Refinishing Front Door

siscJune 20, 2008

I would like to refinish my front door but it has some issues. Some of the veneer is blistering near the bottom; the outside part of the door is also quite dry.

How do I go about refinishing? I would like to strip and restain. What about the blistered veneer? How to repair?

I also would like to replace the glass that is in the top half with clear/beveled glass to give it more of an old look/feeling. (door is 34 years old).

This will be the first time for me stripping/staining so any help will be much appreciated. Below is the link for pics. Thanks! (

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I just used acetone to strip all of the pine floors in the house we bought. It was relatively simple. You just pour some acetone into a bucket with a rag, pour a bunch onto the wood, then wipe the old varnish and stain up and wring the rag out in the acetone in your bucket. Depending on how thick the varnish is, you may have to go over it a couple of times. It's a sticky job, but it's not difficult. You can get one and five gallon containers of acetone at hardware stores or Wal-Mart. If you do this, do it outside. The fumes are noxious!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 6:46PM
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An easier way to do that, and use less acetone, and have less fumes to deal with, is to saturate a couple layers of paper towel with acetone [I prefer MEK...methyl ethyl evaporates a lot slower] and cover it with a layer of aluminum foil, and fasten the sandwich up to the door with some push-pins. Give it half-an-hour for ordinary varnish, to at most a couple of hours for the toughest urethane or enamel finish.

Lift up one corner of the sandwich, and the old finish will be soft, and swollen and wrinkled, and lifted right up out of the wood. Brush it off with a bristle-brush, and peel back the sandwich as you brush off the softened old finish.

There's no chemcial residue in the wood, and no chemical-stripper mess to dispose of. A light sanding to remove loose wood fibers and you are ready to refinish the door.

To get a long-lasting finish, use a really high-quality varnish, and enough of it that you have an adequate film thckness. Use a quart of Epifanes varnish spread over no more than each 20 square feet. The number of coats is not important, it is only the dry film thickness that matters. Thin the varnish so it applies well and then use up that much material over that area in however-many-coats-it-takes. Also, use a penetrating epoxy primer [search Internet to find] to glue the varnish to the wood. That's a big reason why those other finishes fail so soon...they were never glued to the wood in the first place.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 8:19PM
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Thanks for the suggestions on the stripping of the door. Appreciate that! But how do I go about repairing the blistered part of the veneer? Once I start the sanding the cracked veneer will fall off....any ideas on that? Right now, if I push on the bubbled part it will definatly break apart.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 1:39PM
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My guess is your veneer needs to be re-glued.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 2:48PM
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I wonder if I can spot patch the veneer or if I have to veneer the whole door. Has anyone spot patched?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 9:20PM
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If you soften the veneer with water before injecting glue under it, and then clamp it with a wax-coated block, it should bend back into place. It's an easy repair if near an edge, more complicated/difficult to clamp if not.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 7:25AM
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If you can't clamp it try laying a piece of wax paper on top of the area you re-glued then place a nice heavy stack of books on it and let set for a few days. Make sure the book pile is larger than the area needing to be clamped.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2008 at 12:44PM
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I remember warnings from my art-student days about the dangers of exposure to acetone and was surprised to see it recommended here, so I googled it and found some great information at this site: It doesn't look as dangerous as all that, which is good to know! After struggling with drippy and gluey strippers, I may go back to acetone after all.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2008 at 1:30AM
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A word of warning on the veneer, it can be a little tricky. Make sure there is NO glue coming to the surface when you clamp (or other form of pressure). The glue will stick to the clamp and rip the veneer when you take the clamp off (ask me how I know this, LOL). Also I would only hand sand the area you just repaired to reduce the risk of causing damage (again more experience there too).

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 3:04PM
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We've actually got this same problem, but much worse. I hadn't gotten around to dealing with our door yet, but because of this post, I took a closer look at it. I kept wondering what the deal was. It's got bad rot holes on both sides at the bottom. It felt like a heavy solid wood door, but there's some type of screen material that I can see under some of the areas. I kept thinking I'd put a kick plate over it or deal with it somehow when I could. Now, just barely, in one spot on the edge, I can see the lines from the veneer. The door is arched and would be difficult to replace. What's the best way to get the veneer totally off, where do you buy the new veneer, and what type is best? I ask this totally realizing that it may be a really stupid-sounding question to many of you. :-0

By the way, steve327, your advice about putting aluminum foil over the MEK sounds great. The kitchen is the last floor I have to refinish. I pulled the linoleum up and got the glue and felt off. The original varnish only survived in a few places, and I definitely plan to try your technique. I think you've saved me some work. Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 1:44PM
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You're welcome, rae.

Now about that regluing of veneer...I would not recommed wax coated anything or wax-paper anything for the one simple reason that it will leave a wax residue, and that can interfere with the adhesion of coatings to the wood and each other.

What everyone is saying is entirely valid...there needs to be something to prevent adhesion.

Use Visqueen or any of the other brands of clear polyethylene sheet. 4-mil or 6-mil usually works best. Epoxy or other glues will release from it when they cure.

A very thin film of almost any epoxy glue smeared on the wood door surface will glue onto the backside of the old veneer and will glue it down.

If you don't clean the old wood surfaces, the best glue in the world will only be able to bond to a layer of crud on the old surface, and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link....

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 7:41PM
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cite instances where wax paper or parrafin are proven to have caused subsequent paint failure. I can cite many instances where such repairs have not failed. Anyone who accomplishes this glue-down is going to come back and sand the surface, or at level it with a cabinet scraper, and thereby remove the eentsy (sorry for the technical jargon) amount of wax that may have been transferred to the wood.
Wax paper; oh! the horror!
The stuff found at the link below works through and despite the layer of crud you have fear of.


Here is a link that might be useful: A nice epoxy wood repair system

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 8:31PM
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What you have said is true. Many times there are no problems. Once in a while I have talked to people who have had problems traceable to wax residues. Not always, but some times.

Using poly sheet, there is NEVER a problem with adhesion, since there is NO wax.

Most of the time, that perfectly decent product at your link, works fine. There are many other perfectly decent products out there that work fine, most of the time.

Sometimes, neglecting to do adequate surface preparation, things do not stick, and then it seems to be for mysterious reasons.

I like to never have failures. It is something I strive for. I prefer to give advice that is as close to perfect as I can make it. There are no perfect people, and no perfect products. Amateurs are more likely to fall into the traps of less-than-perfect workmanship than are professionals. That's why I like the poly sheet, it's bulletproof.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 9:19PM
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