How to Refinish a Wood Entry Door

What You'll Need
Sawhorses or equivalent stands
3-4 4-inch foam brushes
Roll of paper towels
Moderately coarse sandpaper
Bristle paint brush
1 gallon paint remover
Scrub pad
Scrub brush
Spar urethane protective finish
1 can stain of your choice

Refinishing a wood entry door becomes necessary from time to time. Natural weathering, age and blemishes can turn an attractive front door into a battered version of its former self. For points of entry, wood door refinishing is essential for practical and aesthetic reasons. Practically speaking, because it receives constant exposure to sunlight, rain and cold, the wood needs to be protected. And since it is an access point to your home, you should take pride in its appearance and want it to look its best. Pick a day that you can spend in full to refinish your wood door. Done right, it should not take more than half a day to complete, not including drying time. 

Step 1 - Remove the Door from Frame

This part is much easier with a helper. Open the door wide. Have one person keep door level with hinges by pulling up lightly on the handle. The other person removes the screws from the hinges. Together, bring the door off frame and set it flat upon waiting sawhorses or stands. The outdoor side needs to be facing up. 

Step 2 - Strip Finish

Pour a pancake-sized puddle of paint remover on the door and spread it around as far as it will go, adding to it if it does not cover the wood. Use the bristle paint brush to work it around. Don’t let it pool up in one section; rather, spread it around evenly. Don’t start scraping off the finish, though. After the first layer of remover has been worked into the wood, pour more of it on and repeat this process. Apply the remover for a half hour straight. You should begin to see wood. Use the scrub brush to free any stuck finish. Don’t let the remover run over the edges to the other side. Wipe it off before it can do that. 

Step 3 - Clear Wood of Remover

Once the wood shows through, the remover has done its work. Spread newspaper around the edge of the door on the floor. Now use a scraper to scrape off all of the finish onto the waiting newspaper. Wipe down the entire door with paper towels. If there are deep grooves in the door, use the cleaned scrub brush to clear them out. Wipe off any remover and finish residue from any glass on the door. 

Step 4 - Clean Door

With the scrub pad soaked in water and squeezed, clean the entire door down, rubbing with the grain. Keep the pad damp but not soaked. Dry with clean paper towels. Once cleaned, let the door dry in the open air for at least an hour or more. 

Step 5 - Sand the Door

Take the sandpaper and sand the door lightly along the grain. This will help to clean up any rough spots.

Step 6 - Apply Stain

Dip one of the foam brushes into the can of stain and begin to apply it evenly. Have either a paper towel or a clean rag in your other hand to rub it in. Always rub the stain in with the grain. Don’t try to cover the whole door at once; rather, do one segment of the door at a time. 

Step 7 - Urethane Finish

The last step is to apply spare urethane over the stain to seal and protect the door. Read the directions on the urethane, but in some cases you can apply the sealant with the stain still wet. Use a clean foam brush to apply the urethane. As an alternative, once the first layer of urethane begins to set up, you can sand it lightly before applying a second coat. After that coat gets tacky, apply a third coat and let dry fully. 

Once the door has been allowed to dry, you and your helper can rehang the door on the hinges. Your door is now completely refinished and practically looks like new.