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Question DetailsAsked on 6/22/2017

Easiest way to fix an old wooden door

We just bought an old southern home, built around 1910. It's taken a lot of time and a LOT of money to bring it back to a livable home. I'm doing everything I can that's not too big a job. The front door is a double door made of very old hard wood. It's in decent shape but needs a little TLC. Our painter, a friend, said we could clean it and treat it with something like Old English. It's in good shape considering how old it is and the previous owner didn't do a lot of upkeep. However it is suffering from the elements. We are out of money for restoration so I'm hoping to fix it myself. It has a layer of nastiness that would come off but I would like to know the best way, cheapest way to do this. I was thinking Dawn to clean it and Old english to help it from drying out more, bring some shine back.
Any suggestions? .

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1 Answer


No way to tell what it was finished with - could be varnish, shellac, wax, penetrating oil, or some newer finish after a refinishing.

Dawn should not hurt it but TSP powder in warm water, with a bit of Borax powder (NOT Boraxo hand soap, but the laundry Borax powder) and non-abrasive nylon srubbing pad working with the grain would be what I would recommend for cleaning - with a good warm water washdown afterwards.

If only going to clean then refinish, not knowing the finish that is on it I think I would use Johnsons Fine Wood Paste Wax rather than Old English - less likely to cause localized darkening or spotting and will not dissolve most finishes (test first of course), and a couple of good coats will give fairly good water resistance - though very hot or persistent sun will degrade it a lot quicker than something like polyurethane. Also - I have never seen an exterior rated Old English - everything I have seen (including on their website) talks about interior cabinetry and furniture only.

However, I would NOT use Old English (oil based) or wax if you are planning on ultimately permanently finishing it - hard to get out of the grain.

If going to refinish with a "permanent" finish I would strip it down I would use matching brand sanding sealer and polyurethane exterior finish like Varathane - clean first per above, then strip, sand, then sanding sealer (which keeps the finish from penetrating more deeply in some areas than others so minimizes blotching and streaking of the finish), then finish sanding, then tack rag dedust and then two-three coats polyurethane (with at least double recommended curing time between coats). Could use a matching brand stain before the polyurethane if desired - especially if the wood is not real uniform looking - I emphatically recommend oil rather than water based stain, the Varathane oil-based (paint thinner cleanup) gel stains work quite nicely as long as you do not let them dry on you during application.

Most waxes would come off with alcohol, varnish with paint thinner or laquer thinner, shellac with acetone - pretty much all but wax will come off with commercial paint strippers, but you need to go easy to avoid deep penetration because it will likely be glued together with horse glue - instead of soaking sponge or rag it on, let sit for a few minutes, then scrape off with a scraper blade - using multi-shape scraper on handle for details or routed edges.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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