How to Finish Interior Wood Doors


When putting finish on an interior wooden door, the preparation task is relatively straightforward, but the choice of finishes is quite varied. Making the right selection the first time is important because it is a decision that you will have to live with for years to come. Even though it is possible to remove a finish, your choice and application should be considered final. Before jumping into refinishing a door, check out the possibilities for different types of finishes. Here are suggestions for those refinishing a door for the first time.

Things You'll Need

  • Orbital or palm sander
  • Old newspapers
  • Old cotton rags
  • Sandpaper (medium to very fine grit)
  • Clean bristle paintbrush (4 to 6 inches wide)
  • Finish of your choice
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Wipe all dirt and dust off the door with a clean rag. This will also allow you to more closely examine it. If the door is in need of a lot of prep work or has to be completely stripped, then you might have to take the door down from the hinges so it can be worked on some more. However, most new doors can usually be left in place and worked on while in the vertical position.

  • Give the door a thorough sanding with an orbital or palm sander. Use fine or very fine sandpaper (180 to 220 grit), and hand-sand any places that the tool can't reach.

  • Wipe all dust off the door with a clean rag and then give the door and the room a thorough vacuuming. A high-powered wet-dry shop vacuum works fine.

  • Pour some oil finish, like Watco Danish Oil Finish, into a clean jar and apply a coat with the clean bristle paintbrush. Put old newspapers under the door to protect the floor. Spread the finish quickly and apply an even coat.

  • Instead of using a penetrating oil like Watco Danish Oil Finish, apply a coat of polyurethane finish. This is not a soaking stain but rather a top finish that forms a protective coat that clings to the surface with a shiny gloss. Several coats are often needed, with a light buffing of steel wool in between. Spread each coat with a clean bristle paintbrush and let the door dry thoroughly before applying the second coat.

Tips & Warnings

  • Using a finish that accents the natural color of the wood is very popular, especially with all the synthetic finishes that are available. Watco Danish Oil Finish and polyurethane fall into this category. Watco Danish Oil Finish is easy to apply and the results are usually attractive. One coat is often enough, but you can apply a second coat. Buff the door by hand with some very fine, 300-grit, industrial-grade steel wool between coats. Polyurethane is an excellent choice for your interior doors because it lets the natural color of the wood dominate while adding a protective surface to the door.
  • Take your time. A stain applied to your door is there to stay. A dust-free environment for applying finishes is very important, so make the work area as clean as possible.

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