How to easily finish wooden door?

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Thanks to all for answers on purchasing a storm door! The door I have an issue with now is a solid wooden one that is in the yard. The sun has all but eaten up the varnished finish. The edges of course are fine. I want to redo this door but don’t know where to start. I want to finish just the outside of it while it’s hanging. I know I will need to sand it..... is there a method that isn’t very messy? I want to either use a gel stain on it or paint it navy blue...but don’t know which type of paint to use. Any suggestions? Thank you!


  10 answers
  • Em Em on Aug 30, 2020

    Get an outdoor paint. Wipe clean after sanding and just paint. Brush or roller it does not matter. It is personal preference. Paint one coat up and down pain the 2nd coat in the opposite direction back and forth. You will catch all angles that way. If it has indentations like insets paint them first then the rest of the door. It is easy peasy. Don't be afraid. Just go for it. You will love the end results and be proud of yourself when you are done.

    • Chriss Grijak Chriss Grijak on Aug 30, 2020

      Thanks Em!

      Your reply gave me the courage to sand and paint it! Going to Home Depot tomorrow!

  • Annie Annie on Aug 30, 2020

    It might be easier to take the door off to fix it up? It does need a good sanding especially if it had varnish on it.


    You could sand it while hanging if you slip something underneath the door to catch all the dust. Maybe an old sheet?

    • Chriss Grijak Chriss Grijak on Aug 30, 2020

      Hi Annie!

      Thank you for your reply. My husband unexpectedly passed away 3 days after we bought this house so I’m stuck with all the renovations. But everyone has been wonderful in helping me with this place. I’ll be painting it while it’s hanging because I even gave his sawhorses away. 🙁

  • I would use a power sander so it goes quick. I would wear a mask and lay some plastic around the opening the best you can to protect and catch as much dust as possible. Also this may help: https://www.houseofhawthornes.com/how-to-paint-front-door/

    It talks about painting an exterior door without removing it.

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    • I'm so sorry to that, Chriss. I'm sure you could do it just as well without power. And I know it will be beautiful. Good luck!

  • GrandmasHouseDIY GrandmasHouseDIY on Aug 30, 2020

    I would use Rustoleum because its an outside door. Rustoleum is a thick oil based paint that creates a very durable and hard finish.

  • Maura White Maura White on Aug 30, 2020

    You are right about needing to sand it. I will just say from my personal experience that painting is easier than staining if you want an even finish and you don't have to worry about sealing the outside if you paint. Just be sure to use a paint that is rated for exterior!!!

    • Chriss Grijak Chriss Grijak on Aug 30, 2020

      Thanks Maura!

      i think I’m going to paint the door instead of staining it...looking for a quick and easy application!

  • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Aug 30, 2020

    All great suggestions! I have redone doors both while hanging and not. Painting is certainly easier if the door is on sawhorses, as is staining, but, if that won't work for you, I think you can protect everything around the door with dropcloth and painter's tape. I would suggest wiping down the door before sanding, so you aren't sanding off pollen and dirt (it always amazes me how dirty doors get) as you are sanding off the old finish. Wipe down the door with a damp microfiber cloth to get all the sawdust off. If you are using stain or paint, make sure it is for exterior use. Work the stain in, going with the grain and wiping it off the same way. For exterior use, I seal it with a clear sealer that protects from UV and water damage. It should be recommended for exterior use. I was taught in a class to use multiple coats of the sealer and lightly sand between coats with steel wool. Be sure to wipe it down after using the steel wool. Go with the grain. Check your label for time between coats of the sealer. I like four coats of sealer, but, check recommended number of coats on the label. The more prep and application time and care you do, the better it will hold up. Good luck and stay safe!

    • See 1 previous
    • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Sep 02, 2020

      I am so sorry for your loss. I hope this project gives you moments of peace.

  • Lindsay Aratari Lindsay Aratari on Aug 30, 2020

    I would say painting would be easier--be sure to get some outdoor paint

  • Kmdreamer Kmdreamer on Aug 30, 2020

    I did this I sanded down the door with a palm sander to the bare wood then I used a penatrating stain so I could see all the wood grain come through and there is still a beautiful color it came so nice I used minwax the door still looks great and it’s 3 years .

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Aug 31, 2020

    If you have varnish in some places but not others, you want to sand to get it smooth. You can lightly do this with a palm sander if the door is flat. You can also use steel wool. Wash down with TSP or denatured alcohol. Then paint with a door formula. I would call Sherwin Williams, a free standing store, and tell them exactly what your situation is for the best paint recommendation. They are wonderful here. Another good resource is Ace Hardware and use the Benjamin Moore line. It holds up well for outdoors.

  • Yes, you'll have to give it a sanding but you might need to strip the varnish with a stripper. Neutralize it after then use an exterior stain/paint to finish. Unfortunately it's going to be messy no matter what route you go. Just lay down tarps and tape off.

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