Don Roberts Don's Fine Woodworking
Custom Furniture, Doors, and Refinishing
Crossville, Tennessee

Frequently Asked Questions

   Q: How do I properly maintain my wood entry doors?
   A: After a proper refinishing they will just need to be wiped clean with a moist sponge a couple of times a year to help avoid any film of dust and moisture building up on them. Also, make sure there are no sprinklers that throw water on your doors!

   Q: Can my doors be touched up or will they need to be refinished?
   A: This really depends on how badly weathered and faded the finish is. In the vast majority of cases it’s best to completely strip the doors and give them a proper finish with the best quality exterior grade “catalyzed urethane” (varnish) which is far superior in quality and durability than the products most factories use, or anything available at home improvement type stores. Note too that in most cases the framework around the doors also needs to be done at the same time.

   Q: How long does it take to do the refinishing?
   A: Complete refinishing usually takes about a week and your doors are returned looking better than new - and very well protected!

   Q: What does the actual process involve?
   A: I remove the doors and put up a temporary, secure, non-opening covering and do all the work in my workshop - first stripping & sanding off all the old, damaged varnish, then stain them as needed, spray on a coat of sealer and then multiple coats of the protective vanish, using professional spray equipment to ensure a truly high quality finish that can simply not be obtained using a brush. Of course if there are sidelights or a transom I do these on site, just as I do for the framework around the doors.

   Q: How long does the new finish usually last?
   A: This depends on the degree of exposure to the elements, but on average a light refinishing is recommended about every 3-5 years. Note that the correct type of varnish for exterior doors is formulated to remain somewhat flexible so that it can accommodate the minute expansion and contraction of the wood during seasonal changes of temperature and humidity.
The cheaper “store-bought” varnishes end up getting far too hard and brittle within a year or two and hairline cracking starts when the wood moves, which then allows humidity to penetrate and the finish then fails rather quickly.

   Q: Could I hire a painter/handyman to do this work?
   A: You could, but it's definitely not recommended. Painters are generally good at painting but not necessarily at stripping, sanding, staining and varnishing. 30% of my work comes from re-doing the poor "finish" done by such people. Of course they also can't usually make any repairs or adjustments that may be necessary. Its far wiser, and cheaper in the long run, to hire a specialist for this work and have it done correctly the first time.

   Q: Can the color of the doors be changed?
   A: Yes, but in this case all the old finish be completely removed right back to totally clean, bare wood. Note that it's easier to make them darker rather than lighter. Obviously the framework around the door and any sidelights or transom will also need to be done.

   Q: What if I need a new door?
   A: Sometimes a door is just too damaged to be repaired or refinished in which case I also build custom doors, mainly from solid Mahogany, although other types of lumber can also be used and I can usually re-use any glass panels the old door may have in it.

   Q: What exactly is an “Engineered” door?
   A: This is a door that has the core of the frame made from several pieces of cheaper wood all glued together with a thin layer of ‘real’ wood glued on all sides - so that it looks like a solid wood door. The big door factories almost always make this type of door claiming that they don’t warp or twist, but in my experience they are often substandard especially when only a very thin layer of exterior veneer is used... and obviously far more profitable for the factory. On occasion I also make doors like this but always use 2 or 3 thick slabs of the real wood all glued together so that it’s still a “solid” wood door. Note too that when correctly dried wood is used to fabricate a true solid wood door in the correct manner - which includes the correct protective finish - it shouldn’t warp or twist anyway.
engineered door cross section detail