20 Frequently Asked Questions
1) How much is it going to cost to refinish my door?
Doors come in varying complexities, sizes and what kind of finish do you want? Above and beyond the door, there is usually the entry way that also needs to be restored like the side windows, frame and many time even a transom window. All of these components have various degrees of complexity in their moldings, windows and how difficult the finish is to even get off in the first place.
I have refinished thousands of doors onsite and hundreds of entryway units. My professional charges for refinishing doors has run from $550 – $1000 each and my professional charges for entryway units has run anywhere from $700 to $7,800. Professional charges to refinish your door over replacement is usually only 1/4 to 1/10th the cost of new.
2) How do I know if my entryway is too far gone to refinish and needs to be replaced?
Very seldom does a door and entryway need to be replaced. The worst condition I have ever seen one in was the one on Youtube that I rebuilt. Usually the finish is just in bad shape, even though it may look like the door is falling apart. The easiest way is to feel the wood. If it’s spongy, or has obvious holes in it, the wood is rotten underneath. This is usually not the case.
Sometimes though, the wood has turned black, especially with the moldings. When this happens, especially on the lower horizontal moldings, they never come back to new condition. We can bleach these moldings and sand off most of the weather, so they usually come back to very good condition.
The key is to not wait too long after the finish has failed. Staying on top the maintenance is always the most cost effective way to take care of your entryway.
3) How do I know when my door needs to be refinished?
If your door is showing signs of discoloration or flaking, pealing or blistering on the finish, it’s time to refinish it. The most easy place to look is at the bottom of the door and sidelights. This is where your door will get the most intense exposure. Also along the seams where the vertical pieces meet the horizontal ones is a place the finish fails first. Another place is at the bottom of the sidelights. Look at the horizontal pieces on the bottom of the sidelights and also the horizontal pieces of the moldings and you will usually see the finish failing in these spots first.
Another way to tell is that a finish that is failing, will turn dull and many times yellow as it ages. Many times the hard finishes will turn yellow over time, as an indication that the finish is starting to fail.
4) How do I know if my door needs to be stripped or not?
If you need to lighten up the color or if there is cracking, pealing, or flaking on many parts of your door, it should first be stripped before a new finish is applied to your door. Also most finishes will yellow over time, which can be darkened if you don’t like the yellow color. If there is no pealing, cracking or flaking, to save money a new hard finish may be able to be applied over the original finish to darken it.
5) What type of finish do you recommend?
For almost all type of exterior wood I recommend a penetrating long oil. There are many types of these oils available, but the key is to not use a hard-type finish. This includes almost all varnishes and polyurethanes. These finishes look great when they first go on but very quickly they degrade by yellowing, dulling and flaking and pealing. What is then needed is sanding almost all of the finish off and starting over again. The problem with this is that on a door, there are veneers that are very thin. You simply do not have the thickness to keep re-sanding every few years to reapply the finish.
With a long oil, you quickly rag on another coat every year. This keeps your door looking like new continually. This way you never have to re-sand down to the bare wood and start over again, if you keep up on maintenance.
6) Does an oil finish have the same shine as a hard finish?
Yes, the oil finish needs 3-4 coats to build up to a satin or semi-gloss finish. The first coat soaks into the wood fibers. The second coat also soaks in but some stays on the surface. Usually after the third coat, the wood fibers are totally saturated and the finish dries on the surface providing a wonderful satin sheen. If you want more of a shine, just add an additional coat. These finishes give the wood a furniture-grade finish, that will give you years of lasting beauty, and maintain a beautiful sheen.
This process of applying oil over oil is an old-school approach. If you go to your local paint supplier, they will tell you that this is not the way the oil finish is designed. They are not trained in this way. This is the way wood in its natural state used to be finished for centuries. After refinishing thousands of wood doors in this way I can tell you from personal experience that it is the easiest and most affordable way to keep your wood doors looking beautiful over the long term.
7) Do You Put a Clear Coat On Over the Oil?
No, long oil has the pigment mixed right into the oil itself. You just build up layers of the oil/stain combination. That’s all there is to it.
You start with the oil itself and mix in the color in the form of pigments and dyes. The darker the color, the more the pigment. This way you have control over how dark or light you want your finish to be.
8) Do You Refinish the Inside of My Door Too?
The inside of your door is usually a hard finish such as a lacquer or water based finish. This is so that it will be easy to clean and the inside of your door is not exposed to the weather, so a hard finish is just fine for the inside of your home.
Very seldom do we need to refinish the inside of your door, however if there are dog scratches or some slight discolorations, we can touch that up at the same time we are refinishing the outside.
We can also strip and spray a water-based or lacquer finish to the inside of your door or other interior doors and trim.
9) Can You Remove Dog Scratches?
Yes, Dog scratches can be sanded out if they do not go deeper than the veneer, if you have veneer. If the scratches are not too deep, then many times we can sand them out.
Sometimes we can just spray over them, especially on the inside with a lacquer spray the lacquer is hot enough to melt the scratches and make the essentially disappear. Other times we have finishes we can just wipe on and it will also take off the scratches.
10) Can You Blend in Colors to Match the Rest of the Finish?
Yes, Many times, especially when we are touching up the inside of the door, it is essential to match the color of the rest of the wood either on the entryway itself or the wood in the rest of the home.
We use straight lacquers and water-based finishes on the inside of the home and straight oils on the outside. To these finishes we add our own pigments right on the job site so can create an infinite number of colors to match your needs exactly.
11) Do You Have to Keep My Door Off Overnight?
No, we have a special process of completing your door right onsite and it will always be put back on before we leave. Our procedure is this: We first take your door off and strip it on sawhorses under a protected tent that we erect on your site. We then install plastic to keep any animals or sawdust from getting inside your home.
In the case of a business, if this is your main entryway, we would erect our tent far enough so that sawdust does not blow into your building, and we would not want to limit customers from entering your business, so we usually do not install plastic in commercial situations. We work with the weather so as not to have adverse weather blowing inside of the building.
12) Do You Take Off the Hardware?
Yes, we remove the door from the hinges and we also remove the lockset, any door sweep or door shoe at the bottom of the door and the metal peep if installed. We have found that this is absolutely critical in achieving a superior refinish.
Many times I am called in to redo a job that a painter has done in trying to sand around the hardware and it’s really a mess. The sand marks are so bad, it’s hard to believe that it was done by a professional.
I have seen painters that don’t even take the door off the hinges that try and refinish the door. This is just not possible. To refinish a door properly, it needs to be worked on in a horizontal way. Otherwise the stripper just runs off the door and dust and old finish would be making a mess of your home or business.
If you are considering working with someone to refinish your door for you, always ask them how they are going to do your job. If they are going to do it in place, thank them and get someone else.
13) How Does Refinishing Compare to Buying a New Door or Entryway?
Most people do not realize that there is much more to a new door or entryway than meets the eye. Here are some of the factors you will be spending money on when you buy new:
1) Shopping for a new unit
2) Removal and Disposal of the old Unit
3) Shipping and Installation of the new unit.
4) Milling of the new unit.
5) Finishing of the new unit.
The cost of the new unit itself may only be half of the total cost when all these steps above are factored in. That’s why it’s not uncommon for a professional to be able to refinish the existing unit for 1/4 to 1/10 the cost of replacement.
14) What should I do about color?
If your finish is in good shape and you would like to darken the color, there is a good chance we can spray on a darker coat, if your door is facing North. I usually do not recommend a sprayed on finish for exterior wood.
If you would like to lighten the color or if your door has a failing finish, then we need to strip. When your door is totally stripped, we can apply any color you would like.
Most people get used to the yellow color that their hard finish has turned to. If you want to see the original color, just look at the inside of your door. That is the color your outside probably used to be before the finish turned yellow. The outside of the door is many times a different color than the inside, since the inside of the door and frame matches the inside of the home’s wood color and the outside usually contrasts the outside of the home’s color.
This is a great time to really make a beautiful furniture-grade finish for the outside of your entryway. You can look at examples in our website or go to your local paint store to get some stain samples of possibilities.
15) How Do You Get Such an Even Finish?
I would say that there are 5-Steps to an even finish and most of them all involve the preperation.
1)First of all, all the old finish has to be removed, especially if you are applying an oil finish over a hard finish. If you don’t get off all the old finish you will see areas where the stain will not “take” or penetrate into the wood.
Sometimes it is very difficult to tell if all the old finish has been removed. Sometime when you are applying the stain, and the wood is not taking it because you haven’t removed all the stain, you have to stop and sand the rest off. This can make quite a mess but it has to be done. Just wipe the sawdust off from the new stain and start again. Sometime you need to use some mineral spirits or paint thinner to clean up before resuming your oil/stain process.
2) The sanding has to be very uniform. You have to sand the door all over with the same grit of sandpaper and work up from smaller grits to larger ones uniformly all over the entire door.
3) Also, where every you have used stripper, you must wipe the wood with mineral spirits or paint thinner.
4) With softer woods, we always use a wood conditioner.
5) If the wood takes the finish differently even with all the above precautions, sometimes the customer will like that look- it’s the character of the wood and separates out a real wood door from a metal or fiberglass one. But in the case where they do not like variations in the wood, you can either use a paint brush, a rag or an air brush to fill in the lighter spots. Just be sure not to overdo it. It is really easy to keep darkening up the lighter spots until the whole door is black. If you are going to touch up your door be very careful not to go overboard.
16) How do I know if my door is solid or veneer?
This is one of the most important questions when refinishing your door. Most solid doors are veneered. There is a veneer covering a sandwiched core. So your door is solid if it doesn’t sound hollow, but this solid core is different from the grain you are seeing on the outside of the door.
Veneers on new doors are usually in the neighborhood of only 1/64th of an inch thick. What this means is that if you do not know what your are doing, you will sand right through your veneer coat in no time and will end of having to replace it of paint it.
The easiest way to find out how your door is constructed is to get up on a chair of ladder, and look down on your door on the side vertical pieces or “styles” that go all the way down your door. These are usually the pieces that will most likely be veneered. You will have to look very closely because 1/64th of an inch is very difficult to see, and if you are not looking very carefully you will miss it all together.
You can also see on the raised panels if they are veneered by looking at the grain pattern. If you see it change every 4 inches or so, you can probably assume that different pieces of wood have been glued together to build up a panel thick enough to span the distance of the raised panel. If the panel is over 6 inches wide and the grain pattern is the same, you can probably assume that this is veneered as well. They just don’t have trees that are able to grow that big anymore before they are cut down.
17) What is the easiest finish to maintain over time?
I have found that many people just assume their wood entryway is going to be a hassle for their entire life. This questions is very seldom asked because most people do not know their options. They wrongly assume that their paint store or painter is going to know the answer.
My experience of refinishing doors now exclusively for 8-years has proven to me that a long oil is the easiest to maintain in a beautiful condition over the long term.
All that you have to do with a long oil is about once per year, you clean the existing surface and rag on a thin coat. When you do this you don’t need to remove the hardware, you can just get a cheap brush and feather around the hardware and moldings. Many times it’s only the lower part of the door that needs to be touched up, since that is what gets the majority of the wear.
18) What are the different parts of the door and hardware called?
Getting started on doing the work yourself can at first seem to be overwhelming. But as soon as you are able to understand how to talk to others about your door, you will find that it takes away much of the complexity. Here is a brief rundown on the various parts of the door so you can talk knowledgeably when purchasing components or describing problems you may be having:
Stiles and Rails: Stiles are the vertical pieces of the door that run the entire length from top to bottom. Rails are the horizontal pieces that run width-wide between the stiles.
Mullions: These are the small pieces of wood between the windows.
Moldings: These are the small pieces of wood around the raised panels and windows.
Threshold: This is the piece of metal or wood that you step over when entering the home. This connects the left and right side of the threshold at the bottom of the door.
Jamb: This is the structure that surrounds the door on three sides. It is attached to the inside of the wall that the door closes into.
Lockset: This is the handle, latch and deadbolt.
Hinges: What holds the door onto the jamb.
Shoe: A metal or plastic piece that fits on the bottom of the door and usually lips up over the outside and inside of the door.
Sweep: A metal strip with a rubber or hairy like section that keeps cold air from entering at the bottom of the door.
Weatherstripping: Usually a vinyl piece that fits into the jamb and door when the door is closed. This keeps air from entering the home around the door.
19) Do you Do Anything Other Than Doors and Entryways?
Yes, wood doors and entryways is the majority of our business, but the same principals apply to other wood surfaces as well.
We do garage doors, wood floors, wood window frames, decks and other outside wood surfaces as well as interior wood.