The prospect of removing and stripping all the wooden wainscotting in a dining room -- and putting it all back in the right places without splintering the pieces -- can be sobering.
In a room from which many pieces must be removed and replaced, a numbering system is a necessity. (Any written number would be obliterated during the stripping process, but metal stamps put an identifying number on the back of each piece of wood.)
A rough sketch should be made of the room and a number assigned to each side, top and trim piece around each door and window. This map of the woodwork can be taped to a window pane in the room so it does not get lost in the shuffle.
Here is what is needed to remove woodwork safely: a 30-inch wrecking bar, a 12-inch bar, a keyhole hacksaw, a screwdriver, a couple of putty knives with a 3- or 4-inch blades, a hammer, a pair of end-cutting nippers or pliers and one glove.
Starting wherever it is convenient, slip a putty knife behind a piece of woodwork, breaking the paint or wallpaper seal between the wood and the wall. Then slip another putty knife in on top of the first one. With the hammer, gently tap the screwdriver in between the two blades.
Next, remove the screwdriver and putty knives and use the keyhole hacksaw to cut the closest nail fastening the woodwork to the rough framing. If needed, use the short bar to pry up on the woodwork so the saw does not bind. The glove is needed to keep your knuckles from scraping the wall while using the hacksaw.
Where you start on the board does not matter. You will soon have it loosened enough so that you can wedge your claw hammer or crowbar in for more leverage. A piece of 1/4-inch plywood under the lever will prevent damage to the plaster wall.
In pulling the wood off, some of the finishing nails will pull out with the piece, and others will pull through it, remaining anchored in the rough framework. The latter can be pounded all the way in. The former should be pulled with nippers or pliers from the back side of the wood. If the nail is pounded out the front side, chips may fly -- making more work later.
When all the wood has been removed, it should be inspected so that all nails -- including the sawed ones -- will be pulled out so the wood will not be scratched in transit. If there is not enough left of the nail to grab with the nippers, a little filling will smooth it off.
The stream stripping service may charge by the approximate square footage. Before you deliver your material, lay out all the pieces on the floor in an approximate rectangle to get a rough figure on square footage. Make a careful inventory of all the pieces to make sure you get all them all back.
Deliver small miscellaneous pieces in a shoebox to avoid losing them. The long pieces can be together so they do not flap around as they extend out the rear of a pickup. Pad them well to prevent the rope from cutting into the soft wood.
The steam striping process saturates the wood and gives it a wonderful heady aroma. It takes about three weeks for the wood to dry thoroughly in a basement. During the time, take advantage of the openings left in the room to improve the wiring, add insulation and repair the plaster. Since the steam process could crack glass, do not attempt to strip the window sashes. Instead, paint them with an enamel after carefully sanding them.
The process raises the grain of the wood and gives it a slightly furry appearance -- especially where pieces have been exposed to sunlight, such as around the windows. This can be smoothed off easily with steel wool after a coat of wood filler. Sanding takes care of other damage such as splintered edges.
After the wood is sanded and rubbed smooth with steel wool, put it back in place. Nailing the wood goes quite rapidly, followed by setting all the nails and filling the holes with wood dough and sanding when dry. For a final finish, you can use a stain polyurethan varnish.
To hide the filled nail holes, you can prepare a palette with black, white, brown, red and yellow paints. Colors can be mixed with a small touch-up brush as needed to match any wood tone. (Tubes of artist's acrylic paint are handy for these touch-up jobs.)