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Need help and advice to rescue and finish our front door!

Posted by hoondela (My Page) on
Wed, Oct 5, 05 at 17:03

I would really love some advice on staining our new front door which is a Simpson Venetia made of hemlock. We had the same front door at our previous home and loved it so much that we chose it again when we began our remodel last winter. Unfortunately, one of the subcontractors gouged the front door and of course no one would fess up. Our general contractor said he'd take care of it, but I've given up hope that he'll ever come through on that promise, so we need to get the door stained and finished before we go through another winter. Luckily the gouge is near the hinge and not too visible when the door is closed. I know that we shouldn't have let the door stay unfinished as long as we did, but we kept thinking that the contractor was going to take care of it. Since the door has now been through a whole year in it's unfinished state are we going to have problems? It's under a covered porch and is protected from rain, but obviously not from temberature. Now, the next issue: When I did the finish work on the door at our old house, I wanted the door to come out as perfectly as possible, so I sanded the wood really, really smooth with a 200 grit sandpaper which I now understand was a really bad idea and caused the pores of the wood to clog up. After my killer sanding job, I used a pre-conditioner that I was told would help keep the door from being blotchy and then I stained the door with a minwax stain. As you've probably guessed, the stain did not go on evenly (I'm assuming because of the sanding) and I ended up putting on lots and lots of coats trying to get it evened out. The door ended up very dark and needless to say I wasn't very pleased with my efforts. I want to make sure that I don't make the same mistakes (or any new ones) this time around and would love to get some advice before I get started. Any special treatment necessary because of the years worth of exposure? How much sanding should I do? Any tips on finishing hemlock to get the most even stain? Any recommendations for brands or types of stain and/or pre-conditioner? And finally, what should I do about the gouge in the door? Should I fill it and then stain the door, or stain the door and then fill it? Same advice on brands would be appreciated here. I know this is a really long post, but I would appreciate any advice and help that you can give. The door was a big splurge for us and when I walk in the front door everyday I don't want to regret having spent all that money on it! Thanks for any and all help you can offer.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Need help and advice to rescue and finish our front door!

What kind of condition is the door in now? Is it rough, has it changed colors, any joint separations, How big of a gouge? I suspect the trouble you had with the previous door and stain fluctuation, was the conditioner that you mentioned. What was it? I'm not fully sure of the staining properties of Hemlock, but it probably prevented the stain from penetrating evenly. The sanding shouldn't have caused the stain to vary. If the door is still in good shape,I would sand the door smooth (it should be relatively smooth from the factory)...180 to 220 should be fine, and be sure to sand with the grain. Stain with a good oil based stain, (Minwax is hard to beat-Brush it on with a good bristle brush and wipe it with a soft cloth to keep it even)let it dry 24 hours and buff it lightly with 4/0 steel wool, vacumn it or blow it with compressed air to remove all the dust and apply the finish coat, either satin polyurethane or spar varnish. You can thin the finish coats down and apply several for a really slick finish. The gouge can be repaired either before or after the stain. If it's inconspicuous, you could use a good filler before staining and proceed,(get one that is pre- colored or one that will "take" stain) If it's pretty visible, you may want to get one of the accompanying fillers that matches your stain and put it on after you stain between the stain and the final finish. I think that would be my choice.


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RE: Need help and advice to rescue and finish our front door!

Wayne,Thanks for all the feedback.To the naked eye, the wood doesn't look like too bad. It's kind of dirty but I'm sure that will sand off. There are a couple of really small hairline cracks in the wood, but they look like they are just on the surface. I'm really confused about your comment that you think the conditioner caused the staining problems.I was told that because hemlock was a soft wood that it needed the conditioner or the stain would be blotchy. In fact it's made by Minwax and is called a pre-stain wood conditioner. Your experience is that it causes the blotchiness?


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RE: Need help and advice to rescue and finish our front door!

bump! I'm about to take on some staining of Hemlock wood and was planning on using Minwax pre-conditioner then Minwax oil-based stain.


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RE: Need help and advice to rescue and finish our front door!

Try sanding ---preferrably with a random orbit sander---with 150 grit. That will take off some of the stained wood---the Minwax stain does not penetrate far into wood.

Sanding can also lighten the color---desirable in your situation.

I have found off the shelf conditioners often darken the wood when applied---not really desirable. I like to use what is know as a one pound cut of white(blond) shellac instead. That is one pound of shellac flakes disolved in one gallon of denatured alcohol. A somewhat easier method for a one time use is to buy a quart of white shellac(premixed) and mix with two quarts of denatured alcohol---that approximates the one pound cut amount.

However, if sanding with the 150 grit paper winds up creating the desired color, treating/restaining won't need to be done.

I use marine spar varnish on exterior doors. That product will add an amber tint---which increases with each coat. But, you almost need a before and after comparrison to see it. Three coats, each allowed to dry for 24 hours, hand sanding with 220 or 320 sandpaper after the first two coats---just to knock down the fuzzies.

Depending on the weather conditions and sunlight, the finish will need to be redone from 2-6 years later---sanding off the final coat and one coat applied.


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RE: Need help and advice to rescue and finish our front door!

I'm surprised hemlock would be employed for the formality of a front door - they usually use it for barn siding and rough work around here, and it is prone to splintering as well. I would guess yours is probably western hemlock, which is more stable than eastern and I believe they used a lot for porch trim, like the wainscot type you see on old enclosed porches and porch ceilings. The grain is kind of nice - but the wood has a lot of tannin in it. If your door isn't that exposed to the elements try using a wax type paste - rather than the more durable spar varnish. It doesn't protect the wood as much, but I think it darkens the wood much less than a liquid type finish. I finished a hemlock table with this wax paste and the color didn't change much and stayed quite light. Maybe it doesn't react with the chemicals in the wood as much because it's more of a surface coating than a cell penetrating sort of thing. It probably wont last as long as the spar varnish, but it is pretty easy and non-messy to buff on again.


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