Q: We had a beautiful cedar wood ceiling in our 14-year-old home. About two years ago, we rented it, and the renters decided to have the house spray painted, subsequently leaving a splash line of paint along the vaulted cedar ceiling. The painter did not bother to clean up his mess. Now we find it most difficult to remove since we have maintained a chemical-free environment. Is it worth saving? Can we restore its beauty by sanding the entire ceiling? Can cedar be refinished, stained or varnished? We really do not know what to do. We are willing to work hard to restore it.
A: Whether or not it is worth saving is something only you can answer, but it certainly can be done. Once you are down to raw wood, it can also be refinished. It is usually easier to remove paint chemically with paint remover, but if you want to sand that is your prerogative. Be aware that wood changes color with exposure to light and oxygen, and sanding one area can remove that color. In other words, unless you do the same thing to the entire ceiling, you may have lighter areas where you sanded. Before you sand, start by cleaning the wood with some sort of degreaser or dewaxer, such as TSP (trisodium phosphate) or naphtha. All ceilings accumulate airborne grease and oils, and you do not want to be sanding that deeper into the wood.