How to Protect and Maintain Wooden Doors

Aspire doors outside

A properly maintained wooden door should last you for many years, and will add to the aesthetic appeal of your home. If you are thinking of selling your property in the near future, then it is a good idea to look after your doors, because your front door is an important part of your home’s “kerb appeal”. A well-maintained, clean looking front door will create a great first impression for people who come to view the house, and is an easy way to add a lot of value to your property.

Common Problems

The things that do the most damage to your property are moisture, intense sunlight, and wind/dirt damage. These will all degrade the finish on the door, and if you don’t repair the finish then the underlying wood could also get damaged.

Exterior wood doors that are not protected by a porch or even a small overhang will suffer from weather damage more quickly than doors that are partly covered. This means that you should inspect them more regularly. You are looking for the following:

  • Cracks in the finish
  • Peeling paint
  • Bubbles
  • Raised wood grain
  • Dark streaks appearing in the finish

If you identify any of those problems, then you should take measures to repair the finish as quickly as possible. The sooner you treat the problem, the longer your door will last.

Preparing the Door

Before you can do any repair work, the first thing that you should do is clean the door. Remove any visible dirt and dust, and perform a detailed inspection. If there are just a handful of issues on the door, then there is no need to worry about repainting the whole door. Small chips and wear spots can be treated while the door is in place, and there may be no need to repaint the whole door.

However, if the finish is severely damaged then you may need to perform a full finish restoration. This is something that you should remove the door from the frame before you attempt. To do this, carefully tap out the hinge pins, and then move the door. Place it on a flat, level surface and remove all of the hardware (including locksets, door knob or handle and hinges). Place these in a safe place while you work on the door. Note that removing a solid wooden door is really a two person job. These doors can be far heavier than you might expect, so put safety first when you try to move them.

Be sure to strip all six sides of the door to ensure that there’s a nice even finish. After you have removed the existing finish, sand the door using 120 or 150 grit sandpaper, taking care to sand against the grain.

The New Finish

Once you have prepared the door, once again clean it to remove any dust and reside from the sanding. Brush away the dust, then wipe the door clean using a cloth that has been dampened with a mineral spirit solution. Let the door completely dry before you start painting it.

Apply a suitable primer to all sides of the door before you add a new finish. Make sure that you let the primer dry completely before adding a finish. If the door is made of a very porous wood you may need to add more than one coat of primer. Once the primer is dry, you can add the top coat – make sure that the paint you have selected is suitable for use outdoors, and that the primer and topcoat are compatible with each other.

Note that dark colors absorb heat, so they are more likely to degrade quickly – especially in very warm environments. If your door gets a lot of sunlight during the day, consider choosing a lighter color to make it last longer.

You may want to add multiple coats, and use polyurethane that includes a UV inhibitor, because this will help to protect the paint from sun damage. Make sure that the paint dries out completely before you replace the hardware and re-hang the door.

Varnish vs Paint

Some people prefer stains and varnish instead of paint. This can certainly be an option if you pick stains and varnishes that are suitable for use outdoors. It is important that you prepare the door properly if you are going to do this, however, because if the door is damp or there are any air gaps or bubbles in the finish then it will degrade very quickly.

Protecting the Door

Once you have refinished the door, there are a few things that you can do to make sure that the finish lasts as long as possible. Be pro-active about keeping your doors and windows clean. Wipe them down whenever there are signs of dirt or water stains. Be sure to clear up leaves and other seasonal debris when they start to accumulate in your garden. If you notice that your door is starting to stick or jam, make a point of trying to find out why as quickly as possible – it could be a simple slipped hinge, or it could be a sign of a more serious problem that needs fixed.

If a door is well maintained, and you do not live in a place near the sea (wind and saltwater can ruin wood), or in an arid area with extreme weather, then you can expect the door to last 30 years – even more if it is protected by a porch or a patio. The more stress your door is exposed to, the shorter the lifespan will be. Composite and UPVC doors can be quite hardwearing, while doors that are made of steel might only last for a decade, or less. The more proactive you are about keeping the door clean and maintaining the finish, the better. Once decay sets in at all, you will find that the life span of the door is greatly reduced.

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