As far as "inside-the-house" projects go, we've recently undertaken the most daunting of our tasks (of those we will be doing ourselves, anyway). The wood ceiling in the great room has the potential to be very beautiful, and as the picture above shows, it doesn't look all that terrible now. But the picture below reveals how much the old shellac finish is actually hiding the natural beauty of the wood. All 800 square feet of it.
The best method we've found for removing this old finish is to scrub it with "Scotch-Brite" pads soaked in denatured alcohol, which loosens the finish from the wood, then wipe it off with a clean, wet rag. It requires a ton of effort and stamina to scrub for so long above our heads, but as you can see, the results are very rewarding when the grain pops out after years of hiding.
This method works brilliantly for most of the ceiling, but in the kitchen the wood had also been concealed by a few layers of white paint. When we took down the kitchen walls there was no longer a division between the painted and unpainted areas of the ceiling. To remove the paint, we applied a few coats of paint stripper, followed by hours of scraping and sanding. Hannah's dad spent two solid days scraping the grooves between each plank, and I've been sanding the flat surfaces for a little over a week now.
We're doing our best to quarantine the sanding dust from the rest of the house.
Getting there . . .
Looking pretty clean and almost ready for a few coats of polyurethane!