#375–Front doors need to look beautiful too . . .

Okay! So, I’m on a refinishing jag! I had two projects that were “must-do” this winter––the redwood deck chairs and the front door. Well, I was able to salvage one of the red chairs and it is indeed beautiful. Now, it’s the front door’s turn.

I last did a really poor job in July 2020 during the Covid lockdown. The top coat of lacquer sagged in several places before it dried, and it had dripped at several corners. I was not pleased, but it looked good from a distance. Later, it got some red paint on it that I didn’t notice until it had dried. A year later, I gently taped a message to the door—mistake. The delivery person must have ripped it off because it took the top coat of finish right off in two places. And, by this winter, all the sanding done below the top coat of lacquer was starting to show through. Up close, it definitely looked bad.

Back in 2009, I had the door taken down and laid flat, so I could really do a good job.

Back in 2009, I refinished my front door the right way. I had it taken down and placed in the garage where I could place it on a table in a horizontal position. This way, the finish coats do not drip or sag. At that time, I took it down to bare wood on all the flat surfaces, re-stained it, and put three coats of lacquer on it. It was beautiful! I was so proud of it.

At that time, a neighbor who was involved in construction and had been involved with the conversion of my downstairs into an apartment, convinced me that I could refinish my door myself. And he just happened to have a door that could take the place of my door while it was being worked on. He changed out the doors and set it up for me in my second garage, which was not in use at that time. He loaned me his rotating sander and told me step-by-step what to do.

This mostly glass door has been covered with paper for privacy. It will be my front door until I’m done refinishing the other one.

But he was not available to help me this time around. I discovered right away that you can’t just rent a temporary door, if you want to remove your front door for a couple weeks. So, I went to Restore and bought a used door of the right size. (They only had one—I really lucked out there!) And my renter’s son was able to get it to my garage. (It wouldn’t fit in my Camry! Solid wood doors just don’t bend.) Then he removed my front door and replaced it with the one from Restore. He had to so some chiseling to make the hinges fit, and he had to do a lot of adjusting when changing the locks, but he got it ready and working. I was so pleased.

He placed the door on the same table I had used back in 2009. I could take it from there.

At this point, it is a messy job with dust everywhere. After a day of using the rotating sander, my hand continued feeling like it was rotating long afterwards.

TrueValue was the store I went to and bought all kinds of stuff, some of which I didn’t even know existed. I told the gal what I wanted to do and she helped me find everything she thought I could use. I got my own rotating sander and various grades of grit sanding disks. I got flexible foam sanding pads for the light sanding of the inner parts and the main design in the middle. I got tack rags for cleaning the sanded areas and paint brushes and rags for the staining process. And she threw in foam brushes for applying the top coats. I, also, got two lights to provide better lighting in the less-well-lit garage I’ll be using this time, and the necessary stain and varnish.

I was ready and had three days where I had to be nowhere.

In the morning on the first day, I moved my car out and positioned the table where I wanted it. I got out the rotating sander and read the directions; I figured out how to use it and attached the sanding disks. I took the lights out of their boxes and discovered “some assembly required.” (Some of my least favorite words.) But I figured it out and got them set up. With my goggles, mask, and gloves handy, I was ready.

All but the inner parts and the mariner scene in the middle were sanded to bare wood.

After lunch, I geared up and began. The goggles kept fogging up, so I took them off, but kept mask and gloves on. I had the garage door open partially. It was cold—about 50 degrees. I got half of the flat places down to bare wood and took a break. Then I did the other half. Even though the sander had a collector for the dust that I emptied every 15 minutes or so, there was a noticeable layer everywhere. I finished with the rotating sander and swept the floor.

The second day, I got the vacuum and went over every inch of the door and then the floor and shook out or dusted lots of stuff. Then I did some hand sanding on all the flat areas and used the flexible sanding devices for light sanding on the inner areas and design in the middle that had not been taken down to bare wood. I really liked the flexible foam sander. Then I vacuumed the door again. Lastly, I took the tack rag to give a final cleaning. Now, I was ready to stain.

Now it has had two coasts of stain. To the right is one of the super powerful lights that I used.

The third day, I did touch up staining on all the inner area and then did the rest in three stages, wiping away the excess stain before moving to the next stage. The directions said to wait two hours before applying a second coat. So, I stopped for lunch and other stuff. Then I did the second coat. I did all of it and then wiped away the excess.

I finished about 6 and then spent an hour in cleanup. This is not water-based, so out came the mineral spirits (aka thinner). Not fun, but it got the job done.

I will post this on Friday, but will not finish the door until Saturday. At that time, I have to leave 8 to 12 hours between the two coats. It has to be dry––not tacky–which the directions says will take about 8 hours. After 12 hours, it will require light sanding, which I want to avoid. So, I will get up at 6 and get the first coat applied with the foam brushes between 7 and 8 and then 9 to 10 hours later, between 6 and 7, I’ll apply the second coat—at least, that’s the plan. And maybe even a third coat very early the next morning.

Here is the other super powerful light on the other side of the door. It is sitting on a box of books and two bins filled with recycling.

I chose marine varnish because it is tough stuff and made for boats—the above water part. I’m hoping for a smooth and easy application with foam brushes––a new experience. I’ve never used foam brushes before. So, wish me luck. I’ll let you know how it turns out next week.

About crossingsauthor

Judy Fleagle spent 22 years teaching 1st and 2nd grades and 21 years as editor/staff writer with Oregon Coast and Northwest Travel magazines.Since 2009, she has written five books: "Crossings: McCullough's Coastal Bridges," "The Crossings Guide to Oregon's Coastal Spans," "Around Florence," "Devil Cat and Other Colorful Animals I Have Known," and "The Oregon Coast Guide to the UNEXPECTED!!!."
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2 Responses to #375–Front doors need to look beautiful too . . .

  1. Evelyne says:

    You are an amazing woman. At an age where I am starting to do less and less myself, you just do this!!!
    Hope you will have many more years to enjoy the results of your hard work. Bravo!!

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