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How to Refinish a Door

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A door is the first thing guests see when they enter your home. As a result, they can leave an elegant, lasting impression, especially on older, historical houses. Some are made of beautiful wood. Others have small but amazing details. Whatever their form, doors show off the personality of a home.

Unfortunately, they are also susceptible to the elements, year after year. If your house is aging, your door is aging even faster. It could have flaking paint or wood. The wood could be thinning out, making the entrance area draftier. What's worse, it could even have rot from insect or water damage.

Taking the time to restore your old door is worth it. You'll finish with a fine piece of craftsmanship to call your own that everyone will see the minute they walk up to your house. Let's get started.

Difficulty: Easy/moderate

Time: Three days — overnight drying is required

Cost: Around $50

Remove Hardware

The first thing to do is prepare the door for restoring. This means you need to take off all the hardware — the hinges, the doorknob, the doorstop and any glass. Place the door on padded sawhorses in order to properly take off the hardware.

Strip Paint

Is your door painted? A painted door cannot be repaired until you strip off the old coat — you won't be able to sand it.

You should strip the paint outdoors, as this step can get messy and dangerous without proper ventilation. Make sure you have enough ventilation if you're working indoors.

Keep the door on the sawhorses, but put down some old shirts or cloths to catch stray paint drops. Apply a low-VOC paint stripper to the door, carefully following the directions on the can. Let it set in for the time specified on the can.

Start scraping off the paint using a wide putty knife. While this will remove most of the old paint, you'll need a high-quality paint scraper to finish the job. For flat surfaces, wider scrapers are better. For the tight corners, pointed scrapers work best.

The paint stripper should then be neutralized with a liquid specified on the can so that it doesn't damaged the exposed wood.

Photo by Pixabay

Sand Flats Down to Bare Wood

Get rid of the remaining varnish and paint flakes by using 80-grit sandpaper on a random-orbit sander. Sand the entire door again, first with 100-grit paper and then 120-grit paper. Don't go any further, though — finer sandpaper will close the wood's pores. This means that when you go to finish the door, the finish won't adhere to it.

Sanding these areas also works for rotted and damaged wood. All you need to do is sand it down and fill it with a polyester of epoxy resin filler. Then sand it smooth again.

Scrape and Sand Moldings and Profiles

Using a sharp, pointed scraper, reach into the corners and profiles of the door to get down to the bare wood.

Once that's done, take a sheet of 100-grit paper and fold it into thirds. Sand the profiles in long strokes across the door, back and forth. In the places where your fingers can't reach, use a sanding sponge. Then, brush and vacuum your work to get rid of any dust that could affect the finish.

Apply Finish

The first place you should apply finish is on the bottom and top edges of the door — one coat is enough. Then, re-hang the door before applying finish to the whole thing. If you skip this step, you run the risk of damaging the finish when you re-hang!

Pour your finish in a bucket and dip a new China-bristle brush lightly into the finish. Begin with the door panels, then move to the moldings and profiles. Finally, coat the rails and stiles. If any finish accidentally hits a dry surface, use a rag to wipe it off right away. Leave the door to dry overnight.

Apply New Paint

Once you've finished the door, sand it smooth. Start with 120-grit sandpaper and end with 220-grit. Use a brush and then a soft cloth to wipe away dust.

Next, apply a coat of primer and let it dry. Sand the dried surface with 220-grit. Remove the dust again using the same method.

Using a two-inch-wide brush made for enamel paint, apply your enamel top coat and let dry. We recommend using a low-VOC exterior paint, such as Benjamin Moore Aura Grand Entrance.

Reattach Hardware

Your masterpiece is complete! Just reattach the hardware and it'll look picture-perfect. If the door (or your house) has some history, choosing period-specific hardware instead of the old, beat-up hardware will add great historical charm.

Megan Wild is a gardener who is the process of cultivating her first succulent garden. She loves visiting local floral nurseries and picking out plants that she struggles to fit into her yard. Find her tweeting home and garden inspiration@Megan_Wild.