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Tips and Tricks for Refinishing Your Wooden Front Door

Wooden front doors need regular maintenance to preserve their beauty and prevent damage, such as cracking. They can take a beating from hot, cold, wet, and dry weather. You can take steps to maintain your home’s doors yourself, but some maintenance and repair tasks are best left to the professionals at Teak Master here in Southern California. Learn more about refinishing and maintaining wooden doors and how to keep them looking new for years to come.

What Are the Basic Steps to Completely Refinishing a Door?

A brown wooden front door with two matching plants on both sides

Image by Malcolm Garret is free to use under the Pexels License

At some point, your door will require refinishing beyond the scope of fixing scratches or patching damaged areas. You’ll want to review the basics and make a plan about the scope of work, timing, and materials you need. Use quality coatings, such as polyurethane, and look for materials that protect against UV rays. Here are the basic steps to refinishing your door:

  1. Remove the door from its hinges and take off its existing hardware. Store the hardware pieces safely, where they won’t get lost and replace the ones that have tarnish, rust, or other damage.
  2. Use sawhorses to support the door, gently moving it to protect the surfaces.
  3. Remove the old coatings gradually and carefully using progressively finer sandpaper, starting with 80-grit, then 100-grit, and finishing with 120-grit. Finer sandpaper will block the pores in the wood and make it harder for new coatings to adhere. You may also use chemical strippers, but follow the directions carefully.
  4. Clean the door thoroughly, making sure not to contaminate the sanded surface. Clean, dry cloths and a vacuum cleaner work well.
  5. Apply the new coatings according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, following the wood grain to hide brush strokes. Two coats are usually needed and typically require drying overnight. Use 220-grit sandpaper between coats, and be sure to cover the edges of the door as well.
  6. Replace the hardware once the surface is dry, ensuring it’s aligned to match the hinges and door jamb. Touch up any coatings that require extra work once the door is reinstalled.
  7. Rehang the door using a piece of wood to help align the hinges. Hammer the pins back into the hinges. Install the lockset and ensure it operates smoothly.

How Often Is Refinishing Needed?

Homeowners often need to refinish exterior doors every four or five years, but the time varies depending on the weather and sun exposure. Saltwater can damage finishes quicker in coastal areas, and temperature extremes can cause the surfaces of coatings to crack or wear down.

How Long Do Wooden Exterior Doors Last?

Wooden doors last many years, but their life span varies depending on environmental conditions and maintenance. Keep your door clean and free of debris and excessive moisture. Fix scratches and other damage to prevent wood discoloration. Use cleaning and polishing products that are recommended for your specific wood type. The more durable the wood, the longer it lasts. Hardwoods such as mahogany and teak can last more than 60 years, cedar may last 40 years, and pine may last about 20 years.

Your door may need a replacement when you see signs of cracked or rotten wood, moisture damage, or gaps between the door and frame that can let in drafts, insects, or light. Damaged doors will also increase heating and cooling bills.

Staying on top of maintenance limits costly restoration and replacement work when an entryway is in bad shape. Wood that has become dark or black may be restored to some extent through sanding and bleaching, but it can’t be returned 100%. Worn coatings may be sanded off and replaced without too much trouble if they aren’t left to weather for too long. Doors and trim pieces needing replacement will have issues such as spongy soft wood, holes, and other signs of rot under the surface.

Which Tools Do I Need for a Door Refinishing Project?

Refinishing a door requires several tools and can be made easier by additional equipment you may already have in your home workshop. Check your door to see if you need different tools to get the job done since it’s always easier to plan ahead and not need to make an unexpected trip to the hardware store.

Most refinishing jobs will require the following tools:

  • Phillips and regular flat screwdrivers, of varying sizes, to remove and replace hardware.
  • Hammer and nail or punch to remove the hinge pins.
  • Sawhorses for holding the door while you’re refinishing.
  • Random-orbit sander for removing the old finish and any imperfections.
  • Wood filler or wood putty (if needed for filling in scratches or other damage).
  • Sandpaper in various grits.
  • Plastic sheet or drop cloth, clean rags, and a shop vac.
  • Paintbrushes that are designed for applying the finish you choose.
  • Paint scraper and wire brushes for removing old coatings.
  • Eye protection, a mask, and rubber gloves.
  • Mineral spirits or paint thinner.
  • Chosen coating, whether it be stain, polyurethane, or paint.

Do I Have To Remove the Hardware?

Removal of the hardware is needed to obtain a quality finish. Hinges, locks, kick plates, and other pieces should be removed before sanding and refinishing. This is also an excellent opportunity to replace old locksets and aging hardware. Hardware can be damaged when sanding and refinishing, leaving a sloppy look. The door should be worked horizontally on sawhorses to prevent finishes from running.

Be Mindful of Veneer on Doors

Carefully work around veneers. Veneer doors have wood grain that’s only about 1/64th of an inch thick glued over the wood. A veneer increases resistance to warping and splitting and makes doors lighter, but it can be easy to sand through and is susceptible to moisture.

How Do I Keep My Wooden Door Looking Fresh?

Once refinished, a few maintenance steps will keep your door looking sharp. Remove dust and contaminants using hot water and soap to clean up excessive dirt. Use a polish designed for varnish or polyurethane to protect it from the elements and hide imperfections. Oil hardware and keep an eye on the weather stripping, replacing cracked or peeled pieces.

Contact Teak Master for Your Next Project

Teak Master, here in Southern California, has maintained and restored numerous wooden doors, decks, siding, and fine furniture for hundreds of clients. Contact Teak Master to schedule a consultation if you’re considering having a professional tackle your door refinishing project. We’ll stop by at your convenience and provide a quote for maintaining and refinishing your doors, decks, and siding.

Bring Life Back to Your Wood Investment