How to Refinish Oak Doors

A homeowner may choose to refinish an oak door because he doesn't like the color or simply because the door is looking worn.

New finish will protect the exterior side of the door from the elements and comes in a variety of glosses and pigments. Refinishing an oak door is a pretty straightforward process, although it does involve some physical labor and exposure to harsh chemicals. Refinish an oak door outside or in a well ventilated area to avoid harmful fumes.

Put on chemical-proof gloves and goggles or glasses to protect against harsh chemicals in the stripper.

Apply the chemical stripper, also called paint or varnish remover, to the door. Most liquid strippers require a paintbrush for application, but a few come in spray-on containers. Ace Hardware suggests using a "wash-away" type of stripper for easy cleanup with just water.

Wait the amount of time indicated on the stripper instructions. Most chemical strippers have to sit for five to 20 minutes before the old finish becomes soft. Do not let the stripper sit long enough to dry.

Scrape off the softened old finish using a putty knife. Reapply the stripper until the entire layer of finish comes off. The thick layers of varnish may require multiple applications of stripper.

Scrub off any stubborn leftover finish with steel wool soaked in the stripper.

Rinse the chemical stripper off the door with a hose.

Wait for the door to dry. In warm weather, it may take only an afternoon. But a door that requires lots of rinsing or soaks up lots of water may require a full day or two to dry completely.

Sand the door with 120-grit sand paper followed by 220-grit sandpaper. Sanding can remove any extra finish and also helps to make the wood smooth for the new finish.

Fill the wood, if desired. Utah State University explains that oak has an open wood grain and will require a filler for a perfectly smooth surface. Many people, however, prefer a more natural look and choose not to use a filler. Either dilute a paste filler with some paint thinner and paint the mixture onto the wood with a paintbrush or mix some filler into a wood stain to stain and fill the wood in one step.

Paint a layer of finish on the door. To add extra protection or more tint to the door, apply multiple layers of finish, allowing it to dry between applications.

Paint a layer of polyurethane finish on the door if it need lots of protection from outside elements. Some people use just one finish that contains polyurethane, while others paint a door with a less durable tinted finish and then add a protective coat of polyurethane.

Things You Will Need

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Chemical stripper
  • Paintbrush
  • Putty knife
  • Steel wool
  • Water
  • Garden hose
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Filler -- optional
  • Stain

Tip

  • Home improvement stores have several types of finishes. Finishes can be either clear or tinted and penetrating or nonpenetrating, according to Utah State University. Penetrating finishes soak into the wood and protect it from wear without creating a layer on the surface of the wood. Nonpenetrating finishes do not soak into the wood and create a protective layer. For a more natural look, use a penetrating finish. For a glossy look, use a surface finish. Some people use two finishes and paint a tinted layer of stain or finish on the door followed by a clear layer of polyurethane for extra protection.

About the Author

Lisa Chinn developed her research skills while working at a research university library. She writes for numerous publications, specializing in gardening, home care, wellness, copywriting, style and travel. Chinn also designs marketing materials, holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology and is working toward a PhD in cognitive neuroscience.