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Stain Or Paint Front Doors? What To Do....What To Do?

Well, I have decided to tackle this task on my double doors on a Tudor style house. They presently are stained (looks like original stain from 1983). It is bare in some spots (down at the bottoms) and is mis-colored, more or less. Looks to be a light Mahogany stain to it.


I do like the look of a nice, stained door. Then again, it might be easier to just take that stain off (with that paint/varnish remover called Back To Nature or by just sanding) and then applying a coat of primer and painting it with maybe a dark brown semi-gloss (to match my existing trim). Primering and painting seems so much easier than staining and varnishing.


Questions are:


1. Which route would you suggest for the stain removal? 


2. I have read where the staining and varnishing can take up to 3 days (due to allowing the various stages to dry before re-applying). Is that the case?


3. What are the tools/supplies required for my project?


Thanks in advance!

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Posted 2011-09-28T20:32:59+0000  by DiamondDaveInCa DiamondDaveInCa

Hello DiamondDave!


Thanks for joining us on the Community!


I love the look of a stained door too.


On an aging door, it is common to find what you describe, "It is bare in some spots (down at the bottoms) and is mis-colored, more or less."


On doors that I've refinished recently, I found that lower third of the door damaged enough that it required sanding to smooth out the rough grain.


This leads me to a very simple solution ... since you'll likely have to sand at least part of those doors, go ahead and devote the time required to sand the entire surface.


My tool of choice is a battery powered 18-volt Ryobi Mouse Sander. Use 60- or 80-grit paper to completely remove the old finish and then use a 150-grit to finish sand before re-staining.




Your Hardware Associate can show you this tool and the paper is sold next to it on the shelf. But don't overlook the box set of battery powered Ryobi tools. You will likely find the price attractive and I have found the set of tools (which includes a carry case) to be exceptionally handy for numerous projects.


It is a common misconception that all of the Minwax stains can be used on exterior doors. This is not true.


In their line of stains, only one, Gel Stain is rated for exterior application. It is an oil-based stain that absorbs into wood just like the thinner liquid versions (labeled for interior use only), but you gain one significant advantage with Gel Stain ... because it is a gel, it can be applied to your door while it is hung.


The limit with Gel Stain is that we presently offer only four colors, but one of those is Mahogany which may suit your application. The other colors include: Hickory, Cherry, and Honey Maple. Your Paint Associate can show you these products.


Make certain the tint is blended evenly by folding the product thoroughly using a stir stick. Then use a natural bristle brush to smooth on an even coat over the entire door. Gel Stain can be wiped off after the color saturates to your desired color and then recoated in 8 - 10 hours. You can also allow this product to dry without wiping and then apply additional coats.


Be certain to work in the direction of the wood grain while applying as well as wiping off.


Finally, you will want exterior grade polyurethane to protect your handy work. Look for Minwax Spar Urethane in the green can. Like Gel Stain, Spar Urethane is rated for exterior application while the other urethanes say, "For Interior Use Only."



Spar requires approximately six-hours between coats and you will need to buff sand with a 220-grit. I would do this by hand, rather than risk cutting through your freshly-stained finish with a power tool. Buff sanding is little more than breaking the gloss so the next coat of urethane can adhere (known as a "mechanical bond").


You can buy more expensive brushes, but I prefer the throw-away chip brush for this project. Both products are labeled for use with a natural bristle brush and by using the inexpensive brush, you will save the cost and odor of mineral spirits ... the recommended solvent for cleaning both products.


I've done this project twice in the last year. I started sanding after breakfast and applied Gel Stain before taking a lunch break. When I returned, I applied polyurethane and left if overnight. The second coat of poly was complete before lunch the next morning.


You should expect a similar timeline ... and I'm certain you may have additional questions, so follow-up and let us know how we can help!

Posted 2011-09-29T13:13:26+0000  by Pat_HD_ATL

Hi Pat-


Sorry for the delay in response. Thanks so much for answering my first post.


Well, I have decided to tackle the front doors by staining and finishing them as opposed to primering and painting. I did go to my local Home Depot and get my supplies. I bought Minwax Wood Conditioner, Varathane Gel Stain (in the color desired). And, also got Varathane exterior clear varnish. Not to mention various sanding supplies and applicators. I already have a mouse sander to tackle the sanding.


Oh yeah, it seems my local Home Depot is more stocked with the Varathane brand products as opposed to Minwax.


I have a few questions I hope you (or others experienced ) can help me with before I start.


1. Is there the need to apply wood conditioner on the surface(s) of the doors after sanding? Since I am applying a dark walnut stain, will just that suffice?


2. Since these are exterior front doors that need to be secured at night, how would you suggest that I take these off to sand, then condition, then stain, and then varnish with the priority of being able to put these back up nightly for security?


I guess I could do one at a time, but I'd prefer to try to get them done both during the same time frame. Or, I can take off, sand, condition and stain in one day and then wait another day to take off and apply the varnish. I am leaning toward the latter.


Thanks in advance for your answers!


Posted 2011-10-11T17:15:29+0000  by DiamondDaveInCa

Hello Again DiamondDaveInCA,


Although we try, products are not always uniformly offered at every Home Depot ... so while I talk about MinWax and you talk about Varathane, we are both talking about Gel Stain.


The key here is the products basically work the same.


When I use GelStain, I do not remove the door. It is truly a gel and does not drip, so I just brush it on.


I don't have to take off the door for sanding either.


So, for the first three steps of your project, there shouldn't be any issue with leaving the door hung.


That leaves only two options for the Varathane clear coat:


1) Apply with the door hung ... which will undoubtedly leave some runs. This type sealant commonly requires a mechanical bond between layers, which means you must sand. Knowing this, you can simply leave the door in place and expect to buff sand and imperfections (drips or runs) in between each coat.


In this option, you are choosing security for your home without losing too much in the way of beauty; and


2) Remove the door, level onto sawhorses, and apply the clear coat. This option costs you the security of your home for several hours, but gains the self-leveling function of the clear coat ... likely a bit easier between coats, but still requires sanding.


If security is a serious issue in your area, I would never suggest leaving your home in peril for even a few minutes.


Whichever method you choose, your timeline should allow for a two-day transition.


Just like all of our other community members, I'd love to see a photo and read your comments about how you handled the project.


Oh yes!


Thanks for shopping at The Home Depot!

Posted 2011-10-11T18:06:31+0000  by Pat_HD_ATL

Thanks for getting back to me with some answers! Your help is greatly appreciated.


Well, I am underway on door #1 and have sanded most of it down to bare wood (using 80 and 150 grit sandpaper). For the most part, I am pleased with the job. I wrapped it with plastic and re-hung the door as night time came too quick.


I have some intricate panels on each door (8 total on each) and am wondering what do you suggest I do in getting the original stain off of the door. I tried hand sanding and it really isn't getting into the areas that need some removal of the original material.


I know there are tools/chemicals for this and am wondering your suggestions as how to tackle this.


Thanks again!

Posted 2011-10-12T14:54:28+0000  by DiamondDaveInCa

Hello Again DiamondDave!


Great to hear you're underway!


I always try to go up the scale of possible repairs to the point where "effective repair" crosses the line with "safe repair within my budget."


There are times, however, where the repair doesn't give us many options and dictates how we proceed.


In the case of your "intricate detail," sandpaper is not likely to get into the detail without destroying part of the feature.


So go ahead and break out the chemical gloves, eye protection, long-sleeve protective clothing and pick up the stripping agent from your local Paint Department. I am not certain what products California allows ... you may end up using a "green" stripper. If so, purchase enough to apply three individual coats, just to be certain you have enough to finish the project.


Afterwash is a chemical neutralizing agent, commonly sold alongside the stripper. Use this product after the finish comes off and follow the instructions, which commonly includes a fresh water rinse after the Afterwash.

Posted 2011-10-13T13:30:36+0000  by Pat_HD_ATL

Ican give you the easy way. put the bleach on the stain where it exists. and after ward to this rub the sand on the stains not harmly but smoothly. this can give you the better way. 

Posted 2011-12-01T17:16:28+0000  by hairs

Excellent Suggestion Hairs,


"Bleaching" stain to remove the color from wood is an old-school practice that has been around for generations.


Klean Strip Stripper for furniture recommends that you use non-bleach oxidizing agent to remove the stain color from the wood after removing the clear coat.


In their instructions, they recommend mixing warm water and white vinegar to create this solution.


The reason they don't use chlorine bleach ... it damages the fiber of the wood.


Milder oxidizing agents (like white vinegar) will accomplish the same thing without damaging the wood surface.


The stripping agent simply removes the clear coat, exposing the stain.


When using "wood bleach" make certain you use an agent that will not damage the wood.


ANOTHER PRODUCT: Behr 2-in-1 is another example of non-chlorine wood bleach ... used as deck prep. Behr2-n-1.jpgThe active ingredient is oxalic acid.

Posted 2011-12-15T16:02:57+0000  by Pat_HD_ATL


Diamond Dave,


In the long run,  a painted door requires  far less maintenance, especially if the door is subjected to direct sunshine and rain. If you go this route, you do not need to completely strip the door, but give it a thorough sanding to scuff up the existing slick varnish and feather into the exposed raw wood. After prepping, you have your choice between either an oil or a latex primer. My preference is for the oil. It sets the grain better and sands better.. Then you have your choice between an oil or acryic paint. Acrylic will be more fade resistant and be more flexible when the panels (assuming it is a panel door) shift with the seasons. The down side to acrylic is that it has a gummy feeling and likes to stick to weatherstripping that comes into contact with it. It is not uncommon to have to nudge  an acrylic painted door to encourage it to let go of the weatherstrip, especially in a humid climate. Oil paints dry much harder and do dull look to it after awhile. Your choice!


That being said, I too like the looks of a glossy stained door. Just be aware that it will have to have periodic re-varnishing. Varnished doors usually start deteriorating at the bottom of the panels. Door panels are actually not glued in, but are intended to move as the door swells and contracts with the seasons.


I am not a big fan of sanding doors that are to be stripped to re-stain. It is too difficult to get the grain of the wood to opened up evenly over the entire surface, especially in the corners and fluted detailing around the panels. Stripper and lots of steel wool will leave the wood with an equally open grain overall. Opening the grain up evenly is important because it directly affects how evenly the new stain will be accepted into the wood.


First, let me say TAKE DOWN THE DOOR regardless of whether you strip or sand. You do not want the mess in your house! Also, it is always easier working on a horizontal surface, both for wear and tear on your back, and ease of applying strippers, new stain and varnish.


If security is of concern, go to HD and get inexpensive CDX plywood and cut it to the exact size of your door and fasten it into the door opening for the duration. A few finish nails into the jamb will hold it in place. In colder climates, many homes have storm doors which are lockable. If a burglar is willing to break glass, your home is not secure anyway!


When it comes to staining, I have no qualms about using Minwax "interior" stains on entrance doors so long as they are receiving at least 3 coats of spar varnish which contains a UV blocker. It is the UV rays which will break down stains and cause fading. Spar varnishes are more flexible than regular varnishes. Again this is important because the panels do move slightly. A hard interior urethane will crack, allowing water to enter at the bottom of the panel and start the rapid deterioration process. Many garage door manufacturers will void their warranty if a conventional urethane is used on it!


Again, take your door out to the garage and lay it flat for the staining and varnishing. Varnishes, having no pigment, have a tendency to run. Obviously, in the horizontal position, it cannot run. You will want to give at least 3 coats of the spar varnish. The first coat will look not look very good.. The 2nd will actually look very good, but it is the 3rd which gives it the build-up to hold up to wear and the sun's rays.


Don't forget the two most important parts to varnish: the upper and lower edges, especially the lower. The bottom of the door rails are end grain and will pass moisture up into the door if not really sealed! Again, these are edges that are not fully accessible if the door is not removed from its jamb.


I am a big believer in following the manufacturer's instructions, especially when it comes to urethane varnishes. They are kind of picky about what they will adhere to, including themselves. So follow their directions. I can assure you that the instructions will NOT tell you to use a "chip brush" with which to varnish. You will want a quality , soft bristle brush. Spend the extra money! The pros use good equipment for good reason!



Posted 2012-01-07T07:30:34+0000  by ordjen
Other Community Members are making great examples of faux and furniture treatments:

Outstanding examples!
Posted 2015-12-03T17:51:53+0000  by Pat_HD_ATL
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