How to restore a front door – refinish old or weather-beaten hardwood

Front door restoration is key to keep your hardwood entry door looking its finest. Clean up and refinish yours properly.

sage green toned front door from bespoke front door
(Image credit: Bespoke Front Door)

Front door restoration is essential to keep your entryway in shipshape. After all the front door greets your household every day, welcomes visitors and can even add to curb appeal, so you want to ensure this spot stays inviting.

Hardwood types of doors are a classic, however, they are somewhat being taken over by modern material alternatives like fiberglass and uPVC purely because they aren't the easiest to maintain. However, if you have the right advice and give your hardwood front/exterior doors the attention they deserve, they will stand the test of time.

Naturally, a hardwood front door goes through a lot and can start to look a little shabby and tired over time. This is how to tend to cracks and flaking paint on the frame without removing the door.

How often should I refinish my front door?

You'll know when it's time to tend to a weathered wooden front door. The color will have faded, there will be cracks and flaking paint. But our advice is to not leave it too long to ensure you get a better finish. Usually you'll have some DIY to do every 3-5 years.

 You will need:

1. Revive the front doorstep 

Strip any flaking faded paint from the doorstep, ready for a new coat. Rather than using a general-purpose stripper, try pick a product formulated to remove a specific finish, such as NB- 510 from Strippers Paint Removers. Sorting the steps will only help enhance the best front door designs and looks.

Restoring stone front door steps

 2. Repair the front door case 

Remove all loose and flaking paint from the door case. A brass brush can be useful for this job but a steel brush will scratch soft stone. A steel scraper can be used with care – hold at a slight angle to avoid digging into the stone. Fill cracks and gaps with lime mortar (sand and lime putty mixed). 

3. Apply limewash to the stone

Modern masonry paint prevents old stone ‘breathing’. Instead I used ready-prepared limewash, spraying the stone with water before applying. Paint on three to four further coats and allow a day in between for limewash to dry. Wear protective goggles as limewash splashes can damage eyes.

 4. Polish brass door furniture 

Protect the wood by fixing painters tape around the edges of the letter plate (if you're in the UK). Tarnished metal can be cleaned using Liberon’s Brass & Copper Cleaner rubbed lightly with very fine steel wool. Rinse and dry. Maintain shine with Liberon’s Brass & Copper Polish. Finally, protect with a film of clear wax polish.

 5. Clean off grime and old wax 

Get rid of old wax finishes, dirt and grime from the wood door. Soak a wad of fine steel wool (0000) in Wax & Polish Remove (opens in new tab)r and gently wash the wood following the grain. Wait a few minutes and wipe away the dirt with a clean cotton cloth. Keep changing the face of the cloth so you take the dirt off.

6. Put on new bell push or door knocker

Remove your existing bell push and replace it with one suitable for your home's era.  If you have a historic property, a Georgian style brass door knocker should look the part. Smart doorbells or electric systems work off either a mains or battery power source. If yours is run from mains electricity use an electrician to carry out modifications. 

7. Condition the door with oil 

Apply Liberon Pure Tung Oil (opens in new tab) with a brush or cloth. Allow the oil to penetrate and wipe off any remaining on the surface after 30 minutes (surplus oil will turn sticky). For oak doors and exposed wood apply four coats allowing 24 hours in between. Rub gently with fine steel wool in between applications.

8. Seal gaps against the rain 

First, ensure surfaces are clean, dry and non-greasy. Place the sealant nozzle against the gap between woodwork and masonry ensuring it touches both sides. Apply by squeezing trigger and running cartridge slowly along the gap. If necessary, while sealant is still wet, smooth finish with a wet spatula. 

How much does it cost to restore a front door?

A quick job like this can cost as little as $30-$40. It will cost more if you're buying a new door knocker and if you want to add a coat of paint that will also add more to the materials cost. However, things like painters tape, brushes etc. are investments and they will make general DIY projects a ton easier to just, do!

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Camille Dubuis-Welch

Camille is Deputy Editor of Realhomes.com and joined in January 2020. Her love of interior design stemmed from a childhood spent dreaming up weird and wonderful ways to renovate her grandma’s house in France – a greenhouse roof was involved – and it was spending time around very good-looking house plants and in a hardworking kitchen garden that gave her a green thumb. When Camille isn’t sipping coffee and/or writing, she is seeking out cool new Facebook Marketplace finds or tapping into her other creative outlets: painting and clay throwing. She currently rents in North London with her French cat and two others, and hopes to one day renovate the most sustainable house of dreams, somewhere marvellously sunny with a wild, lavish garden and chickens, of course.

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