How To Maintain Your Exterior Wood Door

January 30, 2020

What’s the first thing you see when you approach your home? The front door. Now for most, this is something that goes unnoticed, since you’re opening and closing it everyday, – unless you own a solid wood exterior door. From the richness of the wood species to the fine finish, opening your exterior door comes with a sense of dignity – a feeling that you want to encapsulate and maintain.

roman wood door

There is nothing quite like the solidity and heft of a solid wood door. Something that can get lost in an era of fiberglass and stamped steel. No other option will be able to capture the beauty and uniqueness of a wood entry door. But all that beauty comes at a price.

Some are unaware wood entry doors are required to be continuously maintained to preserve the quality and essence. And others are unsure how to start maintaining their exterior wood doors. Follow along to get an understanding of what’s involved in properly maintaining an exterior wood door, what happens if you don’t, how long they last, and how often you should refinish your front door.

How Long Do Exterior Wood Doors Last?

When properly maintained, your exterior wood door can realistically last forever. According to Rome 101, the Santa Sabina in Rome has a wooden door that’s over 1500 years old while still containing the intricate designs on each panel.

Properly maintaining your wooden doors is the key to their survival and avoiding future door issues. At Madawaska Door & Trim, the factory finish is guaranteed to last for 3 years without any refinishing. After that, it’s your job to maintain your exterior door properly.

How To Refinish An Exterior Wood Door

When it comes to woodwork, refinishing is the process of reapplying wood finishing. This is to keep the wood from decaying and becoming permanently damaged. There are of course many ways to do this, and this article isn’t meant to be the ultimate guide on how to refinish wood exterior doors, but simply an outline of what is involved and the care needed.

1. Remove Hinges & Hardware

When it comes to woodwork, refinishing is the process of reapplying wood finishing. This is to keep the wood from decaying and becoming permanently damaged. There are of course many ways to do this, and this article isn’t meant to be the ultimate guide on how to refinish wood exterior doors, but simply an outline of what is involved and the care needed.

Unscrew the wings of the hinges, doorknob or handle, latch, mortise plate, throw bolt and key lock. Make sure you’ve separated all parts and screws while placing them in plastic bags to ensure no parts or screws are lost. The goal here is to strip off all the hardware and anything that isn’t wood, off of the door.

2. Clean & Dry

Wash and scrub your exterior wood door with natural dish soap. When cleaning the door, ensure the cleaning products are diluted with water so that the cleaners themselves don’t damage the wood. Then, dry the wooden door with paper towels or cloths.

3. Sand or Strip Down Door

Lightly sand your exterior wood door with medium-grit sandpaper. Take your time; don’t rush this process. The goal is to smooth out bumps, grooves and dirt accumulated over time due to the door’s exposure to the sun. Finally, clean off (and save) the dust created from the sanding process, and wipe down with lint-free microfiber towels or a tack cloth.

How far you go during the sanding stage will be completely dependent upon how damaged the door’s existing finish is. You may need to completely remove the existing finish in order to restore a door and get an even, consistent look. Some paint strippers work well for this, chemically stripping away the old finish without removing any of the material that a heavy sanding would. Even after stripping off the old finish – you will still need to give the door a quick sand and wipe down.

4. Reapply Finish

The final task of this process is reapplying a new finish and reinstalling your exterior door. Whether your wooden door was initially finished with spar varnish, stain or lacquers, keep your choice of finishes consistent. Your stained wood door should be coated evenly and lightly. It may be necessary to use a sanding sealer or other surface preparation before your topcoat to ensure a unified look. If there is any damage to the wood, now is the time to make repairs – collect up all that sawdust you created during the sanding process and mix with epoxy or glue and fill in any dents, gashes, chips or cracks and sand smooth before you apply your top coat.

How Often Should You Refinish Exterior Wood Doors?

Doors facing a southern exposure (in North America) and without a storm door or any other weather protection such as an awning or vestibule will be particularly susceptible to sun and weather damage. In fact, the biggest contributor to age will be the sun and it’s harsh Ultraviolet Rays – this is why we will always recommend a finish with a strong UV inhibitor. Doors facing North that are well protected will rarely need much in the way of refinishing and maintenance.

Typically, it would be best if you refinished your exterior wood door once every 3-5 years. However, use your best judgement. The best way to indicate whether it’s time to refinish your door is if you begin to see discolouration or decay in the finish.

Why Do Exterior Wood Doors Crack?

When your exterior wood door isn’t well protected with a water and UV protectant, the wood can begin to swell, crack, split, discolour and bind. Your exterior wood door’s kryptonite is the sun and intense UV rays. When wood is continuously exposed to sunlight, the wood’s lignin, which is what keeps the wood strong and durable, is eventually shifted or damaged.

Water damage can also increase the chances of cracking. According to the University of Cambridge, with an increased amount of moisture and humidity in the atmosphere, your wood can reduce in stiffness, causing it to weaken and mould.

A Pride like No Other

The anatomy of your wood door goes deeper than a simple gateway to castle from the outside world. It’s almost like a piece of art, on display for all to gaze upon and admire. But to preserve great art requires great care.

Sure, taking the time to restore and refinish your wood exterior door can be time consuming and hard work. But when you step back and admire your completed job, you will feel a sense of pride like no other – a gleaming and bright wood door that is completely unique to your home.

Every time you return home or when a guest remarks how much they love your door, you will know that only a labour of love could produce such pride in ownership.

Customize Your Wooden Door

Madawaska Doors & Trim provide fully customizable wooden doors, including interior and exterior. Our team offers a wide variety of wood species and designs for you to choose from and customize. We offer free wood samples to customers who may still have questions and concerns. Contact us to learn more or request a quote with us today!

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