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Archive for Wood Door Refinishing

Hiding this Beautiful Wood Grain… Why?

Front Door System - Before Refinishing

Front Door System – Before Refinishing

One of our specialties as painting and decorating contractors, in the Chicago area, is the refinishing of wood front door systems and wood garage doors. In the past four weeks, we have refinished about a dozen of those doors. One of them has a particularly interesting story.

A client in Elmhurst was very unhappy with her front door entrance, which consisted of a mahogany door, two side lites and a canopy. For reasons that were not too clear, the person who last refinished the door applied a heavy coat of opaque stain. It virtually looked like a solid-color stain and no wood grain could be seen, as shown in the “Before” picture we attached.

After twelve hours of stripping the old finish off, the beautiful mahogany wood grain was again revealed. The owners were elated! The finishing consisted of two coats of tinted satin varnish and an additional coat of clear. The result speaks for itself. Take a look at the “After” shot. Which one do you prefer?

Front Door System - After Refinishing

Front Door System – After Refinishing

Wood exterior doors are an expensive investment for the homeowner, one that is subjected to all the abuses weather has to offer. To keep up their good looks and protect their investment, homeowners have to invest in the periodic maintenance of those doors. We have the expertise to do the required maintenance or complete refinishing of the doors. Bringing beautiful wood grain back to life and preserving the doors from the elements give us much satisfaction as house painters.

Refinishing a Doug Fir Garage Door After all those Years

After a three-year search for a painting contractor they could trust to refinish their prized garage door, they found our company on the web and hired us for the project. This client lives in Oak Park, a near suburb of Chicago. A few years ago, they purchased a ninety-year-old house, which they completely remodeled. The only remaining portion of the house left untouched was the garage door, which was in sore need of restoration.

Doug Fir Garage Door – Before Refinishing

Doug Fir Garage Door – After Refinishing

As shown in the “Before” picture, the old finish looked foreboding. It was thick, had wrinkled and crackled in a veiny pattern. The door looked like it had not seen a can of varnish in at least forty years. What saved it from ruin, was that, first, it was made of Doug Fir and, second, it was facing North, away from sunrays. All the wood components were perfectly sound. However, since the varnish in the lower panels had long worn off, dark water stains had substantially marred the wood in many places. The same thing was also true of the areas where the varnish had crackled and exposed the wood. After stripping the wood, we used a wood brightner to lighten those areas as much as possible.

Replacing a Doug Fir door of this quality would be extremely expensive. The wood grain was also very tight, which would indicate that old growth lumber was used. West Coast Doug Fir is the second tallest conifer in the world, right after the Redwood. It has been known to reach heights of four hundred feet. It is a very decay-resistant specie, as demonstrated with this garage door.

Our client did not know that their door was made of Doug Fir. They just knew that they had a great old door, well worth the preservation and restoration effort. Thirty eight hours of work later: voila! The garage door now matches the house’s great bones and noble history.

The Cost of Refinishing a Wood Front Door or Garage Door

Failed Coating on Wood Front Door

Stripping the finish off and refinishing a wood door is a time consuming and expensive process. At least fifty times a year, we are asked to refinish wood doors that it be a front entrance or a garage door. In the great majority of cases, marine or spar varnish had previously been used as a clear coat over the stained surfaces. The problem with that clear coat is that it is very brittle. After a couple of years it begins to crack and let moisture infiltrate below the coating. After that happens, the coating deteriorates rapidly. Below is a picture of how a door can look like after a few more years.

Failed Coating on Wood Garage Door

Sometime, realizing the finish on the door is in trouble, an owner will try to hide the problem by adding more stain or having the door coated with a semi-transparent stain. As shown in the other picture, the result can be less than satisfactory. Over my twenty four years as a painting and decorating contractor, I find that homeowners do know how to detect the early signs of trouble and take quick action to prevent further deterioration. The bottom half of the door is most vulnerable, especially the lower rail molding of each panel. At the first sign of the coating beginning to crack in those areas, it is time to intervene! At that stage, the expense is very limited: a cleaning and a re-varnishing will add another two, may be three years, of longevity to the coating before the next round of maintenance.

Unfortunately, homeowners often wait too long. By the time they realize their door needs work, it is too late to save the coating and the whole door has to be stripped and refinished. The bad news ids that refinishing a wood door is expensive. Depending on the intricacy of the door and the presence of side lites or transom, the refinishing cost may range between $800 and $1,300. For a garage door, depending on its size and the condition of the old coating, the refinishing cost may range between $1,400 and $2,500. The good news, is that, by having us do maintenance on the door every two or three years, depending on the exposure, the door will not have to be refinished for a long time and will always look good. Using the right products and doing the maintenance are critical to wood front doors and wood garage doors looking their best.

Refinishing a Wood Front Door? Sometime, it is too late!

Rotting Wood Front Door – Outside

Rotting Wood Front Door – Inside

As house painting contractors, we get several calls a week to refinish wood front doors and wood garage doors, from all over the Chicago area. Wood doors are very vulnerable to the elements. UV rays attack the finish and cause it to fade and sometime get milky. Changes in temperature play havoc on the door surfaces, stress the joints and cause the coating to crack. Moisture is the next villain. It looks for any entry point, like a break in the coating, or a crack in the joints to infiltrate the door components.

The demise of a wood door is sometimes caused by something less evident: the bottom edge of the door is often left unsealed at installation time, thereby allowing moisture to get trapped between the weather stripping and the raw wood. When that occurs, the moisture quickly causes the wood to rot away. Let’s look at an example of this problem.

On a recent visit to a potential new client, I was asked to inspect the wood front door. The door had a Southern exposure and showed extensive coating failure, even though the door was only six years old. On the bottom right corner of the door, I noticed that the wood had shrunk and had developed a twelve-inch vertical crack. Upon that visual inspection and touching the surfaces, I concluded that the wood had dry-rotted. On the inside of the door, even though the finish looked intact, the wood in that same corner had begun to grow mushrooms from the decay. Regrettably, I had to inform the client that the door was damaged beyond repair and had to be replaced.

I told the client to make sure the bottom edge of the new is properly sealed before installation. I also told him that I would contact him in two years to inspect the door and do any necessary maintenance. On wood doors, periodic maintenance is essential to preserve the wood and its good looks

Another Set of Wood Front Doors Rescued From the Brink

Wood Front Door - Stripping Stage

Wood Front Door Refinishing - After

As house painting contractors in the Chicago area, we are often called to refinish wood front doors and wood garage doors. The chief enemies of these wood doors are moisture and the sun. They cause the varnish to crack and flake, which provides an opening for moisture to decay the wood and cause it to rot.

In our most recent wood door restoration project, the varnish and stain had worn off in the lower portions of the doors, exposing the raw wood. Fortunately, our client did not wait too long before calling on us – no rot was detected! In this case, the wood restoration consisted in the stripping of the old finish and the application of three coats of a German tinted varnish. The doors had never been revarnished in the past. They therefore only had a thin layer of varnish, which made the removal process that much easier. In other situations, the doors have been recoated on multiple occasions, often with a brittle marine or spar varnish. The more varnish coats, the more time is required to strip them.

In this last project, by not delaying the door maintenance, our client also avoided expensive epoxy restoration and wood replacement. Because of their location, the doors get at least 6 hours of sun during the day. With such sun exposure, the doors should be cleaned and revarnished every two to three years. By so doing, we avoid having to strip the doors again for a long time, thereby greatly reducing the maintenance cost.

Enjoy your refinished wood doors!