How to Sand Old Doors With Moldings


Refinishing an old door can give it new life, but wood can be tough to work with as it ages, especially if it is an exterior door that has been exposed to the elements. Wood dries out over time, fading or darkening, becoming splintery or even developing surface cracks. Sanding your door is the best way to take off the damaged outer skin so that your new finish goes on smoothly. Sanding a door with molding is best done by hand to get into all of the small crevices.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Mallet
  • Sawhorses
  • Drop cloth
  • Degreasing cleanser
  • Sponge
  • Shop cloths
  • Dust mask
  • Goggles
  • Gloves, optional
  • Sandpaper, 80-grit, 120-grit and 220-grit
  • Tack cloths
  • Remove the door from its hinges by slipping the edge of a flat-head screwdriver under the lip at the top of the hinge pin and gently tapping the handle of the screwdriver until the hinge pin comes up enough to pull it out of the hinges.

  • Place a pair of sawhorses on top of a drop cloth. Lay the door on top of the sawhorses.

  • Remove the hinges and the door hardware and set them aside.

  • Clean off any grease, oils, handprints and dust with one squirt of dish soap stirred into 1 gallon of water. Dampen a sponge in the solution and clean the door carefully without soaking it.

  • Wipe the door down thoroughly with a clean, lint-free shop cloth and let it dry completely before you begin sanding.

  • Put on your goggles and dust mask, and gloves if you prefer. Start with 80-grit sandpaper and go over the entire surface of the door. Work with the grain. Sand the flat surfaces first, getting as close to the molding as you can.

  • Fold your sandpaper in half so that the gritty side is facing out. Place one finger inside of the fold. Use gentle pressure to sand the molding.

  • Remove your finger from the fold and use the crease of the sandpaper to sand the crevices where the molding is attached to the door.

  • Wipe down the door with a tack cloth to remove the sanding dust. Pay special attention to the molding and to where it attached to the wood.

  • Repeat with 120-grit sandpaper and again with 220-grit sandpaper, wiping down the door between each change of grit.

  • Flip the door and sand the other side, remembering not to neglect the edges. Wipe the entire door down with tack cloths.

Tips & Warnings

  • Strip away the old finish with a chemical stripper to cut down on the amount of sanding required.
  • Never sand wood without wearing a dust mask.


  • Photo Credit Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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