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Question DetailsAsked on 7/9/2014

is it best to stain interior door when it is in place or flat?

I have a pine door and it needs stain it needs to be cut too should I stain it first or hang it and then stain?

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It is pretty hard to get uniform application and rubbing out of stain on a hanging door because of the difficult working conditions plus you are not seeing the surface "flat", so runs and streaking do not show as clearly, though admittedly it is tempting because you can access all surfaces in one pass. Hand-applied stains and such will look worse then brushed-on finishes because they show runs and thin spots better. Pine (especially knotty or southern) is one of the worst woods for this because (like redwood and cedar) it is a porous wood with natural oils that result in someareas taking stain well and others not so much, making for streaky inconsistent penetration of the stain. I presume you are using a sealer first to prevent sap bleeding and to improve staining consistency, and of course if sealing then this would be a good place for a gel rather than penetrating type stain.

However, you will get more uniform and better looking results if you lay it out flat blocked up on a surface so you can work on the horizontal. Be sure to do the "good" side (the one that will be most visible or that you care about the looks of most because of lighting conditions, etc) first and the edges up to almost the edge of the "bad side", check the underside for any runaround drips and wipe it out as needed, then let dry thoroughly. Then flip to other side and do it, wrapping around to the edges again. The reason you do the good side first is any drips down the edges that stain the undone (bottom) side will look a bit darker when you do the other side, so you want the good side to be clean of any drips. When you flip it and do the other side, any drips should be stopped before they get onthe good side, but if it happens you can quickly dry-wipe (unstained rag) them off the "good" side without much penetration.

What I do on all but the most intricate, highest finish hand-rubbed jobs is cheat a bit, as taught to me by an old painter scores of years ago. You can put a few large nails in the bottom edge (careful not to split the wood), bent over so they stick beyond the bad face. Then I lay the door down flat (raised up on blocks underneath) and do the "bad" face and edges, then flip it around by holding onto the nails and lean it against a vertical surface with only the bent nails touching to avoid sticking, propped up on soft foam-rubber faced (floor side) narrow bottom shim boards with a couple of nail heads sticking out to keep the bottom of the door from sliding out on me, then with the door tilted like that at about a 45 degree angle, do the good side and rework the edges to blend. I do pretty much all my flat-surface and board prefinishing this way, whether brushed, rolled, or sprayed.

Note I am doing this with relatively long cure time finishes (stains or urethane or varnish or such) - with short cure time finishes of course you cannot rework the edges so you have to do them with the second face and avoid any drips from the first face finishing. Of course, if using short cure time finishes doing it all at once is not nearly so important either, so then you can just do it in two passes. However, be careful about laying a newly finished door on its face - almost guaranteed to mar it if it has not cured a couple of days past its official "cured" time. You can use the bent nail trick (I use 10-12d nails) in both ends to provide props to set it on without the finished surface actually touching the table or floor or whatever you are working on.

BTW - if finishing on a floor like garage concrete, of course put down paper to catch drips, and also make sure you WASH the entire floor area and let it dry first - otherwise you WILL kick up grit and concrete dust and such and end up with gritty surfaces. Also, doing it on a floor has some of the same problems of doing it hanging. Best to work on sawhorse height supports - just make sure it is supported well so you do not knock it off the supports while doingthe finishing - imagine the consequences of knocking it off onto the floor just when you finish putting on the stain or whatever.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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