Put your best facade forward by refinishing a dated, dull front door. Better Homes and Gardens' contributing editor Danny Lipford shows you how to revitalize a wooden entry door to boost curb appeal.
A wood entry door takes a lot of abuse from the elements. Sun, wind, and rain all cause the finish to deteriorate and wood to crack. Follow along as we refinish this dated, dull entry door and give it new hardware.
Because it's much easier to sand and refinish a flat object, remove the door from its hinges. Start by opening the door and supporting it with a block of wood on the floor under the lock. Next, remove the hinge pins by hammering them out from the bottom using a 16-penny nail, or by tapping the head of the pin up with a dull chisel or screwdriver. Remove the top pin last, to keep the door stable while you work.
With the hinge pins out, pull the door off the hinges and turn it on its side, being careful not to damage the floor. Carry the door to the garage or workshop for sanding and refinishing. While the storm door on this house kept it secure while the door was being refinished, a piece of plywood could also be cut to fill the opening temporarily.
Place the door on top of padded sawhorses to avoid marring the surface while sanding and finishing.
Remove the existing lockset, deadbolt, and any other hardware. If you plan to reuse the hardware, note how they were attached to make reassembly easier.
Sand off the old finish using an orbital sander. Moldings and other hard to reach areas will have to be sanded by hand. Start by using 80-grit sandpaper to cut through the existing finish and smooth the weathered wood. After the door has been sanded to bare wood, switch to finer sandpaper (100-grit followed by 120-grit) to remove the marks left by the coarse sandpaper. If the door has a thick finish or paint, it might be necessary to use a chemical stripper to remove the finish prior to sanding. If so, be sure to follow the manufacturer's safety precautions, including rubber gloves, eye protection, and proper ventilation.
Remove any dust with a tack cloth or vacuum. When the door is ready for finishing, stain it (if desired) by brushing or wiping the stain on, then removing the excess with a clean rag after it has been allowed to soak in for a few minutes. Next, finish the door with UV resistant exterior polyurethane. For best results use a quality brush or apply the finish with a sprayer. To minimize brushstrokes, brush the finish in the direction of the grain. When the finish is dry, sand the door lightly with 220-grit sandpaper before applying a second coat.
To dress up an entry door, install a brass kick plate. Attaching the kick plate with the door on the sawhorses makes the job much easier.
A brass doorknocker complements the new finish. Use the mounting template supplied to mark hole placement. When drilling through a door, hold or clamp a scrap of wood on the other side to keep the bit from splintering the wood when it goes through. Another solution is to drill through the door from one side until just the point of the bit begins to emerge, and then finish drilling the hole from the other side.
Carry the finished door back in the house. Rest the lock end of the door on the block of wood on the floor, and align the two half of the hinges. Use a hammer to tap the pins back into the hinges, then remove the block.
If you plan to replace the existing lockset and deadbolt, be sure the distance from the edge of the door to the center of the hole for the lock (known as the backset) is the same on the new hardware. When purchasing new locks, have them keyed at the store to match the other locks on the house. Install the deadbolt and lockset following the instructions provided with them, being careful not to cross thread or strip the screws.
It cost $120 for the hardware and finish to refurbish this entry door, but the difference it made in the curb appeal of the house was worth much more than that.