How to Restore Old Doors

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Refinishing an existing door in your home or repurposing a salvaged door for use as a bar, table or decorative design element preserves craftsmanship that is not evident in most modern mass-produced doors. Using old doors as replacements when you're remodeling your home is a green solution because it preserves resources. Restoring old doors isn't difficult and doesn't require a lot of special tools, but removing old paint on wooden doors takes time and patience.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Sawhorses
  • Drop cloths
  • Protective gear
  • Chemical stripper
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint scraper or putty knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood putty or wood filler
  • Wood stain
  • Lint-free cloths
  • Remove the door from its hinges and take off the old hardware. Preserve the hardware if you can. Replace it if you must.

  • Set the door on two sawhorses and protect the surface underneath with drop cloths or old sheets. Provide ventilation or work outdoors. Put on rubber gloves and eye protection. Wear old clothes.

  • Apply chemical stripper to the surface of the door with a 2 inch wide paint brush. Read the manufacturer's instructions on how long to let the stripper work. It's usually about half an hour.

  • Use a paint scraper or putty knife to gently scrape up the old paint. Wipe the surface with clean rags and reapply the stripper as needed.

  • Turn the door over and repeat the process on the second side.

  • Sand down rough spots. Use water-based wood putty or wood filler to repair cracks or holes. Wood filler comes in different colors. Choose one that will match your door. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for filling and smoothing the surface.

  • Stain the door, if necessary. Use a soft-bristle brush to apply the stain and lint-free rags to wipe it to the desired color. Make sure your strokes all go in the same direction. Read the label on the product for exact directions.

  • Reattach the hardware and hang the door, or use the door for another project.

Tips & Warnings

  • Paint can also be stripped with a tool like a hair dryer that applies heat to the paint, making it easier to scrape off. Water-based wood putty is easier to clean up.

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