Save The Door Jambs!

Sometimes my good ideas come with glitches. Like the time I decided to re-use my old door jambs with my new fir doors, somehow missing the obvious problem of their being covered in multiple layers of old paint. Not only would they not match, but a few of the layers very likely contained lead*.

Mistakes Make You Get Creative  Once I realized I was not going to put in the time and risk to sand away the layers, I decided on the far easier route of painting the jambs to match the fir. This is a technique an architect friend of mine, Christopher Keyser, had used quite successfully in a high-end kitchen remodel. I’ve always loved the simplicity of this solution.

The Right Color  I brought a piece of my trim to Daly’s Paint, knowing that as the wood continued to age it would become even more orange. The staff at the Seattle Daly’s store are quite familiar with our 1920’s housing stock in Seattle and have solved this problem before. They recommended a low voc C2 paint: LoVo, color 117 Cognac, eggshell acrylic.

Imperfectly, Perfect  I scraped the loose paint off the jambs with a putty knife, ran a layer of drywall mud over the very lumpy jamb, sanded it level as best I could (a longer sanding block helps, it can be a 8-10″ piece of 2X4), caulked the jamb to the trim, and painted. I saved some paint for the inevitable dings, but after 3 years it’s still holding up well.

Just for you, I took a close up photo so you can see how imperfect it is, and the full length photo so you’d be able to see that it doesn’t matter. This is an interior hallway with no bright daylight so the colors are muted anyway. Plus I think the brain sees what it expects to see– a jamb that matches the door, almost!

* Cautionary note! Approximately 3/4 of the homes built before 1978 had at least some lead based paint. Heavily leaded paint was used in homes built before 1950.


4 thoughts on “Save The Door Jambs!

  1. OK, as a restorationista in Long Beach, CA I routinely remove gazillions of layers of old paint including pre-’70’s lead-based stuff without even breaking a sweat. Gazillions can be translated to about 13 layers at a time. For the first time ever, after reading your excellent pages I’m feeling as if my reluctance to post my experiences (in the name of privacy) is socially irresponsible. I don’t want to take up your space to describe my lead paint removal methods, but I wanted to share a cool trick I recently learned to make plain old pine mimic the appearance of unstained, unpainted Doug Fir. (I used to purchase Doug Fir for all of my projects but the economy finally caught up with me, so the latest set of “Craftsman Style” kitchen cabinets I made were from pine, not Doug.) MinWax “Gunstock” stain, wiped onto new pine quickly, with the excess wiped off immediately, almost looks like virgin Douglas Fir. Once there is a coat of poly on both, they could be side by side & you’d still have to get close to see the fake. Anyway, thank you for your excellent blog and for changing the world for the better one twig lampshade at a time.

    • Please do share your paint removal tricks! We are very interested and right in the middle of stripping a cool old pie cupboard right now. We are using a heat gun and serious masks, but it is slow going. 100% chance there’s lead in the paint somewhere. What have you discovered? Would you like to write up a simple tutorial and post it as a guest on our site? Or just share with us here, or start your own blog where we can learn from your experience…
      Your pine trick sounds smart– we have lots of DF in our 1920’s Seattle homes, so will keep this on file as I’m sure we can use it again and again. I like pine a lot, we just used wide planks as flooring upstairs (just flat boards, not meant to be used as flooring), stained them dark, and sealed with a water based finish. Yes they are imperfect, and I love them that way.
      Thanks for your comment and if you do decide to get over your reluctance, let us know– we will be some of your first fans!
      Send some sunshine our way, would you. We are growing moldy up here.

      • If you google paint removal with steam you can see a lot of cool stuff. When you remove paint with steam it keeps the dust minimized. As long as you do a good job of containment and use soap and water to wipe everything down afterwards it can be a ver y safe and effective process. I am restoring our 85 year old windows in our home and some paint removal has been inevitable. I use a wallpaper steamer without a nozzle attachment and leather gloves. The steam does not damage the wood and is completely evaporated within 24 hours. The paint comes off and is still damp rendering the lead inert until it is dry. It is the dust you need to try to avoid. That is why it is not a good idea to sand down old painted surfaces. Some window restores even have blueprints for steam boxes you can build to slide wood pieces, dooors, or cabinet fronts into. Happy painting:)

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