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How to Refinish a Wood Door

Thursday July 8th, 2021
When it comes to home improvement projects, one of the few things you can typically repurpose is your home’s wood doors. If you’re tired of your current look, or if your door is looking especially weathered, refinishing your wood door will bring it back to life. Refinishing is a great weekend project and you can do it with a partner or go solo for most parts. If you want to give refinishing a try, you’ll need to:

How to Refinish a Wood Door

  • Gather supplies
  • Remove Door and Hardware
  • Use a Sander
  • Scrape
  • Hand Sand
  • Condition
  • Stain or Paint
  • Reattach Hardware and Remount Door
Few things compare to the beauty of a wooden door on the exterior or interior of your home. Though they need some TLC from time to time, the look and quality they provide are second to none. Even the most weathered exterior door can become a thing of beauty and last a lifetime once refinished.

How Thick Should a Wood Door Be?

The thickness of an interior wood door and a wood front door will vary due to their location and the jobs they perform. Naturally, the thicker the door, the better the insulation and security. This is why exterior doors are always thicker than interior doors. Custom homes will differ. If this is a question you’re asking because you’re working on a new build or remodeling, keep the following in mind:

Entry Doors: A typical solid wood door is 1¾ inches thick. This thickness is the same for solid wood options or a wood front door with glass pane designs. Depending on the supplier you use, some companies specialize in especially thick doors from 2 inches up to 2.5 inches but these are rare. The thicker, non-standard doors also add on expenses for special locks, bigger hinges, more materials, and potentially a retrofitted door frame.

Interior Doors: Doors on the inside of the house used for bedrooms, closets, bathrooms, studies, libraries, and other rooms are typically 1⅜ inch thick. This is true of a wood door with glass, as well.
While these are the standard thicknesses for exterior and interior doors, you’ll find that measurements can vary depending on when the house was built and whether they installed commercial doors or custom-built options. A wood and glass front door typically retains a similar thickness as its solid wood counterparts, whereas a wood screen door or a patio door will trend on the thinner side.

How to Refinish a Wood Door

1. Gather Supplies

As with any project, gathering supplies is your first step. Once you have everything you need, you can work full-steam ahead without having to run to the store or scrounging around in the garage.
For any solid core wood door refinishing project you’ll need:
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Sawhorses
  • Drop cloth
  • Varnish and stain or paint
  • Wood conditioner
  • Cotton rag
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Palm sander
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask
  • Scraper
These supplies can be used on any solid wood door slab from an interior door to a wood exterior door. The process is also the same for a wood barn door or a wood door frame.

2. Remove Door and Hardware

The first thing you’ll want to do is remove your old wood door from the hinges. You want complete, unhindered access to the door wood for the next several steps, so taking it down is essential. This is true of exterior doors and interior doors.
Place the slab on two sawhorses for stability and remove all hardware, including hinges and doorknobs.

3. Use a Sander

Next, use a palm sander and evenly sand all the flat surfaces on your entry door with 80, then 100, then 120-grit sandpaper. Keep the pressure light and the sander moving. If the sander remains in one place for too long, you could damage the wood. This step is where you’ll want your safety goggles and a dust mask. When you sand a door, you’re getting down to the surface of your wood door and you don’t want to breathe in the particles of dust, wood, and old varnish during the process.

4. Scrape

If your door has wood moldings, these areas shouldn’t be touched by a palm sander. Instead, use a scraper to remove old varnish in corners, narrow profiles, and raised panels. Pull your scraper with the wood grain, not against it, and use gentle pressure, being careful not to gouge the wood.

5. Hand Sand

Once you’ve scraped the old varnish, hand sand any remaining parts of the wood profile and raised areas that need a little extra TLC. Again, always go with the grain pattern so you don’t damage the wood. This process is the same whether you’re working with a hardwood species or an engineered wood hollow core door. Whether you have an exterior wood door of solid oak, alder wood, white oak, or mahogany, or you’re working with a hollow core wood door with a wood veneer and you need to refinish it, stick with these methods to make sure you do it right.

6. Condition

At this point, you have a sanded door that’s almost ready to be painted or stained. First, wipe all the sanding residue off your interior or exterior door. Then, if you’re planning on staining the wood, use a pre-conditioner and gently work it onto the entire surface of the door. This will help the stain you’re using to soak in for a more even look. Without conditioner, you run a higher risk of stain soaking in unevenly.

Do you have to condition your wood door? Not necessarily. However, working with stains can be tricky depending on the wood species. A conditioner makes the job a bit easier and more predictable.

7. Stain or Paint

Now comes the fun part! Time to make your door shine and give it some serious curb appeal. As you brush the stain or paint on, be sure to wipe the excess off your brush and back into the can. The last thing you want is extra stain dripping down your door. Start at the top and work your way down, beginning with the horizontal and then vertical panels. Coat the moldings last. If any stain gets on a dry surface area, wipe it off with a rag right away, otherwise, you’ll end up with a dark patch where it dripped.

Let your first coat of stain or paint dry, then return for another. You may want to add several layers of stain if the door was particularly weather-beaten and worn-looking. Always allow each layer to dry completely before returning to add another. It’s also a good idea to seal your stain job with a varnish to help protect the door from sun damage. If you chose to paint the door, no varnish is needed.

8. Reattach Hardware and Remount Door

After you’ve finished staining or painting, you’ve applied your varnish, and the door is completely dry, it’s time to reattach the hardware and remount your door. Up until now, you might have gone solo on this project. When it’s time to remount your door, however, it’s a good idea to have an extra pair of hands to help hold the door in place while you work on remounting it.

What are the Best Wood Doors?

Are you looking for the next wood door that would be perfect for the interior or exterior of your home? Here are a few types of doors that we just love at Artisan Hardware.

Interior Wood Doors

  • Artisan Brace Sliding Barn Door: Rustic, country, and farmhouse lovers of all kinds won’t want to pass up this beautiful interior sliding farmhouse door. Customize it to match any color and style of room, from shabby chic to even modern-style homes. This looks exceptional as the door to any master bedroom entrance, study entrance, library entrance, and other rooms that you want to partition off during the day.
  • Aztec Barn Door: Artists, creatives, and lovers of unique style rejoice! With this one-of-a-kind piece, you’re sure to inspire creativity in yourself and every person who enters your home. Customize the stain or paint to perfectly accentuate your artistic style and flair—whether you choose to install this in your study, office, sunroom, or studio entrance.

Exterior Wood Doors

  • Rustic Exterior Barn Door: This gorgeous cedar wood door will make an amazing addition to your tool shed, she-shed, man-shed, or garage. It would also look amazing on a barn (naturally!). Thanks to the durability of the cedar wood species and the natural oils inside, you won’t have to worry about warping or overly fret about insect attacks or decay. Choose a finish that completes the look of your shed, garage, or barn, and enjoy your new look for years to come.
  • Orchard Exterior Barn Door: This beautiful door provides a rustic touch to any barn, shed, garage door opening, or outbuilding. Thanks to its durability, warping and insect invasion don’t have to be a concern. This looks amazing in any shade of paint or stain available and can be customized to the look and feel of your outdoor area.
  • Moonlight Exterior Barn Door: Looking for a unique wood entry door for a sunroom, covered porch, sitting area, pool house, or other outside structure? Look no further than this exquisite sliding barn door that can stand the test of time, weather, insects, and sun. Paint or stain it to match the surrounding area or create a unique focal point with a pop of color.

Enjoy Your Wood Door for Years to Come

Wood doors create a beautiful focal point for the exterior and interior of your home. Whether you’re remodeling or working on a new build, this is one step you don’t want to skip. If you love the door you already have but it’s looking weathered and time-worn, refinishing your door is a doable project as long as you have the supplies you need and an extra person to lend a hand from time to time. When you’re finished, you’ll have a one-of-a-kind entryway that brings a smile to your face every time you use it.

If you’re ready for a brand new door altogether, shop from Artisan Hardware’s customizable line of interior and exterior sliding barn doors, wood door slabs, pocket doors, and barn door systems. With the ability to customize everything from the size and finish to the type of hardware on your door, you’ll bring home a barn door that is bound to be the talk of the town!

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