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>Home >Basement construction >How to stain & finish doors

How to stain doors & how to finish doors

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How to stain & finish doors

how to stain doors & how to finish doorsWhen 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

  • Doors
  • 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)
  • Polyurethane finish
  • 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)

wood conditioner, stain, & polyurethane

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).

conditioning soft wood such as pine

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.

Sanding between coats of polyurethane

Applying polyurethane


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.

Finished door after sanding, staining, and coating with polyurethane6-panel door installed

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.


Construction Topics

Tools you'll need

The 3-4-5 rule

How to frame a wall

How to attach walls

How to install insulation

Drywall estimating

How to hang drywall: Step-by-step

How to cut drywall

How to cut around outlets and openings

Drywall installation tips

How to frame a door

How to trim a door to fit

How to finish a door

How to frame around poles

How to finish drywall

How to sand drywall

Tips for buying, finishing, & installing baseboard molding

How to fix squeaky floors

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