6 Paint Stripping Tools For Exteriors

Oscillating Multitool

Martin Prescott / Getty Images

Stripping paint is rarely a task that any homeowner enjoys. These layers of paint, initially intended to stick firmly, are now expected to immediately do the exact opposite: lift off easily. It just doesn't happen on its own. But with the right paint stripping tools, removing paint from exteriors can go smoother and more efficiently.

  • 01 of 06

    Heat Gun

    DeWalt Heat Gun


    Exterior latex house paint is incredibly sturdy and durable against rain, snow, UV rays, and even the expected expansions and contractions of a home's outer envelope. But paint will eventually break down when the temperatures are high enough.

    This is the theory behind heat guns: Subject the exterior paint to temperatures that will cause the paint to wilt away. Yet these temperatures should be calibrated so that they remain short of damaging or burning the house.

    A heat gun will not cause all of the paint to fall away by itself. Instead, consider a heat gun to be a supplement to manual paint stripping. Much safer than the traditional butane torch, a heat gun has no open flame. Imagine a high-quality manual hairdryer, then multiply the heat several times more.

    Heat guns are relatively inexpensive, plus they have many other uses around the house, such as drying wet building materials or softening vinyl or leather.


    Heat guns can be intimidating tools and rightly so. Using a heat gun is no assurance that a fire will not start. It is possible to catch your house on fire with a heat gun. Dial down the temperature, plus keep the nozzle of the heat gun away from the house. Carefully read the product instructions even before plugging in the tool.

  • 02 of 06

    Putty Knife

    Putty knife scraping paint
    Gallo Images / Getty Images

    A putty knife is one of those home improvement tools that often gets used for more than its intended use. While you may eventually use the knife for applying putty, it is indispensable for stripping paint because of its dull edge.

    Using a tool that is too sharp to strip paint works against you. Instead of lifting away paint, it gouges into the work surface. Even though a putty knife was not intended for stripping paint, it does a remarkably good job at doing so. The dull edge is less likely to gouge the siding, allowing you to press harder on the knife.

    Dull is good, but overly dull isn't. You do need to maintain the perfect edge for your putty knife. To sharpen the putty knife, simply run it over a whetstone a few times. If you have a grinding wheel, use that.

    Another reason why the putty knife works well for stripping paint is that it bends, allowing you to strip the paint while holding the knife at a lower angle.

  • 03 of 06

    Oscillating Multi-Tool

    Oscillating Multitool

    Martin Prescott / Getty Images

    An oscillating multi-tool is a corded or battery-powered cordless device that moves its head in tight, rapid circles. The head can be outfitted with a number of implements.

    In the case of paint stripping, the smooth blade implement works best, since it is thin enough to get under the paint layer that you intend to remove. While the oscillating paint scraper is thorough and fast, you do run the risk of gouging the house siding when using this type of blade to remove paint.

    Oscillating multi-tool scrapers are great in areas where there will be no close examination of the surface. Use this tool when you have a layer of paint that is already coming up at the edge. In order to create an open edge, briefly run a heat gun over the paint, then lift up with the putty knife or painter's tool.

  • 04 of 06

    8-in-1 Painters Tool

    8-in-1 painter's tool


    An 8-in-1 tool (sometimes called a 5-in-1 tool) is a standard tool carried by many professional painters. This tool excels at opening paint cans, cleaning paint rollers, and pulling thin nails. As if that weren't enough, an 8-in-1 tool can also strip paint and clean out cracks.

    Like the putty knife, this is one tool that should be occasionally ground down to a sharper edge. The 8-in-1 tool's edge is far sharper than the putty knife to begin with, so it should last for a few working hours before it needs sharpening.

    The sharp point is great at digging into cracks and removing old paint or caulk. In fact, this point is far better than the utility knife because it is less prone to cutting into the surface.

    Unlike the putty knife, the 8-in-1 tool should not be bent. Push at a low angle, but always keep the tool straight.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Utility Knife

    Stanley FatMax


    A utility knife is an indispensable addition to every toolbox, not just for paint stripping but for a variety of uses.

    While a utility knife is valuable for stripping paint, it's not used for scraping paint off of flat surfaces. A utility knife doesn't have the correct shape and angle for reaching under and lifting off paint layers. Removing the blade and using it by itself as a scraper is not safe.

    Rather, use the utility knife for pulling up loose chips of paint or for scoring paint along the edges of items that need to be removed, such as electrical or utility boxes, cords, door trim, and window casing.

  • 06 of 06

    Wire Brush

    Wire brush


    A wire brush is strictly for the last stage of stripping paint, such as removing small flecks or chips from the surface. Do not expect the wire brush to strip away stubborn paint. In fact, be careful about brushing over existing paint layers with a wire brush, as you may embed the paint farther into the surface.

    A wire brush is great for sloughing away those remaining chips of paint after you have already used the other tools. Keep one on hand at all times and keep it dry, as wet wire brushes can develop rust.