Many reasons of course but the biggest culprit is the sun. As soon as the anti UV properties in the coatings begin to break down they get brittle and cloudy. When they get brittle they crack with the expansion and contraction of the wood at the joints which in turn allows moisture in then it’s the beginning of the end. They should look like they do on the inside.
Do you have to strip all the old finish off?
Yes. In order to have a finish that will last for many years you need to start from the “ground up”. No matter what you put over a deteriorated finish it won’t last. Once that original coat starts to go it’s basically over.
Do you take the doors to your shop?
No. All the work is done in place so there is no need to board up your door opening and the jambs and trim can be done at the same time to match.
If that’s so, then what about security?
When the weatherstripping is removed the door can usually be closed and a deadbolt can be used at night even if the door is wet.
Do you have a crew that does the work?
No, I do it all myself and I’ll continue to do it myself as long as my body holds up! I may bring on a helper at some time but I’m such a perfectionist that anything that requires a high skill level will be done by me. There are so many opportunities for mistakes in every step I just can’t trust anyone I haven’t trained and I’m not training anyone right now.
Is it a messy process?
Yes! For me but not for you. I take all precautions to mask off all surrounding areas to keep the dust and smell to a minimum.
What are the steps to your process and how much time does it take?
5 Days is a Typical Timeline:
Day 1) Typically the first day I remove all the hardware and weatherstripping then mask the doors and surrounding areas and strip the old finish off with a chemical stripper.
Day 2) The door is sanded and repaired as necessary. The stain may or may not be applied then.
Day 3) The first two coats are sprayed on and the color is fine tuned.
Day 4) The following day (usually Thursday) the entire finished area is sanded fine and any other color issues are addressed and the final top coats are applied.
Day 5) The hardware is re-installed and the weatherstripping is put back in and all the masking paper etc. is removed.
Does your finish have that shiny varnished look?
I can adjust the sheen from high gloss to flat with all in between. Typically my finish is a low gloss satin. That’s the most attractive in my opinion.
Are you different than a painter?
Yes, in many ways. I have specialized in clear coatings for over 40 years. Painters don’t typically have the skillset for specialty coatings. Some do and understand the difference between interior and exterior finishes and what lasts under different circumstances like exposures etc. but most don’t.
Are my doors worth refinishing? Why not just get new doors?
I would say more than nine out of ten doors that I’ve done are absolutely worth it.
If the doors are finally at a place where they need to be refinished, chances are good that the doors were made well. Solid wood, no veneers and a good hardwood. I’m finding that most of the doors I’m seeing today are attractive but they are made up of different kinds of wood with a thin veneer over the entire door. This may or may not hold up as long as solid wood would. Also you don’t know what the finish is or how it will hold up over time. Many people are going for fiberglass. In my opinion, I would rather have a painted door than a fake wood grain looking door. There’s no substitute for real wood. Solid wood, well maintained can potentially last hundreds of years.
If you aren’t happy with the style of your door then of course you should get new.
Can I get the coating you use at the paint store or Home Depot?
No. The finish I use is linear polyurethane and it can only be purchased by a professional finisher from a marine supplier. It’s a two part finish that can be brushed but the best results are obtained with a special combination airless/air spray unit.
Are the finishes at Home Depot and the like just as strong?
No they’re not. The state of California has put many restrictions on the commercially available finishes in order to meet air quality standards. Consequently a lot of the varnishes have been reformulated or just eliminated. Most of what you can get now is water based acrylic. The jury is still out on how these products will hold up over time. What I’ve seen is that they don’t. I’ve refinished many doors that were just a couple of years old and have completely faded and broken down.
I have had people say “You’re expensive! I can get new doors for that much!”
Often people who say that haven’t necessarily looked into all the options. It’s probably true but just what are you getting? A main consideration is the idea of longevity, beauty, custom finish and color. You need to factor in the base cost of the doors plus installation plus hardware and compare what you get to what you already have. A new set of quality doors can easily run from $4500 to $12,000 and up. Lots of my clients have said “You were more expensive than I thought but I saved thousands of dollars having this done”.