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Wood Refinishing

Wood Refinishing

How to Refinish A Wooden Front Door

May 12, 2015
Wooden Front Door Before and After

Our front door looked unloved.  The front was dry and bleached in some areas and had peeling finish in others.  Not very welcoming at all.  The inside face was in good shape but once we removed the carpet we would have been left with three different wood tones.  So after years of being overlooked we decided to pamper it a little by refinishing it with the same deep earthy tone as the staircase.

In the morning of your project day, we removed it from the hinges and set it on padded sawhorses on the front porch.  If you are lacking in the porch department, any well-ventilated area with outlets will do.  Prep your door by carefully removing all the hardware.  Old or dry wood can split at this step so it pays to work slowly.

Refinishing A Front Door: Carefully remove any hardware to avoid splintering off pieces of your door

Carefully remove any hardware to avoid splintering off pieces of your door

Take any hardware that has been painted over and put it in a dedicated “diy” crockpot.  Cover with water, turn to your high or medium setting and set it aside.  After you’re done sanding, you can take each piece out one at a time and wearing thick gloves use a scraper and wire brush to remove the paint.  Stubborn paint may require another round in the crockpot.  If you are SUPER FAST at sanding, estimate at least 3 hours for your hardware to cook.

Refinishing A Front Door: Use a diy only crockpot to help remove stubborn paint from door hardware

Use a diy only crockpot to help remove stubborn paint from door hardware

Next, sand the flat parts of your door with a medium grit to remove the old finish followed by a fine (not super fine or you will clog the pores) grit paper to smooth everything out.  Our door was very cooperative on the side without sun damage.  The front was so damaged in places that our goal was more about preservation and evening the tones out than about a factory-finished look.

Use a sanding block or paper to sand any curved or decorative pieces. Finally, vacuum and wipe with a damp rag in preparation for staining.

Refinishing a Front Door: Sand the flat sections with a hand sander and the trim with sand paper or a sanding block

Sand the flat sections with a hand sander and the trim with sand paper or a sanding block

Stain the edges of the door before you rehang it.  In hindsight I would have also stained about an inch along the outside border of each face as well to minimize cleanup on the surrounding door fram and trim.  Once everything is rehung, use a rag to wipe on a coat of prestain then stain.

Refinishing A Front Door: Wear gloves to apply stain to the refinished surface, going with the grain

Wear gloves to apply stain to the refinished surface, going with the grain

And this is where it started to go sideways for us.  The front was taking up the stain in wildly different degrees, even with the prestain.  The damaged areas were almost black while the rest ranged from red to brown.  It was a mess.  Looked like it had been in a fire.  Not a good look if you are trying to inspire ‘door envy’.

 

Refinishing A Front Door: Can I call a do-over?  The stain we picked isn't ANY of the colors you see here.

Can I call a do-over? The stain we picked isn’t ANY of the colors you see here.

To remedy this, we agreed to try using a chemical stripper and re-staining.  If that didn’t work we were going to throw in the towel and paint the thing.  But it worked! Kind of.  See for yourself.  Anyway, it’s even enough that we are going to try living with it for a while. We may still end up painting it who knows.

Refinishing the Front Door: The back of the door looks beautiful and has nice even color

The back of the door looks beautiful and has nice even color

Next we oiled the whole thing with linseed oil and reattached the hardware.  If you don’t have the protection of a storm door you may want to look into a poly or similar. Here’s a great tutorial on applying poly.

What’s the trickiest curveball you’ve run into on a diy project?  Tell us in the comments!

Wood Refinishing

Refinishing the Staircase

April 14, 2015
After all those hours put in we are so happy with the way it turned out!

Do you have that ONE finished room amidst all the demo that motivates you to keep tackling projects?  Lucky you.  We’re catching up to you with all the work we’ve done in our foyer.  The foyer is a major hub for every part of the house and it’s where we greet guests, so it’s a crucial part of the renovation.  Not just for looks but for our sanity too.

Before shot of the large foyer with outdated carpet and paint.

Every spindle and post was covered in a thick brown paint with black faux wood grain.

Refinishing the staircase to fit in with our design is our biggest project here to date.  Why someone would paint a wood pattern over real wood is a mystery.  Stripping the paint was HUGELY time consuming (me – “oh it will only take a week” So Very Wrong).  By starting it first we were able to avoid any oops! moments because the hardwood floors were protected by carpet.

To remove the layer of paint we chose to experiment with several types of stripper.

PicMonkey Collage

Almost all of the paint was off at this point. Who would cover up wood like that?

 

Tips:

  • Cheap plastic putty knives are great for flat surfaces.
  • Opt for open weave rags to wipe off paint.  Rags only last 45 minutes tops and can’t be reused but they capture the most paint with the least effort.  Steel wool leaves behind thousands of little metal strands which were such a pain to clean up and wire brushes can gouge the wood.  Look for t-shirt or cheesecloth type material.
  • Use the buddy system and work methodically.  Pick one component, like “top-inside of each spindle”, apply the stripper and have the other person follow with the rag.  You save time by not having to switch back and forth.
  • Spontex’s Bluette gloves were the only ones we found that didn’t disolve or rip.

It can be hard to tell when you’ve removed all the paint when both paint and wood are the same brown.  Give yourself a break, you are never going to be able to remove 100% of the paint.  I couldn’t find a single tutorial online that gave a benchmark for when to start the next step.  So here are the two things we checked for:

  1. <1% visible paint left, this can be hard you’ve got to look at it from every angle and in different light.
  2. No paint residue feeling when you run your hand over it.

Not to say this is the end all be all, so keep going until YOU are satisfied.  We’re cool with having just a little paint left because that railing is twice as old as anyone alive.  boom.

Some of the materials we used to remove layers and layers of paint.

Some of the materials we used to remove layers and layers of paint.

Next, we gave everything a light sanding with extra fine sand paper and wiped off the dust with a damp, bunched-up cloth.

We tested a small spot with pre-stain followed by two coats of stain, both applied with a rag.  The pre-stain helped with streakiness but our test ended up lighter than we had hoped.  We ended up buying stain two shades darker to get the look we wanted.

We love the finished sheen that poly gives, but with pets we knew no matter how much we cleaned we would still end up getting dust in it before it dried.  Boiled Linseed oil was the perfect solution and added just the right finishing touch.

What other tips or tricks do you have for refinishing projects?  Let us know in the comments!