Tommy’s Tips: Refurbishing Boarded Doors


I was having dinner at a friend of mine’s recently purchased Victorian Terraced house, and of course the conversation quickly turned toward “what and how” they should renovate their house! I am very used to this, because being a “TV Builder” is like being a “building doctor” and people take the opportunity whenever it presents itself, to discuss the very wide and varied range of property ailments that has befallen them, and luckily for me I haven’t had to face a terminal case yet! There has been some very difficult cases to cure, but thankfully I have always managed to give a successful diagnosis, and treatment.

The problem I am going to deal with today, is what to do with their doors, not all were original, some were boarded over, and what to do about the front door!  Boarded over doors, can be a blessing in disguise, once uncovered the doors are usually in exceptional condition, spared daily wear and tear for around fifty years, back then, when fixing hardboard over moulded doors was the fashion. 

My friend said he wanted to dip them to remove all the old paint, I said “No” The doors would be ruined!  The caustic stripping solution, removes the natural oils and sap from the wood, damaging the whole surface to a depth of about 3-4mm, and the caustic stripper also attacks the original glue holding the door together, so the joints open up, sometimes causing the doors to fall apart completely! 

First, decide if you want a painted or wooden finish. For a painted surface, take the door off lay flat on a bench or pair of stands, using a sander, thoroughly rub down the surface.  Start using a medium grade paper finishing with a fine paper, carefully rubbing down the mouldings by hand, (of course remove all the door furniture first, and when re-hanging, replace the hinges with good quality hinges) Any bare wood should be prepared with knotting fluid if required, then primed, then apply two coats of undercoat, and one top coat, rubbing down very lightly between coats, using an ultra- fine sand paper, wiping off any residue with a white spirit soaked cloth.  Use an egg-shell paint finish, which doesn’t reflect the imperfections, unlike gloss, and is ideal for older woodwork, always giving a classy finish.

If it’s a wooden finish you want, then stripping the paint off using a hot air gun is the best option, using a chemical stripper like Nitromors, to remove paint from the mouldings.  Again once stripped, sand down the door carefully, finishing with a very fine paper, if applying varnish or lacquer the process is much the same as paint, requiring a minimum of two coats, very lightly rubbing down with ultra-fine paper between coats, removing any fine residue with a white spirit soaked cloth! Alternatively apply a wax finish to the bare wood, using fine wire wool, then, buff up with a soft cloth to get that antique looking finish. 

I always remember what my dad used to say to me; ”if a jobs worth doing, it’s worth doing properly, or not at all!” The finished job will always only look as good as the preparation that has gone into it, applying the paint is actually the easy part, how good that looks depends almost entirely on what happens before painting. 

The front door and back door will have to wait for the next supper!



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