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How To Restore A Vintage Door

Posted by Woodward Throwbacks on
How To Restore A Vintage Door

Like most businesses right now we are completely shut down.  And though it totally sucks, it has allowed us to get some long delayed projects done around our house in Corktown.  

The first project we decided to tackle was restoring our front door.  We have a 1901 Victorian that was sadly stripped of all it's "Victorian" charm long ago.  But the door is one thing that does appear to be original to the house.  It's hard to tell because there are a bunch of old finishes, so you can't even see the wood grain.  But we've had similar style doors in the shop for houses of this era so we are thinking it's original.  Meaning this door is possibly 120 years old!

Step 1:

Remove the door from the frame.  Don't unscrew the hinges!  You will be kicking yourself later if you do this.  Simply use a hammer and screwdriver to remove the hinge pins.

Step 2:

Remove all the door hardware.  

Step 3:

Start stripping the door back down to the original wood grain.  It's important to do this step outside if possible.  Or in a well ventilated room with safety gear on.  

Our door wasn't painted so we just had to remove the varnish and stain.  If your door is painted you will need to experiment with paint stripper or a heat gun and scraper.  For us we just used or orbital sander with 80 grit paper.  Then followed it up by using 120 grit and 150 grit to remove the scratches from the 80 grit.  For the delicate trim we choose to use a brass wire wheel attached to our cordless drill.  Our trim was already in bad shape so we went with the brass wheel.  It is softer than a steel wheel so it won't damage the wood as much, but it will still remove the finish quickly.  If you are trying to have a perfect finish experiment with some other sanding methods.  This is for our house and we don't mind if the door shows some age or some scratches.

Step 4:

Fix all the loose veneer.  We found out while sanding that the door had been repaired before with some small old nails.  So we opted for the same repair as it was really quick and we had the same nails.  Yes this might not hold over time, but if it doesn't we will just fix it again.  It's an exterior wood door in Michigan, it will require constant maintenance. 

Step 5:

Fill in the voids and cracks with wood filler.  We used a Miniwax Wood Filler from Lowe's.  It's a two part filler that dries very quick.  We also like to add some of the dye from the stain we will using into the wood filler mixture.  This helps to blend the colors later when staining.  The wood filler is labeled as "stainable" but they never really match.  So this is a little trick we learned in the shop!

Step 6:

This is a rewarding step, staining the door.  We found out that this was not only an Oak door, but it's a beautiful quarter sawn Oak door!!  So we wanted to highlight all this quarter sawn beauty by using a period color in Statesman's Oak.  

Step 7:

Another fun step, sealing the wood.  This is an exterior door so it's extremely important to use an exterior sealer.  We used Helisman by Miniwax in a semi gloss sheen.  It's so satisfying seeing the wood come to life while adding the sealer.  We ended up putting 3 coats on, and plan to add another coat every year or as needed.  If we keep up with the maintenance this sealer should help preserve the door for another 100 years!

Step 8:

Hang that baby back up!  Your done, time to grab a beer and admire your handiwork!  This is such a rewarding project and great for beginners.  If we would have known how nice this would come out we probably would have done it along time ago!


-Kyle + Bo

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