Refinishing a Wood Entry Door: Choosing the Right Finish

Exposure to the elements and sheer frequency of use can take their toll on your wood entry door and its finish. If your door is beginning to look worn, it isn't always necessary to buy a new one. Refinishing it can make it look as good as new. However, it's important to consider exactly what you use for the finish in order to achieve both the look and longevity that you desire. If you're not sure what finish will be best for you, this article will help make your mind up.

Type of Wood

Before you consider the finish of the door, it's essential to know what type of wood it's made of. If the door is made from a hardwood such as mahogany or oak, you should not use a wood conditioner prior to staining, as this will seal the wood and inhibit its absorption. The resulting finish will be much lighter and less resistant to wear. A conditioner will help ensure an even application of stain to a softwood such as pine.


If you want to make the most of a wood door, staining and varnishing is an excellent way to show it off. However, you need to be prepared to maintain that finish by sanding it every 2 or 3 years to remove the top coats, as they will be showing signs of weather damage. If this maintenance is not carried out, you will most likely have to refinish the entire door again when the base layers begin to peel. The color of stain that you use is subject to your personal preference, but it's recommended that you read the manufacturer's instructions and any warnings on the container thoroughly before commencing work. You should never use a lacquer-based stain on a wooden door.


Cover your stained door with a few coats of a UV resistant varnish or polyurethane, again being sure to avoid anything that is lacquer-based. The efficiency of the UV protection will be affected by the thickness of the application, so it's essential for best performance that you follow the instructions precisely. It's also recommended that you use products from the same manufacturer to minimize the risk of incompatibility. Sanding each coat lightly after application will improve the quality of the finish.


The most durable finish for a wood door is paint. It has the highest resistance to damage caused by the sun and other elements as well as accidental collisions that may occur during frequent use. Use an oil-based primer first to ensure the best application. Once the primer is fully dry, sand it lightly before covering it with 2 or 3 coats of paint. Oil, latex or enamel based paints are all suitable for use on external doors. An interior, water-based paint is not suitable for an exterior door. A painted wooden door can last for 8 to 10 years before it requires another application. During the intervening time, you should try to keep the door in good condition by cleaning it regularly and fixing any chipped or cracked paint in a timely manner.