The exterior wood door on my house has been exposed to sun light for so long that the door is now in bad shape. The wood actually feels rough and has sort of blackened and faded. Can you give me advice on what needs to be done to refinish my door?
Lynn ~ Burlington NC
Hi Lynn. Refinishing an exterior front door is one of the most enjoyable DIY projects (in my opinion) as it doesn't take long and can completely transform the appearance of your home. If the wood is turning black from the sun, it sounds like your door has a stained finish and the urethane or varnish has failed. There are some climates where sun exposure can beat even the best varnishes, but I wouldn't think that Burlington, NC would be one of them.
I believe the easiest way to refinish an exterior door, at least in the initial stages, is to remove it from the hinges and support it horizontally on saw horses or another type of platform. A small palm or orbital sander works great for sanding the door to remove the old finish -- though it doesn't sound like you have much old stain and urethane to take off. Due to the roughness of the wood that you mentioned, I would start with a medium grit sandpaper initially and finish up with a very fine 100 or 12o grit. Follow the grain of the wood with the sander to avoid scratching the surface of your door. Exterior doors have panels where the grain parallels the length of the door and cross panels where it can run perpendicular to the length.
Once the door is sanded, stain the door being careful to wipe off any excess so the finish is even. Since you've had a problem with sun discoloration on your wood door, I would use an exterior marine spar varnish to protect the finish after the stain is applied. The varnish should be put on using two to three thin coats rather than one heavy application. Light sanding with fine steel wool can be done between coats to remove rough spots and bubbles, but be sure the varnish is completely dry first or you can ruin the finish.
There are quite a few manufacturers that market this type of varnish so it should be available at most Burlington home improvement and paint retailers.