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

Refinishing Hardwood Doors

Checklist with Details of the Actual Process

Take a closer look at YOUR doors...
especially the lower third on the outside!

  • Is the varnish getting dull, faded, or, gray?
  • Does the wood feel dry or rough?
  • Any stains, cracks, or bare wood?
  • Any white areas showing?
  • Any signs of mold or mildew?
  • Is the glass "foggy"?
  • Do they close properly?

"Greying" varnish

Serious cracks starting

Water penetrating unprotected wood

Swollen joint

If any of these signs are visible, your doors need URGENT attention!

OUTLINE of the actual process involved.

Temporary Covering
     When a FULL refinishing is required, I first remove the doors and install a temporary plywood covering, to ensure both your security and comfort.
   Then I take them to my workshop, where a lot of preparatory work is required, such as scraping, sanding, and staining. After which, the varnish is sprayed on in a 'dust-free' environment, to avoid any foreign bodies, or moisture, in the finish.

Step 1: Remove all the hardware and scrape off all the old varnish.   Step 2: Sand everything back to completely bare wood.   Step 3: Mask off the glass and edges.
Step 4: Wipe on the stain - evenly (Not as easy as it sounds.)   Step 5: Spray on the sealer (Varnish applied with a brush can not give a smooth 'glass-like' finish.)   Step 6: Sand all surfaces again, till they are totally smooth.
Step 7: Spray on the varnish.   Step 8: Sand again (very lightly).   Step 9: More coats of varnish.

   The only effective way to remove the old damaged varnish is by hand using specialized scrapers, especially in the case of ornate doors with raised panels and complex moldings. Paint stripper can help soften the varnish, but it still has to scraped off, very carefully. Then everything needs to be well sanded using successive grits of abrasive paper before they can even be stained.

   Obviously such a FULL refinishing is a very time consuming process ... which can be avoided by having your doors correctly refinished before the varnish gets too dull or faded, or worse ...

   The good news is that it is actually quite affordable to have your doors lightly sanded and re-varnished so long as this is done before they are "too far gone". If done every few years this will of course protect them ... and make them last indefinitely! 

   I specialize in refinishing hardwood entry doors, using ONLY the best quality EXTERIOR GRADE varnish, ("Catalyzed Urethane") that truly stands up to the harsh elements!

"Engineered" Doors

Beware - many door manufacturers build "Engineered" doors which are actually not "solid" hardwood, but rather a 'Stave Core' with a thin layer of hardwood glued on the outside.
   While this type of door does have some advantages, notably the cost and the fact that some types are insulated, they also have distinct disadvantages - especially that the thin outer ‘skin’ often detaches itself from the interior wood core, it also dents quite easily, and can not be repaired. This type of door can usually only be refinished about twice.

   These doors are extremely difficult to detect, once stained and varnished. Usually the only way to make sure, is to remove it and strip/sand either the top or bottom.

   Refinishing this type of door is complex and more time consuming, because one has to be extremely careful not to sand through the thin outer veneer. They often don’t “take” the stain or varnish as well as a piece of solid wood.

   Consequently, I believe they are not nearly as good an investment as a door constructed from solid pieces of thick, properly dried hardwood, which, when well maintained, should last a lifetime, or more.  

I also do all types of
Furniture and Cabinet Repairs,
Restoration and Refinishing