How to Stain Wood Exterior Doors

A woman opens a wood exterior door.
  • 2-4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 200-300
What You'll Need
Wood stain
Exterior grade varnish or polyurethane sealant
Masking tape
Medium to fine-grade sandpaper
Plastic scrapper
Commercial wood finish stripper

It is important to stain your wood exterior doors regularly, not only to protect them from the damage weather can cause, but also to keep your doors looking the best they can by making the wood darker and richer. Being visible to the outside world, staining your wood exterior doors should be carried out annually so that the doors remain striking and rich. Staining wood is a fairly simple procedure but can be time-consuming as you have to wait for each coat to dry before applying an additional coat.

Step 1 - Position Door Horizontally and Strip

Do not be tempted to paint on the stain with the door staying on its hinges in a vertical position. This will result in the stain running. Carefully take the wood exterior door off its hinges with a screwdriver and lay it flat on a clean and dry surface. You can now apply the commercial wood stripper. Give the stripper time to eat away at the old stain, referring to the instructions provided to know exactly how much time to leave the wood stripper in place for. Wipe off the old stain with a cloth or plastic scrapper. Wash the door and leave it for several hours to dry.

Step 2 - Sand

Possibly one of the most arduous tasks in a DIY project is sanding. Once your wood exterior door has been stripped of stain and been cleaned, sand it down using sandpaper no rougher than P240 grit. Using sandpaper that is too rough may cause wood to be excessively roughened which will result in a poor finish. Sand it down until you have a smooth surface. Wipe off any wood dust with a damp cloth or soft brush.

Step 3 - Apply the Stain

Place masking tape around any door accessories you do not want exposed to stain such as handles or hinges. Wipe the stain onto a dry, clean cloth and gently rub it onto the door, concentrating on one small area at a time. Use another dry cloth to remove any excess stain. Make sure that you cover the whole door with the stain in one go. Applying it to part of the door and coming back to it later will result in segregation of the stain. To ensure you have a smooth, rich looking wood exterior door, complete this step in one application.

Step 4 - Apply the Varnish

Consult the instructions provided with the stain to see how long the product will take to dry. Ensure that the wood exterior door is completely dry before advancing. Lightly sand the door with very fine sandpaper or extra fine steel wool. Wipe off any sand dust with a dry cloth or soft brush. Paint on the varnish or polyurethane sealant with a medium-sized paintbrush. Try your best not to go over any wood already painted with varnish as this may result in brush marks becoming visible.

Step 5 - Apply More Coats

Let the varnish dry and lightly sand the wood again. Wipe off any dust and repeat the previous step. This can be repeated for a third or even fourth time depending on how polished and glossy you want your wood exterior door to appear. Let the door dry and re-hinge.