Exterior Wood Doors: Maintenance and Care

Properly maintained exterior wood doors make a beautiful addition to any home, increasing both aesthetic and market appeal.

Performing an inspection of all six sides of the door at least once a year can help keep these doors in tip-top shape for the lifetime of a home. The maintenance procedure is basically the same whether the door has been painted or coated with a clear, natural finish.

Step 1 - Inspect

yellow front door on a house painted blue

Environmental moisture, blowing dirt and sand, and intense sunlight will all impact a door’s paint or finish. Exterior wood doors not protected by an overhang or porch will weather faster than a covered door, so they should be inspected more often.

Large cracks in the finish, surface, and paint will all be obvious in a simple visual inspection. Their presence generally requires at least a little restoration work. A raised wood grain with a dry, rough feeling also means the finish is beginning to fail and needs to be sanded and reapplied.

Dark streaks or a light whitish haze under clear finish may mean moisture is getting into the door, another condition that will require your attention.

Step 2 - Prepare

Once a problem has been identified, the exterior wood door should be prepped for repair. Start with a thorough cleaning. If the wood has been painted, small problem spots can be touched up, or the entire door can be recoated, while it is still in the frame.

For major finish restoration, however, it is generally easier to work on a door out of the frame. This can be done by tapping out the hinge pins and placing the door across supports such as sawhorses. The door’s hardware, including knobs, locksets, and hinges can be removed with a screwdriver, and placed safely to the side while the magic happens.

All six sides of the door should be stripped of old finish using a quality paint remover or finish stripper, then gently sanded using a 120, 150, or higher grit sandpaper. All sanding should be done with the grain.

Step 3 - Finish

porch and large wooden front door on a house

Once the door has been stripped, it should be cleaned of all dust and sanding residue with a clean cloth that has been slightly damped with mineral spirits. Allow the door to dry completely.

If the door needs a repaint, an exterior primer should be applied on all six sides. Once dry, the door can be recoated with exterior grade paint. Because dark colors absorb heat, light colors will often last longer, requiring less repair. If you want to buff your door up with even more finish, two or more coats of quality polyurethane with a UV inhibitor can be applied.

Once it's dry, replace the hardware and rehang your door. Enjoy your work! The subtle improvements will bring you joy all year as you go in and out.