i have to re stain a wooden front door that has been baked by the sun to
the point that the stain behind the window in the storm door is a
grayish color with a couple of good sized(4-5 inches long) cracks in the
wood. the part of the door that is shaded by the bottom half of the
storm door is in okay shape. i am planning on sanding the door with my
palm sander but i am unsure about staining or varnishing after
sanding..what is the difference between the two, also, it is an exterior
door(with a storm door)how many coats? should i try stripping the
existing stain vs. sanding?
Staining adds color and is absorbed a bit by the wood. Varnishing is a
protective top coat. When you varnish, look for something with UV
inhibitors, such as Min Wax Helmsman poly.
Sanding is good for the spot where nothing is left, but you may want to
strip if in bad shape, such as cracking, checking, peeling. I'd put three
coats of poly varnish on.
The stain isn't gray - the wood is oxidized. The difference between
stain and varnish - stain is color only, varnish is a clear coating that
protects the wood. For wood doors with that sort of sun exposure, paint
is a lot better - varnish has a sort of a "greenhouse" effect on wood -
paint will keep sun off wood (in the shade, so to speak). If the cracks
are all the way through the wood, you need to apply a flexible caulk or
filler before finishing. Sand off the gray stuff.
Unless you sand everything to the same level, you'll have some degree
of color variation. After you do your initial sanding pass, wipe the
door down with mineral spirits. It will color the wood just a little,
giving you an idea of how it will look with finish on it. If you like
the look, go ahead and apply the finish. If not, do more sanding.
I recommend a spar varnish or spar polyurethane. "Spar" means the
finish is appropriate for use on a boat's spar, which bends a lot, and
the finish is flexible. A door that gets direct sun changes size during
the day, so a flexible finish is a good thing. Also check for UV
There is no permanent finish for exterior wood. They all have to be
redone regularly. The best advice I've gotten, especially for
west-facing doors, is to use a penetrating oil finish instead of a
film-forming finish. With the oils, you just paint on another coat
every six to twelve months. With film finishes, you have to sand or
Redoing exterior doors is not simple and to much to go into without
seeing it, if its a quality door, I used to spend 50-100 hrs restoring
one door and I did maybe 30 of them. You need to strip it, sand it to
new wood, and use a Marine finish if you want it to last, go to a real
paint store to talk about it and read up, it can be a big job, even
get bids from pros.
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