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Need advice on refinishing this front door (pics)
Old 12-14-2007, 05:44 PM   #1
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Need advice on refinishing this front door (pics)

I am sure there is someone on this board who is familiar with woodworking...I am a new homeowner trying to do a basic project: refinish the front door. The finish was getting quite faded and weathered and I think the previous owners just kept putting more coats of one-step stain/poly on. I started trying to sand it down by hand, but that was taking forever, so I bought some chemical stripper (I think it is by Kleen Kutter, "VARNISH, LACQUER, AND SHELLAC REMOVER"). So I have been using that with medium grit steel wool to try to get the old finish off. But it is taking FOREVER. The large flat sections are not so bad but I am having a terrible time getting the finish off in the beveled panels around the edges. The varnish remover helps some but I am having to use a ton of it, I've already been through one can and you can see the results, at this rate I will need three cans to do the door, seems excessive no? Even in the areas where I can get the old stain off, it doesn't seem to come off evenly. The door itself is not in bad shape, it is no more than 15 years old. I guess it's oak? I'm not even sure.

Is there a better method or product to get the door clean enough to stain? I know I could buy an electric sander but that would only seem to help with the flat portions, not the detail, which is the worst part of it. I appreciate any thoughts or suggestions. Current pictures attached.
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Old 12-14-2007, 08:35 PM   #2
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You probably need a stripper that is specific to polyurethane.

Understanding Common Paint and Finish Strippers

You probably won't like this idea, but exterior grade paint holds up a lot better than any stain and coating, and is much easier to re-paint when the time comes. I painted the outside of our door, and left the inside natural.

Also, buy some wood scrapers - sand paper clogs quickly, and power sanders are noisy. You can get (or grind) scrapers to match the contours of the trim.

-ERD50
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Old 12-14-2007, 08:42 PM   #3
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Depends on what you want to do with it when you're done stripping it. Unless you're quite experienced with wood refinishing, doors that have taken weather can be pretty challenging to make look "like new" with stain and clearcoat. Finishing new wood can be challenging enough. That older wood will take stain differently in each area and it's going to be very tough to get it uniform.

Seems like something that a little skilled sandblasting would take care of the removal mighty quick. I wouldnt use anything chemical.
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Old 12-14-2007, 10:23 PM   #4
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Yep, if it's only 15 years old, then it is probably polyurethane (or, possibly a "conversion varnish," but that is less likely). As ERD says, there's no clear coat that will be as trouble free as a good exterior paint. Unless this door is under a very wide and low overhang, and unless the sun doesn't shine directly on it, you'll be doing this job again in a few years if you use a clear coat of any type. And, if you have a storm door over it, that can make things even worse by trapping heat/moisture.

If you are dead-set on re-doing it in polyurethane (and understand it will probably last less than 10 years), then you might want to get a good stripper that is for polyurethane. Also get some good, sharp scrapers. After you've got almost all the finish off, you'll need to sand a lot. Make sure you'd scraped/rinsed all the gummy finish off, as it will quickly load up your sandpaper. For the tight spots and corners, you might try a sanding sponge (they are cheap at Harbor Freight, if you've got one nearby. You can get the scrapers there, too. Take a look at their sanders as well, you'll be ready to invest in one soon.)
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Old 12-14-2007, 10:25 PM   #5
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you might want to get a good stripper
Always good advice. Heck, you'd probably be able to sand the whole door without even realizing you did it.
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Old 12-14-2007, 10:48 PM   #6
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Always good advice. Heck, you'd probably be able to sand the whole door without even realizing you did it.
maybe ask somebody in this thread....

http://www.early-retirement.org/foru...ies-31644.html
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Old 12-15-2007, 07:18 AM   #7
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All good advise above. For the tight corners you may want to try a small brass or stainless steel wire brush. As for strippers, I've found "Marine Strip" in the blue can to be about the strongest.

BTW, from the appearance of the nice straight grain your door looks to be made from Douglas Fir.
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Old 12-15-2007, 09:23 AM   #8
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Save yourself tons of effort. Take it to a re-finisher if you want to stain it again. They have the chemicals and the expertise to do it right. Of course, if you have nothing to do in your life but rub on a door, have at it.

BTW, it doesn't look like oak to me from the pictures.
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Old 12-15-2007, 10:06 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by tightasadrum View Post
Save yourself tons of effort. Take it to a re-finisher if you want to stain it again. They have the chemicals and the expertise to do it right. Of course, if you have nothing to do in your life but rub on a door, have at it.

BTW, it doesn't look like oak to me from the pictures.
The pros really do a great job on this stuff - they have the experience and all the right chemicals, but if they also have strippers, maybe they will let you watch (for an additional fee). It may not even be that expensive (well, at least w/o the stripper fees).

I agree, that looks like pine to me - not oak. I can't imagine sandblasting wood - you would most likely end up with a washboard effect from the different hardness of the grain in the wood. Sometimes they do that for a 'special effect' where you want to highlight the texture of the grain. If it can be done, I'd leave it to a pro.

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Old 12-15-2007, 03:27 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
............. I can't imagine sandblasting wood - you would most likely end up with a washboard effect from the different hardness of the grain in the wood. Sometimes they do that for a 'special effect' where you want to highlight the texture of the grain. If it can be done, I'd leave it to a pro.-ERD50
I believe the sandblasted look is called "driftwood".
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