Making them look new again!

How to Renew Your Home's Doors

by Benjamin Roussey


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The doors of a home are usually the first things that visitors lay eyes on. Over the years, even the best doors wear out and begin showing signs of damage. The paint on doors fades with time, and doors can get scratches or can develop holes or other imperfections. When these problems become glaringly visible, it may be time to refurbish or replace your doors.

Replacing the doors should always be the last resort. Refurbishing can be an interesting and cost-effective DIY project. Although refurbishing doors is a project that could be done any time of the year, during the winter months, you may want to do just the interior doors.

Cost and Materials

If you decide to refurbish your doors yourself, the costs typically include masking tape, paper, solvent, an orbital sander, a paint brush, and scrapers. If you have a sawhorse, that would be ideal. Otherwise, you can place the door on two blocks of wood and newspaper while you work.

Step 1: Remove the Door from Its Hinges

Keep the door open and use a small block of wood to prop the door up, so it does not slip down once the hinges are out. The hinge pins can be removed by hammering them out from the bottom or by using a screwdriver to tap up the head of the pin. The top hinge should be removed last so as to keep the door stable until then. Once the top pin is removed, you can carefully move it to where you plan to do the refinishing.

Because doors are sometimes heavy, you might need some help when moving the door. If the door you are refurbishing is an external one, don't forget that you might need some plywood to board up the opening until you are done with your project.

Step 2: Remove the Hardware and Begin to Sand

Once the door is laid flat on the sawhorses or wooden blocks, you must remove the deadbolt, lockset, door knob, and other hardware. If you plan to reuse the same hardware, make sure you see how it is assembled and keep all the parts safe. A quick photo with your phone could be a good idea.

Then start sanding off the old finish with an orbital sander. Start with an 80-grit sandpaper and working up to 120-grit. If the door has a thick finish or paint, you may have to use a chemical stripper before you can sand it.

When using a chemical stripper, wear gloves and eye protection. The hard to reach spots may have to be scraped manually. Small scrapers are available in different shapes, and you will have to see which one suits your purpose best. After you are done sanding, brush off the dust or use a vacuum to clean the door before proceeding to the finish.

Living Better Tip: Selecting a Door for Home Security

Step 3: Applying the Finish

Moving on to the finish, it's important to first seal the edges at the top and bottom of the door, and then place the door back on its hinges before applying the first coat of finish on the rest of the door. Use a quality brush to apply the finish, or use a sprayer to ensure a uniform finish. When using a brush, the strokes need to be in the direction of the wood grain.

Once the first coat of finish dries, you can sand it with 220-grit sand paper. The dust will again have to be wiped off or vacuumed before you can apply the second coat. For exterior doors, clear finishes are attractive. But, enamel paint is more weather-resistant and low maintenance. Paint is a fantastic option for inside doors. A clear finish will have to be sanded every couple of years to ensure it retains its look.

Related: Painting Tips from the Pros

Step 4: Reattaching the Hardware

If you are going to reuse the old hardware that you removed from the door, all you need to do is affix these back where they were, and you are finished. However, if you want to add new hardware to go with your new finish, there is more work to be done. If you are replacing the lockset, you will need to make sure the distance from the edge of the door to the center of the hole for the lock is the same as it was before.

It's a good idea to start with interior doors before moving on to the front and back doors, especially if you are a beginner. It will provide good practice and help perfect the technique. With this same mindset, you may even want to start with a basement door first.

Refurbishing the doors of your home can be an interesting and fun DIY activity. Whenever someone appreciates the newly refinished look in your home, you'll be able to say proudly that you did the job yourself!


Benjamin Roussey is from Sacramento, CA, and grew up doing all varieties of home improvement projects around the home since his parents did not hire contractors or outside help to maintain their home or vehicles. As a result, he has acquired a multitude of home handyman skills in plumbing, carpentry, electrical and everything in between. He also has two Masters degrees and he served four years in the U.S. Navy.

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