Greetings. I would like to refinish my 6 panel oak front door. It
currently is stained and has polyurethane or varnish on top that has
faded. What would be the best way to strip it, chemicals or heat gun?
Varnish (common type) doesn't fade...it may yellow. For a fresh start
on something visible to everyone who can see your house, you may want
to consider some professional help. Without it, the end result may be
something really ugly. Of course if you have practical experience such
as refinishing boats or pianos commercially, just ignore this advice.
Regarding strippers, methylene chloride-based gel types are most
effective on the most materials. You definitely don't want to attack
the project with the door in place, so plan for providing a nice
horizontal work area, using sawhorses, for example. Work outdoors, and
provide some sort of cover for unexpected weather with an EasyUp
canopy or similar. Follow directions on the stripper container to the
letter. Buy several grits of sandpaper down to 400 grit or so and use
sanding blocks, other tools based on the wood shapes. Expect to spend
many hours getting the results you want, like a week of spare time.
The alternative is to take the door to a furniture stripping shop
(yellow pages), and have them do the hard work in far less time. They
can often give you good advice on finishes and procedures if you want
to do that yourself. Pro paint stores are also dandy folks to get
sensible answers from. HTH and good luck.
Hi. New here, first post.
I have recently just done exactly that, refinished a six panel hardwood
door. Mahogany, not oak. I have tried heat guns in the past, two in
fact, one flame, one very hot air, but they were not at all efficient. I
ended up using a gel type commercial stripping agent and a very high
pressure, low flow water blaster with a knife attachment. It took only
moments to strip back to a finish that looked as though it had just been
freshly sanded. (You have to be careful doing this with softwoods, it
can literally rip pine apart.) I then liberally applied Teak Oil and let
it dry with the aid of my workshop air conditioner on "extract
moisture", not on cooling. It brought the door back to a new timber
condition. The water blasting is remarkably effective and as it is VERY
quick, the timber doesn't get saturated. No warping or cracking problems
etc. I have now stained, filled and Marine Two Pack finished it. Now all
I have to do is figure out where I want to use it. It was a find at a
rubbish disposal centre. Many badly applied coats of both oil based and
poly clear finishes made it look pretty crappy, then I noticed that it
was Mahogany. Too good to leave there, but not really needed on any
current project. I guess I'll keep it in the "one day..." collection for
a while. (My wife wants to nuke the "one day..." collection. :) )
I went to a paint store today and they recommend "Rock Miracle" paint
and varnish remover. It looks like I will spend a Sat or Sun stripping
the door outside.
I was going to get a steel or fiberglass door from Lowes or HD and
just replace the entire door, but there is nothing wrong structurally
with my existing door, it just needs to be redone. It is a nice door
and I hope to bring it back to life.
I've done lots of furniture stripping, and Strypeeze (not water base) is
my favorite. It is messy
work and a strong chemical. I would definitely not use water on a wood
door, particularly a
panel door. Water very likely would loosen and/or warp pieces - a panel
door has lots of end grain
exposed and that sucks up water more quickly. It may also have
water-soluble glue. For a varnished door, two applications of stripper
would likely be all that is needed, followed by scraping (carefully),
wipe with steel wool and final wipe-down
wth fine steel wool and mineral spirits. Semi-paste stripper has wax
added as a thickener, so you
want to be sure to clean it off completely. Taking the door down and
laying it flat probably a good
idea. If there are darkened or discolored portions from sun exposure,
those should be sanded.
Stripper takes most of the old stain, and a clear finish on most oak
yields a pretty, medium brown.
I have have been doing it for decades (I am early fifties) and have
never had a problem. Your reaction though is similar to most on first
thought. When you think about it a little deeper, the wood is exposed to
water/moisture for less time than if I painted it using a water based
paint and allowed it to dry naturally. I always use an oil, usually teak
oil, liberally as soon as I finish water blasting and dry without high
heat. As I say, never a problem, not even on fine furniture. If I am
stripping ornate furniture, carved etc., I add white spirit and Flaxseed
(Linseed) oil to the water in the water blaster. The finished timber has
water beading on it.
To warp or split wood needs to have a fairly long exposure, not just a
few minutes. Perhaps the fact that I am a sailor, having spent a lot of
my life on various sailing vessels, many of them wooden, gives me a
different attitude to good hardwood and water. The English Navy
conquered the world in ships made primarily of oak and they were not
protected by modern finishes, they were usually just well seasoned
timber and pitch for caulking.
To each his own, this has always worked for me, it gets into every
little crevice without scraping or damaging the work. As I mentioned in
the earlier post, this is not always effective for softwoods, I used it
for well seasoned hardwood only.
To each their own. I won't argue with your technique, as we each know
our own experience. I have unwarped tabletops by wetting them for 5 or
10 minutes. In a panel door, with floating panels, the frame might hold
water for some time. My sailing is fiberglass only, with a touch of
teak and holly :o)
I use a device made by Karcher, it was initially used for cleaning heavy
trucks. I use a tip that forces the spray into a horizontal spray, a
"knife" edge. It is sharp enough to actually cut the skin if you are
unfortunate enough to get a hand or foot in the way. Very useful gadget,
I use it for cleaning cement, stripping Terracotta roof tiles back to a
new finish, cleaning the family cars (on a reduced pressure), great for
alloy wheels, and even washing the dog (on a MUCH reduced pressure). Dog
It uses about five or six litres a minute when fed from a twenty litre
bucket or container and it seldom takes more than a minute or two to
strip something the size of a door. As mentioned elsewhere, you can add
white spirit and Flaxseed oil to the water source if needed. It is
capable of stripping paint from brickwork etc., without chemicals, just
the high pressure alone.
I would use chemical stripper. It makes pretty quick work of old
varnish and stain. Multiple coats
of old paint are another story. If the door has had exposure to strong
sun, the wood may be more
damaged - it takes on almost a burnt feel, although not blackened. I
would not use a clear finish on
wood that gets strong sun. If part of the door is badly damaged, it
probably will not take stain
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