How to refinish a wood entry door?

Discussion in 'Remodel Forum & Blog' started by chassis, Jul 6, 2006.

  1. chassis

    chassis Engineer

    Messages:
    339
    Location:
    SE Pennsylvania
    I'm in the middle of an entryway beautification project. Exterior porch trim is painted, and I'm ordering the new lockset, letter box, light fixture, etc.

    My question is how best to refinish the wood main entry door. It is either maple or cherry. Anything other than oak or pine, and I have a hard time identifying wood species. The finish is natural, with I presume some sort of clear polyurethane or varnish equivalent. I'm guessing the existing finish is 10-15 years old, possibly 20. It's in good condition, just some sun fading where the previous owners had a brass name plaque on the door.

    Couple of questions:

    1. How best to strip and/or sand the old finish off? Do I need to sand at all? Do I use chemical strippers? Can I get the sun faded areas eliminated? The new finish will be natural in color.

    2. How to fill old screw holes with minimum appearance issues? The PO's had a nameplate on the door, and we will not have anything on the door in this area. I have seen many types of colored or stainable wood putty - any recommendations?

    3. How to protect the (new) paint on the interior of the door? The paint on the interior side of the door is less than 1 yr old and we won't be changing it.

    Thanks for any advice folks.
  2. prashster

    prashster New Member

    Messages:
    941
    Sand to remove the stain and the fading. Use an orbital on the flats; they won't scratch like a misapplied belt sander can. Takes a little extra elbow, but it's worth it, IMHO.

    You can rig up some contoured sanding blocks out of rigid foam to sand off the panel moldings by hand. Resort to chemicals as a last step; in my experience they're better for removing non-penetrating finishes.

    You MUST determine the species b4 you start staining. Use a sealer first. It'll help the wood take the stain evenly (wicked important if it's cherry).

    And remember that with staining, patience and many coats are king.

    It's a many-step process. If it were me, I'd consider pricing it ou...
  3. chassis

    chassis Engineer

    Messages:
    339
    Location:
    SE Pennsylvania
    Prashster,

    Thanks for the reply. I will indeed figure out what kind of wood it is. How long in your view does this process take? I am thinking it is half a day to remove the old finish, and fill/repair old screw holes. Then a day and a half to apply the stain and urethane. So it all nicely fits in the span of a weekend, right.........?? ;)
  4. prashster

    prashster New Member

    Messages:
    941
    I think it's a day's worth of ACTUAL work, but there's a lot of drying in between.

    I'd venture 1/2 day to strip, and then 3 coats of stain and 3 coats of poly. That's 3 days (counting 1/2 day drying between coats).

    That's for each side.

    I saw a cool idea for finishing both sides of a door simultaneously: Partiall screw lag bolts into the top and bottom of the door and support the door by these bolts on saw horses. This allows you to flip the door over and finish the other side b4 the 1st side dries. (Of course, you need a helper to help flip).

    You should sand lightly btn urethane coats too.
  5. chassis

    chassis Engineer

    Messages:
    339
    Location:
    SE Pennsylvania
    prashster,

    Thanks again. Hope you don't mind a few more q's.

    Where would I find this rigid foam to create sanding blocks for the panel mouldings?

    What am I sanding with to remove the finish and fading? 150 grit then 220 grit sandpaper? Do I use steel wool between coats of stain and/or poly?
  6. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Never use steel wool with water based stains.

    I would be reluctant to use chemicals if I wante to be sure not to damage the inside finish. Otherwise, the user-friendly orange strippers work well on varnishes. Go to the paint and hardware section at any store to find all kinds of power and hand sanding gizmos.

    I would experiment, but I think 120 would be needed for finish removal ( maybe eveb 100) then work up to 150 and 220 when you are at bare wood.

    Becasue of handle bores, etc, you will have a hard time protecting the inside finish. Use lots of blue masking tape.

    To fill the screw holes, use a stainable filler. If you have an artistic touch, you could use some colors with a fine artist brush to add "grain" lines to hide the hole.
  7. Bob NH

    Bob NH In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,317
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    I found that a High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) sprayer that I got from HD for $69 did a great job. I used it to apply urethane to my kitchen cabinets. It eliminates brush marks.

    Many thin coats are better than fewer thick ones.

    I took the doors off so I could spray them flat, which eliminates runs.

    I use open coat 220 or 400 grit with a flat block to eliminate dust spots and imperfections between coats, then wipe it down with thinner to get it clean for the next coat. Gentleness is important between coats.

    Be VERY careful when sanding, especially near the edges. You never want to run the sander more than a fraction of an inch over the edge. If you have any veneer you can go completely through it in SECONDS.
  8. prashster

    prashster New Member

    Messages:
    941
  9. chassis

    chassis Engineer

    Messages:
    339
    Location:
    SE Pennsylvania
    Thanks again folks.

    Bob, I do plan to take the door off the hinges and do the work horizontally. What do you think of a foam brush or rag to wipe on the finish? Would that be better than a bristle brush?

    prashster, wow that is a great idea! I think I might try it. Only problem I can see it getting the stiff sandpaper to conform to the homemade sanding block.
  10. prashster

    prashster New Member

    Messages:
    941
    I prefer a thick sponge for stain application. Hate foam applicators for anything but the roughest and "hacky-est" of jobs.

    But follow the instructions on the can; different mfgs have different preferred techniques based on what solvent is being used, and the viscosity.

    In any stain app, I find that the key is not in the application, but in the quick and even wiping in/wiping off.
  11. chassis

    chassis Engineer

    Messages:
    339
    Location:
    SE Pennsylvania
    OK here are some pics of the door. Can anyone give me their opinion of what species of wood it is? I'm guessing cherry or maple or maybe mahogany. Thanks.

    [​IMG]

    Close up of lower right panel. Door handle trim will be replaced. Nasty, isn't it? :eek:

    [​IMG]
  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,268
    Location:
    New England
    It looks like american black walnut to me...a very expensive native wood. The materials to create a new door out of that would cost a big bundle. If it is walnut, it is not stained, it is natural. Strong UV can bleach it, so you might need to play with areas that are light, but you might even things out a little with the sanding. It could still be veneer, but you should be able to tell from the edges if it is solid or veneered. If veneered, be especially careful, as walnut veneer is typically thinner than most other species because of its cost and the fact is it is dark, so it covers well.

    You could use numerous coats of a wipe-on poly, but check the specs. You want something with some UV protectants in it that is good for exterior.
  13. chassis

    chassis Engineer

    Messages:
    339
    Location:
    SE Pennsylvania
    Thanks Jim. Notice the sun fading around what used to be a name plate below the cut glass? There are screw holes there. Is the best way to fill them to use a colored putty matching the wood?

    Also, is it OK if I sand the old finish off, and then just refinish with poly and no stain? Wife wants a light/natural color. Was thinking to not stain and just use the poly.

    Just looked at the edge. Interior and shut face are painted, but the top edge is raw. There is a stain on the door, a little drippage on the top tells me this. It doesn't seem to be veneer. If I didn't know better I would say this is a mahogany door because of the color of the top edge, kind of rosy and very uniform. Does this help?
  14. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    To me it seems to light to be black wallnut. Kind of looks like birch but I don't think it is that either. Maple?
  15. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,268
    Location:
    New England
    It's hard to tell from the photo. Both mahogany and walnut are open grained. this means that you can see the pores of the wood. When you finish the wood, you usually use a special filler to fill all of the pores. That could be what you see on the top (but it could be a stain as well).

    Both maple and birch are closed grain woods. It is very hard to see the pores. But, the grain doesn't look like mahogany. Maple, maybe. Neither of these need a filler.

    For furniture used indoors, I often use lacquer sticks. You take a very flexible metal piece of sheet metal, heat it up, melt a little of the (color matched) lacquer and mash it into the defect. Not sure how that would work for outside. If you are going to stain things, you may want to do the filling after sanding, and staining. The putty type fillers will suck up stain different from the natural wood.

    If it is walnut, you won't get light (unless you bleach it - I would hate to see you do that)! If it is mahogany, you might not need to stain it, but it can be uneven and you might like it better if you do. If it is maple or birch, it might be very hard to get all of the stain off of it, especially in the small cracks. Depends on whether it was a water based or oil based stain and how long it was left on prior to wiping it off.

    If you take the door off, sand the top or bottom and see what color it is. Take a close up (as close as you can get and keep it in focus) and post that...then it will be easier to tell. No guarantees.
  16. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    On exterior doors, and ones that get a lot of UV rays I have had good luck with Polly modified Marine spar varnish. It is great for blocking UV rays. If you put on 3-4 coats, then to maintain it all you have to do is every couple of years, sand it and give it 1 coat. If you do this B4 it starts to peel you'll never have to strip it.

    [​IMG]

    The less UV the door gets the longer between the maintainance coat.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2006
  17. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Nice pics....nice door. From what I see in the picture, the door is not in bad shape at all. I think if were me, I would not turn this into a 3 week project at all. I suspect that light sanding will even out the appearance, including the area undr the old name plate. Don't forget to remove the hardware, because your new hardare will have a different profile.

    Use a color matched wood filler for the screw holes.

    For a finish, I like Varathane Diamond Spar Urethane. Easy to use, non-yellowing.

    I think there is no downside to start with some light sanding. If it doesn't get what you are looking for, you can always go to plan B.
  18. chassis

    chassis Engineer

    Messages:
    339
    Location:
    SE Pennsylvania
    Jimbo, thanks. Here is what I am thinking of doing:

    1. Remove door from hinges, set on sawhorses.
    2. Remove hardware
    3. Lightly hand sand door. Will this get rid of the nameplate discoloration?
    4. Apply small dabs of color matched putty in 4 tiny screw holes near old nameplate.
    5. Apply 3 coats of polyurethane.
    6. Install new hardware
    7. Rehang door on hinges

    So I'm not going to use a stain, which is fine with the wife since she is looking for a lighter shade anyway.

    Does anyone see any issues with this plan?
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2006
  19. Jags Resto

    Jags Resto New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    Texas
    Chassis,

    I would go along with Cass on this and use a marine spar varnish. It`s an ext. door and you need all the protection you can get.

    Jags
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