Repairing UV Damage to Millwork Finishes

For Our Client: Sewell Automotive Group

The finish was literally falling off the millwork in this automobile showroom. Can it be refinished on-site without interrupting business?


Removing furniture from the first of eight sections to be refinished.
Getting started
There was severe UV damage to the millwork finish thoughout the showroom.
Severe UV damage
Removing glazing stops, glass panes, and walnut veneer panels.
Beginning the process
Portable, adjustable, temporary spray booth with Zipwall system and plastic sheething.
Zipwall plastic barrier
Portable, adjustable, temporary spray booth with Zipwall system and plastic sheething.
Zipwall plastic barrier
Refinishing onsite without interfering with the client's business activities.
Inside the Zipwall
Charcoal-filter air scrubber eliminates dust and odors of the refinishing process.
Air Scrubber
Scrubbed air is channeled outside creating negative air within the tent.
Negative Air Space
The first small section of millwork after the refinishing is complete.
Refinish Completed

WMS completed a large refinishing job in the Sewell GMC dealership of Dallas. Severe UV damage required us to strip and refinish the majority of millwork onsite during business hours. The challenge was to accomplish this difficult and messy work without interfering with new automobile sales. Our clients agreed that the project was a huge success.

The photo at right reveals the extent of damage caused by the rays of the sun to the otherwise beautiful walnut millwork in this showroom. The original color of this millwork was a dark red mahogany/cherry. The color had faded dramatically, and the finish was crumbling off the surface of the wood. This type of UV damage was so severe and widespread, the only choice of our client was to totally refinish it or have it torn out and replaced.

We began work on the first millwork section by quickly removing the furniture, then the glazing stops, glass, and lower panels. Our goal was to accomplish this three-month project ahead of schedule, and to minimize distractions that might interfere with our client's work. This was quite a challenge, as the first five areas we undertook were located on the showroom floor.

Our success in accomplishing these goals was due in part to the combination of a Zipwall™ system which enabled us to install an adjustable, professional "portable spray booth," and a portable air scrubber which was used to create a negative air space and exhaust scrubbed air to the exterior of the building.

After just a few hours, we had the first major millwork section fully enclosed and were ready to begin stripping the old finish from the millwork. Care was taken to rely on the quietest possible work methods. Cleanliness and safety were also kept in focus as we progressed though the building. Where possible, smelly chemicals were kept to a minimum. Much of the old finish was removed manually with cabinet scrapers rather than with chemicals or noisy sanders.

The photo at right, and the one above it, reveals the first of four stationary "cubicles" of millwork located on the show room floor. In them, you can see how the Zipwall™ tent enclosed the entire area.

The photos also show the windows of the showroom. All the millwork in this area gets direct sunlight, and quite a bit of heat from passive solar energy, which explains the deterioration of the color and finish in this area.

Our process in removing the finish was to manually scrape away as much of the damaged finish as possible, then remove the rest with random orbit sanders. Glazing stops and removable lower panels were chemically stripped and finished in the shop.

Once stripped, any necessary fills or veneer repairs were made to the raw wood. Next, pigment and dye stains were applied, followed by successive coats of precatalyzed lacquer to seal. Tints and toners were then used in order to match the color with the millwork of an unaffected area in the heart of the building. Finally, several finishing topcoats were applied, and the area re-assembled.

For this job, we chose an air scrubber that would quickly move a volume of air equal to the estimated volume of the portable spray booth. It also features a double filtration system which collects dust and dry particles as well as charcoal to collect noxious fumes, followed by a HEPA filter.

An equally important consideration was the noise factor. This unit's induction motor and quiet bearings were guaranteed to keep noise disturbance at a minimum within the showroom.

Negative pressure is achieved by exhausting the scrubbed air outdoors. This ensures that air will not flow out of the plastic barrier into the surrounding area, but is drawn into the tent instead, eliminating odors associated with stains and finishes.

The scrubbed air can be ducted out through a doorway, as in the photos above, when one is available. Otherwise, a window can be removed for this purpose, or it can be ducted into an elevator shaft.

The final picture is a photo of the finished product. This was the first of eight millwork sections to be stripped and refinished.

In addition to the refinishing, we made repairs to the furniture, including touch-up and finishing work, before it was returned to each area.

Sewell Automotive Companies is a group of dealerships offering Cadillac, Lexus, Infinity, Saab, Hummer, GMC, Pontiac and Chevrolet at multiple locations in Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and New Orleans. The name "Sewell" is practically synonymous with "Cadillac" in the DFW Metro area. Visit their website here.

WMS was contracted by Wilson and Associates at Carl Sewell's request. Wilson and Associates is an international architectural design firm, visit their website here.