After some kids shot out one of our side glass storm doors that lead into my studio (thankfully just the storm doors, the main doors were fine), Cassandra and I started looking for options to replace the doors with solid doors.
Of course, it didn’t exactly work that way.
In a local facebook group called Trading Up (basically a members-only classifieds), I found a solid mahogany front door with some cool metal studs for $200. It had a poor stain job on one side and had been painted white on the other. So, naturally, I thought to myself, “Self, you should get that, refinish it, and replace your front door, then use your front door for the studio side.”
So I bought a front door. Interesting side story: the lady I bought it from was the most nervous wife. She had her husband come home to “help me lift it” into my truck, but this guy was the most jealous husband ever. Walking all bowed up to me as if I was there to hit on his wife. Be cool man. I’m just here for the door.
We already had stain and some sanding material from the chimney mantlepiece and our living room furniture. So all we needed was some extra sanding material and some paint stripper for the paint on the metal studs.
- Door = $279
- Door from Trading up = $200
- Retailed for $800-ish, if I remember (steal of the day)
- Door handles/locks = $70
- Hinges = $9
- Door from Trading up = $200
- Sanding material – $58
- (4) Diablo 3×18 belt sander 5-pack – $10 each = $40
- (1) 3M Prograde 220 grit and 300 grit sandpaper packs = $10
- (1) 2-pack 3M ProGrade 220 Grit sanding sponge = $8
- Steel Wool (already had some from our industrial furniture)
- Stain = $29
- Minwax Jacobean (already had)
- Minwax Red Mahagony (already had)
- Minwax Spar Urethane = $16
- Wooster Pro 2″ Brush = $13
So, back to our house. We didn’t NEED a new front door. It was fine. Opened, shut. Kept most hot and cold and rain out. You know. It was fine.
Nonetheless, I pulled the studs off and started sanding away. Don’t forget your mask, safety glasses, ear protection, and gloves. All the sanding, sanding, and more sanding.
I went through a lot of sandpaper belts. The stain came off very quickly, but the white paint was another story. The paint kept gunking up my sandpaper. I could go for about 10 minutes and then it would stop being effective at all.
Ended up using some Citristrip we had for our kitchen renovation to help pull off the paint before I sanded it.
Once all the stain and paint was removed, I used the tried and true method of reducing the grit a little at a time. Sand with 120 grit to remove paint and stain, wipe it down. Then Sand with 220 grit and 320 by hand, wiping it down between sandings.
When I finally got it all sanded down, I used our old method of staining we used on our furniture. First a quick layer of Minwax Preconditioner to make the stain apply evenly, then wipe off the excess. A layer of Minwax Jacobean for the edges and seems and to seep into the cracks, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe it off. Then Minwax Red mahogany over the entire project for the main colors.
Even with the preconditioner, I had a few places that wouldn’t take stain. My hypothesis are it was because the preconditioner had dried too much before I got there, or because of the stripper I had to use to get the paint off. Not sure. I tried applying it again, but still no luck. But it’s the inside part of the door, and it adds a little character.
Once the stain was cured, I could seal it. Since it was going to be our main front door, I needed something a little more substantial than the usual Polyacrylic. So I went with Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane, which is supposed to be good for anything that’s going to see a lot of sunlight.
The first coat I tried to use an old brush that hadn’t been cleaned as well as I thought. It ended up with a lot of bubbles in the finish. I was pretty discouraged, and had to sand it down a lot more than I wanted to.
But, with a fresh brush in hand, the 2nd and third coats went much better. I laid it on fairly thick on each side, to make sure and have a nice smooth finish. I sanded lightly (always with the grain) with a 220 grit sponge between each coat, to pull down any roughness. As dusty as Lubbock is, I still had some bubbles/bumps from dust and dirt particles that would inevitably settle on it before it dried.
The final coat, I did a super light sanding with the 220 grit and then with some steel wool, to really make it shine. On our furniture, I used a 320 grit a well, but since this was less of a “our hands will be constantly using this” feature, I wasn’t worried about it being glassy smooth to the touch. It’s still very nice.
While I was doing all the staining, Cassandra was soaking the white-painted metal studs in some more powerful (but cheaper) paint stripper, then scrubbing it with a metal brush. They had some texture to them, so it was a bit more difficult to get the paint off of them than we expected, but she was able to get it all off without taking off the “patina” layer that gives them the really cool aged bronze look.
After the sealant layer on each side of had fully cured, I carefully hammered the metal studs back in place, and screwed in a threshold seal to the bottom of the door. Cassandra added in the door hardware. We had found a nice simple antique bronze door handle set at the blue box store.
Then came the adventure of putting the door up. We had measured to make sure the door was the same size, and our previous front door had a significant gap on the latch side, so we thought this would be an easy process.
My brain had a lapse, and I totally thought it was a 3-hole hinge… but no, it was 4. So in the middle of taking the old door down, we had to put it back up and make a trip to orange box to switch them out.
Also, I assumed it would be easier to screw the hinges on the frame and door seperately first, then lift the door in place. Not so much. It didn’t quite line up. But, using some books to support the door on the bottom, we got the bottom hinge lined attached, then took the hinges off the frame and put the pin in, then lined them up and screwed them into the frame. After some frustration with the two of us alternately trying to hold the door and move it into place, we finally got all the hinges in place.
But after all of that frustration, it looks so much better than the old door. It instantly classes the place up. We are really happy with it. The next project is to paint the house, and fix the rest of the area surrounding the door, which badly needs some scraping, sanding and good coat of paint.
Things I learned on this project
- How heavy solid mahogany is. All of our previous projects have been with pine.
- Sanding is both a nice way to relax and gets old really quick
- Using low-odor paint stripper is great and all, if you’re inside, but if you’re outside, get the good stuff. You will be much happier with life.
- You must have a CLEAN brush for a smooth sealant coat
- Measure everything, and make sure you have the right hinges.
- Again, always over-estimate the time it will take to do a DIY home project