How to Finish and Care for Your Wood Door

(Writing by one of our customers!)

Please allow me to introduce myself.  I’m Jen, and I am a dog owning accountant-massage therapist – mother of 1.  What I am not, is a wood worker, unless 7th grade shop class and a Girl Scout merit badge qualify me!  Through a little research, some time, tools and a whole lot of patience I was able to finish my 1st of a series of doors all on my own.  Please allow me to share a little of my knowledge with you.  Finishing a wood door can be a very satisfying and rewarding experience not to mention a money saver if your remodeling on a shoestring budget.  By following the step-by-step instructions below you will be able to easily accomplish the tasks of prepping, sanding, sealing & finishing your very own wood door.

Handling & Preparation:

If you are not going to immediately finish your newly acquired wood door make sure that you store it in a warm, dry, lowly lit area.  Do not let your door get wet prior to finishing as it is porous  and will absorb moisture possibly causing future problems.  Also, avoid exposure to direct sunlight in its unfinished state as it could discolor certain types of wood.

  1. Install your door prior to finishing if at all possible.  This will insure the finish will not be marred during installation and if it is it can be fixed prior to final hanging. (Not always realistic for people that cannot be without a door for safety or those who don’t have an alternative entrance.)
  2. Remove hinge pins and lay door on flat surface or workspace. Remove all hinges, handle and lock hardware.  Place in zip lock or plastic container for safe keeping. 
  3. If your door contains glass you many need to remove any excess putty from the seal surrounding the glass.  This is most easily done by scoring the putty with a razor blade and scraping it off with a plastic scraper.  It is best not to use the razor blade to scrape the putty as it may scratch the glass.
  4. Cover and tape off any glass areas.
  5. Inspect door for divots, dents or deep scratches.  If you see any they can easily be removed by using a hot clothing iron on a steam setting to lift any imperfections.  Simply run the iron over the area and the steam will make the wood expand thus filling the blemish.  Continue steaming the area until you can no longer see nor feel the spot then carefully sand the effected area. 
  6. Fill any holes from finishing nails or staples with wood putty.  It is recommended you use a color a shade or two lighter then the wood itself if you are staining due to the fact the stain will darken the putty somewhat. 
  7. Sand entire door including bottom, top and side rails with 220 grit sandpaper making sure that you are sanding with the grain of the wood.  Sanding against the grain may cause the finish to appear scratched.   Small handheld sanders work great or you can use a sanding block. 
  8. Wipe entire door down with soft cloth or rag removing all dust and debris.   To remove the really fine sanding dust you might take a slightly water dampened rag and wipe off any existing dust.  Be sure that the door is completely dry of any moisture before applying the first finish coat.  

Conditioning & Staining:

  1. Apply a wood conditioner or sanding sealer.  This step may be skipped if you prefer to bring out the color variations that are natural characteristics of all wood.  Only apply if you want a more uniform color on your door or if your door is made of   the softer woods.  Products vary but most are a simple brush on application process.  Let dry thoroughly according to product guidelines.
  2. Applying stain.  Stain only colors the wood and will not protect it.  There are products you can buy that will stain and seal but my research has indicated it is not recommended.  Stain may be applied with a brush or cloth and should always be applied generously across the grain in a circular motion then wiped in the direction of the grain when removing the excess.  Always apply stain uniformly, covering each portion with equal amounts. Allow stain to absorb into the wood grain by waiting 3 to 10 minutes before wiping away excess. (Longer times between brushing on the stain and wiping will determine the depth of color.)   If you end up with areas of lesser coloring you can always apply more stain to just those areas remembering to use the cross grain application and wiping away excess with the grain.  If you have allowed the stain to sit to long and the color is to deep after wiping off as much as possible you can apply a little paint thinner to a cloth and remove some more.  Continue this process until all six sides are evenly coated.  Allow to thoroughly dry before turning over to coat opposite side.  Also, be sure to check for runs around the edges as you do each of the sides so as to not have areas of darker splotches where the stain has pooled. 
  3. Allow to dry completely. 
  4. Wood grain will be slightly raised and feel semi-rough to the touch.   Sand all sides of the door with 220 grit sandpaper until smooth.
  5. Repeat stain process if you’d like a deeper, darker finish again allowing for proper drying time.  Sand once again with 220 grit sandpaper until smooth. 
  6. Allow to dry for a full 24 hours.

Don’t be surprised if at this point your friends and neighbors start referring to your door as a “table”!  You’re halfway through the process and are close to completion. 


Before starting this process wood must be completely dry, sanded smooth and completely free of any dust or debris from sanding.  Accordingly, sealant should be applied in a dust free environment with adequate ventilation.  It is recommended that you use solvent based stains & sealers paying close detail to the type of application they are meant for.  Make sure you are using an exterior stain for an exterior door.  Reason being is there are ultra violet inhibitors in exterior products that will further protect your door. 

  1. Determine if you are going to use a brush or a sprayer to apply sealant.  I highly recommend using a sprayer to avoid the possibility of brush strokes drying into your finish but many other do-it-your- sellers have been completely satisfied using a high quality soft bristled brush.
  2. Brush or spray on 1st coat of sealant applying sparingly as it is pretty thick and a little tends to cover a good size area.  Coat all six sides allowing for proper drying times prior to turning over and after completion of the second side.  Finish should be rough to the touch indicating the wood has been sealed.  If you do not feel a roughness apply a 2nd coat without sanding then allow to completely dry.
  3. Lightly sand with 220 grit sandpaper.  This will remove any surface roughness.
  4. Apply another coat of sealant to all sides again allowing for that proper drying time.  This time the finish should be smoother to the touch.  If there are areas that are dimpled or rough you will need to sand smooth.  This time when sanding, use a previously used piece of 220 you’ve got lying around.  The used paper will provide the right amount of coarseness to smooth the areas without scratching the surface too deeply. 
  5. Apply final coat of sealant to all six sides using the previous techniques in regards to proper drying times.  This should be the final coat and completely smooth to the touch.   If you are finishing an exterior door that is exposed to the elements and has no protection such as an overhang you may want to add an additional coat for added protection and longer life of the finish.
  6. Allow to dry for 24 hours.
  7. Once thoroughly dry you are ready to reapply the hinges and hardware.  Be very careful as to not mar your beautiful finish you’ve worked so hard on. 
  8. Hang door and reap the benefits of your diligence.   


  1. Inspect annually for things like color changes, cracking or flaking of the finish.
  2. Refinish if necessary.


The Wood Door Store strongly recommends the use of SIKKENS finishing products.
See a SIKKENS dealer for instructions and proper products for your particular situation.



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