level of stripping, for sure. However, what products did you use or methods? So, please share anything that could be helpful for the rest of us?


Well, I’ve had the most glorious 3.5 days here in Boston.


This afternoon and early evening, I met a wonderful reader, Lisa, who lives on Beacon Hill in a gorgeous townhouse with a roof deck! As if that wasn’t fabulous enough, my walk back to my temporary space was absolutely magical.


classic red door - Beacon Hill - Boston - no gloppy paint

A classic red door on Brimmer Street in Beacon Hill – Certainly no gloppy paint here. I think this is one of the most photographed doors in Beacon Hill. For more gorgeous Beacon Hill doors, please go here.


Gorgeous Beacon Street - Boston - white roses

Elegant Beacon Street at the base of Beacon Hill


I’ve taken many photos of some incredibly beautiful houses and gardens, mostly in Back Bay, as that is where I’m staying and where some of the homes that I’ve been looking at are located.


Please enjoy some of my favorite shots.


109-111 Commonwealth Ave. Boston

Two classical beauties, 109 and 111 Commonwealth Ave.


magical garden Back Bay - Boston

A magical garden on Marlborough Street – Boston


Backbay Brownstone Louisa Holman Fisk House

A Classic Back Bay Brownstone The Louisa Holman Fisk House


Backbay Townhouse - beautiful ironwork

Back Bay Townhouse – beautiful ironwork and blue and white Chinoiserie planters


Boston Skyline from atop a rooftop deck

The Boston Skyline from atop one of the rooftop decks, of one of the homes I visited on Sunday.


Twin Beaux arts mansions Commonwealth Ave - September 2020 - no gloppy trim
Two exquisite Beaux-Arts Back Bay mansions on Commonwealth Ave.


I hope y’all enjoyed this post. Please remember not to talk about apartment listings in the comments. But, do tell us if you’ve had to deal with gloppy paint and how you handled it.



PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!


126 Responses

  1. Heat gun and putty knife?! Never even consider doing it on an old home with lead paint. That will lead poison you and your family for sure. If they are children in the house it will very likely damage them for life. Check the American Academy of Pediatrics and follow Tamara Rubin ( for more information.

  2. Hello Laurel~
    Brett Waterman, who has a fabulous show called Restoration, often uses a heat gun and putty knife on 100-year-old gloppy paint. I’m sure you’ve probably seen the show but if not, you will love it. He doesn’t slap things together. He is meticulous in his restorations.
    I LOVE Boston….so happy and excited for you!
    Peggy (SF Bay Area). P.S. Loved your blog during your trip to SF.

  3. Laurel,
    Congratulations On your exciting news!
    Over the years I have refinished antique trim, flooring and furniture. As to your question on what to do prior to staining.
    Once you get the finish off, if you want to stain it, uses Tri Sodium Phosphate (TSP) mixed with a little water to clean the wood. It will remove the muddy look, old stain, and even a water spot, if a gritty paste is made. Rinse and then dry off quickly.
    If the wood just looks dirty, you can also clean it with
    Windex that has ammonia in it, and a kitchen scrub pad, then wipe with clean water and dry it. That will also remove some old finishes as well.
    Good luck!

  4. Laurel, love your blog. Can you weigh in about the fabrics on the chairs in both of the pix of the “good” trim apts? Love both of them and am about to redo a club chair in the LR>

  5. Welcome to Boston! What a glorious time to be here, the colors of the leaves, the crisp autumn smell in the air. You will love it here and looking forward to seeing all your pictures of your new home.

  6. Laura, I love all your blog posts but this one really made me smile. I love beautiful front doors too! Very happy for you and your new journey in Boston. We don’t have many places like this in Canada with such beautiful style and design. Wishing you all the best and looking forward to seeing future posts!

  7. A new home! Laurel, that’s wonderful! I’m so excited for you! Looking forward to reading your posts about Boston and your new place.

  8. Congratulations! As to stripping, after my encounter with sanding and Citra peel I decided to live with gloppy paint.

  9. Oh, my, I walk away for one day and there are 98 comments! Thank you so much, guys! I won’t be able to answer them all. But, I appreciate every one so much, and just reading the first few, I see such wonderful advice. I love you all!!!

  10. I’m so glad to see that you have chosen Boston and a smaller home as opposed to that large house you wanted before. Cozy is good! All those pictures of homes in Boston are gorgeous. I loved the red front door on the red brick house. I want to live there! Great decision Laurel. You will be so happy in Boston in any one of those wonderful homes or one similar to them. Great decision!

  11. Omg!!!! I’m so happy for you. Enjoy your adventure & thank you for bringing us along!!!!
    We can’t wait to see what you “do with the place”.

  12. I would hire a pro and have it all removed before you move in. There have to be real experts there…Probably costly but worth it in my mind. I would not remove that trim..
    The quality of the wood used you could never replace… Or do the main room and entry, leave the bedrooms til later if it’s too pricey.. Knowing me…I’d be on the phone finding the best ole painter I could…. I am very very happy for you.

  13. So happy that you are working with Maureen O’Hara! We worked with Maureen 10 years ago when we purchased our condo on Marlborough street and we couldn’t have asked for a better real estate agent. She is a veteran, and knows every block, building and stepping stone there is in Back Bay/Beacon Hill. Cannot give advice on the paint issue other than that Johnson Paint hardware store at the end of Newbury Street carries Farrow & Ball, they also stock all the cute sample pots (we painted the entire unit in All White, and haven’t regretted it, it still looks freshly painted after so many years!). Also happy that you picked Boston over Northampton (not sure about the background story to Noho, but sorry, I just don’t see you there!). The best thing with this part of town, aside the gorgeous architecture, one of a kind small boutiques on Charles Street and great restaurants is that you can walk everywhere, to the MFA, Boston Symphony, MGH hospital, over to the South End, etc. One finds so much inspiration here! In my view, only the historic district in Charleston measures up (wouldn’t mind living there for a while!). Best of luck with your transitioning and see you around!

  14. Congratulations! (Is there am emoji for squeal of delight😀)

    So exciting for this chapter you’re undertaking. The adventures ahead, the dream home, the new friends. Sooo much to look forward to.

    Looking forward to hearing ( and seeing) more.


  15. I am thrilled for you !!!
    I have been kinda looking for a few years for my last smallish home.
    Can’t wait to see the final choice.

  16. Congrats Laurel! You’re gonna love it. My son lived in Beacon Hill and Back Bay many years ago. I live on Cape Cod and I am a former New Yorker. New England is beautiful and Boston is such a great city. Wishing you every happiness in your new home.

  17. Wonderful news! I love Boston, it’s my home city and I got to live on Beacon St, on Newbury Street and in Beacon Hill while there. Each building had special detailing and incredible features and i all felt very tied to the past, I LOVED it!
    Have a smooth transaction and a great move!

  18. Laurel,
    Congratulations, and welcome to Boston! I too am a NYC transplant (it’s been maaany years) and I love living in Boston. I would love to meet you and would be honored to introduce you to the Boston Design community. Very happy that you’ve found something you’ll love. Good luck with the closing, etc.

  19. Very exciting, love the photos. My next purchase will be this product, copied from Brouns & Co website; The original Swedish Speedheater system uses gentle infrared heat to remove paint, varnish and putty brilliantly at lower temperatures – so you can say goodbye to scorched wood and cracked glass. It safely removes lead paint, too. After only a few seconds’ exposure, the Speedheater Cobra lets you scrape old paint off easily, even in those pesky hard-to-reach areas.

  20. Congratulations, Laurel! I love reading your blog- but also the comments.. It’s so apparent how truly appreciated and loved you are. Your love for timeless beauty inspires each of us to do the same. May this be a happy transition for you!

  21. I have used a heat gun, caustic strippers and Peel Away.

    Peel Away is a very good product when used as directed, but pricey.

    A heat gun is quite efficient, particularly when the lowest layer on the trim is shellac. BUT: you have to learn to use it cautiously, so as not to scorch the wood. When used indoors the burned paint WILL stink, and there are potential issues about EPA standards, and how to discard the removed paint which probably will contain old lead paint if the surface was painted in the 1970’s or before. There are also issues with accessing the potentially complex surfaces of wood moulding (molding ? I never get that right). You have to be gentle with whatever tool you are using on the wood surface, esp. if it is a softer wood like pine. You don’t want to gouge the wood as you scrape, which I have done with a too sharp scraper, too much force, etc. You also have to be careful around edges and inset details as the thin edges can ignite and smoulder if you are not super careful.

    I have used caustic paint removers as a last resort. I find them dangerous. The last old school paint remover goop I used some years back would burn like a hornet sting immediately if a speck landed on your exposed skin. I have heard various accounts of success/failure with Citrus Strip, Soy Gel, etc. but have not personally tried these. I’m in Canada so some products are not available here, different regulations, etc.

    Personally, I see little romance in varnished wood trim. In my first old house, an 1873 house that got gussied up in the late 1890’s with an added bay window, stained glass, etc. the baseboards were gigantic – 16″ tall ! They were pine, that had been painted on the undercoat then given a faux grain. This was a way to make inexpensive wood impersonate more expensive finishes. This was also common for the period.

    I have seen many old properties where someone has painstaking stripped all the trim, then stained and varnished it, and 98% of the time it just looks WRONG. The depth and patina you would see with 130 year old shellac finishes is just not there. The colors don’t look right, the finish doesn’t look right. I feel the same way about refinished antique furniture. It often does a real disservice to a good piece. That 1920’s dining room set, stripped and refinished with modern products looks like suburban 1990’s oak now – ugh ! Why ? How is this an improvement ?

    I think you have got to pick your battles. If 95% of the trim has been adequately painted with appropriate paint, but there are occasional drips, chunks, holes and blobs then hire a professional to repair/improve the bad areas and repaint the entire surface. Stripping everything down to the bare wood is an extremely labour intensive process that IMO should only be used in extenuating circumstances – like the bottom layers have delaminated from the surface and to repaint you would be painting a fragile skin that is barely attached. I personally experienced the misery of the misguided PO who used a BM Advance type paint – but without properly prepping the surface below – or using an adhesion primer after that. The trim paint could be peeled off and showed many dings from the very dark trim color to the light painted surface below. It had to get scrubbed and sanded off then primed and painted.

    Personally, I prefer a historical property that looks old but well cared for. Old = old slightly imperfect plaster walls, wood trim that shows its age a little, the original wood windows but in good working order.

    If you really want to spend some dough, Hoffmeyer’s Mill in Sebringville, Ontario, Canada can perfectly replicate antique trim profiles, antique doors, sash windows, etc. and your US dollar will be at an advantage. I suspect the costs to replace everything would be about the same as having a true professional remove every speck of paint and professionally refinish all the trim surfaces. But then all that trim, etc. would just go to the landfill unless it was sold to a salvage person – though getting old trim out 100% intact is another challenge best left for skilled professionals, not demolition goons.

    TLDR: Let old things be old, but well cared for.

  22. Congratulations, Laurel! I’m so very happy and excited for you! Wishing you all the best and can’t wait to see how you make your new home exquisite. Thanks for bringing us along for the ride!

  23. Yeah!!! Very excited for you Laurel. Can’t wait to hear more. You deserve a dream home after all you’ve given to help your readers make their dream homes come true. We removed all of the trim in our 1911 home in order to take down the crumbling plaster and lath. It was a huge job to strip it all. In hindsight, I would have it dipped. The trim can be gently removed sent to a furniture refinishing place and dipped in a vat of stripper. It comes back to you ready for paint. If they have that option in Boston it might be worth looking into. Good luck with closing the deal.

  24. I bought the Dumond Test Kit which had generous samples of their products to try on the surface. This helped me to determine which of the 3 products worked the best on that particular project. Peel Away 1 was the winner for me. I found a set of Dental Tools from Amazon were invaluable to scrape out of the nooks and crannies. Also, they tell you not to let the compound dry on. They are not kidding! It dries to a concrete hardness! I was over-ambitious the first time I used it and couldn’t finish before it hardened. The directions said to reapply, but the nook and crannies were still hell!

  25. Hi Laurel, I’ve been following you for years and your blog is one of my very favorites. I went to Boston U in the 70’s and lived on Commonwealth Ave. among other places, so I just had to tell you how much I enjoyed this post and seeing the beautiful city I remember so well! Boston is such a special place and I know you will enjoy it there immensely! I hope your purchase goes smoothly and that you love your new home to be!

  26. I’ve used Citristrip, Soygel and SmartStrip (in order from worst to best). Some strippers need to be neutralized before painting/staining. Both Soygel and SmartStrip just needed to be wiped down with soapy water or just water. I’ve stripped 4 of my 100 year old doors to the bare wood, primed (have to use something with a sealer so no bleed thru) and painted. I also put all my brass hardware in hot water to soften old sloppy paint and finish off with some 0000 steel wool. All stripping is done outside and I wear a respirator. The results are wonderful and you can see all the crisp millwork on the doors now.

  27. Yay!! Congratulations on your accepted offer! Long-time reader, Boston resident, and lover of all your posts with special interest on the u bathroom and unkitchen. I’m thrilled you’ve chosen Boston as your new home! When this covid craziness is passed, should you decide to host decorating chat salons at your new home, I will be there!

  28. Your post made my day! We get to live vicariously through you :] Yay! I’m so excited to follow your adventures, Laurel. I hope and pray all your dreams come true. Thank you for taking us along for the ride!

  29. Thank you! I’m ordering slipit today, which I hope will help the wood-on-wood cabinet drawers that have been raining sawdust on my pots and pans for 11 years!

  30. Best wishes Laurel!! It’s SO GREAT to hear some positive news. I am following your adventure and reading the comments closely because I’d like to strip the weird (1925-ish) tinted varnish (or shellac?) on the woodwork in my living room so it matches the rest of the apartment.(I don’t know if the varnish/shellac contains lead.) My place looks a lot like your NY home, so I feel this strange kinship to all your decorating projects. 🙂 Congratulations!

  31. Congrats on the potential move! My daughter lives on Beacon and Exeter and absolutely loves the area. Best of luck.

    As far as paint stripping-I am in the mist of restoring a 1780’s house on Nantucket and have spent the past 2 months, 6 days a week, 8 hours a day stripping lead paint…with a heat gun. Hands down the best way to remove multiple layers on heavily detailed straight moldings and trim.

    It takes a bit of time to get used to, and one definitely doesn’t want to scorch the wood…but for ease and time, it’s the way to go.

    A good set of gloves and high end respirator is a must (avail. at any good hardware store).

    No matter what you decide, I agree that one can’t replace Historic interior details and saving them is a higher calling. I am also a whore for wavy glass and have saved and restored more antique windows than I can count!

    If you have any other specific questions, I have years of experience w lots of tried and true tips and am always happy to share.

    Happy stripping!

  32. I have used Soy Strip to strip away multiple layers of paint from an 1800 house. It is expensive but was very easy to use. You do have to cover it and wait 24hrs but it was well worth the ease of paint removal. Can’t wait to see your new home!!! A neighbor in Maine!!

  33. Congratulations Laurel, wishing you many happy exciting years ahead in your new home. It looks beautiful and I hope One day we get to see how you transform it even more. Cheers

    1. Hi Josie,

      I haven’t shared the home yet. The one with the intricate crown is a place I liked; just not where it was located.

      While I have an accepted offer,on my place, the signed agreement where I put down a hefty sum won’t happen until after the home inspection. So, in about a week. Then, I believe, I can share more details.

  34. Ok, lucky you! I have used strippers, but you do need to be a little careful because it could soften the surface underneath if it is wood. I have had pretty good luck with Heat guns, but ultimately did not have the patience for the stripping or the heat gun. Removing drips carefully with a razor blade scraper and light sanding as suggested by one reader with a semi gloss might be your way to go. Have fun!

  35. We used Peel Away to remove paint in our 1925 bathroom, and in some places it got down to the bare wood. If we’d had the patience and done it again, we prob could have gotten it all off. I will say they make two different products depending on what type of paint you have, and I’ve heard part of the reason it didn’t work well for us is that we had fresh latex paint over the old stuff. @mytinyestate on IG is currently using peel away on their ancient wood framing if you want to check it out!

  36. Congratulations Laurel!! So excited for you! Boston is an incredible city and your pictures are gorgeous!! (If you took those with your phone, please share what phone you have.) Looking forward to hearing more about your adventure!! Best wishes for a quick and easy closing!

  37. Welcome to Boston Laurel! I loved your information about gloppy paint. Thank you.
    When you move to your new home you will have to join the Beacon Hill Women’s Forum. It’s a wonderful, welcoming network.
    Thanks for sharing some great photos of my lovely city! See you soon,

  38. Congratulations and Best Wishes!! dearest Laurel I am so happy and excited for you! I loved every move we made while my husband would be relocated. When we moved from NYC to Charlotte, NC it was exciting to see the difference in the way the south decorated. I loved it because it is so gracious and colorful. I am sure you are going to astound us all with what you do and can’t wait to see your work. I don’t dare think I can give you any advice so I wait for what you do. Thank God you are healthy and not far from your son!! All the best girl and lol, as they say down here, lol, “be sweet” 😉

  39. Dear Laurel, I am so thrilled that you will be settling in Boston, because my main wish for you is health and well being. When you were thinking of going to Northhampton, all I could think of was, my gosh, that’s so far from the very best hospitals , cardiologists etc. Boston,in addiiton to charm and architecture, has some of the very best medical professionals and institutions in the country ! I am so happy you will be able to pursue all that you enjoy, surrounded by the stimulation of a vibrant city and the means to keep you well. Wishing you health, joy and Peace, always.

  40. Start with a good inspection, including a records check for foundation settling, easements, etc. A product called Slipit will help with old windows, doors and drawers. Lead is usually not a problem if it is encapsulated – unless you gnaw on it or it becomes airborne. Good articles at Baldwin lifetime finish exterior hardware is recommended. Best of Luck! George

  41. I starting refinishing things at age 13 and love the process.
    The woodwork will look stunning once all paint is removed. Often visitors think the woodwork is new due to the crisp lines. Boston is very old so there well be choices to choose from as bids are taken. In the event there is deep stain it will bleed through if not neutralized. Using straight bleach has removed the stain completely. Good luck it’s a fun project and important place to spend money!

  42. Good for you!
    Go for the fine molding. Someday when you’re lolling about on your Empire sofa, being fed grapes by some wonderful discovery, your eyes will wander to the fine details, and you will sigh and say, “Isn’t that lovely?” From years (and years!) of dealing with stripping, etc, I assure you there are safe ways to strip that gloppy junk paint off. A furniture restorer knows them all, even better than painters. Nice to see good things come about in a Covid year. And especially to you!

  43. Congratulations – so exciting!! Boston looks gorgeous! Thank you for the reminder about the danger of messing with old paint. The front door in my new house is from 1912 and has so many layers of chipping paint. I was just trying to figure out what to do about it yesterday and your post appeared like magic this morning!

  44. I’m so very happy for you! This is wonderful news–twice over, because my 1924 bungalow/cottage is full of lead paint that is peeling off (no kids here) and the trim needs repainting badly. I will follow with interest all the suggestions. Unfortunately the original six-panel doors and 4/1 sash windows are too complicated for me to paint and repair (original crystal knobs don’t work) despite loads of how-tos on YouTube. If I win the lottery, I’ll pay someone to renovate the windows and doors!

  45. Hi Laurel,
    Congratulations on your offer being accepted. A new home is so exciting. But I’m not envious of the packing you’ll have to start doing.
    I don’t have any experience of stripping paint from trim. But I may be getting some. My daughter just moved into a 70yr old bungalow that has a lot of gloppy painted trim.
    I would love to get my hands on it. I’ll be reading the comments left by your experienced readers for as many tips as I can get.

  46. Peel-Away, like others have said, is what I have used on my 1910 house in Melbourne Oz. Wonderful product. Laurel, what a perfect choice in Boston you have made! Back Bay and Beacon Hill are my favourites, too, for their elegant architecture. Looking forward to following your exciting next chapter ahead.

  47. Agree with Keira about HEPA vac…if you are going to be the one doing the stripping, please let us know as you will get another round of advice on protective equipment. Prior to children, my life was in hazardous waste disposal and protection.

    Congratulations on your future in Boston…so excited for all of your posts. I’m in the middle of building a home down in Texas and your posts have proven invaluable as I’m doing all of this on my own!

  48. I live in an old apartment in NYC in a building built in 1890. I consider myself fortunate to have all the origianal trim and molding. However, talk about drips, I have a hundred years worth of bad paint jobs. Recently I have been fixing the place up. I didn’t strip the woodwork or replace it, but I did chip a lot of the old drips off and I did some sanding. I use semi-gloss on the trim which give just enough sheen that it distracts the eye from many 0f the imperfections. That’s the easy way out and may not be ideal, but it’s one way to deal with it. By the way, I only use Benjamin Moore Natura paint. In my opinion the best paint on the market and the most environmentally friendly unless you go with milk paint.

  49. Hi Laurel
    We’re from the Boston area too. We recently sold our 1900 house – which we restored! If there is some less complex trim that you want to replace, I can recommend a place in New Hampshire that will make new knives (based on the profile of the old/gloppy trim) and new trim pieces. Our new trim blended perfectly with the old. Feuer Lumber at

  50. Toothbrush and the gel style strippers get in there good, if you’re dealing with intricate plaster work. If it’s straight lines I just recommend the stripper and a paint scraper 🙂

  51. Dear Laurel,

    We are about to move into our dream home and you have been such an integral part of the process. It seems that just when I was struggling with something, up would pop a post hitting on that very issue.

    Wishing you all the happiness you deserve in your new home. It will be so much fun to watch what’s new with it each week!

  52. OMGoodness, I am so excited for you! We’ve all followed along in your house hunt and it’s gotten personal. Lol! You didn’t let us down. Congratulations on the accepted offer. Here’s hoping everything goes smoothly and those keys are soon in your hands. Cheers!

  53. When stripping paint or varnish, toothbrushes and even toothpicks will help greatly. Some things are too delicate for a wire brush.

  54. I’ve loved your blog for years and I’m
    So happy you went for it!! I think you made the right decision on Boston. So happy for you!

  55. Congratulations on your new home. Hopefully everything goes along smoothly and you can show this home to all of us. Boston is such a remarkable and beautiful city…if you fly in and have a driver while being a tourist. The reason I say this is I have visited in the past, but didn’t have to do any driving until last year, when another couple and my husband and I took a 2 week road trip from Michigan to the east coast. The driving around Boston was the most horrific part of our trip. I don’t know how Bostonians do it on a daily basis. Other then that…I LOVE Boston!

  56. I so enjoy how you take the bull by the horns and just GO FOR IT (but with lots of thoughtfulness and tons of research)! Many blessings to you as you work through all the busy details.

    1. My son has helped me a lot with that. Make no mistake; it’s not easy for me to make such drastic changes. But, it’s more difficult living with the feeling that something’s sorely missing.

  57. Laurel, I dealt with molding replacements in my 65 year old home that did not match the original molding used when built. I found a wonderful woodworker who was able to recreate the original for me and had the junk replaced. Just a thought.

  58. WELCOME to Massachusetts Laurel !!!
    SOOOooo much to see and places to explore. A new home, a new vibe, AND a new friend in Salem, MA 😉 (Available whenever you are ready for a little field trip!) I can’t wait for you to share your new adventures and transformations.
    Fingers crossed thru the inspection/buying process!

  59. Ewww. to the gloppy paint and etc. BUT Congratulations! AHH. The universe has provided. Wishing you the best and thanks for all the Fab photos.
    Namaste, Marilee H.

  60. So happy and excited for you Laurel! Can’t wait to hear all about your new home in the near future. Boston is my very favorite big city, I’m jealous! 😊

  61. Yay Laurel! We lived in the Boston area…actually Metrowest. Hub’soffice was in the city and claimed Boston as his own. We loved that place! Always something to see. Good luck Girlfriend!
    I would love to join The Proper Bostonian for emails but couldn’t figure out how to do this. It looks wonderful with your reference. Can you help?

  62. We have used citristrip on the gloppy painted trim in our 1910s home. On flat areas it is great. It has to be scraped off after blistering the paint, so in intricate areas it is more difficult to use. Also I would make sure you prime any wood stripped with this with a stain blocking primer. We have some orange (the color of the stripper) beginning to show through about 2 years later. The paint is Ben Moore regal so it’s not a cheap paint issue; I think the old wood is just very absorbent and takes the liquid in from the stripper.

  63. Be praying for you that all goes well.
    Thinking about rooftop deck. If the roof starts to leak and they have to remove the deck, who pays for all of that.

  64. Hi Laurel,
    Best wishes for a quick and smooth closing! Re: stripping paint – I did all the woodwork in a circa 1820 Federal/Greek Revival Maine cape using Peel-Away. Highly recommend…. it doesn’t raise the underlying grain nor soften the wood, but went through between 5 and 8 layers of old paint…. very cleanly. The paper covering just peels back, carrying the paint layers with it. I then simply sponge cleaned the woodwork with TSP, and everything was very clean. Peel Away was super on intricate mouldings….

    Have fun in your new home!

  65. Oh Laurel, I’ve lived my whole life just outside of Boston, ogling the magnificent properties. The city has such charm and character. I think it will exceed your expectations for a new home, and swaddle you in endless happy moments. So happy for you!

  66. What great first-hand recommendations you’re getting! I’m wondering if all the glop you’re seeing is all paint, or if at least some of it is sloppy caulking? I’m guessing that the old trim might separate over time at the corners and people attempted to fill the gaps with caulk. I’m not sure if paint strippers can remove caulk. I know you can soften it to be more easily scrapped off with a blow dryer, but that might compromise the lead. I guess you’ll find out once you get into the process! Fingers crossed on a smooth closing!

  67. So happy for you, Laurel! We’ve used all of the above over the years on old homes. I know people still sand lead paint and otherwise disregard regulations, so I’m glad to see you’re mentioning this issue. In my current home, we stripped w similar product but replaced trim on window sills, many lower moldings that were in bad shape, especially in bedrooms where toddlers might be tempted by in contact with lead. Our kids are older but we knew from selling previous home it would become an issue. It frustrated me to replace many original doors, but they were so heavy, and frankly never quite closed. It would have been quite expensive to fix them, new hardware to retrofit them, to send them off to be stripped etc. The man who did most of this work basically became a family, it took so long. He used dental equipment to get out some of the paint off a mantel. True dental molding here. The regulations here in NJ, and likely MA, make it tough for homeowners or even contractors to deal with lead paint without extraordinary cost and efforts – if you want to do anything other than repaint. Good luck!

  68. Congratulations Laurel and welcome to Boston! Let me know if you need any resources! I had a client in the South End who started with the gloppy paint in their new townhouse. It was stripped down to it’s gorgeous original walnut and was beautiful. They subsequently sold the unit and I saw in the listing that they’d re-renovated the townhouse – AND REPAINTED ALL THE TRIM! It’s such a shame! Good luck with the purchase and move!

  69. Laurel congrats on the new home. I just closed on a 200 year old farm with a kid-century house badly in need of updating and a 120 year old farmhouse original to the farm. Plan to update it and rent out maybe as a AirBNB. A get away from it all farm vacation near lots of nature hikes animals on the farm and near the river with Cheatham County Lake and it’s park with a beach and other fun activities.

    I’m using all your inspiration to redo this mid-century house. I bought a book you recommended. I want to keep the wood beams all over the place in their stained wood state as well the rest. Thanks for all you share. It helps so much. All my
    Love Rhonda.

    The house is nearby Nashville so there is that to do activity list.

  70. I used peel away 30 years ago for some molding and it worked pretty well. It dries and is considerably less messy than gels. I’m sure its improved since then too. Used heat on doors and stairs treads. Its quicker and better than chemicals on flat surfaces but I think it would be tough on curved molding. I us

  71. How exciting. Went to K. Gibbs school in Boston in ’71. Loved every minute of my time in Boston. Your picture of house on Marlborough St. reminded me of the dorm at “0” Marlborough. Also had classes at 86 Beacon St. Best of luck and enjoy new home. I look forward to seeing your updates.

  72. Congratulations!! I lived in Boston for a few years when I was younger and I loved it. I do have experience with removing gloppy paint and with lead removal. Thick paint removers are the first step because they are designed to sit on the paint and then are scraped off wet. My husband and I used Peel Away to refinish a mantel that had about twenty coats of thick white paint and it worked. It was painstaking, though. My other piece of advice is to use dental picks to get the paint out of the crevices. It’s really satisfying to do, and as long as you’re gentle, it actually works better than sanding! We had egg and dart that we spent HOURS on and it looked fantastic in the end.

    The best piece of advice I can give you even if you choose to have a professional strip your paint is in cleanup, to remove all of the lead paint fragments and the dust. A HEPA filter vacuum is key. They are excellent at filtering out the lead particles. Other vacuums will just blow that stuff right back into the air. The second key ingredient is to use a cleaner that binds to lead so you can wash the remnants away. There are two kinds. The first is trisodium phosphate, or TSP. That’s the stuff we used to put in detergents. You can buy it at Home Depot. It binds extremely well to lead and washes completely but it is a harsh cleaner and can etch paint. The second is called Ledizolv. It neutralizes the lead chemically so it is no longer harmful, I believe. It is much less harsh and can be used on painted surfaces. My husband is a huge stickler about lead abatement and he made sure we cleaned our entire home after our painters stripped and painted. If you really want to go crazy you can do what he did and test for lead with testing strips after it’s all done to make sure everything is clean.

    One last thing to consider: if you have old windows in your home that never got replaced you should check the window guides. Older windows used lead guides which make the windows slide smoothly but then put little bits of lead shaving in the air every time you use them! We had this in an apartment when our children were little and it was a big problem.

    Good luck with everything! What an exciting time. I love new homes.

  73. There is so much beautiful architecture in Boston. I really enjoyed these absolutely gorgeous photos you posted here today. Boston is a wonderful choice of location for you. Living out here in the suburbs in the Midwest/South, I can merely drool over such beautiful architecture.

  74. Congratulations, I have never been to Boston but hope to see it someday. I wish you every happiness there.
    Here is an Irish Blessing for you ‘May the roof above you never fall in, and the people under it never fall out.’
    All the best from Colette in Ireland

  75. Congratulations! I found the wonderful Daniel Kanter and his blog (formerly Manhattan Nest) through you and have been following the renovation of his Kingston, NY Victorian home for years. He recently stripped and repainted much of his woodwork, transforming it from hot mess to stunning. He tried many different stripping options – visit his blog for all the sordid details.

  76. Welcome to Boston and may the buying process finish uneventfully!

    For you and area readers- Anderson McQuaid(Cambridge) or Next Day Moulding (multiple locations) are excellent resources for trim reproduction in the event that the stripping is just too much…

  77. Another option: The Cobra, infra-red paint stripper. The Cobra heats paint to the point it can be scraped off, but below the temperature at which lead vaporizes. It’s made by SpeedHeater/Eco Strip, and Scott Sidler has a post about his experience on his blog.

  78. Welcome to Boston! There’s lots to love here. I’m sure you’ll love it even more once the theatres (soon I hope, so I can get back to work) and restaurants and museums open up.

  79. I used to work at the Ayer Mansion, 395 Commonwealth Ave. We had superglop for years and a weird peeling problem as well. The first solution was to paint the entire Tiffany-designed place gunmetal grey top to bottom (on top of the years of grime). Finally, we got in touch with the historical painters and we had a gorgeous re-painting. It was such an exciting project. Fascinating to see once the walls, ceilings and trims were stripped. They did things very differently in 1901!

  80. If you could hear me giggle reading this post and seeing those pictures. I recognize one of them!

    Happy to help you in any way possible as this moves forward!

    PS I have an amazing painter for you.

  81. Hello Laurel, I won’t even congratulate you yet–I’ll just keep my fingers crossed. Chemical stripping seems the way to go on leaded paint and/or detailed woodwork. Whatever you do avoid heat guns, the most dangerous tool for stripping paint. Remember Notre Dame!

    I went over to A Proper Bostonian, and the very first post was on Mount Auburn Cemetery, whose gate I recently mentioned in a comment. It looks like a blog I am going to enjoy; thanks for the recommendation.

  82. Pleased to hear you’ve found a place — hope it all goes well.
    Re paint stripping: I used a gel stripper on a chest and on small doors with gloppy paint, the gel and paint mix that comes up is disgusting, and you need full protective clothing, but there’s no chance of inhaling lead. After scraping the residue into a metal container, I “washed” the whole thing with white spirit and then sanded. More recently I’ve found that the newer, less noxious strippers are also less efficacious.
    Otherwise, I had old doors professionally stripped (in a chemical bath): they come back clean but the wood is fuzzy and needs a lot of sanding before painting.
    The old beams were covered in a substance that resisted stripper, sanding and everything else.
    The only one that did get stripped was by wet sand blasting, a radical solution. As for trim, there wasn’t any in the house anyway!

  83. I absolutely love the Beaux Arts with rooftop views of the skyline, and I would be in container garden heaven up there, provided the residence was at least rehabilitatable. Every year my partner and I fly to Boston and head to the Cape. I love Boston. All of these are Instagramable properties. I love these areas and their vibes. I’m sure you’re going to be happy.

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