How to stain & finish doors
When it comes to woodwork, nothing beats a natural finish! Though painting is quicker, if you’re willing to spend the time staining & finishing doors you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful natural finish. Here’s how!
What you’ll need
- Medium (180 grit) sandpaper or sanding sponges
- Wood conditioner (if you’re staining a softer wood such as pine- a quart is enough for 2-3 doors)
- Stain (a quart is enough for several doors)
- Staining rags, & tack cloth
- Shop Vac (optional)
- Sawhorses (optional but they’ll make it much easier)
- 3” flat brush (make sure you get one suitable for oil-based stains/paints)
- 1 ½” or 2” brush (optional – use if staining doors with intricate detailing)
- Mineral Spirits (for cleanup)
- A well-lit, well-ventilated area such as a garage (DON’T stain in the house – unless you’re sleeping somewhere else)
Conditioning wood doors
NOTE: This section applies to finishing pine doors. If using hardwood (Oak, etc.) proceed directly to How to stain a door (below).
1. Lay the door flat on sawhorses. Lightly sand the entire door (both sides)
2. Use tack cloth and/or a shop vacuum to clean the dust from the door.
3. Stir the conditioner (never shake!) and spread it on one side of the door using a 3” brush. (Since you need to stain within two hours of conditioning, you’ll do one side of the door at a time.) Wait 15-30 minutes and wipe up any excess using a clean rag.
4. Clean your brush using Mineral Spirits (or other product for oil-based stains) and dry it with a rag.
5. Be sure to proceed to How to stain a door within two hours of conditioning the wood.
How to stain a door
NOTE: If your door has intricate detailing you may want to use a 1 1/2" or 2” angle brush for certain areas. You don’t want to leave puddles of stain in those areas.
1. Stir (never shake!) your stain and apply a thin layer (following the grain of the wood) on the entire surface of the conditioned side of the door, and the edges of the door using a 3” brush.
2. Wait 15-30 minutes and wipe away any stain that has not absorbed into the wood.
3. Clean your brush using Mineral Spirits (or other product for oil-based stains) and dry it with a rag.
4. To achieve a darker finish, repeat steps 1 & 2 following the drying time instructions on the can (usually 4-6 hours).
How to finish a door
1. Stir (never shake!) your polyurethane and apply a thin layer to the stained wood using a 3” brush. Follow the grain of the wood. If you have a door with intricate detailing, you may want to use a smaller brush instead- you don't want to leave any puddles.
2. Clean your brush using Mineral Spirits (or other product for oil-based stains) and dry it with a rag.
3. After the first coat dries (3-4 hours) lightly sand. This will give a slightly rough finish to allow the 2nd coat of polyurethane to adhere better.
4. Apply a 2nd coat following steps 1 & 2 above.
5. Allow the door to dry thoroughly overnight before hanging.
FAB door finishing tips
- Don’t use polyurethane on the sides of the door. It may cause the door to stick on humid days.
- When you spread the polyurethane, be sure to not leave any puddles on the wood. It may cause drips.
- Wipe the sides and back edge of the door so avoid unsightly drips that will harden and make the door look sloppy.
- Apply stain sparingly on the sides of the door and wipe the back of the door quickly with a rag to catch any drips.