How to Use a Heat Gun for Paint Removal

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What You'll Need
Heat gun
Drop cloth
Putty knife or scraper
Coffee can
Mask or ventilator
Heat resistant gloves
Approved fire extinguisher

Knowing how and when to use a heat gun for paint removal will make your project go much more smoothly and efficiently. It will also decrease the chances of injuring yourself while you do it yourself. Here's a guide to help get you started.

Heat Gun Safety

A heat gun resembles a hair blow dryer in shape but, make no mistake about the amount of heat that one can produce. Some models run as hot as 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. This can burn you badly and can catch wood, curtains, and any other flammable material on fire in a matter of seconds. Never aim a heat gun at anything that you are not trying to strip paint from, loosen caulk from, or pipes you are trying to glue or thaw.

Never use a heat gun around flammable chemicals either such as paint thinner, mineral spirits, and acetone. Be sure to have good ventilation and wear a mask or ventilator. It is also wise to use heat resistant gloves while using the gun. Remove children and pets from the room. Never leave a heat gun on unattended or lay it down flat on a surface while it's running.

Some guns come with a stand that will hold it still while you move an object to be stripped back and forth in front of it. Always run the gun on the cool setting to cool it down before turning it completely off to save wear and tear on the gun. Never put it away hot.

When to Use a Heat Gun

Using a heat gun to strip paint is a very fast and efficient way to remove paint, especially on surfaces that can't be moved outdoors. It's also a good tool to use if you have a lot of paint to strip such as a room full of painted woodwork, moldings and doors.

How to Use a Heat Gun

Simply hold the gun about 4 inches away from the painted wood. Consult the manufacturer's instructions for proper distance and heat for each project. Move the gun around; don't hold it still in one place as this can cause charring or burning of the wood. You can move the heat gun with one hand and use a putty knife or scraper to go along behind the gun and scrape away the paint you have loosened.

Always put a drop cloth or some other covering on the floor area beneath where you are working to catch any loosened paint you may drop. While it is sticky and wet while hot, it will re-harden and stick to anything it touches. Some people like to use an old coffee can to scrape the paint into and then discard it.

Finishing the Job

When working around windows be very careful as the heat gun can crack and break the glass. You will want to hold it further away from the paint or put it on a lower setting. If you are dealing with grooves or ridges, you may need a tool such as an awl to pick away pieces of paint from tiny areas. You may also find you will need to do a "wash" over the stripped area with mineral spirits to totally clean it after it has cooled down. Do not use heat on wet mineral spirits as it will ignite.

Now you know when and how to use a heat gun for your paint removal projects. It's time to get the job done.