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CTnow

Strip varnished woodwork

By Gene and Katie Hamilton, Tribune Media Services

Do It Yourself or Not?

9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013

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We've spent many a day removing varnish from woodwork, and while the results can be stunning, it's a messy, time-consuming job. The ideal place to do the job is outdoors to avoid the fumes from the remover. This works for doors that can be removed, but when the woodwork is molding or window and door casings, it makes sense to leave them intact and work on them in place, always with windows wide open. We've always had good luck removing layers of varnish on wood that has not been painted using antique refinisher from Minwax.

A professional refinisher will charge $857 to remove varnish from two windows and two doors, which includes the labor and material. You can do the job for $80 and save 91 percent for your effort. To protect the walls and floor around the woodwork, go to great lengths to cover them with heavy vinyl drop cloths taped in place and covered by a heavy canvas drop cloth. You'll need an old bristle brush, steel wool, scrapers, rags, and a can or box to contain the varnish removed from the scrapers and steel wool. Carefully follow the manufacturer's directions regarding ventilation and application, and wear old clothes, heavy vinyl gloves, eye protection and a respirator. When the varnish is removed, wash away any residue with mineral spirits. For a fine finish, we like tung oil because it's easy to apply and provides a durable finish.

To find more DIY project costs, and to post comments and questions, visit http://www.diyornot.com and http://www.m.diyornot.com on smartphones.

Pro Cost -- DIY Cost -- Pro time -- DIY Time -- DIY Savings -- Percent Saved

$857 -- $80 -- 26.7 -- 32.5 -- $777 -- 91 Percent