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Steel Door Fix-Up

Add a wood look to a plain steel door with these easy directions.

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It's easy to give your plain steel doors the look of rich wood. An inexpensive wood-graining tool and a heavy-bodied wood stain are the keys to this decorative-finish technique. You can apply the finish while the door is on its hinges, but it's easier if you remove the door and lay it on padded sawhorses.

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  • Suitable for beginners, though experience with decorative paint finishes is helpful. First, practice your wood-graining technique on a painted metal or wood surface.
  • Cost: Less than $30.

Grab your gear

  • Mineral spirits; wood stain; polyurethane
  • Lint-free cloths; masking tape; wood-graining tool (available at hardware stores and home centers); paintbrush

Steel doors usually come primed white, gray, or tan. If your door is colored, apply a neutral base coat and let dry. Mask off glass and remove all hardware. Wipe the door with a cloth dampened with mineral spirits.

Follow these wood-graining steps:

1. Use a lint-free cloth to wipe a thin, uniform coat of wood stain on a small section of the door. Complete one section of the door at a time, beginning with the interior panels and working out. Create a horizontal grain on crosswise sections and a vertical grain on lengthwise sections.

2. Draw the graining tool down the stained section while exerting pressure with your index finger. Move at a constant speed. While pulling the tool toward you, slowly rock it up and down to create a varied pattern. If you make a mistake, just wipe on more stain and try again. Occasionally, clean the graining tool so it doesn't clog. Use a dry brush or cloth in tight corners.

3. When you have grained all sections, allow the door to dry for 24 to 48 hours.

4. Brush on a coat of polyurethane. Use exterior polyurethane on doors exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods.

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