Bought a 100 yr old house few months ago. Don't know anything about diy, which will become obvious as I don't know what the bit is called - skirting board on the staircase? Anyway has been freshly painted by previous owner but looks awful, bashes and cracks showing through etc. Ds knocked a picture off the wall and it bounced down the aforementioned skirting bit.
So I picked a bit. Then I went and got a butter knife...
And now I've got some huge holes in the white paint with dark green and a tiny bit of wood showing through. How many million hours work will it be to clean up and how do I know if the wood is nice enough to be naked?
I doubt you'd want the wood naked if it's a 100 year old house - chances are it would have been painted originally (unless possibly it's an arts and crafts house).
If you want to leave it painted, you don't need to strip the paint off the whole skirting. What you need to do is to use decorator's filler to fill in the holes. Then wait for it to dry. Then sand the filler till it is smooth and flush with the rest of the paintwork. Then paint over the filler. For best results you would at this stage repaint the entire skirting so that the whole thing has had the same last coat of paint IYWSIM.
There are probably videos on Youtube or other websites of how to do this - maybe try googling "repair chipped woodwork paint" or something.
We're in the process of stripping our Victorian staircase etc. Be very careful as the chances are that there is lead paint - you can get a testing kit cheaply from B&Q - and you need to use Nitromorse and sand as little as possible, with as much ventilation as possible.
If you want to strip it completely the way to do it is to burn it off using a blowtorch.
But as others say be very very careful about lead paint and fumes.
Personally I would pick all the loose bits off (right back till you are sure the remaining bits are solid), then fill and sand like I described in my previous post. I wouldn't try stripping the whole lot unless you think it's all loose underneath.