How to Refinish Your Front Door


One of the most satisfying home projects that everyone with a front door can tackle is refinishing the front door. Years of weather will eventually change your pristine new door to a worn, unattractive door. If you work through the project logically, have patience and begin early in the day, you can have a lovely like-new door by late afternoon. Ask a friend to help you take the door down and put it back up.

Things You'll Need

  • Protective eyewear
  • Rubber gloves
  • 2 sawhorses or sturdy workbench
  • 1 gallon semi-paste paint remover
  • 2-inch bristle paint brush
  • Plastic scrapper
  • 2 nylon bristle scrub brushes
  • Non-scratch nylon scrubbing pad
  • Paper towels
  • Exterior wood stain
  • Two 3-inch foam brushes
  • 1 quart exterior urethane
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Open door wide and stack one pile of magazines tightly under the center of the door to keep it at hinge level. Take the screws out of then hinges, remove the door and place it on saw horses or a sturdy work surface.

  • Put on protective eyewear, gloves and clothing.

  • Apply a light coast of paint remover over the outside of the door using the 2-inch bristle paintbrush. Wipe the remover off the edge of the door as you work, so it doesn't drip and take the finish off the other side. Don't let the paint remover dry ... as it soaks in, keep reapplying more all over the surface until you see the wood beneath. Let the paint remover do the work for you. It may take 15 to 30 minutes of continuous application to get through the finish. When you can see all the wood beneath, use your scrub brush to loosen any remaining bits of finish.

  • Scrap off the old finish gently with a plastic scrapper and put the globs on some newspaper. Clean out the cracks around the glass and panels with a clean scrub brush. After all the big chunks of finish are off, wipe down the door with paper towels. This might take a whole roll of towels. Your door should be fairly clean by now. Dispose of the newspapers and paper towels in a large plastic bag.

  • Clean the door with a nylon scrubbing pad and water. Dip the pad in the water, shake off excess water so the pad is damp, not wet. Working in sections, rub in the direction of the wood grain and dry each section before moving on to the next. Allow the clean door to dry thoroughly.

  • Lightly sand door in line with the grain to smooth the wood.

  • Apply the stain of your choice liberally with a foam brush. Work on a section at a time, wiping the stain in with a paper towel in the direction of the grain. There is no need to wait for the stain to dry before applying the urethane.

  • Apply one coat of urethane using a foam brush. For a smoother finish, allow this first coat to dry until no longer tacky to the touch, then lightly soft sand the door using 220-grit sandpaper to remove any bumps. Apply two additional coats of urethane, allowing the door to dry to tacky between coats. Then allow to dry to the touch, about one to two hours.

  • Reinstall the door, following the reverse instructions of how to remove the door.

Tips & Warnings

  • Start early
  • Keep remover wet
  • Wipe edges so remover doesn't run
  • Read these directions carefully
  • If you have trouble contact me at
  • Wear rubber gloves
  • Wear eye protection
  • Have someone help move the door to and from the saw horses

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  • Photo Credit Siri Stafford/Photodisc/Getty Images
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