Question: I have an east-facing front door made of varnished wood with glass panels. The sun has blistered and worn the varnish from the door, and I need to strip and revarnish it. Can you give me suggestions for products to strip and then revarnish the wood, a method for removing the old varnish (including the molding around the glass), and most important, how do I do the job without leaving my front door off its hinges at night?
Answer: To do the job right, you should take the door off the hinges--not removing the hinges, of course, but just the hinge pins so you can put the door back up when you finish each step of the job. If you prefer, you might be able to strip most of the paint from the door without removing it from the hinges, using a semi-paste stripper that is applied with a brush and not likely to drip too much. I would use this type product around the glass windows, anyway. Be sure to place a drop cloth under the door if you work in an area that you want to protect.
There are heat-gun strippers on the market today that may make your stripping of the large (non-glass) part of the door easier and lessen the clean-up chores.
After removing the paint, sand the surface, using a rotary sander in your drill, if you have one, and clean the door's surface thoroughly with mineral spirits. Be sure the surface is completely dry before you paint.
The finish coat depends on your personal preference. One of the most important points is to use the right primer with whatever finish coat you choose. Check the label on your finish coat to determine the proper primer.
Most paints today dry in a matter of a few hours, unless you get into a urethane product. In that case, you may have to set the alarm very early and stay up to watch the late, late show.
Your question brings to mind the Fiber-Classic entry doors that have been advertised rather extensively lately. The core of the door is foamed-in-place polyurethane, and that's covered in a skin of compression-molded fiberglass that has a molded-in grain that makes it look like a conventional wood door. The manufacturer, Therma Tru in Toledo, Ohio, claims the doors are immune to climate-related problems such as warping, splitting, swelling or delaminating and offers a five-year limited warranty.
The doors are available in more than 20 styles, including some with beveled glass, and the fiberglass surface can be stained using a solid color, linseed oil-base stain that allows the grain to show or it can be painted.
One feature of the Fiber-Classic is its insulating value, which sometimes is overlooked in a climate such as in Southern California, but with energy costs continuing to rise, it's becoming more important.
Therma Tru says most wood doors have an R 2.7 insulation factor, while Fiber-Classic claims an R 10.
According to the West Coast distributor, Georgia-Pacific Corp., the doors are not stocked in retail outlets yet, but literature can be obtained through stores or lumberyards that stock Georgia-Pacific products. Or you can write to or go see Deborah Sullivan, door manager, Georgia-Pacific, 1450 Citrus Ave., Riverside, Calif. 92507, where (contrary to the policy on other George-Pacific products) doors can be purchased at retail until other retail outlets for the doors are established.
Georgia-Pacific can provide the Fiber-Classic doors pre-fit to customer's specifications, with any size jambs. Prices range from $190 to more than $1,000, with the average about $400. Sounds expensive? Perhaps not when you consider costs for frequent refinishing of wood doors and the bonus in insulation.